Audio Review: Doctor Who – The Sensorites
AS we count down towards the 50th anniversary of Doctor Who next year, it’s perhaps fitting that the earliest days of the show are still very much a part of its public perception, with recent DVD, book and audio releases dating back to the 1960s.
This particular story is actually from the very first series of the show, when the first Doctor was accompanied by his granddaughter Susan and schoolteachers Barbara Wright and Ian Chesterton, and many of the series’ later conventions had yet to be established.
Although the TARDIS had taken the time travellers to other planets and back into history during the course of their previous adventures, this story marked the first foray into Earth’s future, herein the 28th century, as human explorers are terrorised by the telepathic Sensorites, reacting with fear after a previous visit to their world of the Sense-Sphere resulted in a wave of inexplicable deaths...
For Who fans, this story is also significant in that it establishes Susan’s telepathic talents – and by default those of the Doctor’s race – and offers tantalising descriptions of their home planet as having a burnt orange sky and silver-leaved trees.
The broadcast adventure suffers from that constant staple of classic Who, plot padding, and although Nigel Robinson’s novelisation is much tighter, it is unable to really compensate for the main problem inherent in The Sensorites, that it’s just not that interesting an adventure. However, he does succeed in adding an ominous atmosphere to proceedings which the TV version could have done with, and also fixes some of the production issues which saw the apparently identical Sensorites all looking completely different on screen.
What is truly remarkable about this audio version of the novel is the fact that it’s read by original companion William Russell (Ian), whose acting talents haven’t faded over the decades. Now a sprightly 87, he remains an active participant in Who projects, and brings an authenticity and realism to this audio which another reader would perhaps have found lacking.