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The Sensorites is a serial in the Britishmarker science fiction television series Doctor Who, which was first broadcast in six weekly parts from June 20 to August 1, 1964. The story is notable for its early demonstration of Time Lord telepathy and references to the Doctor and Susan's home planet.



The TARDIS travellers land on a moving spaceship and find the crew apparently dead. However, one of the crew members, Captain Maitland, regains consciousness and Ian Chesterton fully revives him and another woman, Carol Richmond. These two tell the travellers that they are on an exploration mission from Earth and are orbiting Sense-Sphere. However, its inhabitants, the Sensorites, refuse to let them leave the orbit. The Sensorites visit and stop the travellers from leaving, while sending them on a collision course, which the Doctor diverts. The travellers then meet John (whose mind has been broken by the Sensorites) and find out that he is Carol's fiancé.

Returning to plague the crew, the Sensorites freeze Carol and Maitland once more. The Doctor breaks Maitland's mental conditioning, but cannot help John. Susan's telepathic mind is flooded with the many voices of the Sensorites who remain scared of the humans and are trying to communicate with her. Meanwhile, The Doctor works out that the Sensorites attacked the human craft because John, a mineralogist, had discovered a vast supply of molybdenum on Sense-Sphere. Susan reports that the Sensorites want to make contact with travellers, asking the crew to go aboard Sense-sphere and reveal that a previous Earth expedition caused them great misery. The Doctor refuses but Susan, under duress, agrees and departs.

The Doctor deduces that the Sensorites need plenty of light, so Ian reduces the lighting on the ship, in a bid to rescue Susan. As a result, Susan returns to the spacecraft. The Doctor then asks the Sensorites to return his lock and is invited to go to Sense-Sphere to speak with the leader. Susan, Ian, Carol and John join him while Barbara and Maitland stay behind. John is promised that his condition will be reversed. On their journey to Sense-Sphere, the party learn that the previous visitors from Earth exploited Sense-Sphere for its wealth, then argued. Half of them stole the spacecraft, which exploded on take-off.

The Sensorite Council is divided over the issue of inviting the party to Sense-Sphere: some of the councillors plot to kill them on arrival, but some believe that the humans can help with the disease that is currently killing many Sensorites. Their first plot is foiled by the other Sensorites, but they continue to plot in secret. The humans are not told of the first plot, and John and Carol are cured. In the main conference room, Ian starts coughing violently and collapses. Suffering from the disease that has blighted the Sensorites, he is told that he will soon die.

It turns out that he was actually poisoned by drinking water from the general aqueduct. The Doctor finds the problematic aqueduct and starts work with the Sensorite scientists. The plotting Sensorites capture and then impersonate a Sensorite leader, the Second Elder and steal the new cure, before it is given to Ian, but a new one is made easily and Ian is cured.

Meanwhile, investigating the aqueduct, the Doctor finds strange noises and darkness. He finds and removes deadly nightshade (the cause of the poisoning), but on going back, meets an unseen monster. Susan and Ian find him unconscious with a ripped coat, but otherwise unharmed. On being recovered, he tells of his suspicion that some Sensorites are plotting to kill them. The plotting Sensorites kill the Second Elder and one of them replaces him in his position.

John tells the others that he knows the lead plotter, but he is now too powerful, so The Doctor and Carol go down to the aqueduct to find the poisoners. Their weapons and map were tampered with and are useless.

Elsewhere, a mysterious assailant abducts Carol and forces her to write saying she has left for the ship. Neither Susan, John or Barbara believe this so they go to investigate and find her imprisoned. Susan, John and Barbara overpower the guard and release Carol. On finding out about the tampered tools, they go into the aqueduct to rescue the Doctor and Ian. The leader discovers the plotters a little while later.

Ian and the Doctor discover that the monsters were actually the survivors of the previous Earth mission, and they had been poisoning the Sensorites. Their deranged Commander leads them to the surface, where they are arrested by the Sensorites. The Doctor and his party return to the city, pleading clemency for the poisoners. The leader of the Sensorites agrees and sends them back with Maitland, John and Carol to Earth, for treatment for madness.


The story is the first to make use of humans in contemporary-looking space suits, notwithstanding apparently being set in the 28th century. This contrasts with previous serials which had either been set in the present or past, or had featured no humans except Ian and Barbara. It thus provides the series' first glimpse into mankind's future.

Susan's description of her home planet as having a burnt orange sky and silver leaved trees is backed up by a similar description of the planet by the Tenth Doctor to Martha Jones in "Gridlock". It also bears similarities to the description given to Grace in the 1996 telemovie.

In the Doctor Who Confidential episode, You've Got the Look (released to accompany "The Impossible Planet"), Russell T. Davies said that he wanted the Ood to resemble the Sensorites, and that he likes to think they come from a planet near the Sense Sphere. This was later confirmed in the Tenth Doctor episode "Planet of the Ood", in which the Doctor visits the Ood's homeworld (the Ood-Sphere) and mentions that he once visited the Sense-Sphere in the same system.

Susan's experiences here carry over into the Big Finish Productions audio story Transit of Venus. It takes place directly after this story, despite the fact that the ending of The Sensorties seems to lead directly into The Reign of Terror. However, this inconsistency is explained in the audio play.

Susan's telepathy

This episode is known for Susan's use of telepathy. The earlier conception of Susan's character spun her as a less ordinary girl who had unusual abilities, of which Susan's affinity in this story may been seen as one of the few remnants. At the end of the story, Susan loses her telepathy because according to the Sensorites, the Sense Sphere "has an extraordinary number of ultra-high frequencies, so I won't be able to go on using thought transference." However, the Doctor says that she has a gift and "when we get home to our own place, I think we should try to perfect it."

Whether Time Lords in general have telepathy is unclear. In the same serial, though ambiguously played as a joke, the Doctor remarks to Ian that "telepathy isn't only a prerequisite of the Sensorites. I know sometimes what you're thinking." At the climax of 1969's The War Games, The Doctor displays telepathic (and apparent telekinetic) abilities, sending a message home on this occasion by entering a trance and placing his thoughts into an assembling box, that is then somehow transmitted through time and space.

In The Three Doctors (1973) and The Five Doctors (1983), the different incarnations of the Doctor telepathically communicate with each other — though it was never clarified whether this was an innate racial ability or related to the fact that they were the same person. The TARDIS has 'telepathic circuits', which at the climax of Frontier in Space (1973) the Doctor uses to transmit a message to the Time Lords. In "The Brain of Morbius", the Fourth Doctor confesses to "feeling" the mind of the recently executed Time Lord Morbius.

In the 2006 series, the Tenth Doctor reads the mind of Madame de Pompadour in "The Girl in the Fireplace" and a young girl possessed by an alien in "Fear Her". The following year, he uses telepathy to calm a mentally ill man in "The Shakespeare Code". In each case he places his hands to the person's face, in a manner similar to the Vulcan mind meld manoeuvre from Star Trek. In "Planet of the Ood", the Doctor can hear the Ood's telepathic 'song', and is able to telepathically open companion Donna Noble's mind to hear the song.

The spin-off media have more explicitly clarified that Time Lords have limited telepathic abilities, though the canonicity of these sources is open to interpretation.


  • Jacqueline Hill does not appear in episodes 4 and 5, though she was still credited on-screen.
  • Designer Raymond Cusick used almost all curves in his sets for the Sense Sphere, feeling that this would give a more alien look.


  • Actor and variety performer Peter Glaze appeared as the Third Sensorite. However his familiar face is obscured by his Sensorite mask.
  • Arthur Newall also appeared as a Sensorite in this story, not a Dalek as is commonly believed.
  • Stephen Dartnell appears as John. He had previously appeared as Yartek in The Keys of Marinus.
  • John Bailey, who plays the Commander, returned to the series to play Edward Waterfield in The Evil of the Daleks and Sezom in The Horns of Nimon.

Broadcast and reception

The third episode was postponed by one week following the overrun of sports programme Grandstand.

Commercial releases

A restored and VidFIREd version of this story was released on VHS in November 2002. In July 2008, the original soundtrack was released on CD in the UK, with linking narration provided by William Russell.

Additionally has legal versions of this serial available to stream for free [126203]

In print

The serial was novelised for Target Books by Nigel Robinson in February 1987 as Doctor Who: The Sensorites.


External links


Target novelisation

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