The Edge of Destruction
11 January 2015 at 13:57 #37228Craig @craigEmperor
I really love the original theme tune! Is always great to hear it again.
The third ever Doctor Who story after ‘An Unearthly Child’ and ‘The Daleks’, and a rather more claustrophobic one due to budget restraints. It’s what is now called a bottle episode, shot on a single set, with just the main cast.
The Doctor, while attempting to correct the TARDIS’ faulty navigation circuits, causes a small explosion. He, Barbara, Ian and Susan are all temporarily rendered unconscious and as they slowly recover from the shock they start turning against each other.
As it’s only two parts I thought it might be fun to treat it as one modern length episode. Ideas for next week’s viewing are welcome below.11 January 2015 at 23:29 #37254
I don’t remember this from first broadcast, since I was busy with other matters at the time. [Crawling. Apparently I decided it was vastly overrated, and bum shuffling was definitely the way to travel]. As with many of the early stories, it continues directly from the end of the previous story – in this case, The Daleks. It must have been a bit puzzling if you’d watched the previous episodes, because Barbara is having trouble remembering who Ian is, and Susan is having trouble remembering who Barbara is. William Hartnell, meanwhile, is having a peaceful snooze on the floor. Unconsciousness acting, always tough. Just try not to snore. 😉
From the continuity point of view, Ian refers to one heart for the Doctor: ‘his heart seems all right’. They hadn’t invented the idea of ‘two hearts’ yet.
But, retconning madly, Ian’s talking in such a spaced-out way, I’m not sure this can really be taken as definitive evidence that the Doctor only had one heart until his first regeneration. Especially since we now know, from the Smith and Tennant Doctors, that it’s possible for one of a Time Lord’s hearts to stop. And that they will often collapse when that happens. 😀
We don’t often see outside the main console room, even today. Again, the totally different architecture that we see each time the story does go outside the console room has now been retconned (Into the TARDIS) – the TARDIS has an architectural reconfiguration system and can change things on a whim. Here, we see a machine that’s an early adopter of healthy eating: delivering water or milk, only. Despite telling Susan it’s empty.
And the TARDIS doors open and close by themselves. Also, Ian Chesterton’s many skills include knowing how to do a fireman’s lift. Presumably that was handy for recalcitrant pupils…
Those are some really vicious-looking scissors; I’m not surprised they later agreed the scenes where Susan threatens Ian and Barbara with them went a bit too far. On the whole, the writers and cast seem to have gone for ‘Pinter’ in the early part of the first episode; I think 1963 was when Harold Pinter had just hit the big time. There’s an air of seemingly normal lines with an undercurrent of menace that reminds me quite strongly of early Pinter.
Once the viewscreen comes on the acting gets slightly more normal – as if the characters are almost relieved to have external weirdnesses to cope with. And there are indeed external weirdnesses; the doors, the electrified or non electrified console; the screen that displays a sequence of images instead of what’s outside and the incredible melting clock. And watches.
Oh, and nice job, Barbara. Has any companion since managed to rip the Doctor a new one so effectively? Pity he knows where the sleeping pills are.
Although someone was one jump ahead.12 January 2015 at 00:28 #37255
Having left the audience with someone trying to strangle the Doctor, we find out it’s Ian. Who promptly faints. Meanwhile, it appears that the sleeping pills supplied by the TARDIS may be the first in the long list of dubious, often hallucinogenic, substances that the Doctor ‘just happens’ to have with him. I think he may have inhaled. 😉
Anyway, Gallifreyan sleeping pills may also have an emergency ‘stop working if someone screams loudly’ function, because Ian’s scream-and-faint wakes everyone. As Barbara tries to wake Ian without revealing whether he’s a boxer or Y-fronts man (boxers, or possibly William Russell looked at the length of the dressing gown and added a pair of football shorts), the Doctor threatens to kick Ian and Barbara off the TARDIS. Mid-flight.
Where the heck did they get that alarm? It sounded like nothing so much as the TARDIS blowing a raspberry… no wonder they later went with the Cloister Bell. But at this early stage, they’re still using the fault locator. If one bulb lights up, there’s a fault. If everything lights up, the ship’s going to fall apart.
At which point, the Doctor suddenly realises that this isn’t some evil plot by Ian and Barbara. I like the way that Hartnell has the Doctor instantly change attitude; that ‘change emotions in an instant’ is something many of the later actors picked up on for the Doctor’s character.
Incidentally, Susan’s nerviness at the idea of the power escaping from the console may have been one of the germs of RTD’s decision to make the heart of the TARDIS have semi magical powers. And there’s also a very strong implication here that the Doctor really doesn’t understand the TARDIS. As he later admits, he failed the TARDIS piloting course. He had to learn as he went along.
Here, he first says that ‘his machine’ can’t think, then starts to admit that perhaps it can; just not in the way that we do. Which is why the poor old TARDIS is trying to communicate by means of symbols, clues. Actually talking to people is something she had to learn. [It’s since ‘The Doctor’s Wife’, after she became Idris, that the TARDIS seems to be able to explain things verbally. Essentially, it seems to have been decided that being Idris taught the TARDIS how to talk, though even now she only tries when things are going distinctly pear-shaped].
In this case, she resorts to pictures. They’re going towards the Big Bang, or at least the formation of a star. Which the Doctor finds very exciting. Other people have to remind him that possibly that isn’t a good idea. 😉
Finally, Ian uses the ‘try and remember what you were doing when you last had your keys’ routine on the Doctor. Who remembers that he used the (neatly labelled) Fast Return switch to get them off Skaro quickly. When he pokes at it, he realises that it’s stuck. Fortunately, a stuck switch is something he can mend.
The fault locator, it seems, can’t tell if a switch in the ‘on’ position should be ‘on’. The TARDIS, however, can.
Finale. Barbara can really, really hold a sulk.This may be a quality that the Doctor recognises.
He certainly knows how best to apologise. 😀12 January 2015 at 05:03 #37256The Krynoid Man @thekrynoidman
I think this is quite a nice, suspenseful little story. Not one of my all time favourites but a decent way to pass the time. I think the writers of the AG series should look at this as an example of how to do character based episodes without having them be about the characters personal lives or even be set on earth.
I’ve seen some give this story a fairly negative response, but I’m not sure why since as I said before, I think it’s pretty decent.12 January 2015 at 06:35 #37259Anonymous @
oooh, that was marvellous: the paranoia of a Philip K Dick oozed into their suspicious glances, their hysteria and mystified expressions. I liked how Barbara was filmed, kneeling before a confused and desperate Susan. Later, Ian, on the ground, moves his hands up Barbara’s back and then attempts a strangulation. It’s all quite stark. Like crows flying around and around in some middle distance. As for the Doctor: “it was your intuition against my logic….we have to look after you; yes, yes we do. You’re very valuable.” A zing of discomfort, something foreordained; followed by merry laughter.
The score is all scattery blips and tweets like a complicated, contrary Bartok quartet. Inspired.
Regards, puro.12 January 2015 at 07:02 #37260Anonymous @
@bluesqueakpip quite right too. Barbara’s imperious “how dare YOU?” to the Doctor is one of the best! “I made fire for you, I saved you and what about the daleks??”
The Doctor’s response is: “well, we’re all a bit over-wrought.” To:
“Rash action is worse than no action at all.”
“I see nothing rash about apologising” snaps Ian. Wonderful.12 January 2015 at 21:46 #37266Barbara Lefty @barbaralefty
We’re all a bit overwrought..
So if you’d just drink this sleeping potion and get out of my face….
Love the idea of crows, particularly the ladies in their robes. So disorienting at the start.
@bluesqueakpip. I noticed the Doctor’s characteristically dramatic volte face; to some extent I felt it was cemented by seeing Barbara attempting, as gentle as if he were a child, to restrain and calm Ian, despite the fact he was at that moment trying to strangle her. I like the idea of it, that moment giving a profound and recognisable insight into human behaviour.
Surprising amount of blokey cameraderie between the Doctor and Ian, the crisis allowing them to bond over the protection of the ladies, while good old Barbara saves the day. Barbaras are best!. And nice early establishment of the “With my logic and your social skills/ other brain bits, we can save the universe!”
Also Barbara, “Give me the scissors.” Cos I’m a teach and I got eyes in the back of my head!13 January 2015 at 03:37 #37270
Loved watching that again… it’s been a while (not seen it since first broadcast)!
Putting it in context – this was only the 3rd story. We hardly know the Doctor at all by this stage (or how long the series had to run) and so far he’s hardly been endearing – he kidnapped Ian and Barbara in the first episode, tried to brain a caveman in the second story and nearly got them all killed by the Daleks in the next one, due to his deviousness. All of which Barbara very succinctly calls him out on (as @bluesqueakpip eloquently pointed out) – “You stupid old man… you should go down on your hands and knees and thank us!”
And people have a problem with Clara at the end of Kill the Moon. She’s a pussycat compared to Barbara!
The other thing the BG show frequently gets criticised for is its supposedly sexist portrayal of female companions. It’s Barbara who’s doing most of the thinking here, in addition to the more traditional female role of being the nurse. As @barbaralefty so rightly says – Barbara’s great (oh… OK, Barbaras then!!).
It’s interesting because watching it as a child I definitely focused on Susan as my “entry point”, Barbara was the teacher (and adult) so I expected her to get stuff right. It confused me, but I really liked it.
But at this stage in the original run through we really don’t know enough about the Doctor to be able trust him at all. He’s been devious, sneaky, selfish and generally acting like someone with something to hide. So the paranoia that creeps into everyone was genuinely shocking. And the format was a surprise. This episode as the one, in combination with the show up to that point, that really confirmed it wasn’t going to run to an easily predictable formula. No budget? No problem! Even the length of the stories didn’t conform to a pattern – 4 parts, 7 parts then this little 2 parter.
I liked the Pinter meets Dick stylised direction in the first episode in particular; it adds to the very unsettling atmosphere (and covers up Susan’s slight (ahem!) overacting). But she does have her moments, and the other 3 are terrific (Hartnell fluffing his lines always seems in character anyway). And the idea of an invisible “intelligence” sneaking into the TARDIS and hiding in one of its occupants is as unsettling as anything the show has ever come up with, evenif it turns not to be the case. There are some interesting camera angles, with Hartnell foregrounded and shadowed, looking cunning.13 January 2015 at 04:02 #37272Anonymous @
hail to all Barbaras, I say. I knew a lot of Barbaras growing up: they remind me so much of this competent, sciency, wickedly clever woman.
Absolutely agree with that assessment of her simultaneously calming Ian and restraining him for his own sake (those fiendish hands splaying up her slender back: almost face huggers. Not quite but nearly…).
I really liked the simplicity in this -on the surface, simple, I suppose. Landmarks adrift in time, things recognisable but rearranged, marooned in an incomplete dreamscape where an outline of a door or a picture of trees is made terrible by the emptiness or confusion of everything and everyone else. It’s like the horizon has shifted. Nauseating, really.
These early episodes -a budget on a clothesline, Hartnell’s stumbling lines and Susan’s high pitched screams are still magnificent to me.
And Susan’s psycho moment? jab jab jab with the scissors. They are bigger aren’t they? I’m reminded of an odd film with Kenneth Brannagh and his wife at the time where the wife is murdered -or very nearly murdered. There are huge scissors in every room and they pepper the dreams throughout. I don’t quite know why they make such an impression on me and why I should choose to remember this…
puro13 January 2015 at 04:09 #37273
Some random thoughts…
Barbara starts off wearing Thal trousers! And then mysteriously changes (unseen) into a skirt about 10 minutes in. Shame. Around the same time that Susan manages to find the dark robe, while lying resting in bed. The Doctor’s bandage does a fair bit of shifting about too. Continuity error you say? Ha! Obviously a dimensional slip or a timestream jump! 😉
I was surprised that the sentience of the TARDIS is pretty much established here. Yes the Doctor calls it a machine, but it’s clear that there is probably more going on under the console than the Doctor is aware of. But this is clearly still very early in his flight from Gallifrey. He and the TARDIS have a lot more evolving and travelling to do together. Nice idea from @bluesqueakpip that the TARDIS can only express herself in language once she has been Idris.
Around about the 4:50 time, the Doctor is coming to the first time, and it sounds to me like he says “I can’t take you back Susan…” Can anyone else make that out…? I have rampant overthinking theorising bubbling up here. 😀
Not impressed with the TARDIS bedrooms – maybe she was still getting the hang of the interior decor thing for humans.
Other things to like – the original theme tune. As @craig says in the intro, it is definitely the best. It’s just so unusual, distinctive and other worldy, even now. There was, and is, nothing like it. And I do love the original thick doors, and the hum. (I may have mentioned this on a few occasions in here 😳 but those 3 things are absolutley definitive for me, and a time travel device in themselves).
Hartnell is just the biz! Complex, enigmatic, untrustworthy. And yet we see him softening at the end, as each of the crew has gained new respect and trust for each other after this experience. Humans are starting to work their effect on him.
The end lead-in to Marco Polo! Noooooooooo! How can they tease us like this?13 January 2015 at 09:44 #37276Anonymous @
@scaryb I can’t make it out either -I might have to go to scripts.com 🙂
I think the soundtrack is amazing. I like the lag in between ‘bars’ just like a time slip. Can’t beat it.
You know, I didn’t check the costuming -I wasn’t concentrating -though the bandage whistled past me as an idea.13 January 2015 at 10:58 #37279
@scaryb and @Purofilion – the subtitles definitely say “I can’t take you back, Susan.”
Theorise away!13 January 2015 at 12:28 #37280janetteB @janetteb
Sorry for not posting earlier. My SO chose yesterday to upgrade my senescent laptop. I passed the time watching Edge of Destruction on another Laptop which currently has no internet access. (It is awaiting an upgrade.)
Like @bluesqueakpip I was rather more interested in learning to crawl when this was originally shown. (also my parents had no TV and my mobility skills were not up to the task of crawling over to my grandmother’s next door.) Also thank you for explaining the intro. I had forgotten just how the Daleks ends so was a little confused.
I loved you comment Scary re’ Clara as a pussycat in comparison to Barbara. I was going to post a long diatribe about modern fans and critics who talk about the current run of “feisty” companions while dismissing all BG companions as sexist portrayals but you beat me to it. Barbara was strong, smart and more than able to hold her own. She often objects to being relegated to traditional female roles by other characters. It is no less too than I would expect from a TV show produced by a strong, intelligent woman who was pushing the boundaries. I wonder if Barbara is to a degree a reflection of Verity Lambert.
Susan on the other hand, “slight overacting”??? You were being polite there. She does little but scream hysterically. I suspect she is meant to be young and easily scared but the limited acting ability does not convey much at all. (I am a little stuck on the “what happened to Susan refrain, not because I particularly liked the character as portrayed by Carol Ann Ford, but because the concept of the character interests me and I think has potential for further exploring just who the Doctor is. I really want to see a young, regenerated Susan.)
I think this story is important in the development of the show and the character of the Doctor. If the depiction of the development of the series in An Adventure in Space and Time is accurate then they were slowly finding their way at this stage. The success of the Daleks had saved the show but the show, like BlueSqueakPip and I at the time, was still learning to crawl. This is a bold story to attempt. IT is Moffat like in many ways, relying on tension generated by the actors. They really carry the story, (with the unfortunate exception of Carol Ann Ford), and give it its power. I loved that the resolution was so simple and mundane, a faulty spring. Imagine how the ARSE fans would scream now about a story that revolved around a faulty spring. It seems on watching this after seeing “An Adventure in Space and Time” that Hartnell finally manages to inject a little of that “twinkle” into his characterisation. We get some hint of warmth at the end and something of his mercurial nature. “One minute you are abusing us and the next you are the perfect butler”.
Janette13 January 2015 at 17:55 #37285Arbutus @arbutus
@janetteb You have hit on exactly what was in my mind throughout this story. There’s no way that anyone who had ever seen this could make some of the claims that we frequently see about the way they feel the show has “changed”. This story is not pure science fiction in any sense that I am accustomed to. The science/tech is completely invented, and the threat is almost insignificant (not in its potential result, of course!). This is a contrived situation designed to move along the development of the characters and their relationships with one another. I found myself thinking of Midnight at one point, which was similar in its dependence on a threat that was invented specifically for the manner in which it threatened, and the insight it could provide into character.
@barbaralefty, I had the same feeling that the Doctor reacted quite strongly to the sight of Barbara dealing so calmly with Ian. This is no more a story designed solely for children than those we watch today (another complaint I sometimes see- “Too dark, it’s supposed to be a children’s show!”). People who demand a heroic Doctor and a faithful companion should be made to watch Barbara ripping into the Doctor here!
I sometimes suspect that those who are loudest in their “I have watched the show since the beginning, and the old show would never have done x, y, or z!” complaints, really only climbed on somewhere during the UNIT days, and their fond memories of dodgy monsters and tech-based stories really come from the Third Doctor’s era. Just as the ones who complain about stories being based on earth have never really watched anything prior to Tom Baker. 🙂16 January 2015 at 12:34 #37327PaperMoon @papermoon
I like this episode just for what it’s about – the first stirrings of the TARDIS’ sentience. There have been other sentient spaceships in science fiction more recently, whether they be bioships as in Moya from Farcape, or Gumptu in ST:TNG, or AI as in the ship in Andromeda. But I was wondering if this was the first time a sentient ship had been seen on T.V. I know that it had been done in literature before, but when I checked online I couldn’t find anything before this episode. Does anybody know if this is the case for sure?17 January 2015 at 01:10 #37335PhaseShift @phaseshiftTime Lord
A wonderful episode for a rewatch. I think it was @janetteb who suggested it, so good call her.
It’s actually a reminder that in Doctor Who, a bit of desperation could be the mother of invention. Last year we rewatched Mind Robber and City of Death, both which I think benefited from sparks of invention necessitated by production problems and late rewrites. In this case, two extra episodes had to be sourced and David Whittaker, Who’s first Story Editor, had two days to come up with a story, which had no money and production time for much set work.
It’s actually a slight concept overall, but there is so much good character work and a fundamental reveal about the Doctor’s marvellous machine that more than makeup for it. As Ian remarked in Unearthly Child, “It’s Alive!”. Here they are about to learn that’s true, and it’s astonishing that such an important concept for the series as it evolved was delivered on the spur of the moment.
In a way, it has to backpeddle slightly on the character “heal” that occurs in the last story The Daleks, but this is still so early in the series that I think it gets away with it. Especially because of Barbara and Ian’s clear exasperation that the Doctors paranoia about their motivations has come back.
I’d echo @bluesqueakpip, @purofilion, @barabaralefty @scaryb @janetteb and @arbutus in that this is such a strong episode for Barbara. She really does lay into the Doctor, she is a comforting presence for Susan, and puts all the clues together. In fact if you will allow me to unleash that small, twisted nugget of Guardian commentator that lies shrivelled within me:
“Why oh why don’t they just call this the Barbara Wright show? It’s supposed to be Doctor Who. Why can’t we go back to how it used to be when Verity Lambert ran the … oh. I’ll get me coat.” 😀
But it’s nice to see the team gel at the end. There is closure on those suspicion issues and the friendships grow from here. You have Susan dropping Miss Wright and calling her Barbara. And Susan’s approval is obviously important to even this cantankerous Doctor. And I’ve always thought his (deliberately scripted) mistake with Ian’s name at the end was a nice signal that things were back to normal between them.
And there’s also a very strong implication here that the Doctor really doesn’t understand the TARDIS.
Absolutely. I think one of the interesting things that followed in how Time Lords were presented was that, as a society, they had got to a point where innovation and enquiry didn’t seem to engage them much. They rested on their laurels content that things worked, and not that bothered about why they worked. I think most people with a mobile phone will appreciate the mindset. 😉
I also love that, not only did this reveal the TARDIS was alive, but beyond that control room were mile upon mile of corridors. It sets the tone for just about every time the show has explored the TARDIS. Oh, there have been hints in other episodes about the wonders within, but perhaps like the Doctors past they are better left to the imagination. It also potentially answers the question about why the Doctor is so good at running down corridors. Imagine trying to navigate that labyrinth every time you need the loo!
Not impressed with the TARDIS bedrooms – maybe she was still getting the hang of the interior decor thing for humans.
It used to make me laugh whenever we saw companion’s rooms for Romana and the Davison crew later, where they clearly (and pointedly) had single beds. No potential for hanky panky in the TARDIS, please! We may end up with a baby with a Time Head, or something. 😀
I always thought the Doctors Wife (more corridors!) joke about bunk beds was a sly dig at that.17 January 2015 at 01:22 #37336PhaseShift @phaseshiftTime Lord
But I was wondering if this was the first time a sentient ship had been seen on T.V.
It’s an interesting question that. Thinking about it I think it was beaten by a Martian ship unearthed in London in the serial Quatermass and the Pit, which we discussed last year. It holds a kind of malevolent intelligence that projects and harnesses psychic power. It’s well worth a look if you haven’t seen it, because it was a real influence on Doctor Who.17 January 2015 at 11:01 #37346
“Why oh why don’t they just call this the Barbara Wright show?
Exactly. We have Coal Hill School appearing in more than the first episode, we have English and Maths teachers instead of History and Science, the schoolkid(s) they have to take care of can go home – and poor old Clara has to play Barbara AND Ian because her ‘Ian’ isn’t up to it. 😈
But Barbara and Clara would recognise each other. They’re playing very similar roles. 😀17 January 2015 at 12:16 #37349janetteB @janetteb
Noo00. Clara’s “Ian” showed on occasion that he was more than “up to it”, but had PTSD to deal with first before stepping on board the Tardis and now to too dead to do so. (We presume because as has been pointed out, being dead in Dr Who does not necessarily preclude the deceased from participating in non deceased type activities.)
English and Maths teachers are definitely mirroring History and Science. After all History and English are common majors, (mine in fact) and Maths/Science usually go hand in hand. (My SO for instance) and somehow the English/History and the Maths/Science seem to be a common pairing. Clara’s position at Coal Hill was a nod to the past. I just hope that Moffat intends to extract a little more honey from that pot. Maybe time for a “we want Ian” petition.
Janette.17 January 2015 at 21:04 #37356Whisht @whisht
I watched this last week so my memory of it is a little vaguer than it was, but the thing that sticks in my mind is that the acting from Ian, Barbara and Susan suggests that they are in fact possessed, whereas it turns out that they aren’t (unless I missed something – highly likely!).
I’ll admit that the “I’m shouting to increase tension” type of acting leaves me cold (it gets a tad shrill), but it is interesting to me that the Doctor was actually not the hero but in fact the “mysterious stranger” who is untrustworthy and with other agendas (would I be right in thinking like Prospero?).
hey ho – also good to see how this compares to Quatermass so enjoyed watching.18 January 2015 at 16:34 #3737919 January 2015 at 03:24 #37408
the Doctor was actually not the hero but in fact the “mysterious stranger” who is untrustworthy and with other agendas (would I be right in thinking like Prospero?)
I think that’s pretty spot on, especially for early Hartnell. They do play it as if they are possessed in the first part, but they’ve each had a knock on the head, and are concussed/confused when they come to.
Maybe time for a “we want Ian” petition.
Where do I sign?
@phaseshift (great post btw) – you’d be hard pushed to do ANYTHING (inc sleep) in those beds!
Interesting thought re sentient space ships on TV. I agree the Quatermas ship was highly likely to have been an influence, but the TARDIS would appear to be less malevolent, if misunderstood. But she’s trying to communicate that they are in danger.
@arbutus Nice connection to Midnight, I like it. The budgets and effects in early Who are much maligned, and not always justifiably IMO. They are of their time, and this one is obv a low budget episode, but the Daleks (immediately before) and Marco Polo (which followed) clearly had a fair bit thrown at them. The historicals were easier in some ways because of access to the extensive BBC wardrobe.
By the end of this story the beginnings of everything about the show today have been introduced, except for regeneration and time lords. That’s impressive.
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