Friday, February 20, 2009

"The Brink of Disaster"

Hello, the Historian here, along with Ketina, Ronelyn, Schmallturm and Krorboros. A full house tonight to watch the second and final episode of "Inside the Spaceship!" certainly was an episode of Doctor Who, wasn't it?

Episode Summary: First aired 15 February, 1964. The Doctor has snuck out to examine the controls, but before he can, hands reach for his neck--it is Ian, who appears to be under the same violent trance that affected Susan earlier! Luckily, Barbara is there to pull Ian off in time, but the Doctor insists that the attack is proof that the two Earth people really are trying to sabotage the TARDIS. As Susan joins them, the Doctor threatens to throw the two off the ship, regardless of what is outside! Barbara, however, begins to put together what could be wrong as the ship's fault locator goes wild--everything is failing! The lights are flashing in 15 second intervals, which Barbara realizes reflects the "loss of time" demonstrated by the melted clock faces. Ian and the Doctor realize what has happened: After leaving Skaro, the Doctor attempted to return the teachers to Earth by using the "Fast Return" switch...Which has become stuck down! Instead of merely returning to Earth, the ship has returned them to the Beginning...going back and back until it almost cannot go back anymore. All their problems, everything has been caused by the TARDIS defense mechanism itself, trying to warn its crew that if they don't do something, they will be destroyed! The Doctor fixes the switch and all goes back to normal. Ian makes his peace with the Doctor quickly, but Barbara and the Doctor have a heart to heart talk after the ship lands. Outside it's snowing and Susan and Barbara run out of the ship, only to discover a giant footprint....

There is no two ways about it, this episode is a real letdown after the last. The tension is still being rachetted up, but the ultimate solution is a bit...less than exciting. A faulty switch, fixed in moments? True, it's the mystery that's the important thing, but the "clues" we are given are...not exactly easy to parse. (Ok, melted clock faces=time taken away, I get that. But how do the fault lights "give time back"? Is it simply the interval they flash in? And, ok, the scanner images show us the idea of going back in time for a solar system, but what's the significance of the doors opening and closing?)

Not that it was all bad, by no means. The Doctor's speech, midway through the episode, about the beauty of the birth of a solar system (or the universe? was David Whitaker confused in his terms) was wonderful. Hartnell portrays the Doctor's obvious wonder at the very workings of the universe very well. Jacquelin Hill also absolutely shines this week; we've seen a small amount of development for Barbara (in her flirting with Ganetus, for example), but it's here we really start to get inside the character. Her ingenuity, her force of character are evident and very well portrayed. Unfortunately, William Russell's Ian and Carole Ann Ford's Susan are less well served (certainly less than they were last week), but this is really Barbara's story--hers and the Doctor's, of course. That scene where the two characters have their heart-to-heart is just wonderful. "As we learn about others, we learn more about ourselves." Simply wonderful.

Still, as I said above, we were all united in being less than impressed by this episode as a whole. But I have great hopes for next week...a giant footprint? What on Earth (or off it) could it mean? (Yes, of course, I have an idea, but it is a story I've never seen before....) And now, I'll turn things over to Ketina. Until next week, I remain



Ketina here,

Yeah, that was as bad as I remembered. The plot, what there was of it, made no sense. There wasn't a solid explanation as to why the crew were acting crazy and paranoid, why the TARDIS doors kept opening, why the scanner was showing random beach and prehistoric scenes, why the clocks melted, etc. By the time they discover the stuck button I wanted to slap The Doctor (or more accurately the writers) upside the head. Yes, you can make the excuse that this script was written in a weekend, but that means I can make the excuse to never want to see it again.

Okay, that was a bit harsh of me. There were a few redeeming moments. I did like the character growth for Barbara. And The Doctor's monologue about the creation of a solar system (or really, more accurately galaxy) was good. But that's about the only good bits in this half of the story. Susan can stop freaking out any time now, really,

Plot aside, this story does supply some of the ground work that we see in later Doctor Who lore. The TARDIS as an intelligence for example. In this story The Doctor describes the TARDIS as simply a machine, computers being powered by a massive energy source. However, at the end of the episode he admits that there may be more to the ship than that. In much later stories it's established that the TARDIS is not only intelligent, but telepathic with a personality. It's also seems apparent that The Doctor doesn't know as much about the TARDIS as he lets on, which is supported in future stories as well.

That's all for me next week. Next week we begin going a relatively long serious of reconstructed episodes. We'll see how long it lasts before I'm begging The Historian to pick up the pace!



1 comment:

Alzarian said...

Ok, the resolution of the mystery is rather lame... but this episode is worth it for Barbara's incredible rant against the Doctor. Some very welcome character development, beautifully acted by Jacqueline Hill, and the Doctor's apology is pure magic.