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Doctor Who I:31-36 - The Sensorites: DVD extras

January 23rd, 2012 (02:43 pm)

The buzz around the release of The Sensorites on DVD has surrounded its special features, and this is largely justified. Looking for Peter brings the Who Do You Think You Are? approach of personal history documentary making to the DVD range, but with the difference that the personality concerned, writer Peter R. Newman, died in either 1969 or 1975. Presenter Toby Hadoke, aided by Nothing at the End of the Lane's Richard Bignell and with a contribution from former DWM co-editor/Reynolds and Hearn publisher Marcus Hearn, establishes that 1975 is the required date, looks at Newman's controversial 1959 screenplay Yesterday's Enemy, and discusses his life before and after Doctor Who with his sister Vera and niece Helen, with portraits and family photographs and in a "final twist", a voice recording which shows Peter Newman to have been a gifted orator as well. The overall impression is of a man who was unable to wear his considerable abilities sufficiently lightly to make a success of them for long.

Clive Doig was a name burned on my childhood memories of television-watching, as producer at the close of Vision On and of Take Hart and Eureka among others. In the 1960s he was a vision mixer at the BBC, working on the majority of Doctor Who episodes in William Hartnell's proprietorship of the TARDIS, and in two extras first explains what a vision mixer does and how important that role was in the days of multi-camera television drama, and then identifies the 'Secret Voice' which can be heard on the soundtrack of the sixth episode of the story. Doig is lively and endowed with great powers of recall, and it's good that the Doctor Who world has discovered him.

The Sensorites has long been unjustly maligned - a species who can only tell the difference between each other by wearing sashes are a prompt to the imagination, not lazy writing - and being able to enjoy it in the crisp immediacy of VidFIREd DVD always removed much of the distance between the present day and the environment in which these early Doctor Who stories were produced and watched. The glimpses in the 'Coming Soon' section of The Tomb of the Cybermen re-release (as part of Revisitations 3) suggest that some of the lost force of that story's imagery will be recovered too. More when I've been able to watch the story again.

Also posted at http://sir-guinglain.dreamwidth.org/482888.html.


Posted by: daniel_saunders (daniel_saunders)
Posted at: January 23rd, 2012 03:48 pm (UTC)
Eleventh Doctor

I agree that The Sensorites is somewhat under-rated. As various people have pointed out, much of what we think of as Doctor Who starts here (also true of that other maligned tale, The Space Museum). That said, it is not great and I have no particular desire to watch it again so I doubt I will be buying the DVD for a while yet!

Good to see the role of the vision mixer being appreciated; from what I know of sixties television production, it strikes me as a highly skilled and important role, particularly given Doctor Who's technical requirements.

I've also seen it pointed out that it is by no means certain that the Sensorites can not tell each other apart, merely that the two Sensorites in question (I forget which, it's years since I last watched it) have not seen each other before and are relying on their insignia for recognition. Certainly the masks don't look identical in the way that, say, the Sea Devils do.

Posted by: parrot_knight (parrot_knight)
Posted at: January 24th, 2012 02:53 am (UTC)
Hartnell words

Nowadays I tell myself that buying Doctor Who DVDs from a certain era is research! As for the Sensorites, there's one who loses his forehead hair between episodes...

We wouldn't have the regeneration effect we do now (a dubious benefit, arguably) had there been no vision mixer to make use of the broken section of the desk (or is that now categorised as myth? I forget).