Episode 1 reviewed 29 Aug 09
Episode 2 reviewed 31 Aug 09
Edge of Destruction, episode 1
Written by David Whitaker
Directed by Richard Martin
Continuing directly from the end of the first Daleks story, the crew of the Tardis is all still unconscious in the control room. Barbara is the first to wake up, followed by Susan. They are having memory problems, taking ages to remember even their own names.
Ian, upon waking, seemingly doesn't have any idea why he's away from the school. Slowly, they regain their mental faculties, but there is something wrong with the Tardis.
And its inhabitants.
Susan flips out and tries to attack Ian with scissors. The Tardis doors are opening and closing themselves randomly, while the monitor shows pictures of places Susan and the Doctor have been, including a planet called Quinnis.
The Doctor blames Ian and Barbara for sabotaging the ship. They have an explosive argument, during which the Doctor leaves and returns with a tray of drinks, offering them to all three of his companions.
Barbara, Susan and the Doctor all go to get some sleep. Shortly after, the Doctor enters the room shared by Susan and Barbara. Barbara is passed out. The Doctor taps her, smiles, and walks out. He then does the same with Ian in his room, confirming they have both succumbed to whatever was in the drink.
He returns to the control room, steps up to the center, and just as he's about to start pressing buttons, a pair of hands come from nowhere and begin strangling him.
* * *
In short, I loved it. They needed time to recover from the Dalek adventure, and this is where they may have had their recovery. Except, they don't really. For all the time spent in various beds with sleeping people, they don't really rest ... Instead, they spend time wrapped up in a spooky who-done-it story. No one trusts anyone else, and there's little reason to trust, either.
Out of nowhere, it's confirmed Susan and the Doctor have visited other alien worlds before Skaro, and her teachers don't even blink.
About 18 minutes in, there are visuals of planets and space. It lasts for only a few seconds, but I have to give my compliments to the fx people working on this. It looks absolutely gorgeous. For a "bottle show" they really gave it their all.
And this is a bottle show. The entire episode takes place in two and a quarter rooms. The control room, obviously, plus the bedroom shared by Susan and Barbara. The quarter room is what I'm calling Ian's bedroom. It's basically part of the control room, and is just big enough for a bed, nothing else.
Bottle shows are rather infamous on Star Trek. They are episodes done completely on existing, standing sets, with no new costumes or sets, using the regular actors, generally without big guests. With that said, TNG had an episode called "The Drumhead" which was a bottle show but some pretty spectacular guests, making an exception to this rule.
This is another exception, being a pretty brilliant episode. Basically two rooms and four people locked inside, all slowly going crazy. Now, I do realize this two-parter is just filler to take up slots between Daleks and Marco Polo. Even so, it's really GOOD filler.
I can't wait for Monday, when I get to watch the conclusion of this story. This is one of those very rare two-episode stories. The majority of the classic Doctor Who stories are told in 4 or 6 episode arcs. The next two-parter is, I think, The Rescue which will be coming up in a little over a week, if memory serves.
Twelve episodes down.
Edge of Destruction, episode 2 - "The Brink of Disaster"
Written by David Whitaker
Directed by Frank Cox
The hands belong to Ian. The Doctor fights him off, and he falls to the floor, unconscious. Barbara comes to Ian's defense.
The Doctor believes the two Humans have sabotaged his ship, and decides his only possible reaction is to throw them out, regardless of where - and when - they might be.
It is exactly what they've been wanting, but without confirmation that they have returned to 20th century Earth, it's scaring them to death.
And then the "fault locator" goes off. It's a warning system that shows if something is wrong with the Tardis, and where. Every light comes on at once. The Doctor snaps to, realizing that it wouldn't be possible for the Humans to have done anything to cause this an apologizes in his way.
Working together, they determine that the Tardis has been trying to warn them of impending doom, forcing into unconsciousness anyone who went near the wrong controls, among other clues.
Through a series of trials, they discover the problem. There is a "fast return" button on the control. Its purpose is to quickly return the ship to wherever and whenever the ship had been prior to its current location. That would be Earth. 12,000 years or so earlier than they wanted, but still, Earth. Except, the button got stuck. There is a little spring inside and it got stuck, which meant the Tardis kept thinking (cuz, it can) that they wanted to go back, and back, and back, eventually causing the Tardis to freak the heck out, in turn causing the people inside to go ... well, nuts.
The Doctor is able to repair it, and they go about their lives. Except, their lives are lost.
* * *
Let me explain that. Typically, the end of one story segways into another. The last 30 seconds to a minute sort of gives a preview of what's to come, and each episode would be a cliffhanger.
This story goes on for something like 2-3 minutes, which ... well, I dunno, maybe they were running short on time? Anyway, it's all about exploring a snowy area where there are "giant tracks."
That led originally into the serial Marco Polo, a seven-episode story which is now lost. As I've mentioned previously, the audio survives, but the video is gone. There is a 30 minute mini version of the story, using edited audio from the story along with telesnaps (pictures taken during filming) to give us an idea about the story.
Back to this one ... For the most part, I enjoyed it. I realize what it had to do - bridge the gap between two much larger stories, but it had to do more. Besides being filler, it also had to change the characters in a huge way.
In Unearthly Child, we have two sets of characters, Ian and Barbara on one side, and the Doctor and Susan on another. And that continued in The Daleks. For the most part, the two sides didn't work together, and only came together now and then.
This two-parter had to deconstruct each character and rebuild them from the ground up. At the same time, it had to take them from where they were - not equals, and certainly without respect for each other - and force them to work together, ending with them finally gelling as a cohesive team.
In the next story, they are already working together like a family, but they had to get there somehow, and this story did it in a unique and marvelous way.
The ending may seem like it's a bit rushed, but with everything that had to be worked out, it really sort of had to be. This story was entirely about the characters, the first time we spend any great length of time with them, and that was continued right up through the very end. Getting out of the bad spot was just a minor detail.
Poor Hartnell. He is trying so hard, but he keeps having trouble with his lines. Nowadays, they'd do multiple takes until every single word was perfect, but back then, it was recorded once, as-is. And that is really endearing, I think. People DO talk like that! We make mistakes, we mispronounce things, or start sentences over. On TV, people are perfect, and that means they aren't realistic.
And with that said, my second-favorite ever scene of Hartnell is in this episode. He is standing in front of the controls and speaking of home, of the stars, of his memory, and he goes on at length, putting his heart and soul into the words he's speaking, and right there, if you didn't feel it already, is when the viewer knows THIS is why William Hartnell was chosen to play the Doctor. Flubs, memory problems, whatever. When the man is on, no actor can beat him.
The Tardis here feels like an in-between. In the modern era, we get one fricken room, the control room, and that's it. In the Fourth Doctor's era, it went to an absurd level with swimming pools and boot rooms (a room set aside to hold a single pair of boots - no, I'm not kidding), while in the Fifth Doctor's era, the companions got lost and had to use ... I think it was yarn, to leave themselves a trail, the ship was so huge they couldn't find their way.
Here, though, we've got the bedrooms, we've seen the "kitchen" and the control room. It feels bigger, like it could really be a place where someone lived. And it is sort of in the middle ... Not enormously huge, and not just a single room.
The writing is smart, and I thought the director did a pretty amazing job with this bottle show. It's a shame, though. Frank Cox directed this second episode. He is only credited with three episodes of the series, and it's always following up on someone else's beginning.
As I learned (thank you, Internets!), this was a test for him. He worked his way up to becoming a director, and this was a launching pad for even bigger and better things for him. For this kind of episode to be anybody's first would be pretty scary, but to do so well, with no budget, and to get such a range from each of the actors, is extremely impressive.
I gotta be honest here. I love this story. Combined, we're looking at 45 minutes and two directors, in a bottle show. This story right here is what every other series' bottle show must be compared to. It is the level everyone else has to be measured against.