The Mind Robber
Inside the Spaceship
aka. "The Edge of Destruction"
|Dates||Feb. 2, 1964 -
Feb. 15, 1964
With William Hartnell, William Russell,
Jacqueline Hill, Carole Ann Ford.
Written and script-edited by David Whitaker.
Directed by Richard Martin.
Associate Producer: Mervyn Pinfield. Produced by Verity Lambert.
|Synopsis: A powerful force takes hold of the TARDIS, threatening to destroy it and its crew, or so the Doctor believes. But could the force itself have gotten inside the spaceship...?|
A Review by Geoffrey Glass 8/4/98
This two-part story is unlike anything else Doctor Who has produced. It feels, looks, and sounds more like live theatre than television. It is fascinating to see what can be done with four actors, three tiny sets, and some stock incidental music. Rather, what could have been done-- unfortunately, the script is not quite up to filling the two episodes.
Nothing can be taken for granted-- not the nature of the menace, not the decency of the characters, and certainty not their sanity. That is what gives the story its edge: this seems more like an excerpt from Psycho than a Doctor Who story. Especially for those of us familiar with his later incarnations, a Doctor who is willing to sacrifice his companions in a fit of irrational pique is very unsettling. Perhaps Colin Baker wasn't so far off in The Twin Dilemma after all.
The characters are well drawn-- although unpredictable, they are all within their natures. Ian is harmless and brave, Susan is indeed unearthly and verges on insanity, the Doctor is deviously malicious, and Barbara is strong. After all, this is really her story. The high point has to be her speech to the Doctor, when she tells him he should "go down on your knees and thank us." I cannot think of another time when he is so clearly in the wrong. For a moment she seems ready to be an Aztec god; in some ways she is a prototype of the future Doctor.
So the first episode is excellent, all the way up to the cliffhanger. Unfortunately, things go downhill from there. Ian's justification for throttling the Doctor is inadequate. Barbara's leaps of logic are incoherent. And while the final explanation of the threat-- a broken spring-- is suitably anticlimactic, the idea that the TARDIS was the cause of all this irrational behaviour is simply not well enough explained to be believable.
In the end, the story is interesting. I would love to have seen more tight crew dramas like this. Luckily, bits slipped into other stories, especially certain first episodes: The Sensorites, The Web Planet, The Space Museum, The Mind Robber. But once Ian and Barbara left, we never again saw a Doctor confronted by companions more courageous and moral than himself. He grew up, I suppose, and by the end it was he who was the god.
A Review by Stuart Gutteridge 9/10/98
One of the most endearing things about The Edge Of Destruction is the way that it manages to flesh out the TARDIS crew and resolves the conflict between them. And as such it is particularly high on character development, each played to their strengths.
What is most interesting, however, is that the situation forces their characters to develop, rather than them developing because the plot is centred around one character. The Doctor is even more suspicious than ever of Ian and Barbara here, and Susan quickly takes his side because he is her grandfather. Ian for the most part seems to be in a daze, whilst Barbara is very defensive and just as quick to accuse The Doctor. This is just one of several moments that add enjoyment to this tale; another moment being when Susan tries to attack Ian with a pair of scissors.
At two episodes,this is just the right length to hold the viewers attention. As a piece of claustrophic, drama, The Edge Of Destruction succeeds admirably.
A Review by Graham Keeling 17/3/99
I had the recent fortune to watch these two episodes late at night on UK Gold, and it was indeed a rare treat. Previously, my knowledge of the story had come from the Target novelisation by Nigel Robinson, so I had a rough idea of what to expect (incidentally, I think this is one of the best novelisations in the target series, as it expands a lot on what is seen on screen -- we get to see deeper inside the TARDIS and the characters' minds).
The biggest highlights for me both involved the Doctor -- when he threatens to throw the two teachers of the Ship, it really enforces the viewers' notion of the 'us and them' aspect of the early serials, and Barbara's come-back is a treat, too. Also, the Doctor's speech in front of the console as he realises what is happening shows Hartnell at his best.
I could go on about these kind of aspects (the drugging of the crew, Barbara's paranoia that there is something inside the ship, etc...), but there are also a couple of cringe-worthy moments that might be mentioned. For example, Barbara's scream when the clocks have melted is very poor, but these moments are few and far between.
This story intrigued me from the beginning, even if I had read the novel beforehand, and the strangeness of it all is just enthralling. A magic late night's fifty minutes with the original crew. 8/10
A Review by Ben Jordan 14/1/00
The TARDIS is rocked by an enormous power fluctuation sending the four time-travellers into unconsciousness. Upon recovering, the Doctor suspects Ian and Barbara of sabotage, however the odd behaviour of the TARDIS seems to suggest something far more dangerous.
After Beyond The Sun fell through, and facing virtually no budget, the programme's movers and shakers came up with this two-part story, which most know is set completely within the TARDIS, and it stands up as an excellent character-driven mystery, or should that be character-exploring, as we are given a real opportunity to get to know our leads, without any supporting cast, and little action. The First Doctor was never more mean and irascible than here, and William Hartnell fleshes him out with practised expertise, one minute impossible, the next minute the perfect gentleman. William Russell has less of his action hero role here than he does in the first two serials, but he remains the atypical science teacher throughout: ready to stand up to the Doctor's nonsense and yet logical and rational when dealing with the situations that face him. Jacqueline Hill is gives a very realistic portrayal as someone completely out of her depth, and yet like her colleague able to rationalise the situation. And yet the beauty of this story is that it requires a team effort from all to ascertain that it is the TARDIS which is trying to warn them that they are on the brink of disaster (sorry, couldn't resist it). Hartnell's bridge-mending dialogue with Hill at the end is excellently played ('As we learn about others, so we learn about ourselves'), as the Doctor must apologise to Barbara for being so horrible to her. As for Susan, Carole Ann Ford does shine occasionally, but for the most part, I found Susan's constant histrionics to be highly irritating, though it's hardly the fault of the actor, rather the patriarchal society of the time.
After continually finding the story so dull and padding in the past, I'm not sure why I found it so brilliant now. But I can say that it very tellingly shows what Doctor Who has that modern television hasn't - strong characterisation to drive the story without needing any special effects. Here are four leads with interpersonal conflict that doesn't all get resolved by the end of the episode - far more realistic than the ridiculous and completely unrealistic Friends mentality. Edge Of Destruction is drama without bells and whistles. And it works.
A Review by James Allenby 23/10/00
I've watched this a number of times since getting a copy a few years back but I've never actually sat down and watched it closely and seriously but since I'm trying to review these stories I thought I should. I watched it last night while everyone was out on the big TV. Firstly I liked the story but I don't think it's as good as I used to think it was. I found myself growing quite bored with it soon into the second episode. I think one of the reasons though was because the state of everyone's mind in the TARDIS was actually affecting me. I was feeling quite shakey when Barbara screamed at the clock and when Susan stabbed the bed. So maybe that's the secret behind it. These characters who we know are starting to go mad and it affects us as well. Throughout the entire story Barbara is the only one I feel I can trust and because of that it's mainly Barbara who is NOT trusted by Susan and the Doctor. The bit where Barbara says that the Doctor should get down on his hands and knees and thank her and Ian is fantastic and proves that she was one of the great companions. The Doctor DOES come across as a silly old fool at least until the end when we all realise that he is a nice man really. Ian to me appears to be a bit of a weakling doing on the whining and whimpy wails and Susan just seems completely insane. She even frightens me.
So the rest of the story. Well I think it's good for a the reason that it shows us just what the TARDIS is like on the inside and it's not just some one roomed spaceship which I got the impression of from the 6th and 7th Doctor stories. It also comes across as being a very frightening place. The constant humming in the background would be a thing that would always annoy me anyway but complete silence (as it is in the story) is just too freaky. I seem to remember Susan mentioning something about her never noticing the shadows before. There's also a sense of clostrophobia in the TARDIS.
The final outcome of the story is a little silly and everyone recovers far too early for my liking but never the less I can feel the relief when it's all over. So what are my final views on the story? Well it's good character development and a fairly decent "filler" story but it is also very weak.
A Review by Keith Bennett 9/11/00
The Edge Of Destruction (for goodness' sake, how can anyone call it "Inside The Spaceship"?? Might as well call the story before it "OUTside The Spaceship") is a unique story because of the, by now, well known features of only having the Doctor and his companions starring in only the TARDIS enterior. It is, essentially, more about character deveolopment than an actual story, and it succeeds in this way.
Barbara is the indisputable star, and I agree with others that her "get down on your hands and knees" speech is truly wonderful. Maybe the Doctor needed to have a few more stand up to him like that in his later lives. Ian is... odd... and in a funny way, more so than Susan, because Ian seems to be "normal odd", while Susan is clearly "odd odd". Er... um... anyway...
The Doctor fluctuates from accusations to charm effortlessly, and by the end, he does seem to learn more than one lesson. The story itself, however, is a bit iffy. It's hard to believe they all start behaving like phsychos because of the TARDIS trying to warn them, although I don't particularly mind the quite simple discovery of why they're in so much danger - i.e., the broken spring.
In short, this is a character-development story, and looked at it in that light, it works well.
Then Rod Says, "You've Just Crossed Over Into Another Dimension..." by Peter Niemeyer 8/1/01
This was a bizarre story. I don't know how else to describe it. I know the circumstances that evoked the story (2-part story written at the last minute to complete the first block of 13 episodes, no additional cast or sets, so you have to do the whole thing in the TARDIS). But it didn't come across as normal Doctor Who. It wasn't bad, but it was bizarre.
I like the idea of suspicion and conspiracy within the TARDIS. I liked the different theories that came about during the episode...the TARDIS had crashed, there was an evil alien force inside the TARDIS, the TARDIS was sabotaged by Ian and Barbara...none of which turned out to be the truth.
What I didn't like was the way in which these suspicions didn't really form the core of the story. There was a lot of weird behavior which seemed somewhat inexplicable (just how did the TARDIS melt the clock and watch faces?), and this pushed the focus away from the nature of the suspicions, which were completely logical and gave good insight into the characters.
I do also feel that this episode displayed the worst acting seen by the regulars to date. I don't think I could ever show this episode to a non-Who fan. It would be too embarassing.
One Thing I'd Do Differently: I'd eliminate all the out-of-character behavior (memory loss, strangling). This episode had enough in-character behavior to keep people riveted. And since when does exposure to electricy produce these kinds of side effects?
One Thing I Wouldn't Touch: The extensive use of the TARDIS interior. The First Doctor's era involved extensive use of the TARDIS interior, which fostered the belief that these people really were living in the TARDIS. Sadly, this notion appeared less and less during the Second, Third and Fourth Doctor's eras, and the notion of "life on the TARDIS" wasn't resurrected until the Cloister Room in Logopolis. The Edge of Destruction wasn't the first extensive use of the TARDIS interior, but it was perhaps the best.
"As we learn about each other so we learn about ourselves" by Alex Keaton 2/4/01
The Doctor and his magical dimensionally transcendental TARDIS, two of television's finest achievements together they have the ability to create great entertainment without any monsters, science/fantasy elements or supporting characters - true? Yes, however the reliance of these two here simply does not work.
This serial does manage to achieve the goals it sets out to achieve; to provide a non-costly story through the usage of the existing sets, thus to provide further expenses on the succeeding serial, Marco Polo and while it's at it concentrate on further characterisation of the regular cast. But it only works because it's expectations were not that high otherwise it is quite a lifeless and forgettable story.
Inside the Spaceship relates to 100,000 BC very much in that the Doctor again seemingly speaks of his exile and Ian and Barbara talk about life on Earth while Susan is fairly distant for the most part but excessively uncontrollable for the rest. But it differs in that here we are given a chance to learn more about the characters by virtue of the tightly bound situation of conflict in which they are enclosed, so character-wise this serial exceeds that of 100,000 BC.
The plot shuffles in ideas throughout it providing little relevance such as the blaming of each other over the TARDIS's failure, and the irrational mood swings of the characters. Then the story takes a turn in Episode Two like (not only a new director) but a new writer has taken over with the whole thing rushing to get the entire ordeal of a plot out of the way just to waste a further 25 minutes of the viewer's time.
The plot's weaknesses are constantly evident in especially the uninteresting nature of this serial, wasting the Doctor and the TARDIS's potential of creating an extrordinary, imaginative tale. True it only had two parts to do it in and doesn't rely on any menacing monster or supporting characters but focuses on the regular cast - something the original serial lacked, but I'd say a further discovery of the TARDIS and it's functions would have worked far better.
TARDIS Databank: (Interesting points to look out for)
The 'Fast return switch' is written in black felt tip pen across the console. (3/10)
Diversity at its best by Tim Roll-Pickering 5/9/01
The first year of Doctor Who is one of the most diverse in the series' history but the story that stands out as the most unique is, by a fair way, Inside the Spaceship. Nowadays the story may seem like a cheap, cliched option, given that the various Star Trek series often resort to episodes set entirely onboard the relevant ship where the crew face a problem as a means of offsetting the costs of more expensive episodes, but this story comes from 1964 when 'Enterprise' meant something very different. David Whitaker's story wisely utilises the extreme limitations placed on it to produce a very strong character piece, building on the tensions within the TARDIS that were laid down in 100,000 BC.
Some of the scenes are particular brutal, such as Susan going mad with the scissors or the melted clock and it's astonishing to think that these were considered suitable for transmission at teatime on Saturdays (though overseas the story was often heavily edited or shown late and the BBC Video release has a PG rating). This does show the key strength of Doctor Who in that the series is at its scariest when mixing the ordinary and the totally extraordinary.
Each of the four regulars reacts to the situation in their own way and this generates much of the tension. The actual situation of what has happened to the TARDIS itself remains a mystery until towards the end of the second episode, but that isn't what this story is about. Indeed the resolution of the TARDIS' problem is so quick that it's never made exactly clear where the TARDIS went but it's a sign of both Whitaker's strong writing and the cast's dynamics that this doesn't matter at all.
It is in this story that we start to see the Doctor's compassionate side triumphing over his abrupt exterior manner. The scene between him and Barbara at the end is wonderful, showing how two individuals who were earlier virtually at each other's throats have now come to understand and respect one another far more. William Hartnell narrowly beats Jacqueline Hill in the acting stakes. William Russell and Carole Ann Ford both turn in performances that seem a little stilted at first but fit quite well into the bizarre nature of the story and more than make up for the lack of any other characters.
Both as an example of how diverse Doctor Who can be and as a showpiece for the regular characters, Inside the Spaceship is one of several jewels in a wonderful first season. Somewhat neglected amidst the attention given to the seven-parters on either side (The Mutants and Marco Polo) it is nevertheless a wonderful story. 9/10
Brinkmanship by Andrew Wixon 17/9/01
Has the genesis of this odd little tale finally been nailed down yet? When I were a lad the accepted story was that the production team had run out of money and had to produce a story on stock sets featuring only the four regulars. Then we were all told that it was a planned-in-advance exercise in character development. And recently I've been hearing talk that it was part of a cunning plan to hold the series to a 13-episode run with no loose ends so the BBC could axe it when (as management thought) the Daleks bombed and audiences plummeted.
Of these three ideas the one I'm most reluctant to believe is the second. As an exercise in character development Edge of Destruction fails miserably. We learn very little about any of the regulars, mainly because one or more of them is acting oddly - in both senses - nearly all the way through. And when they're not being gratuitously weird they're arguing with one another, a retrograde step given the understanding they'd seemingly developed by the end of The Dead Planet. The arguments just seem contrived, too, though the actors fall on them gratefully and really sell them to the audience.
I hate to say it but Edge of Destruction just seems pointlessly strange. It's like experimental expressionist theatre crossed with a bad installment of Big Brother. The characters undergo inexplicable mood swings in order to advance the very thin plot, which takes the form of: character behaves oddly - argument ensues - something really weird and non sequitur-ish happens (repeat until halfway through episode two). I know it's possible to argue that this is an atypical plot about the TARDIS itself and its abilities but judging from this story the TARDIS intelligence seems to be permanently tripping out. The clues it gives to the impending peril are fantastically obscure and the crew must be lateral-thinking geniuses to figure them out. (How does playing silly buggers with the door help the situation?) There are many other hanging questions left: how exactly does the Doctor figure out how long they've got left? Is Ian's amnesia relevent to the plot, and when exactly does it fade away? Why do they start to suspect a foreign intelligence is aboard? We also have to contend with almost certainly the feeblest climax in the history of the series where the Doctor puts things to rights by... rewiring a plug. Or something very similar. Earthshock it ain't.
I've looked very hard and can find some good things to say about this story. The genuine warmth and friendship between the regulars at the end is convincingly evoked (well, okay, it is a bit camp). When they're allowed to stay inside the characters they've built up, the regulars are very good (although William Russell is uncharacteristically bad in part one and... well, we've learned not to expect great work from Carole Ann Ford). But on the whole it's just obvious, stagey, stilted, filler material, that wouldn't be half so well received if it had been made by the time that the show had actually settled into its format. I'd happily swap this for two episodes from Marco Polo.
A Review by Alan Thomas 4/7/02
The Edge Of Destruction is a story that I have always viewed with supreme respect. Let me tell you why.
I, like a previous reviewer, managed to catch this story on a late-night showing on UK Gold. I was terrified. It was different, disquieting, and so supremely bizarre that I was frightened by it - which is a good thing. In this day and age, it's very hard for me to be frightened by DW, as some things have dated quite badly. But "body" and "psychological" horror are things that will always scare me. In The Edge Of Destruction, it's the latter.
Seeing all of the TARDIS crew disorientated and stilted throws the viewer off guard. The very "hard" acting by William Russell and Carole Ann Ford is very effective, and gives the impression of brain damage brought on by the explosion. Barbara seems to be the only one who is healthy. The Doctor is unconscious for the start of the story, anyway.
Susan going mad with a pair of scissors accompanied by quite sparse music is one of the most terrifying things in the story, for me. In fact, Susan gives the impression of having been possessed and wanting to throw the others into an argument, so as to achieve whatever aims she may have. But, as things progress, the evil seems to derive from the travellers' mistrust of each other. The Doctor seems more and more certain that Ian and Barbara are to blame, and when Barbara lashes out at The Doctor, she tells him EXACTLY what she thinks of him, and this moment is acted superbly well by Jacqueline Hill, reminding us why she was such a brilliant actress.
A number of theories as to the predicament are thrown into the air, including the TARDIS "compensating" for time that has been lost. Everything is going haywire, and The Doctor's deviousness reaches a pinnacle when he drugs Susan, Ian, and Barbara, to work out the problems for themselves. The confusion felt by the viewer is incredible, resulting in desperation to uncover the resolution.
When Ian attacks The Doctor, his theory of the schoolteachers being to blame seems borne out. But it becomes apparent that Ian is just disorientated by the explosion, and the travellers begin to realise that a part of the console is safe. The sequence appears, and The Doctor discovers that it's their journey etc, etc.
The first piece of the puzzle has been fitted, and the viewer can now start to fit things together easily - the TARDIS has gone back too far. As things grow ever more desperate, Ian stumbles upon the answer - the fast return switch is still on!
I find the resolution to be suitable simple. But, the resolution is not the important thing here. It is the relationships between the characters that are built upon. By the end, all of the crew are on good terms, particularly The Doctor and Barbara, which will always remain the most fascinating relationship in the original TARDIS crew.
The Edge Of Destruction is wonderful. It is clever, compelling, and contains some exquisite horror and frightening moments that most other DW could not manage. Brilliant. 9/10
A Mixed Bag by David Massingham 19/10/03
What a bizarre little tale. I've watched it three times now and I've only just managed to solidify my opinions of Inside the Spaceship, or whatever you want to call it. It probably didn't help that I originally watched the first part under quite surreal conditions. As soon as the episode started, all the power in the house fluctuated, creating eerie flickering lights. Simultaneously, a huge gust of wind blew through the house, and rain started pouring -- then it stopped as soon as it started. Plus, the meal I was eating looked and tasted very suspicious. So five minutes into this story, I was quite freaked out; it didn't help that part one seems to have been ghost written by Salvidore Dali and Samuel Beckett.
My original reaction to part one was "what the #%$&" followed closely by "I think that was bollocks". Having gone back and re-watched it twice, my reaction has mellowed somewhat. All the same, part one suffers way too many flaws to be considered a success. For one thing, the sub-plot which dictates that the regulars quickly alternate between amnesiacs, psychopaths, endless screamers, and their normal selves... well, that move didn't really work. Carol Ann Ford is, quite simply, terrible -- that horrible bit where she stabs the sofa with a pair of scissors is far more embarressing than any Skaresen. Strangely enough, William Russell isn't quite at the top of his game, either. Although nowhere near as bad as Susan, Ian definitely has better stories. The same goes for Barbara, as whilst she is generally quite good, her hapless screaming fits really are too much to bear. Part one of Inside the Spaceship is carried almost completely by the terrific William Hartnell, who has a fantastic time double-crossing the two humans on board his TARDIS.
Which leads to what is by far and away the best thing about this story -- the mistrust brewing between the regulars. The character development in this story is what really makes it worthwhile. Unfortunately, part one shirks away from these interesting scenes, seeming content to brood over long, dull silences, whilst throwing in a bizarre happening or two. The clock is such a happening, and besides Susan and Barbara's embarrassingly over-the-top reaction to it, it is nigh-on impossible to realise what they are screaming at in the first place. Little things like this bring down the first episode, and whilst quite a surreal atmosphere is achieved, that alone cannot tell a story. It doesn't help that part one's direction is all over the place, and generally quite poor.
The second episode it vastly superior. David Whitaker finally decides to write for the regulars in a more focused manner, resulting in some interesting debates and arguments. The final revelation that a spring had jammed in the console is a nice, simply way to explain the problem; we also get some beautiful moments between Barbara and the Doctor. Unfortunately, we never get a good explanation as to why the crew were acting so wacko in part one; perhaps we are expected to think that the TARDIS inflicted this dementia on its inhabitants as a kind of warning? Honestly, that plot point should just have been abandoned in the first place. It worked for about three minutes to build tension and mood, but that was it.
Despite its superiority over its predecessor, part two still has flaws. It does lag at times; plus we have the horribly saccarine conclusion with Susan throwing snow at Barbara and Ian -- look, we're just having fun in time and space... we're such good friends! Ultimately, however, part two is a successful venture, whilst the first episode is quite unsuccessful. It really is a pity -- Inside the Spaceship could and should have been a tight, engaging character piece. Instead it ends up as a bit of a dog's breakfast.
5 out of 10.
A Review by Richard Radcliffe 5/5/04
Looking back now, many years after this story was screened it is tempting to see the first three stories as the masterplan by which Doctor Who created its legendary status. It does so by focusing on the three main ingredients that have ensured the show's success over the years (and that applies to any format whether TV, audio or book).
The first story is clearly a vehicle for establishing the Doctor and the companions. That Doctor/companion(s) idea is fundamental to the show - and was shown straightaway. It also shows that the TARDIS can travel BACK in time.
The second story is the one that established who the baddies would be. Who would the Doctor fight against? It turned out to be inspired, as the Daleks still are the best monster of all. It also shows that the TARDIS can travel FORWARD in time.
The third Story, this one I'm reviewing, concentrates on the TARDIS - the third piece of our puzzle, and one of the key reasons for the show's success. It also shows that the TARDIS wherever it is, is a fantastic setting in its own right.
The TARDIS for me wasn't utilized as much as it could have been on Doctor Who. The Doctor was travelling through time and space in this wonderful craft. Bigger on the inside, containing vast amounts of rooms and locales. Too often the TARDIS only appeared at the end and beginning of a story, and more often than not it was the console room with Doctor and companion huddled over the central console.
Edge of Destruction is the only story to be set wholly within the TARDIS, and as such it firmly established the Ship in the mythos. This closed confined space (despite its extra dimensions the crew are cut off from the outside universe) provides the chance to explore the four main characters. It is this kind of character building that Doctor Who promoted in the beginning, and this story is another good example of it.
It is also interesting, with only the TARDIS interior to look at, how the control room changed over the years. Back in 1963 we have this massive space, of which the TARDIS central console is only one small part (even if it is the focal point). Compare this with the mid-to-late 4th Doctor era. The TARDIS control room has diminished vastly in size, with only a hatstand to break the roundel-walled monotony.
In the whole concept of Dr Who, the TARDIS is vital. It's as important to the show as 221B Baker Street was to Sherlock Holmes, the Enterprise is to Kirk and Picard. Babylon 5 is to Babylon 5! To establish it as a character in its own right early on was the masterstroke of the writers - and Inside the Spaceship shows it off better than any other story.
But what of the interplay between the main characters? Are they convincing as mistrusting, disturbed individuals? This is the problem with the story really. We have already established in the first two stories that this is an uneasy alliance. The Doctor is the star of the show, but you're not that sure about him. William Hartnell tries his best to act vicious, but there is much too much misplacement of lines. In an attempt to blast out his threats and accusations, he forgets what he is saying. These Billy Fluffs came to be part and parcel of the series, but I'd rate this story as the worst culprit. Susan tries her best to become Dark Susan, but that long Festor-like nightie doesn't help her performance. Ian strives to act threatening as well, but eye-rolling isn't his strongest suit. Barbara is the only one to benefit. She remains pretty calm and collected throughout, and is justifiably chagrined by the end of Episode 2. It shows her character to be the strongest and most resistant to outside influences. The value of her calming influence was great during the early years of the programme.
Inside the Spaceship is pure filler. A two-part indulgence into the psyche of the TARDIS crew. But it's not the TARDIS crew that I have come to really like - they are out of character, and it shows the characters in an unfavourable light. The TARDIS should have been used more in stories, but if those TARDIS-based stories would have ended up like this, then it's perhaps as well they didn't. 5/10
A Review by Brian May 30/6/04
My first knowledge of the history of Doctor Who came about (like a lot of people my age, I suspect) with Jean-Marc Lofficier's Programme Guide. In the early 1980s, a 9 year-old version of me was amazed to discover there had been three lead actors before Tom Baker, and that, contrary to the account of David Whitaker's novelisation, The Daleks was not the first adventure. I was also intrigued by The Edge of Destruction, an adventure set entirely aboard the TARDIS, featuring only the regular cast.
Later, I discover that it's a filler, written quickly to accommodate two additional episodes; the cast and setting were necessitated by time and budget constraints. I was chagrined, for the idea was terrific, especially so early on in the series. To think, had circumstances been different, it might not have been written at all!
That would have been a pity, because The Edge of Destruction is a perfectly positioned adventure. Despite the lack of plot, it's interesting in its exploration of the TARDIS and the relationship between the characters, especially the emphasis on the difference between the Doctor/Susan and Ian/Barbara. Getting terribly postmodern, this two-parter forms the end of the programme's very first story arc - the initial distrust and wariness between these two parties who have been flung into time and space together. An Unearthly Child sees the mysterious Doctor kidnap Ian and Barbara; throughout the adventure in prehistory he's presented in an ambiguous light. The catalyst for The Daleks is the Doctor's selfish curiosity, which puts them all in danger. Hartnell's character is still the anti-hero and the antagonist. In The Edge of Destruction the mistrust is still there, fuelled to paranoid levels by the unseen force apparently attacking the TARDIS, coming to a head when the Doctor threatens to put the schoolteachers off the ship.
The adventure also provides more focus on this wondrous craft. The Doctor initially scoffs at the notion the TARDIS is alive, but the evidence is against him (and look how the concept has been developed since): the outer doors opening and closing on their own; the images on the scanner, and all the other clues thrown in the crew's direction. (The melting clock is a missed opportunity, for while it is an effective and startling shot, it's far too quick. A few more seconds lingering on the image would have made all the difference.) The viewer learns, after the revelations of the first two stories, that there's even more to the TARDIS. I referred to The Edge of Destruction as being well positioned: well, so far the ship has taken the travellers to Earth in the past, then an alien planet in the future; taking the time to explore the nature of the ship itself is a good move at this point.
While all this is happening there's a wonderfully gripping and mysterious atmosphere prevalent. The crew's disorientation, lines like "Something on the ship" and "Where would it hide?" "In one of us!" help to make this a suspense tale first and foremost, realised even more by the restricted location. The TARDIS itself is in danger - in the first two stories the time machine was the haven for escape. In this adventure, it's no longer a place of safety. This helps to increase the claustrophobic atmosphere.
So does the direction. It's minimal, but works for a story like this. An excellent choice of tight shots reflects the crew's sense of being trapped. (A favourite shot of mine is from the still above, with the Doctor beside the console, giving his speech - the lighting is excellent.) Jacqueline Hill is terrific as Barbara, especially when she tells the Doctor off in episode one. William Russell and William Hartnell are also good, although the latter has a particularly bad day with his lines. Carole Ann Ford's performance is, as usual, not very inspiring. The scene when she brandishes the scissors in front of Ian is quite chilling - especially for a 1960s children's afternoon programme - but her stabbing the couch is overacted, so too are all her "dramatic" turns.
David Whitaker has approached his task with relish. For a filler story, The Edge of Destruction is very substantial. The story arc I referred to resolves itself at the end. The Doctor has gained some nobility (deceiving Barbara and Susan so they won't be aware when the end comes). The oft quoted line "As we learn about each other, so we learn about ourselves" rather didactically sums up the strengthening of their relationship; in my opinion the best piece of dialogue that does this is when the Doctor says to Barbara: "You're very valuable!" before they walk to the control room arm in arm. The TARDIS crew has well and truly gelled now, and there's a sense of strengthened camaraderie in the closing moments.
So, for a quickly written addition to Doctor Who's first season, The Edge of Destruction is just as important as the epics on either side. In between the first alien story and the first historical adventure, is the tale of the TARDIS and its crew. 8/10
A Review by Karl Roemer 25/1/05
The third story of Doctor Who ever made, The Edge of Destruction is one of the most bizarre and surreal stories produced during the Hartnell era, and pales into insignificance compared to the adventures surrounding it (The Daleks and Marco Polo), however one should be more forgiving of its shortcomings, considering that it was made with virtually no budget and was an rushed script by season one story editor David Whitaker. It also delves into the fear and mistrust emanating between the alien Doctor and his granddaughter Susan, and the human school teachers Ian and Barbara, and as such it does add some much needed character development and exposition, as well as proving that the Doctor is an hero with faults, and that he is not always right.
Having said that, the plot for Edge of Destruction is shallow and superfluous and features some incredibly poor acting from the cast (main offender being Carole Ann Ford as Susan).
There are still many things from the plot that don't make sense to me, such as the short term memory loss that occurs at the start of the serial, to why an intelligent rational person such as the Doctor could honestly accuse Ian and Barbara of sabotaging the TARDIS without any real tangible shred of evidence?
It could be argued that the only villain in this serial is the Doctor, he is extremely rude and arrogant to his travelling companions on Earth (in a similar vein to the 6th Doctor to Peri in Twin Dilemma), at one point threatening to eject them out from the TARDIS, and drugging them with sleeping tablets. Susan has some incredibly inexplicable moments, such as the infamous scene with the scissors in episode one. And Ian, normally such an stoic and reliable figure, is prone fits of irrationality. About the only character who remains consistent is Barbara, except for that scene with the melting clock (which again isn't satisfactorily explained) which causes her to go into uncharacteristic hysterics.
The main reason this story fails, is because of the ludicrous explanation at the conclusion, the fast return switch being stuck, is an cop out, and frankly still doesn't explain why the characters (and the TARDIS for that matter) have acted so indifferently throughout this short saga. It would have been a far better resolution to this story if there was indeed an invisible alien presence in the TARDIS, and that the four crew members worked together to flush the entity out of the TARDIS.
The story only serves to alienate the audience away from the main hero (the Doctor) whose brusque and unfair treatment of his companions is unsettling, although it is perhaps redeemed in the ending, where it's nice to see the likeable Ian Chesterton being so forgiving of the old time traveler, for all his eccentric ways, and showing the depth of Barbara's hurt and anger at the Doctor's earlier behavior was well displayed by Jacqueline Hill, and it is a nice moment when the Doctor finally manages to mumble his way uncomfortably to an apology, and the coldness of Barbara melting in the light of the Doctor's sincerity.
At the end of the day though, this serial can only be adjudged as the only real weak link in an otherwise excellent debut season of Doctor Who. Regrettably, the biggest highlight of Edge of Destruction, comes at the end of the serial with the sole surviving footage of Marco Polo as the cliffhangar to Roof of the World.
A Review by John Greenhead 28/2/06
The Edge of Destruction has to be one of the oddest stories ever put out under the Doctor Who banner. Set entirely in the TARDIS and featuring just the four regulars, it features bizarre scenes that still look rather outlandish today but must have been totally off-the-wall for viewers in 1964. While it also has some major flaws, it is still a strikingly original little tale and manages to be much more than a two-part filler.
Taking the negatives first, it has to be said that the script could have been tightened up; David Whitaker apparently wrote this over one boozy weekend, and in places it shows. The concept of the TARDIS being somehow "alive" is a very interesting one, but it isn't made very clear how the warnings the ship is giving to the TARDIS crew could lead them to deduce that they were hurtling back to the beginning of time, as to me most of the warnings are rather obscure. I also didn't really get the whole business of Ian and Susan turning psycho after getting a shock on the TARDIS console; while it provides us with the memorable sight of Carole Ann Ford doing manic acting with a pair of scissors, it seems a bit self-defeating for the ship to disorientate the crew if it is also trying to warn them that they are in danger of their lives. Unfortunately, William Hartnell also struggles a bit with his lines in places, no doubt because he found it hard to memorise the numerous long speeches he has to make in this story.
On balance, however, I think the good points of this story outweigh the bad. The regulars do a good job of conveying disorientation and paranoia, and a real feeling of claustrophobia builds up in the silent TARDIS, punctuated by startling scenes such as the melting clock faces and the aforementioned scissors episode. It is also good to see a bit more of the TARDIS, which too often in Doctor Who is simply reduced to being the means of getting the Doctor and his companions from one place to the next. Once the crew realise that they are just minutes from destruction, with no apparent solution to hand, the story is also quite successful at creating a sense of impending doom, which is then bathetically undercut by the Doctor's realisation that a faulty switch has been the cause of the problem. This is a nice touch, and I think provides quite a clever and humorous resolution to the plot, as we have been led to believe that something far more serious has been threatening the crew.
Most satisfying of all, however, is that this story finally resolves the tensions between the Doctor and Ian and Barbara. In spite of his line fluffs, Hartnell once again does a good job of portraying the anti-heroic and suspicious nature of the Doctor in these early days, notably when he drugs Ian and Barbara in order to investigate the source of the problem without their interference, and then when he accuses them of sabotage and threatens to throw them off the ship. Jacqueline Hill really rises to the occasion in this scene, her blistering attack on the Doctor ("you ought to get down on your knees and thank us") registering as one of Barbara's finest moments, and probably the best scene in the story. What is great about this confrontation is that it is a cathartic one; once it becomes clear what is really going on, the Doctor is finally forced to accept that he has treated the two schoolteachers unfairly, and that humans deserve to be held in greater respect than he has hitherto given them. His apologies to them at the end, particularly to Barbara, herald the arrival of a much more mellow, kindly Doctor, and from now on his relations with the teachers will be far friendlier than before.
Whatever its faults, The Edge of Destruction is another example of how bold the production team were in the show's early days, and it marks a major milestone in the development of the Doctor's character. Despite being a cheap filler story, that fact alone gives it a lasting importance.
A Review by Finn Clark 26/3/07
The Edge of Destruction is filler, but it's so surreal and demented that it's brilliant. Even today it's a landmark in the canon. There's never been another story like it, in which the TARDIS is practically another character. In fact it's almost the monster. There's also part one of The Mind Robber and the first two episodes of Castrovalva, but in those stories the TARDIS is our reassuring bulwark against the horrors outside. Not here. David Whitaker teases us with all kinds of possibilities, any of which one is prepared to believe might turn out to be true. Not until the end, when the danger has been averted, is one allowed to feel even remotely safe.
The key is that this is another gem from those early days when, for Ian and Barbara, just being trapped aboard the TARDIS with the Doctor was a scary experience. No one knew what to expect. This is a strong story even if watched on its own, but it's infinitely better as the continuation of An Unearthly Child and The Daleks. Those pioneering stories are unlike anything else in Doctor Who. Everything is new. Even the fundamentals of the series (time travel, the TARDIS) are still being explored. Nothing can be trusted, especially not Hartnell's Doctor.
Essentially, it's a character drama. Even when everyone's acting out of character, it's still a character drama. You've got William Hartnell, openly hostile and ready to sacrifice the humans. Ian actually asks whether he's good or evil! (The Doctor doesn't give a straight answer either.) It's also funny to see the malevolent old bastard realising at the end that he should apologise to Ian and Barbara for all the accusations he threw at them.
Barbara is the story's heart. Ian was the hero of The Daleks, but this is Jacqueline Hill's turn in the spotlight. Ian's more easy-going and quicker to forgive. Episode one has Barbara's big speech at the Doctor, while episode two has the big set-piece scene of their final reconciliation. She has the moral outrage this time. (Spot the script editor levelling things out after the big "Ian as hero" epic from Terry Nation.) Needless to say, Jacqueline Hill is more than up to the task.
Meanwhile William Russell's doing something fascinating with Ian. For the most part he's the stalwart rock he always is, but watch him when he wakes up at the beginning. Episode one teases us with all kinds of possibilities, including that of "did something get aboard the ship?" One thinks back to the beginning with everyone acting out of character... and in particular Ian, who's drifting like a zombie until nearly the eight-minute mark, when he just gives himself a shake and magically gets his brain back. That's the kind of thing that gets a modern eagle-eyed SF fan noting and theorising. It's as if he's a stranger, not Ian at all. Jacqueline's still playing it as Barbara but with amnesia, but William Russell's teasing us with someone who appears to be doing a poor impersonation of Ian and only has approximate access to his memories. It's clever stuff.
The story even makes good use of Carole Ann Ford, who may not be the best actress but really does have this unearthly quality about her. Doing a scary Susan was a great idea. Whether slasher-happy or letting rip with the hysteria and contortions, she's far more effective than in more conventional stories when she's being forced into the Teenage Companion role.
This story's two episodes are completely different, and not just because they have different directors. Part one is practically a horror movie and could have gone in any of several possible directions. As an SF fan watching it today, it's almost impossible not to think in terms of an intruder, possession, etc. "In one of us." Brrrr. Now I'm imagining a TARDIS-bound version of John Carpenter's The Thing in the Hartnell era, which could have been terrifying. However the actual resolution of the mystery is something you won't be thinking of, which is cool. I'd have loved to see them run with the possession angle, which could have easily gone on for three or even four episodes had David Whitaker been willing to ramp up the paranoia yet further and start doing nasty things to the regulars, but I like the fact that the episode is smarter than us. It's outthinking us. It avoids what we've been led to expect.
The cliffhanger is awesome too. Hands grab the Doctor's throat! Yaaaaaaaaah!
Episode two abandons all that. The trippy tension is forgotten and instead the regulars are allowed to start thinking about the problem. What's more, there's a huge amount of the episode to go when they finally figure it out. It's about the characters, not the scariness. Hartnell and Hill need their set-piece reconciliation scene and bloody good it is too.
The Edge of Destruction may have been last-minute filler dashed off by the script editor, but its mere presence adds a huge amount to Doctor Who. It's still the most important story for the characterisation of the TARDIS herself, far more so than all that "the heart of the TARDIS" nonsense in the 1996 TVM and a couple of Eccleston episodes. It also turns a stronger spotlight on the Season One regulars, which is also something to be treasured. A unique gem.
A Review by Declan McKeown 25/8/08
A wholly TARDIS-set episode which relies heavily on character development rather than action and monsters, which had been the style of the first two episodes.
This third episode finds the Doctor and his three companions unconscious aboard the TARDIS and proceeds in a cluttered, complicated way to explain what has happened. Suspicions arise between the four as the tension mounts and arguments follow. Frank Cox's taut direction ensures the claustrophobic sense of impending horror never lets up, and the acting follows suit. William Hartnell maintains his grumpy old Doctor persona but reveals his softer side, which had until then only been revealed to Susan, thus creating a new mutual respect with Ian and Barbara.
The only real flaw remains David Whitaker's overly complex plot and the ridiculously simple resolution of their predicament, i.e. a faulty spring in the fast-return switch of the TARDIS console. So much build-up of impending doom only to spoil it with a humdrum easy-way-out ending. Talk about an anti-climax!
When I sat down to watch this I was expecting it to be as bad as The Daleks, yet what I got was a wonderfully creepy, claustrophobic horror-story, with excellent background music and perfect directing. The only thing bad about this tale is the confusing plot. But this story is worth watching.
A Review by Andrew Markham 26/6/09
For the most part, I find this short and really quite bizarre little story to be fantastic. I mean that genuinely; the script is tight and the after-effects of its revelations are still being elaborated on in the new series; three of the four actors are absolutely first-rate; and the plot, direction, music and tone are totally original and unique for Doctor Who even to this day.
The story has a very simple premise which admittedly would run thin if it lasted any more than two episodes. The TARDIS has gone mad, nothing is working, Susan, Ian and the Doctor are acting very strangely; basically, something's happened to cause all this, and if they don't find out what it is, then it's big trouble. This is revealed immediately, as Susan walks in looking like she's spent the night doing hard drugs, and Ian undergoes a total personality transplant momentarily. This leads to one of my only two substantial gripes with the story. Why exactly does everyone behave like this? For some reason, Barbara doesn't have as much of a surreal experience, but everyone has an extremely out-of-character moment that is never even remotely explained. The only possible reason to be suggested is that the TARDIS possessed them somehow, but how on Earth would it help? The behaviour exhibited is truly bizarre. Ian has at least two episodes of totally losing his immediate memory and also his lucidity, the Doctor makes the shocking decision to ruthlessly kill both Ian and Barbara unless they admit their involvement, and then there is Susan.
Susan is my major problem here. In such a great story, it is a shame that this is a very major, almost fundamental problem. Her behaviour in this episode is nothing short of psychotic. There is literally not even a hint of an explanation as to why she attacks a couch with a pair of scissors, has wild mood swings, and sometimes a bizarre malevolent quality. This is more than strange; when the problem is finally revealed, instead of celebrating and moving on happily, why did no one take Susan aside, lie her down, and figure out what the hell was going on with her? It's impossible to believe this girl is a Time Lord, or even a human girl, due mainly to Carole Ann Ford's endlessly predictable portrayal. Ford seemed to decide from her first episode that Susan had two moods: painfully childish and giddy; and on the verge of a very severe nervous breakdown. It's all the latter this time, with every slight obstacle the team face sending her into utter hysteria. The major downside, basically, of The Edge of Destruction is that Ford's acting is astronomically poor, quite possibly the worst performance that any lead actor has ever given in Doctor Who. And I've seen Time and the Rani!
But now onto the many and varying good points. The main factor that skyrockets the story above plot-wise and location-wise superiors is its sheer imagination, originality and ambition. This is the cheapest Doctor Who story ever, with the budget to spend on extra features coming in at around #70, maximum. Aside from a chair-wall-thing, and a few pictures, it's made entirely using existing sets, props and contracted actors. To watch this episode with that in mind fills me with admiration. Everyone concerned (Carole Ann Ford aside) puts their absolute all into the story. Whitaker's script is brimming with invention. Not only does he come up with the idea of the TARDIS being a sentient being, he also decides that the Doctor and Susan have travelled before. Instead of a filler episode with an extremely poor villain, he also makes the almost-unheard-of decision to have no villain, and the only antagonist of any kind is the Doctor himself, which really is unheard of. Whitaker opts for a psychological thriller which has a huge emphasis on character development, another rare feature in the 60s. Overall, when faced with an inevitable sidestep, instead of trying very hard to make the story fit in with its surrounding adventures and ending up with a jarring dearth in quality, he embraces the sidestep and makes the story as different as possible.
William Hartnell and William Russell play the story completely straight and put in intense performances which show different aspects of their characters, with Ian out of his depth and scared, and the Doctor in a state of growing paranoia and panic. However, Jacqueline Hill as Barbara is the undoubted star of the show. Her speech to the Doctor about "getting down on your knees and thanking us" is electrifying and completely unrestrained, delivered with venom, emotion and conviction in a wonderful character moment for Barbara where she tells both the Doctor and Susan precisely what she thinks of the way her and Ian have been treated and does not hide her contempt for how the Doctor has behaved over the week or so since they met. Hartnell's speech about the Big Bang is also worth a mention for dramatic power, even if it's inaccurate.
I also appear to be one of the few people who think that the resolution is not a disappointing one, instead an intentionally ironic revelation that, after facing murderous cavemen and emotionless, genocidal Daleks, they are brought down by a tiny little mistake. A very film-noir and almost Shakespearian touch, if you ask me.
The story ends with a clear corner being turned, as the TARDIS crew learn to appreciate and care for each other. The First Doctor is never the same again, and it's truly heartwarming to see a Gallifreyan relic make his first step towards the Lonely God that is to come. Overall then, it's far from perfect, with one case of abominable acting, but it's tight, complete, memorable, original and a joy to behold. 8/10
A Review by Michael Bayliss 22/9/09
God, I hate this story.
The premise - that the TARDIS can jump back to the dawn of time, put everyone in a coma and melt clocks all because of a faulty spring - might work as a pisstake if, say, Douglas Adams had scripted it and Graham Williams has produced it, but under the earnest hands of Verity Lambert, it just looks like childish whimsy. If a broken spring can do all that, imagine what would happen if a piston went rusty or a lightbulb blew.
A weak premise can work if the plot is absorbing, but you're given a series of disconnected events, with Barbara somehow making sense to these as the TARDIS's little way of trying to tell them something was wrong (of course if something was wrong with you, wouldn't you put everyone in a coma, make everyone confused and insane enough to want to kill each other, melt clocks and watches and transport everyone back in time to the bang? Cos that sure as hell can only mean only one thing: a faulty spring!) and then fixing the problem in the nick of time before everyone makes up, has a laugh, and goes outside to play in the snow while the audience remains sitting on their couch, still and dumbstruck, speechless trying to mouth out the words "how?" and "why?!" This plot to this story hits you with the paradox of being confusing and dumb at the same time. Got it hand it to the script writer, not many people can pull that one off.
A weak premise and a confusing, dumb plot might, sort of, half work if the acting is on par. However, William Hartnell fluffs up nearly half his lines. William Russell recites as if reading off cue and it's painful to watch him try strangle the Doctor, completely unmotivated, in the most wooden fashion possible, purely to provide a badly choreographed episode 1 cliffhanger. As for Carol Ann Ford...
Watch with bemusement as Susan robotically walks up to Barbara, robotically brandishes a knife, holds position without moving for 3 seconds, emits a scream, holds those pose for a further 3 seconds, and then collapses on the floor. And it's downhill from there. Only Jaqueline Hill convinces as Barabara, giving a naturalistic, headstrong performance and is the only character whose body actions match up logically with the events that trigger them, who gives a headstrong performance without trying to be theatrical, and who doesn't fluff her lines. With only the four regulars in this story, it really highlights how better an actor Hill is compared her other companions. Unfortunately, one out of four good performances does rot rescue a silly and baffling story.
To be fair, the story does improve by episode 2. After spending episode 1 falling in an out of comas and stilted rages, the characters are finally able to interact on more or less normal terms, and the story is able to achieve its purposes of establishing four mistrusting strangers who, through a series of difficult events and common misunderstandings, are able to reconcile and form stronger bonds. A story like this was necessary to be made at some stage, as it helps the audience to understand the regulars better and therefore sympathize with them more on future adventures. However, did this really have to be done so badly (even considering this was a rush job)?!?
What pisses me off most is that I love the idea of exploring the inside of the TARDIS. Unfortunately, this is only successfully done in Logopolis and Castrovalva. The Edge Of Destruction was not one of the better attempts.