The Doctor, Ian, Barbara and Susan materialise within a
spaceship inhabited only by a comatose human crew. The vessel
is trapped in orbit around the Sense-Sphere, the home world
of the telepathic Sensorites...
box set contains a nice mixture of Hartnell stories, one from
each of the actor's three full seasons as the Doctor. The
Sensorites is a science fiction story in a futuristic
setting, The Time Meddler is the first Who story
ever to place a sci-fi narrative in a historical setting,
while The Gunfighters is a purely historical tale,
albeit a whimsical one.
best to get The Sensorites out of the way first, since
this is the weakest of the bunch. The script, written by Peter
R Newman, is okay, but it is stretched far too thinly across
its six episodes.
its favour, the serial introduces us to Doctor Who's
earliest example of a morally complex alien species. The Sensorites
initially appear to be monsters in every sense of the word,
but we gradually realise that they are an essentially sympathetic
people, who are simply trying to protect their own planet.
However, unlike the more simplistic Rills of the third season's
Galaxy 4, the Sensorites are not generically "good",
any more than they are generically evil. Just like human beings,
they are all too susceptible to bigotry, xenophobia or the
thirst for power, meaning they have more in common with the
Silurians of the seventh season.
It is stated that the Sensorites are extremely sensitive to
loud noises, including shouting, which causes them pain. Unfortunately,
the Sensorite actors don't always remember to react to Hartnell's
also develops the characters of Susan (Carole Ann Ford) and
the Doctor. Susan is shown to be growing up, having her first
real disagreement with her grandfather, and behaving like
a genuine teenager for the first time. It is also revealed
that her and the Doctor's people (not yet named as Time Lords)
have an innate telepathic ability.
The Sensorites would have made a good three- or four-part
serial. As it is, though, this is one of the slowest moving
of the 1960s stories - and that's saying something.
Doctor, Vicki and Steven land on an English beach. The Doctor
declares that they have arrived some time around the 11th
century AD, but Steven is far from convinced, especially when
he discovers a modern wristwatch...
The Sensorites, The Time Meddler also lays down
elements of what would eventually become familiar Time Lord
lore. Here we are shown for the first time another member
of the Doctor's own people (aside from Susan). Viewers must
have been amazed back in 1965 to discover that the Doctor's
TARDIS is not unique. Peter Butterworth is splendid as the
comical Monk, and Hartnell seems sprightlier than usual, as
if in response to Butterworth's presence or to the novel nature
of Dennis Spooner's script.
not to think too hard about the double standard inherent in
the Doctor's criticism of the Monk's activities. Why is it
that the Doctor's interference in the future (from our point
of view) and on alien worlds is deemed acceptable, whereas
meddling in Earth's past is not? Perhaps the answer lies in
the time-traveller's knowledge of the time and place he lands
in - if he is ignorant of what is going to happen, then the
traveller becomes a part of history; if he already knows about
future events, then any conscious deviation from that pattern
could have dangerous consequences.
New companion Steven Taylor (Peter Purves) comes across as
sarcastic and impatient, and so he would remain during much
of his tenure. His refusal to accept that the TARDIS can travel
through time is understandable, but this probably gains him
little sympathy with the audience at large, who are familiar
with the ship's capabilities.
will be disappointed to see a Viking helmet decorated with
horns, something which Danish headgear never sported. (Perhaps
this is further evidence of the Monk's meddling!)
It's also a shame that the scratches on the film recording
of episode three could not have been improved, especially
when you consider the miracles the Restoration Team have managed
to work on the Tomb of the Cybermen and Aztecs
DVDs. Such nit-picking aside, though, this adventure is a
Doctor, Steven and Dodo arrive in Tombstone, Arizona, in 1881,
shortly before the infamous gunfight at the OK Corral. The
travellers get caught in the crossfire when the Doctor is
mistaken for Doc Holliday...
decades, the received fan wisdom held The Gunfighters
to be one of the poorest Doctor Who stories ever. This
video release now reveals that it is, on the contrary, an
enjoyable and innovative tale.
Donald Cotton gives us the highest comedy quotient since The
Romans and his own The Myth Makers (which is sadly
available only on audio CD). As in those earlier stories,
Hartnell evidently relishes the opportunity to perform in
some lighter scenes, including the Doctor's glee at being
able to spin a couple of pistols in his hands (although his
abhorrence of violence remains firmly in place). Peter Purves
is also amusing as Steven, who plays at being a cowboy, complete
with a phoney American accent, which is probably an in-joke
about the actor's first role in the series, as Morton Dill
in The Chase. As with The Myth Makers, the comedy
gives way to tragic and bloody conflict by the final episode.
wide and high camera angles help to give a sense of space
to the Wild West location, which is realised entirely within
the confines of the studio. The serial is also unique for
its use of a song, "The Ballad of the Last Chance Saloon",
which punctuates and illustrates the narrative, although it
does get a little tedious towards the end of the adventure.
from being one of Hartnell's worst stories, The Gunfighters
emerges as one of his best, barring the occasional dodgy accent.
The Gunfighters and The Sensorites have been
treated to the VidFIRE process to restore smoother "video-like"
movement to the recordings. Unfortunately, the quality of
The Time Meddler was deemed too poor to undergo the
in all, this box set should make an excellent stocking filler,
oh yes, indeed, hm hm! And a very merry Christmas to all of
you at home!
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