The seventh adventure of the first Doctor (William Hartnell), is back in outer space and deals with a new alien race. It’s a welcome return from the historical epics, and is considered one of the best-written adventures so far.
It turns out the TARDIS has landed inside a spaceship from future Earth orbiting a weird place called the Sense-Sphere. The crew of the ship, Captain Maitland (Lorne Cossette), Carol (Ilona Rodgers), all appear dead, but Ian (William Russell) is able to revive both of them. They tell the Doctor and his companions that the Sensorites (the aliens who live in the Sense-Sphere) keep them in suspended animation and won’t let them leave for unknown reasons. Susan (Carole Ann Ford) and Barbara (Jacqueline Hill) meet Carol’s fiancé, John (Stephen Dartnell), in the ship and discover he’s a raving madman whose mind has been nearly obliterated by the Sensorites.
The Sensorites soon board the ship and attempt to place the Doctor and his friends in the same state as the ship’s crew. The Doctor teaches them how to resist the Sensorites’ powers, and Susan discovers she has minor telepathic powers as well. She’s able to communicate by mind with the Sensorites and learns a previous Earth expedition to the Sense-Sphere caused a lot of problems, so they’re naturally wary of travelers. The Sensorites also steal the locking mechanism from the TARDIS, separating the Doctor from it yet again. He and the others have to go to the Sense-Sphere to get it and speak with the leader of the Sensorites.
They learn that Earthlings came to the Sense-Sphere to harvest the large amount of natural resources and that their ship blew up while leaving the planet. Sensorites have been dying mysterious deaths ever since Some of them want to kill the Doctor and his companions for fear they are as treacherous as their first visitors, but others take them at their word that the Doctor can help solve the mystery of the disease killing the Sensorites.
It turns out some of the original expedition survived and have been poisoning the Sensorites’ water supply in hopes of killing enough of them to take over the Sense-Sphere and get rich from the natural resources there. The Doctor and his companions manage to foil the plan and reveal treachery among the Sensorites’ ruling council.
The adventure is full of plot twists and treachery, and the Sensorites are the best aliens since the Daleks. They are almost an entire race of philosophers who abhor force but will use it if necessary. They prefer to deduce a problem instead of directly confronting it. The set design of the Sense-Sphere is minimalist but still alien and weird. Stephen Dartnell does a great job as the mind-shattered John. He constantly looks terrified and paranoid. The adventure is supposedly based on one of the writer’s time in a Japanese POW camp in WWII. You can definitely see where this could be the case, as the Sensorites’ constant mind-games with the Doctor and his companions are reflective of mental stress techniques used in such places.
The adventure ends with Ian making a playful jab at the Doctor’s navigation technique. This angers the Doctor, who tells him he can get out at their next stop, which turns out to be revolutionary France!
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