Doctor Who: Edge of Destruction

The third Doctor Who story is another left hand turn. Originally commissioned to only supply four episodes of the series (and then probably fade into obscurity), the BBC soon committed to thirteen. With 100,000 BC and The Daleks totalling eleven episodes, the two-parter Edge of Destruction was created to fill the void. With this knowledge, it's hard to see the two episodes as anything but filler between the legendary The Daleks and the renowned Marco Polo adventure, but still, there are some worthy things to note here. 

The TARDIS goes through a mysterious shockwave, knocking all four adventurers unconscious. When they awake, mysterious things begin to occur. Ian and Susan are possessed by violence, memory is lost and fragmented, and the Doctor takes a nasty knock to the head. All in all, no one knows what's going on, and in the confusion, the animosity between the group grows to a climax. In a scene that credits Verity Lambert's emphasis on continuity (and script editor and writer for this episode David Whitaker), the relationship between the Doctor, Ian and Barbara, filled with mutual resentment, comes to a 13-episode long resolution. It's one of the most remarkably contemporary feats of these early episodes.

It's also the story in all of Doctor Who history with the smallest cast. We only ever see the four adventurers. It's also (arguably) the one story that takes place entirely within the TARDIS. The action moves like a play within just two rooms. Indeed, it's TARDIS who is the star here. David Whitaker, a huge influence on the mythos surrounding the Doctor (and an important contributor later to Dalek mythology), cleverly uses the TARDIS as a potential adversary, and potentially sentient. This is the first story where the TARDIS is truly exposed for its endless story possibilities. While the conclusion is rather hilariously convenient (a spring was stuck on a button), Whitaker opens the door for dozens of stories that many of the contemporary episodes would walk through. (The Doctor's Wife, for example, or countless Steven Moffatt episodes.) The TARDIS is no mere machine, it's a living thing, capable of holding a dialogue. The fact that we get to see the Doctor learn this on screen is rather touching when you see him alongside Idris, about 900 or so years later into his life.

Once again, the concept of Doctor Who being solely intended for children is a little flawed. There are no monsters here, only humanoids in a space ship dealing with the complexities of time travel and mysteriously invisible beings. In one of the most memorable scenes, Susan threatens Ian with a pair of scissors. I'm quietly amazed that parental complaints that plagued the series in the 70's didn't come earlier.

This is also the departure point for continuity nazi's like me. Sadly the next adventure, Marco Polo, only exists in audio. Watching the 'entire first season' is an impossibility. Nevertheless, I'll look to YouTube for faithful fan reconstructions and return to you with some thoughts next week. (Yes, Doctor Who Sundays become a regular spot. Because it's so damn good.)