Saturday, August 31, 2013

The Edge of Destruction - "As we learn about each other, so we learn about ourselves."

BBC - Doctor Who Classic Episode Guide - The Edge of Destruction - Details

Season 1, Story 3 (Overall Series Story #3) | Previous - Next | Index

From 1960s London, to prehistoric times, to post-apocalyptic Skaro, we've been on quite a ride through the first two stories, so it's a bit claustrophobic to be trapped inside the TARDIS for an entire story so soon. And "Journey to the Centre of the TARDIS" is a long way off in terms of the possibilities of what could be shown. But, it's grounding in a way, too. It shows us a little bit more than the console room, and gives us a tantalizing sense that there's more unseen, but we've still got just the barest glimpse ...

Let's put this thing in a nutshell first. The Doctor, Susan, Ian, and Barbara are knocked out, wake up a bit demented, start turning against each other, suspecting an enemy may have entered the TARDIS, or that Ian is somehow behind the current state of affairs. Then, Barbara figures out the TARDIS is trying to warn them of some danger. Although, tt's very difficult to imagine what Barbara means by her declaration: "We had time taken away from us, and now it's been given back to us because it's running out."

Susan goes berserk with a pair of shears in quite an intense(ly weird) moment.


This is a David Whitaker story, so let's see what Sandifer, Whitaker's greatest champion, has to say about this one:
... [I]t is Barbara, crucially, who understands that the TARDIS is, to some extent, sentient, and that the bizarre happenings are its version of a warning. This is, notably, something the Doctor does not grasp. He does not understand that the TARDIS is a magical box. He declares that it can't think. But it can, and in this moment, in Barbara's explanation, the TARDIS becomes a character.
It's a curious state of affairs and suggests that the Doctor doesn't know the TARDIS very well yet. We know he and Susan have had some adventures since leaving their planet, but it seems they haven't had that many. He actually doesn't even know the TARDIS console itself very well yet and has trouble finding the Fast Return switch ...
The problem, as it turns out, is that a spring has busted on a switch (which is conveniently labeled. In Sharpie.) and it's stayed on. Which is, in many ways, the full establishment of the TARDIS - on the one hand, it is a magical box that can think and communicate with its inhabitants. On the other hand, it can accidentally have a spring get stuck and proceed to nearly explode. Which is, shall we say, a bit of a design flaw. 
Inasmuch as the Doctor can be humbled, by this, at least, he is. He does not quite apologize to Ian or Barbara for nearly throwing them into deep space. But he does act graciously towards them, accepting that he needs them. And so the Doctor has his magical box, his friends, and his freedom. And with this story, the elements of Doctor Who are, by and large, in place.
So this rush job of a show, made on a shoestring, isn't just trying to give us a bit of atmosphere fill a shortage of episodes; or, if it's only trying that, it's accomplishing much more. Had this gone on for more than two episodes in the same vein, I'm sure I would have lost patience with it. But, as an interlude, it works just well enough. It also sets a precedent for more trippy stories to come. Having this in our back pocket when "The Mind Robber" comes along, for instance, helps us accept that the universe of Doctor Who is very much concerned with our minds and imagination, not only history and (its version of) hard science.

Stray Thoughts:

I wonder whatever happened to the TARDIS food machine and if the Doctor still needs two kinds of water (hot and cold?) and milk so prominent in control panel:

Let's see ... we'll need some water, some more water, and some milk. Lucky thing ...

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