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Doctor Who story number 3

This is the only story to take place entirely inside the TARDIS. It was a filler story, as only 13 episodes had been commissioned and they didn't know if the series was going to last longer than that (Boy were they ever wrong on that note). With the first two stories coming in at a total of eleven episodes they needed a two part story in case the series was cancelled. The official and working title for this story is Inside The Spaceship, but the BBC happily use The Edge of Destruction since that's what the fans like to call it.

There are some special points to make about this story: It was condemned for the scene where Susan stabs her bed with scissors in a fit of rage about her friends, and is the story in which the Doctor is at his most devious and untrustworthy. After this story he is much more reasonable with his companions, losing some of the mystery and suspense that made him such an anti-hero (Not that he doesn't act like a bastard sometimes in the future). The actual structure of the story is that of a claustrophobic suspense story: A 1981 review likens it to Hitchcock.

Writerb
David Whitaker

Episodes
This story has 2 episodes with individual titles:

  • The Edge of Destruction
  • The Brink of Disaster

Plot Overview
The crew of the TARDIS recover from being thrown to the floor and knocked unconscious (I believe this happens at the end of The Daleks). Susan and Barbara beleive they are being affected by an alien force, but Ian thinks it is a technical fault. The Doctor naturally (at this point in the character development) accuses the two humans of sabotage, and eventually Susan beleives this.

The crew experience increasing paranoia as the Doctor works on a solution to the problem, and he drugs them to put them to sleep so he can work on the problem in peace. Ian doesn't trust the Doctor and attacks him, but is stopped by the others.

Throughout the story the TARDIS is seen to malfunction in various ways, and later they come to realise that it is trying to warn them about something. Barbara is the person who believes it is semi-sentient, something the Doctor doesn't initially agree with, yet much later in the series accepts as fact.

On investigation the Doctor finds that the fast return switch is broken. This device tracks the TARDIS back along its various landing sites, and he used it to try and return the two humans to Earth. However, the switch is jammed and is sending the ship towards Event One. After repairing the switch the Doctor can change the destination of the TARDIS, and they continue to travel.

Main Cast

Notes

  • This is the only story to feature only the main cast
  • The Edge of Destruction is occasionaly known as Beyond the Sun, which was the working title for the previous story, The Daleks

Accuse us! You ought to go down on your knees and thank us! Gratitude's the last thing you'll ever have.... or any sort of common sense either! - Barbara

"I never noticed the shadows before. It is so silent on the ship." -- Susan Foreman

Like many people my age, my first real exposure to Doctor Who was the revival series. The revival series featured good special effects, snappy dialogue (what else can a science-fiction show have in a post-Buffy and Firefly world?) and fast-paced action with a kaleidoscopic post-modern worldview behind it. But being something of a completist, I wanted to watch the original Doctor Who. I thought that it would be of historical interest, even if I would be a bit bored by how hokey it all is.

And then we have this.

Originally written as a place-holder story because the show was more popular than expected, "The Edge of Destruction" takes place totally inside the TARDIS, and stars only the featured cast. And while the two previous stories featured a story arc of captivity and political intrigue that would continue to be a staple of Doctor Who to the present, this one was sheer psychology.

The TARDIS is stuck. No one knows why. The four crew members begin to doubt each other, and to plot and plan against each other. The audience doesn't know either. I was led to believe that some other party had entered the TARDIS and was controlling people's minds. The actual explanation is more prosaic, and might even disappoint some.

But this episode was most impressive to me because it was the first sign of all the things that I thought were so modern in Doctor Who weren't. While Doctor Who has had its share of confusing political intrigue, shaky sets and fake masks, it is really a show about the unknown, and it has presented its share of psychological horror. That is why the quote above is so telling: it distills the show into being about "Shadows" and "Silence"...perhaps not so coincidentally, the names of two of the most memorable villains created by Steven Moffat.

This story has the crew trapped on the TARDIS, as they will be in Amy's Choice and Space/Time. It reveals that the TARDIS is partially sentient, as would be much further explored in The Doctor's Wife. It has Shadows, like Silence in the Library, and Silence like in The Impossible Astronaut. It has the Doctor becoming vicious and unhinged, a dark side that we would see often. It has the Doctor totally misunderstanding a problem, something that would happen more often, most recently in The God Complex. It has the threat of the TARDIS' destruction, something that would become the entire arc of Series Five. All of this presented in what was the cheapest episode of Doctor Who ever made. It is quite a legacy to come from a single story, done as a rush job on a series that many people at first thought would not survive its first few weeks.

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