I’m writing about “The Sensorites” after a bit of a delay, so I hope I remember everything I wanted to say about it. It’s the seventh story of the first season. It’s also the first story in Doctor Who to explicitly state that it takes place in the future.
The story picks up directly where The Aztecs left off. The fact that the instruments on the TARDIS control panel are contradicting themselves is perplexing the Doctor: they have landed, yet they are still moving. The confusion is soon settled by the fact that they have landed on another ship. At first, the people on the other ship appear to be dead, but they soon show signs of life, and, by using a special device, Ian is able to help the two people revive.
The travelers learn that this ship is from 28th century earth, and that the crew is trapped in an endless orbit around the Sense-Sphere, home to the Sensorites. The Sensorites have the power to control the minds of the crew, and will not let them leave their orbit around the planet, yet they have shown no desire to kill them. The Doctor wants to leave (of course), but the travelers themselves become trapped on the ship when a mysterious being steals the lock from the TARDIS, preventing anyone from being able to get back in.
The Sensorites start to influence the crew of the ship (Maitland and Carol), but they do not seem to control either the Doctor, Ian , Barbara, or Susan. Eventually, Barbara and Susan go through the wrong door when they are trying to find some water, and they end up trapped with the third member of the crew, the mineralogist, John. John has been more affected by the Sensorites than the others because he discovered a valuable mineral on the planet. At first he seems like he might attack Barbara and Susan, but he doesn’t. The Sensorites want him to scare them away, but he resists. It’s Susan who comes up with the idea of using their own mental powers to disrupt the Sensorites telepathy, which leaves the Sensorites temporarily crippled.
Eventually, the Sensorites begin communicating with the group through Susan, and Susan volunteers to go down to the Sense-Sphere, which leads to an argument between Susan and the Doctor on whether or not Susan is old enough to make her own decisions. Eventually, everyone except Maitland and Barbara (it was time for Jacqueline Hill’s vacation) go down to the planet to speak to the Sensorite Elder (from whom they learn that ever since a ship from earth came to their planet and crashed, a mysterious disease has been killing the Sensorites) and the Sensorites promise that they can cure John. The third part ends with the realization that Ian has contracted the disease that has been killing the Sensorites.
From there, the story continues with intrigue between the Sensorite leader and the ambitious Administrator, and the Doctor finally helping the Sensorites by discovering that the disease is a poison and finding out who is poisoning the Sensorites’ water and why (as well as creating an antidote to save Ian).
It was nice to see the character of Susan develop a bit more in the story. Instead of being helpless, she is the one who first figures out how to stop the Sensorites from completely controlling John. She is also the one who is able to communicate with the Sensorites, due to her telepathic abilities.
Over all, I enjoyed “The Sensorites,” but it felt to me like it could have been a seven parter instead of only six. I found the Sensorites to be an interesting race, and the story kept me interested, but it seemed as if everything was wrapped up a bit too quickly at the end. The Sensorites have been poisoned by the earlier group of humans whose ship crashed when they tried to leave the planet. These humans, who appear to have gone mad, think that they are at war with the Sensorites and were poisoning them to win the war. They are brought out of the cave and then sent home with the crew of the space ship to earth. This all happens rather quickly and nobody has any problems sending the insane murderous group back with the others. There does not seem to be any consequence for poisoning the Sensorites, and there is no mention of the Sensorites being able to “cure” their insanity. I felt that perhaps another episode would have allowed for a more rational wrap up.