Friday, 27 April 2018

204 The Wheel in Space: Episode One

EPISODE: The Wheel in Space: Episode One
TRANSMITTED: Saturday 27 April 1968
WRITER: David Whitaker from a story by Kit Pedler
DIRECTOR: Tristan de Vere Cole
SCRIPT EDITOR: Derrick Sherwin
PRODUCER: Peter Bryant
RATINGS: 7.2 million viewers
FORMAT: CD: Doctor Who: The Lost TV Episodes Volume 5 (1967-1969)
TELESNAPS: The Wheel in Space: Episode One

"In a few moments you're going to witness the complete destruction of a rocket in space!"

The Doctor & Jamie watch as Victoria waves goodbye to them on the scanner screen. A fault causes the Tardis to land suddenly, Mercury vapour filling the room. The Doctor removes the Tardis' Time Vector Generator immobilising the ship as the retreat into the spaceship in which they've landed. They investigate the seemingly deserted ship, seeking mercury to replenish their supply and noting they're in deep space. Elsewhere on the ship a servo robot patrols and encounters the Tardis. The robot controls the ship changing it's course which alerts the Doctor and Jamie. The Robot opens a pod, revealing a set of white spheres which it allows to escape through the airlock. The ship is approaching a space station and comes to a halt. Trying to get back to the Tardis the Doctor is cornered by the robot which Jamie destroys, but the Doctor is knocked unconscious. On the space station the ship is identified as the Silver Carrier, a missing supply ship. The objects launched from the ship start to collide with the space station. Judging the rocket to be a hazard` they decide to destroy it with the station's X-ray laser.....

1y 1z

Oh dear, what a dreadfully boring episode. Even the closing line, which should inspire excitement is delivered in a dreary monotone. The episode is effectively a two hander between The Doctor & Jamie till the last few moments when the Wheel's crew put in a brief appearance but there's no real threat to our characters for most of the episode and their dialogue lacks the usual sparkle between them.

1a 1b

The only menace there is is provided by the silent lumbering form of the Silver Carrier's Servo Robot, played by Freddy Foote, and that isn't the most scary thing we've ever seen on screen.

1c 1d

I'll be charitable and say the model work hasn't been done any favours by the telesnaps. The wheel would seem to be the superior of the two models used here.

1 Silver Carrier 0 Wheel

Mercury gets some screen time, as does the fault indicator, so this has to be a David Whitaker story! He's working with Kit Pedler for the first time here but his interpretation of Pedler's scientific ideas seems somewhat sterile compared to what Pedler's more usual collaborator Gerry Davis produced.

DOCTOR: Oh, yes. There's an artificial gravity system, too.
JAMIE: What does that do?
DOCTOR: Well, it's what keeps us on our feet, otherwise we'd be floating around.
Jamie should know about gravity, he experienced a lack of it on his trip to the moon in The Moonbase, which Pedler worked on. A line here along the lines of "Remember when we went to the moon and there was no gravity?" wouldn't have gone amiss here.

Whitaker also wrote the second half of the previous pairing of The Doctor and Jamie in The Evil of the Daleks and did a much better job there. Enemy of the World is something of a come down following Power and Evil of the Daleks but is far better than this. I'm convinced something happened to Whitaker during this period but don't know what! If you listen to Toby Hadoke's Who's Round #113 interviewee Alan Curtis talks about his friendship David Whitaker from about 17 minutes in and says that he thinks Whitaker suffered from Manic Depression which might help explain things.

So is this the worst episode of Doctor Who yet?

Hmmm. I'm not sure.

To find a duller episode we need to go back as far as The Space Museum or The Sensorites which are both Hartnells so maybe we need instead to ask

Is it the worst Troughton episode yet?

Probably on stronger grounds here. There have been a couple of not so good episodes: Underwater Menace 3 and Enemy of the World 3 both spring to mind but there's something happening in both of those. I didn't like the Highlanders but that was more the story. This..... It's just dull!

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