Saturday, September 03, 2005

'Inside the Spaceship'

2 episodes

Or 'The Edge of Destruction', as it's known on the video case - see, my theory that I would be following those titles has fallen down already... Like the last two stories, this is the on-screen title of the first episode (the second is 'The Brink of Disaster'), but I'm going to err towards the more encompassing alternative 'Inside the Spaceship'.

Whatever you call it, this little oddity is possibly the strangest story Doctor Who would ever produce. A late addition to the schedule after the producers were only given a definite green light for the first thirteen episodes, this was made to use up the remaining two weekly slots left after the previous stories' combined 11. With no appreciable budget remaining, this 'filler' adventure is set, yes, inside the TARDIS for its entirety. Starting with a huge explosion that rocks the ship and sends its occupants sprawling, we see them come round in various states of health and lucidity. It swiftly becomes apparent that none of them have a clue what's going on, and for pretty much the whole adventure neither do we. White lights, blackouts, electric shocks and melting clocks; it's plain disturbing from pillar to post. The TARDIS doors open and close by themselves, random images float up on the scanner screen, every light on the fault locator seems to have activated, and the ship seems to be spiralling towards some unknowable doom. The characters turn on each other, with the Doctor driving a wedge between the original occupants and the 'newcomers' - his verbal attack on Barbara causes her to finally snap back at him in a classic exchange. Most distressing and memorable, of course, is Susan going psychotic with a pair of scissors - more than any of the others, her behaviour borders on the weird almost throughout.

Full of neat touches - the Dali-esque clocks, the little bags that water is dispensed in by the food machine, and highly inventive, this adventure relies ultimtely on the performances of its four core cast members, the only characters present in the whole story. All of them are stretched, particularly Carole Ann Ford as Susan, but again it is William Hartnell's Doctor that grabs the most attention. Despite some misfiring delivery here and there, he flits from anger and distrust to sudden humility then straight into Machiavellian mischief in enchanting fashion, before reverting to antagonism and finally genuine charm at the end. I'm still not entirely sure what was going on; after my single previous viewing several years ago, I was convinced the TARDIS was trying to protect its inhabitants in a very cryptic fashion, but the fault indicator itself was at fault hence its inability to show where the problem lay - yet that never specifically happened, apparently...!? It seems the Fast Return switch getting stuck meant they were rushing back to the dawn of the solar system they were in, with the latent external energies threatening to tear the ship apart - and everything else arose from that.

Whatever - however you break it down, this is barmy, baffling, extraordinary and magnificent. It's a shame necessity didn't force the producers to make anything so far-out again!


Episodes watched: 13
Episodes still to watch: 709

Falling behind my proposed rate already - but expected that this weekend as I've got old friends visiting town so was always going to have to fit Survival in around other commitments there...

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