Thursday, June 28, 2012

Old Who Reviews - Serial 003: "The Edge of Destruction"

"Accuse us!? You ought to get down on your hands and knees and thank us! Gratitude's the last thing you'll ever have, or any sort of common sense either!"
~Barbara Wright

"Doctor Who" was originally picked up for only four episodes, but when it was upgraded to a more robust 13, the team put together the 7-part serial I reviewed yesterday and then was left with two more episodes and almost no remaining budget.

So what did they do? They made a bottle episode.

"The Edge of Destruction" is one of the only Doctor Who stories to take place almost entirely within the confines of the TARDIS.

The plot is ridiculously easy to summarize. The Doctor breaks the TARDIS and everyone starts acting strangely until they fix the problem.

Still, the specifics are worth examining both for novelty and for the sake of acknowledging the first companion the Doctor openly appreciates: Barbara Wright.

The episode starts off with everybody but Barbara knocked unconscious. Ian and Susan wake up, but the Doctor is still out cold (this has to happen in every serial apparently). They notice the TARDIS' doors are opening and closing by themselves and when Susan tries to touch the controls, she gets knocked out by some unseen force. And of course that's when the Doctor wakes up.

Ian brings Susan to her bed, leaves for a moment, and returns to find this:

Sadly, she snaps out of her murderous compulsion before any harm can come to Ian.

The Doctor and Ian start to investigate the TARDIS and find that nothing is technically wrong, leading the Doctor to accuse the two companions of sabotaging the machine.

At this point, Barbara flips her shit, and it is glorious.

Barbara's thorough destruction of the Doctor's bullshit is probably the best thing in the series so far. Honestly, the serial is worth finding and watching for this one bit alone. And the best part is how the Doctor reacts.

Actually, the Doctor doesn't technically apologize, but it is hilarious how quickly he dropped all his accusations in the face of Barbara's delicious fury, and then even went so far as to make tea for everyone.

Anyway, the majority of the rest of the serial can be summarized as "more crazy stuff happens". Everything on the TARDIS breaks, everyone's watches stop working, Ian tries to strangle the Doctor, the screen keeps showing a solar system exploding, and Susan keeps acting possessed.

Eventually they discover that the TARDIS is trapped inside of a newly created solar system and so it's been trying to communicate through them in order to guide them towards fixing the situation.

While this explains SOME of the strange things that happened, there's a few things it doesn't explain.

Anyway, they figure out that the TARDIS' "Fast Release" button got stuck due to a broken spring.

So everything is back to normal and the Doctor tells Barbara how awesome she is before convincing her to go play with him out in the snow.

No silly captions for that one, because it's a genuinely historic moment. The Doctor finally openly tolerates a companion. We have another series first.

So all in all, how is this setial? Well, it establishes a lot of really important things that come into play over the next 50 years of the show's history. It illustrates that the TARDIS has a mind of its own and that the Doctor knows next to nothing about it. It shows us how the Doctor has started to warm up to his human hostages. It gives us our first moment where a companion loses their shit and tells the Doctor what a tool he is. And it's only two episodes long, so it's not exactly torturous.

Still, it's pretty poorly paced and there's a number of plot holes.

I give it a 7/10.

The next serial will take me a bit longer since it's six episodes long and also because the actual footage from the episode has been lost for decades. But as we'll find out in a couple days, that won't stop a true Who fan! Join me next time for "Marco Polo", our first reconstructed serial!