Friday, March 24, 2006

My Review of Doctor Who's: "The Edge Of Destruction"

Written by David Whitaker
Directed by Richard Martin And Frank Cox

Ian (re Susan): “She’s fainted! But she was alright a minute ago.”
Barbara: “Yes and a while before that you were all unconscious.”

First we got cavemen, then we got Daleks, what could we possibly get next that would impress viewers? Well, how about a two parter primarily focusing on The Doctor, Susan, Ian and Barbara and nothing else. That could be someone’s idea of a dull serial but it’s perfect for me.

We’ve had the monsters, planets and trips into time so having something that focuses on our cast seems to be a welcome remedy. We know that The Doctor has got issues with Ian and Barbara and we also know that they are mistrusting of him so for David Whitaker to focus on those negative feelings feels like a pretty natural thing to do.

Because it’s only our main character, everything is set in the TARDIS and when an explosion renders everyone unconscious, it’s made pretty clear that the great ship of The Doctor’s is in some trouble of it’s own. Navigational circuits aside, the danger (or the would be destruction) of this serial is the TARDIS.

Opening and closing doors on its own accord isn’t exactly spooky but when each of the main characters starts displaying increased signs of paranoia and aggression, that’s when the fun really begins. If you’re the claustrophobic type, then you might find this episode somewhat unsettling.

The usually harmless Susan (come on, all she ever says is “Grandfather” incessantly) is one of the first victims of paranoia. One minute she’s grand and defending Ian against The Doctor, and then the next minute she tries to stab him (and also Barbara later on). Heck, Susan even ditches her mediator role and gangs up on Ian and Barbara during the course of this serial.

If Susan’s behaviour is erratic, then The Doctor’s is also more questionable. This isn’t the warm and friendlier version of the Time Lord we would see in later serials. Nope if his hostility towards Ian and Barbara in “An Unearthly Child” wasn’t terrible enough, then he really pushes things by drugging his human companions and later launching into an abusive tirade against them.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it but it does feel rather audacious that The Doctor’s relationship with Ian and Barbara is so tempestuous but it also makes for genuine conflict and does prove the show isn’t entirely rooted in the silliness that some later serials and incarnations of The Doctor have been. Not that I’m criticising mind.

Of course out the human companions, there are times throughout the serial where Ian does make things almost worse for himself and Barbara. At one point he attempted to strangle The Doctor when trying to convince him of his innocence in the TARDIS’ sabotage didn’t help and he does spend a lot of time sniping with him too.

There are times when you look at both The Doctor and Ian and you almost want to bang their heads together. The two of them can be frustratingly argumentative that they almost have more in common that they would like to admit to one another, although they do manage to put their differences aside to figure out what’s going on with the TARDIS’.

That’s the fun part of this serial, trying to figure out why the TARDIS is acting up. With the great sense of foreboding danger, the reveal of the TARDIS being on the verge of destruction due to a broken spring in the Fast Return Switch is as satisfying as you can get.

In some ways The Doctor’s arrogance and paranoia caused the situation to escalate further than it should have and it’s Barbara’s quick thinking about fixing the Switch that saves the day. If there’s one companion who’s rapidly becoming a favourite out of the three it’s certainly Barbara and Jacqueline Hill’s performance in this story is pretty impressive.

While she might have her misgivings of The Doctor, her hurt of his treatment towards her and Ian spoke volumes in this serial. The Doctor’s utter lack of respect is accountable here and it’s great that he apologises to Barbara in perhaps the best scene of the entire story. This is the first time we’ve seen any real form of closeness between The Doctor and a companion. It’s also one of the most touching scenes in the series forty five year history too.

It’s also great that after nearly killing each other, both The Doctor and Ian are able to have a humorous exchange during the last moment too. I think that at this stage The Doctor is beginning to warm towards Ian and Barbara. I hope so because they do tend to be more interesting than Susan. I don’t dislike Susan but aside from some good paranoia acting from Carole Ann Ford in this serial, I just don’t find her character that interesting I’m afraid.

Also in “The Edge Of Destruction”

This two parter was called “The Edge Of Destruction” and “The Brink Of Disaster”. Weirdly enough, there’s no commentary for it despite it being released in 2006.

Susan: “Who’s that? Oughtn’t we to go and help him?”
Barbara: “I don’t like the look of this cut at all.”

Other title for this story were “Inside The Spaceship”, “The Brink Of Disaster” and “Beyond The Sun”. Why couldn’t the writers just settle on one?

Ian (re The Doctor): “What’s he doing there?”
Barbara: “Oh he cut his head. Are you feeling all right?”
Ian: “Dizzy.”

Barbara (re TARDIS’ doors): “They must have been forced open when we crashed.”
Ian: “Crashed?”
Susan: “No! The ship can’t crash, it’s impossible.”

This was the first time we got to see/hear both the Cloister Bell and the food machine in the series.

Ian (re Susan): “She’s fainted. But she was alright a minute ago.”
Barbara: “Yes and a while before that you were all unconscious.”

Barbara: “No it isn’t but does it have to be? I mean things aren’t always very logical, are they? It’s just that one’s been through so much, I’ve …”
The Doctor: “I’ve been very patient with you Miss … Wright and really, there’s no more time for these absurd theories.”

This story came about when the six parter “The Robots” got scrapped. Personally I think we’ve benefited with a smaller story.

Barbara: “Oh what does it matter?”
The Doctor (re Ian): “Matter? Matter? Young lady, he very nearly tried to strangle me.”

Susan: “I think you’re right Grandfather.”
Barbara: “But you’re wrong. I swear we haven’t done anything.”
The Doctor: “I told you I’d treat you as enemies.”

On the DVD for this serial, there’s a condensed 30 minute version of the next story “Marco Polo”.

Susan: “It did happen to me Grandfather.”
Barbara: “Yes you remember. You lost your memory and there was this terrible pain in the back of your neck.”
Susan: “Yes. Yes that’s true.”

There’s a similar element of distress in “Castrovalva” as well, which involves The Master.

Barbara: “You said terrible things to us.”
The Doctor: “Yes I suppose it’s the injustice that’s upsetting you and when I made a threat to pull you off the ship it must have effected you very deeply.”
Barbara: “What do you care what I think or feel?”
The Doctor: “Well, as we learn about each other, so we learn about ourselves.”

This might be one of the few serials that has the same length as a regular episode of the new series.

Well out of the first three serials, I have to admit that I thought “The Edge Of Destruction” was the best one. It had the right length, developed Ian and in particular Barbara as characters and was also quite creepy and atmospheric despite there not being an alien in sight.

Rating: 9 out of 10.

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