a real world point of view
|The Edge of Destruction|
|Novelised as:||The Edge of Destruction|
|Companion(s):||Susan, Barbara, Ian|
|Main setting:||The TARDIS|
|Director:||Richard Martin (1) Frank Cox (2)|
|Number of episodes:||2|
|Premiere broadcast:||8 February - 15 February 1964|
|Premiere network:||BBC tv|
|Doctor Who television stories|
|The Daleks||Marco Polo|
The Edge of Destruction was the third story of Season 1 of Doctor Who. The story is unique in the original series in that it is set entirely inside the TARDIS and features only the regular cast members.
The BBC initially committed to four episodes of Doctor Who. Mid-way through the production of An Unearthly Child, this was upped to thirteen. Together, An Unearthly Child and The Daleks only totaled eleven. With a tiny budget, The Edge of Destruction was commissioned to fill the remaining two episodes and fill out the season.
Narratively, the story was crucial as its events bonded the travellers so they were no longer just mismatched people forced together, but a group who could trust one another. It also offered the first hint that the Doctor's TARDIS was not his own, shown by his lack of understanding of its abilities. Finally, it was also the first instance of the Doctor namedropping historical figures.
To the date, the second episode of this serial, The Brink of Disaster, is as far as viewers can go about watching the Hartnell era in televised format before running into a single missing episode. The following serial, TV: Marco Polo, remains absent in its entirety, though the audio tracks and faithful reconstructions do exist.
As they slowly recover from the shock of being thrown to the TARDIS floor, the Doctor, Susan, Ian and Barbara all seem to be acting strangely. Unexplained events occur and suspicions are raised that an alien force may have entered the ship. The Doctor even accuses Ian and Barbara of sabotage.
It gradually dawns on the travellers that what they have been experiencing is an attempt by the TARDIS itself to warn them of something. The Doctor finally realises the Fast Return Switch he used when leaving Skaro has stuck, and the ship has been plunging back to the beginning of time and its own destruction.
Once the problem - a faulty spring - is corrected, the TARDIS returns to normal and the Doctor has to make some apologies for his behavior.
The Edge of Destruction (1) Edit
The Doctor, while attempting to correct the TARDIS's faulty navigation circuits, causes a small explosion. The Doctor, Barbara, Ian and Susan are all rendered unconscious. Barbara is the first to recover and awakens Ian and Susan, who appear to have slight cases of amnesia. The Doctor lies on the floor with a gash on his head. Susan recovers her senses enough to retrieve a special healing bandage from the ship's first aid kit and water from the food machine for her injured grandfather. Suddenly, Susan becomes convinced that an alien presence is on board and has seized control of the ship.
The TARDIS doors begin erratically opening and closing whenever Ian moves towards them. When Susan tries to operate the door switch on the console, she receives an electrical shock. As the Doctor revives, Barbara tends to him while Ian carries Susan to her room. There she stabs at him with a pair of scissors, rips her bed to shreds, then collapses.
Later, the Doctor, Barbara, and Ian discuss the situation, each alternating between clarity of mind and paranoid sniping. The Doctor checks the system controls with Ian's assistance, while Barbara checks on Susan. She has retrieved the scissors and tries to attack Barbara, but stops herself from doing any real harm.
When the Doctor tries to determine their location with the view scanner, he finds only images which he recognises as records of the TARDIS's earlier trips. The last image, a picture of planets, a solar system and an explosion, puzzles him. By now, Susan is convinced that not only has an alien intelligence entered the ship, it has taken over at least one of the people. When the Doctor opens the TARDIS doors, they quickly close themselves when Ian approaches them. Soon, the Doctor and Susan begin to accuse their human companions of sabotage to get the TARDIS back to England in 1963. Barbara angrily refutes the Doctor's suspicions with a recap of their recent adventure on Skaro, where Ian and she risked their lives to save the Doctor and Susan from the Daleks. She cites Ian's bravery in the Cave of Skulls. Her tirade is abruptly ended when she sees the cathedral clock the Doctor keeps in the console room has melted, a sight which horrifies her. They all check their watches and see the same has happened to their timepieces.
The Doctor excuses himself from the room and returns with a tray of drinks, a "nightcap" which he serves as a peace offering to his companions. Barbara, Susan and Ian retire to their quarters and drink the nightcaps.
After looking in on his companions to confirm they are asleep, the Doctor returns to the console. As he examines it, a pair of hands swing him around and grab him by the throat.
The Brink of Disaster (2) Edit
The Doctor's attacker is none other than Ian. A strange force has overridden the effects of the drug and compelled him to stop the Doctor from operating the TARDIS controls. Ian recognises the Doctor and collapses. Barbara enters and finds Ian and herself openly accused of sabotage by the Doctor.
As Barbara tries to reason with the Doctor, Susan enters the room and sides with her grandfather, but then finds herself believing her teachers' innocence. The Doctor threatens to put the humans off his ship; suddenly an alarm sounds. The fault locator lights up, showing faults in every system. An explosion rocks the ship. The Doctor realises the TARDIS's power source, located beneath the console, is trying to force its way out and they are only minutes from destruction.
Faced with a common peril, the travellers forget their differences and begin to work together. Barbara deduces that the strange events are an attempt by the TARDIS itself to warn the crew that something is wrong. The Doctor traces the problem to a broken spring in the Fast Return Switch. The malfunction is causing the TARDIS to head back to the creation of a solar system; the strange events were just the TARDIS's attempts to warn its passengers before the ship was destroyed. Fixing the switch returns everything to normal. The Doctor apologises to Ian, who accepts straight away. Barbara needs more convincing but she is eventually won around by the Doctor. The foursome prepare to explore their new surroundings, this time a snowy planet. When Barbara and Susan go outside they discover a giant footprint in the snow.
- Dr. Who - William Hartnell
- Ian Chesterton - William Russell
- Barbara Wright - Jacqueline Hill
- Susan Foreman - Carole Ann Ford
- Writer - David Whitaker
- Designer - Raymond Cusick
- Associate Producer - Mervyn Pinfield
- Title Music - Ron Grainer, BBC Radiophonic Workshop
- Director - Richard Martin ("The Edge of Destruction"), Frank Cox ("The Brink of Disaster")
- Producer - Verity Lambert
- Assistant Floor Manager - Jeremy Hare (uncredited) 
- Costumes - Daphne Dare (uncredited) 
- Make-Up - Ann Ferriggi (uncredited) 
- Production Assistant - Tony Lightley (uncredited) 
- Special Sounds - Brian Hodgson (uncredited) 
- Sound Supervisor - Jack Brummitt (uncredited) 
- Theme Arrangement - Delia Derbyshire (uncredited) 
- Vision Mixer - Clive Doig (uncredited) 
- Producer's Secretary - Valerie Speyer (uncredited) 
- Secretary - Margaret Allen (uncredited) 
- Technical Manager - Mark Lewis (uncredited) 
Cultural references from the real world Edit
- The coat the Doctor lends Ian was given to him by Gilbert and Sullivan.
- Susan and the Doctor share a telepathic link with each other and the TARDIS.
- The Doctor and Susan have visited the planet Quinnis in the fourth universe four or five journeys ago.
- The Tardis crew have just departed Skaro.
- The Fast Return Switch is used.
- The Doctor realises for the first time that the TARDIS is at least partly sentient, a fact that seems to surprise him.
- The TARDIS has an inbuilt memory of all the locations it has previously visited.
- Susan and Barbara share a sleeping area.
Story notes Edit
- This is the first story - and only full-length story - featuring only the Doctor and his companions. It has the smallest cast of any of Doctor Who's televised stories, strictly limited to the four main characters. However, Doctor Who and the Pescatons has a cast of three actors, and Scherzo beat this record, with a cast of two actors. The Companion Chronicles continued to produce audio adventures with only two actors.
- The first episode, "The Edge of Destruction", takes place entirely in the TARDIS. The "mini-episodes" of Children in Need Special, Time Crash, Good as Gold, and Space/Time would also be set entirely in the TARDIS, as would technically the full-length story Amy's Choice. The Meanwhile in the TARDIS mini-episodes of the Complete Fifth Series Box Set and the Night and the Doctor mini-episodes from the Complete Sixth Series Box Set were also set entirely in the TARDIS (with the exception of the Night and the Doctor episodes First Night and Up All Night)
- This story is also known as Inside the Spaceship and The Brink of Disaster, and is often wrongly referred to as Beyond the Sun.
- All episodes exist in 16mm telerecordings.
- Both episodes were recovered from the negative film prints discovered at BBC Enterprises in 1978.
- An Arabic print is also held.
- This story was written to make up the number of episodes and meet the show's commitment to the BBC. The show was initially commissioned for 13 episodes. An Unearthly Child had four and The Daleks had seven, so an additional two episodes were required in case the show should be cancelled at this point.
- Some of the music from this story was released as Doctor Who at the BBC Radiophonic Workshop, Volume One - The Early Years, 1963 - 1969.
- This was one of the stories selected to be shown as part of BSB's Doctor Who Weekend in September 1990. The episodes were shown in the wrong order, but were repeated in the correct sequence later that weekend.
- This story marks the first time the Doctor suspects his TARDIS might be sentient, as opposed to his original mindset that it was an ordinary machine. As he begins to accumulate knowledge about the machine over multiple incarnations, these suspicious become more profound, until the Doctor affirms that the TARDIS is alive in some form. It is not until his eleventh incarnation that his suspicions are proven correct, in The Doctor's Wife, when the conscious entity within the TARDIS assumes a host body and speaks to the Doctor directly.
- "The Edge of Destruction" - 10.4 million viewers
- "The Brink of Disaster" - 9.9 million viewers
- This story had the working title Beyond the Sun. This was a working title used for The Daleks. (See Disputed story titles)
- This story was written at short notice because the set for Marco Polo was not complete. (See notes for real reason)
Filming locations Edit
Production errors Edit
- There is a shadow visible on wall when Barbara tries to wake Ian up.
- In the first episode, the studio floor is visible in the "white void" outside the TARDIS.
- Two floor assistants' shadows can be seen in the episode "The Edge of Destruction", against the door leading into the bedroom and food machine area.
- While the Doctor is describing the birth of a new solar system, a cough can be clearly heard.
- Susan is wearing ankle-socks in the reprise, but afterwards she is not.
- The events of TV: An Unearthly Child are mentioned.
- The Daleks are mentioned. (TV: The Daleks)
- Susan reminds the Doctor of their visit to Quinnis in the fourth universe, during which they almost lost the TARDIS, prior to travelling to London in 1963. (AUDIO: Quinnis)
Home video and audio releases Edit
DVD Release Edit
- Doctor Who: Origins - BBC documentary looking at the ideas behind and initial creation of Doctor Who
- Over the Edge - BBC documentary on the making of The Edge of Destruction
- Inside the Spaceship - BBC documentary on the creation of the TARDIS
- Masters of Sound - BBC documentary on the sound effects of Doctor Who in the 1960s.
- Marco Polo - 30 minute condensed version of lost 7-part story
- PAL - BBC DVD BBCDVD1882
- PAL - Roadshow ????
- NTSC - Warner Video E2489
Box sets Edit
Video Release Edit
This story was released as Doctor Who: The Edge of Destruction and Dr Who: The Pilot Episode as a compilation video. The BBC originally intended to release this story in a box set with An Unearthly Child and The Daleks, but they changed their plans and decided to release each story individually.
- Editing for the VHS and DVD releases was completed by the Doctor Who Restoration Team.
- The Edge of Destruction at the BBC's official site (with video clips)
- The Edge of Destruction at BroaDWcast
- Detailed synopsis of The Edge of Destruction at the Doctor Who Reference Guide
- The Edge of Destruction at Shannon Sullivan's A Brief History of Time (Travel)
- The Edge of Destruction entry at Encyclopaedia of Fantastic Film and Television