“There’s something here, inside the ship.”
Broadcast Date: 8th February 1964
This two-part story almost never came about. The producers had two episodes to fill in order to make up their initial run of thirteen episodes. The two choices were either stretch ‘The Daleks’ from seven parts to nine, a seemingly impossible feat.
The only other alternative was to write a two part ‘filler’ using only the readily available TARDIS sets and the four characters. It came down to script editor David Whitaker to fill the fifty minutes and this is what he gave us…
A bit of poor editing starts off this two-part story for Doctor Who. Something sets the TARDIS into turmoil, our companions crashing down to the floor. The poor editing comes in here as we jump to the four unconscious time travellers, although Whitaker sets the scene brilliantly in less than two minutes.
|A dazed Hartnell in 'The Edge Of Destruction'|
There’s a strange, noticeable lack of music, creating the atmosphere as Barbara and Susan wake up first. The dialogue showing something is wrong with our cast, they are not acting or talking in the character-tone I’ve come to expect over the last ten episodes. Upon waking up, William Russell examines the body of the Doctor in a scary and strange, almost robotic like performance.
Susan never ceases to amaze in how irritating she can become but she does get some good lines now that the Doctor is temporarily out of the way. Only she knows the TARDIS so revealing lines about the doors being open has to be said by her. Carole Ann Ford overacts almost everything, however, getting hyper over every line of dialogue she gets. This fast becomes a bore but I’m happy as she’s now knocked out, Ian taking her out of the room.
Ten minutes in now and still I’ve heard no music being scored over the film. There have only been a few minor sound effects too, as Ian works the food machine. Now comes one of Who’s scariest moments, which it got into a lot of trouble over at the time of broadcast. Susan, awake now, attacks Ian with a pair of scissors. The complaints soared in over this scene, children easily being able to gain access to household appliances to imitate Susan (although why you’d want to imitate her I don’t know).
The Doctor’s finally awake and the script takes another turn as the character begins to turn on Barbara (and later Ian). It’s really a clever plot and would only work this early on into the series run. Each character is turned against each other, all four of them untrusting at this time in their travels.
|'Crazy Su' attatcked Ian in a famously 'scary' scene|
I think Whitaker is the unsung hero in the creation of Doctor Who, as producer Verity Lambert and creator Sydney Newman are the well known faces, yet Whitaker creates this brilliant piece of character-writing in such a small amount of time. Everybody gives ‘An Unearthly Child’ and ‘The Daleks’ as the stories that created the legacy but this story goes unnoticed more often than not, which is a real shame. All the performances (even some of Carole Ann Fords) are fantastic, as is the directing and writing.
But back to the story and eighteen minutes in, Hartnell gets what is possibly my favourite performance of his era, it really steps up a gear as he accuses Barbara and Ian of sabotaging the ship. Jacqueline Hill gets some really angry interaction with him, I always love it when these two characters are left to confront each other, there’s another fantastic scene of this in ‘The Aztecs’ later this series. Just based on this episode, I instantly prefer it over either of the previous stories, as it gets to the point instantly without having to plod out over various parts.
Admittedly the editing falls apart on this episode as we get a bad overlong zoom in on Chesterton’s face near the end of the story. The fade in and outs feel a bit out of place in some scenes, as does the first piece of music I hear, at the very end of the episode, creating the weekly cliffhanger as somebody is strangling the Doctor!