C003 The Edge of Destruction

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The TARDIS suddenly stops and The Doctor, Susan, Ian and Barbara must face their fears and figure out what’s happened.

So, the TARDIS is crashing for some reason. That describes about four fifths of this episode. Anyway, the travellers are all knocked unconscious, gradually wake up one by one, for some reason don’t remember anything about where or who they are.

And then, for some reason, they do.

Paranoia and conspiracy theories ensue, whereupon The Doctor attempts to kill, roofie and kill (again) his companions. For some reason. This goes on for about 90% of the twin-episode story-arc until we’re left with the most disappointing deus ex machina that has ever been pulled out of a hat on any show ever. We were both baffled and disappointed.

If you haven’t seen this episode yet, please don’t. Do listen to our review of it, though, to hear two people ripping on something that they essentially love.


(Our Ratings and Reviews of this Doctor Who story kick in at the 38-minute mark.)



4 Responses to “C003 The Edge of Destruction”

  1. John David (jD)

    The Edge of Destruction

    I really liked this episode, despite what the two of you think about it – while I agree with most of the things you’ve said about plotlines going nowhere it doesn’t take away from my enjoyment of what is, in essence, a mystery play on stage.

    Ian Chesterton – The low light of the story, he does seem to spend most of his time in episode 1 at least in a zombie like induced haze, or William Russell had a few too many Tequilla’s with Billy Harnell the night before filming… lets just ignore him.

    Barbara Wright – She is really the main character at this point – she’s had the romance with Hunk #1 in The Daleks, she was the entire driving force between getting into the TARDIS in An Unearthly Child and now she is the person who drives the story forward in Edge of Destruction – a force of nature in a comfortable cardigan. If they’d renamed the show “Barbara Who” at this point, I wouldn’t have cared.

    Susan Foreman – Spends the entire episode acting far more like an alien child than at anytime since An Unearthly Child Part 1 – don’t think of her as a human child in this, think of her as a telepathic alien from another planet – and her strangeness is a bit more understandable

    The Doctor – This is the buffer between the toxic old bastard of An Unearthly Child / The Daleks to the kind old man of The War Machines / Dalek Invasion of Earth. The final scene with him and Barbara is the “softening” of the character that was sorely needed at this point in the show.

    The Good Points

    Bottle Episode – We get to know more about what drives the characters (or since this is a 1960’s drama, we get vague characterisation) – The Doctor is Grumpy but Intelligent ; Ian is Manly and Scientific ; Susan is Strange and Unearthly ; Barbara is fucking brilliant.

    The Doctor Changes – Not regeneration of the body, but regeneration of the soul, he starts to change from a grumpy old man who kidnapped two schoolteachers and bullied his granddaughter into the wandering scientist good guy who he was destined to become – and all thanks to Barbara.

    Hartnell – His fluff’s in this episode include “Check the Fornicator” and some complete gibberish about Knocking Susan and Him unconscious which takes about 20 minutes to complete one sentence – but somehow it doesn’t seem like an error, it seems like an annoyed 450 year old man who is getting towards the end of his life.

    Silence – Never before or after would silence in the TARDIS seem to creepy, no noise, no incidental TARDIS sounds, something dangerous is happening and this is a great way of showing it.

    Saturday Teatime – This was a children’s show back then, and you have to bear this in mind – this was meant to kids, and we got the Doctor drugging his companions, we got people trying to kill each other, the hero of the show (Ian) was trying to kill an old man, the young girl tried to stab the hero… it’s groundbreaking for the timeslot to show these things.

    The Bad Points

    Plot Dead Ends – It’s 1960’s sci-fi, no one was expecting arc’s of stories referring back to each other with Russell T Davies level of planning and MOffet levels of complexity – but it would have been nice to be consistent between episode 1 & episode 2 at least.

    Ten Minutes About a Spring – Susan bloody well knows what a spring is, she’s from Gallifrey and probably could build a string molecule by molecule and Ian is a bloody science teacher, and even the kids who watched this know what a spring is… WE KNOW!

    The Summary

    It’s not perfect, but don’t take the plot as the pure thing you look at here, look at the character development, the way they interact, the silence and the timeslot and you get something which is far better than the script.


    I had to say that my scores until this point are (to put things in context)

    An Unearthly Child (Part 1) 4.8
    An Unearthly Child (Part 2-4) 3.2
    The Daleks 3.7

    The Edge of Destruction 3.8

    Yes, I liked this one more than the Daleks…

  2. I know this story doesn’t get a lot of love among veteran Who fans, but, being a relative newbie myself, I still found it enthralling. I recognize its limitations, many of which you pointed out (yes, the “Fast Return” switch is laughably anti-climactic); but there’s a lot of fun ideas (heck, it establishes the TARDIS is alive!) and so many good character moments (I *love* Barbara’s calling the Doctor onto the carpet – it’s about time!). Here’s a review I posted at The Sci-Fi Christian:


    Maybe I’m like Charlie Brown with his Christmas tree, but I think all the episode needs is a little love! Obviously, it wouldn’t make it out of the writers’ room in this shape today… but, hey, it was 1964 afternoon kiddie programming, and I think it’s fairly entertaining, warts and all. And the Barbara-Doctor character arc makes it all worthwhile, in my book. I don’t think you give Jacqueline Hill enough credit – just because she smiles and makes nice with the Doctor at the end, I don’t think for a minute she’s okay with everything. She fits in well with some modern companions in this regard – she has been disillusioned by the Doctor.

    Anyway, moving on to “Marco Polo” (what there is left of it, anyway), and will check back with you then. Fun and fantastic podcast – keep up the great work!

  3. Peter Zunitch

    Wow what a great story that is all but ruined because of a lack of focus and a wanky explanation for the predicament.

    I’ve watched this story about 10 times by now. There’s so much subtext going on its mind blowing. It really does explain so much and set up so much more. The problem is that in each case there’s at least one piece of the puzzle needed to have it all make sense that just isn’t there. If someone at some point came out with the line, “the tardis is in pain and it’s projecting its fear and paranoia on us” then suddenly all the strange acting makes sense. All the psychotic moments are acts of brilliance. Pain, fear, distrust, anger, all things you would feel if someone was forcing you to go somewhere to your certain destruction. It’s like some exec. script editor said, “take out the tardis being psychic because no one will ever believe that, but you can leave all the consequences of it.”

    In fact I would guess that this was once a much longer story and the day before shooting someone cut an episode’s worth of time from the production.

    As for the fast return switch, that to me screams of someone saying “kids will never understand that there’s a mechanical problem, so lets just say so,ething got stuck.”

    And just why do they all wake up in different positions from where they passed out? Again it feels like something missing and could have been explained with one sentence, “perhaps something’s happened and we don’t remember it.” Would have added so much thrill to this mystery even if they never explained it further.

    All aside the acting is a 15 out of 10 across the board here, the directing mostly brilliant. Even the script could be considered great…if you fill in your own blanks.

    This script is ripe for someone to write a book form and add all that’s missing. It would bring this from the low score that it unfortunately must receive to a near perfect score.

    What is: 1
    What it is after watching 10 times and filling in the blanks: 3
    What it could have been: 4.8


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