Episode 3: The Edge of Destruction
Companions: Barbara, Ian, Susan
Written by David Whitaker
Directed by Richard Martin and Frank Cox
The Edge of Destruction
The Brink of Disaster
Having survived the terror of the Daleks, the Doctor and his companions find themselves in danger once again. The threat they face is unknown and could destroy time itself.
This was interesting to watch. Within two installments, the tone of the show shifts and the foundation for Doctor Who is formed. I know it might be a strange statement to make but there are so many different things that happen in this episode that I was astonished by the end. So where do we begin?
The first thing of note about this episode was the interactions between the characters. Again, keep in mind that Ian and Barbara were FORCED to travel with the Doctor. Most companions are brought aboard and given an opportunity to see the universe. The Doctor forced Ian and Barbara because he didn’t trust their intentions and basically kidnapped them so they wouldn’t say anything about an alien ship in a junkyard. He naturally doesn’t trust these two and is quick to suspect foul play. Ian and Barbara are doing pretty well considering the circumstances. Yes, they’ve been forced to travel with a daft old man in a box but they’ve survived so far. They know they have an ally in Susan but their struggles are more against the Doctor’s distrust than anything else.
From what I know about the history of this episode (thank you Wikipedia), it had to be a bottle episode due to budgetary reasons. Too much money would be spent for the Marco Polo episode and costs had to be cut. Yet, even within this bottle episode, this episode is important because it allows the Doctor to become humanistic with his companions. Modern Who consistently discusses the reasons why the Doctor should never travel alone. He becomes isolated and he suffered from his own arrogance. With companions, there’s a balance of emotion and intelligence. This episode showcases this need to both the audience and to the Doctor. Ian and Barbara are necessary to the Doctor because they provide a balance, something that Susan would not be able to provide as she is family and would be easily dismissed.
The end of the episode highlights this theme more so in a conversation between Barbara and the Doctor. He is beginning to understand what it means to travel with someone who isn’t his immediate family. The Doctor is beginning to understand what it means to be a friend, something I doubted he truly had during his time with his fellow Time Lords.
In terms of the story itself, it’s kinda triply. Something is distorting the TARDIS and it’s affecting everyone. Susan has homicidal tendency, even going so far as to threaten Ian with a pair of scissors. Time is melting and has ceased to exist. The TARDIS is trying to send a warning that no one understands. The Doctor has been injured and nothing seems to be working. The first installment has a very dark premise while the last installment seems to be lighter with a more happier ending than expected. Apparently there was a directorial change between the two installments, which is clearly evident in the different installments.
The Edge of Destruction is great to watch because it highlights the darkness of the Doctor as well as the playful possibilities. Time travel is tricky. You need great and grand friendships to keep you on the right track.
The TARDIS warning noise has a similar tone to the Cloister Bell, a device the TARDIS uses to warn the Doctor of extreme danger.
The TARDIS is shown to be a sentient being in that it’s trying to communicate with the Doctor about what’s wrong. This is the first hint that the TARDIS is a living creature instead of merely just a transportation machine.