Wednesday, 8 June 2011

The Wheel In Space (Episode 6)

Originally Broadcast 1st June 1968
Written by: David Whitaker

In a nutshell:  The Cybermen have begun their invasion of the wheel in space, leaving it up to the Doctor to put an end to their plans.

NB. This episode is missing from the BBC archives, this review is based upon the surviving audio book narrated by Wendy Padbury and the BBC website’s photo-novel reconstruction.

Review: This episode is a big step up from the previous parts although it’s still full of flaws. The plot doesn’t get much better, although the characterisation improves a lot; there are some especially nice scenes for Pat Troughton to work on when he’s confronted by two Cybermen. Acting like it’s his last stand he gives a brilliant performance, making you think everything’s at stake here and it’s at the level of a regeneration story for the Doctor.

Zoe grows on me more with this episode, but she’s quite irritating in places too, although not to the extent of looking for sympathy as she’s been brainwashed. Her and Jamie get to interact more as well, thus beginning (arguably) one of the most favourable TARDIS teams with fans. There’s some dodgy effects work going on, especially the look of the meteorites, spinning balls put in front of a black drape, this looks very unconvincing, even in comparison to other 1960s shows of the same manor.

One thing to point out, however, is the shocking image of seeing Gemma’s dead body on various occasions in the episode, two times we get a camera pointing down at her as her lifeless eyes stare up at you. This shot is really chilling, especially for a 1968 children’s television show.

Recovering from this, I liked how the episode ended, leading straight into the repeat series of ‘The Evil Of The Daleks’ which was broadcast for seven weeks whilst the current series ended. Makes me think it’s an even bigger shame the BBC wiped it, as it was one of the few stories to be given a repeat on BBC1. I think this series ‘finale’ ‘The Wheel In Space’ lacked something epic that the previous and following series finales show off in style. Previously we had said arc ‘The Evil Of The Daleks’ which boasted the last ever Dalek story (at the time) and next years ‘The War Games’ finished off Patrick Troughton’s incarnation. Being stuck in the middle of these, ‘The Wheel In Space’ fails to measure up in comparison.

A very weak story, dragged far too long, but on the whole there is some fantastic acting by not only the main cast, but parts of the guest cast too.
The Cybers creep up on new companion Zoe (Wendy Padbury)

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