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The Wheel in Space (TV story)

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RealWorld
The Wheel in Space
W3
Novelised as: The Wheel in Space
Doctor: Second Doctor
Companion(s): Jamie, Zoe
Main enemy: Cybermen
Main setting: The Silver Carrier and Space Station W3, 2079
Key crew
Writer: David Whitaker
Director: Tristan de Vere Cole
Producer: Peter Bryant
Release details
Story number: 43
Number of episodes: 6
Season/series: Season 5
Premiere broadcast: 27 April - 1 June 1968
Premiere network: BBC1
Format: 6x25-minute episodes
Production code: SS
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You will be destroyed! - The Wheel In Space - Doctor Who - BBC02:35

You will be destroyed! - The Wheel In Space - Doctor Who - BBC

The Wheel in Space was the seventh and final story of season 5. It introduced new companion Zoe Heriot, played by Wendy Padbury, and featured the first use of the Doctor's "John Smith" alias.

Synopsis Edit

The TARDIS materialises on board a spaceship, the Silver Carrier, where the Second Doctor and Jamie are attacked by a servo robot. Jamie contacts a nearby space station known as the Wheel and they are rescued. Meanwhile, the Silver Carrier discharges Cybermats, which also travel to and enter the station. These pave the way for the invasion of the station by Cybermen, who intend to use its direct radio link with Earth as a beacon for their invasion fleet.

The Doctor sends Jamie and a young woman named Zoe Heriot over to the Silver Carrier to fetch the TARDIS' vector generator rod. Meanwhile he manages to free the Wheel's crew from the Cybermen's hypnotic control and to destroy all the Cybermen on the station.

When Jamie and Zoe return, the Doctor installs the rod in the station's X-ray laser, making it powerful enough to destroy the Cyber-fleet. An approaching force of space-walking Cybermen is also vanquished.

Plot Edit

Episode 1 Edit

The explosion of the mercury fluid links forces the Second Doctor and Jamie McCrimmon to evacuate the TARDIS to avoid mercury fumes. Until it can be replaced, the craft is marooned. They are on a space vessel, deserted apart from a servo robot. The robot detects the intruders and in response redirects the rocket from aimless wandering, sending it on a course, and the shock of change causes the Doctor to hit his head, briefly concussing him. The robot also releases a group of egg-shaped white pods into space, and the mysterious things direct themselves toward a nearby spaceship shaped like a giant wheel, attaching themselves to its exterior by a seeming act of will. When the robot becomes aggressive, Jamie destroys it, but the Doctor’s condition worsens and he collapses. Jamie then looks into space on the observation port.

The Wheel is an Earth space station observing phenomena in deep space and is staffed by a small international crew. They are concerned by the sudden drops in pressure which, unbeknownst to them, coincide with the pods attaching themselves to the exterior of the Wheel. Controller Jarvis Bennett is also worried that the Silver Carrier, a missing supply vessel eighty million miles off course, has suddenly turned up nearby and is not responding to radio contact. He decides to destroy it with the Wheel's powerful x-ray laser.

Episode 2 Edit

The destruction of the Silver Carrier is only prevented when the crew hear a deafening burst of noise from the vessel. Jamie has managed to alert them to his presence aboard the Carrier and in a short time he and the unconscious Doctor are rescued and taken aboard the Wheel. The resident medic, Doctor Gemma Corwyn, sees to the Doctor, and Jamie is given a guided tour by the sparky young para-psychology librarian, Zoe Heriot. Bennett remains suspicious of the new arrivals, fearing they could be saboteurs opposed to the space program. He decides to use the x-ray laser on the Carrier now that the two refugees have been rescued, little realising the TARDIS is still on board. Jamie intervenes to sabotage the laser, which only further infuriates Bennett. There is a potential meteor shower heading for the Wheel – and they now have no way to repel it. When the Doctor recovers in the sickbay he does not approve of this action. He remains groggy and unclear, but convinced a major danger lurks on the Silver Carrier. He calculates that the ship did not drift to their sector but was deliberately piloted there. The Wheel’s crew, however, are more concerned with the impending meteor shower.

On board the Carrier, meanwhile, two large pods have split open to reveal two Cybermen inside.

Episode 3 Edit

The small pods sent to the Wheel contained Cybermats. These have been set to work in consuming bernalium rods in the Wheel’s stores. The bernalium is essential to power the X-ray laser. The Cybermen have deliberately made the star in Messier 13 go nova, forcing the Wheel crew to look for their bernalium and find it missing. When this happens, the Cybermen are sure the crewmen will come to the Silver Carrier for the bernalium, which can then be transported into the Wheel – with a surprise inside.

An engineer called Bill Duggan has noted the depleted stocks and the presence of the Cybermats. His slowness in reacting allows another crewman, Kemel Rudkin, to fall victim to the Cybermats. Jarvis Bennett overreacts in panic to this state of affairs, stripping Duggan of his position and imposing tighter controls. The Doctor's solution is more practical – he uses the X-ray machine to scan inside a pod that has been found but cannot be opened. The Cybermat within is easy for him to identify, but Bennett does not accept the danger. Medic Gemma Corwyn, who has formed an alliance with the Doctor, fears for Bennett’s mental state. He seems unable to deal with escalating events. His behaviour seems to grow more and more bizarre and detached from reality.

He has sent two crewmen to the Silver Carrier, Laleham and Vallance. They are taken over by the Cybermen and used to prepare the bernalium crates for the Wheel with the two Cybermen hidden inside.

Episode 4 Edit

This ruse works and the crates are soon aboard the Wheel, with Duggan and his colleague Leo Ryan glad to have access to a new power supply for the x-ray laser, which they are slowly managing to repair. As the Doctor tries to persuade the space station of the danger of the Cybermen, an engineer called Chang is killed by the emerging Cybermen when he is sent to fetch the new bernalium supply. They dispose of his body in the waste incinerator. Laleham and Vallance arrive at the laser with the supply of bernalium for Duggan, who soon falls victim to the same mind control and becomes the third agent of the Cybermen on the Wheel. He is sent to destroy the communications unit and does so before being gunned down. A Cyberman soon corners the Doctor and Jamie.

Episode 5 Edit

The Doctor and Jamie escape and have deduced that the fortuitous supply of bernalium has a deeper significance. He has also worked out the late Duggan was under mind control and instructs Dr Corwyn to use a basic transistor system attached to each of the crewmen to block this technique. A further step forward is taken when the crew use a sonic wave to disable and kill the Cybermats on the Wheel, but it is clear the Cybermen are at large and going on with their plans. Laleham's death is no obstacle as another engineer, Flannigan, replaces him. The Cybermen have invested time in repairing the x-ray laser, evidently needing it ready for use. When the meteorites are finally due to hit they can be deflected and obliterated. The Cybermen need the Wheel intact to use as a launching point for an invasion of Earth, desperate for the planet’s mineral wealth. The Wheel's radio beam will enable them to do this. The Doctor has decided he needs the time vector generator which he removed from the TARDIS. Jamie and Zoe are chosen for a space-walk to the Silver Carrier. As they slowly make their way from the Wheel to the ship, the meteorites approaching the Wheel get dangerously close to them.

Episode 6 Edit

The crew have fully repaired the x-ray laser and use it to destroy the meteorites. They are picked off one by one by the Cybermen or their agents. Gemma Corwyn dies trying to stop the Cybermen from damaging the Wheel's oxygen supply. Shocked back to clarity by her death, the mad Jarvis Bennett is mowed down when he seeks revenge. Leo Ryan takes control as the Doctor warns there is a huge Cyberman spacecraft coming to the Wheel.

Jamie and Zoe return with the Doctor's time vector generator. Flannigan tries to overpower them when they get back to the Wheel, but he in turn is overwhelmed by Leo and Enrico Casali, the communications officer, and his conditioning is broken. The Doctor also manages a triumph, electrocuting one of the Cybermen and confirming to himself the full nature of their plans. He uses the time vector generator to boost the power of the x-ray laser and this destroys the advancing Cybership. A troop of Cybermen space-walking to the Wheel are also dispensed with, while Jamie and Flannigan free Vallance and destroy the remaining Cyberman inside the Wheel.

With the invasion repelled, the Doctor and Jamie return to the Silver Carrier with the mercury they need for the TARDIS. They are accompanied by Zoe, who quietly stows away as the time vessel departs. As she seems determined to stay, the Doctor decides to warn her of the dangers they encounter. He uses a mental device to project images from his mind to tell her of his and Jamie's last encounter with the Daleks...

Cast Edit

Crew Edit

References Edit

The Doctor Edit

  • The Doctor gets his pseudonym of John Smith from Jamie, who sees it as a brand name on a medical container.

Culture Edit

  • Jarvis Bennett and Zoe refer to a group of people who want to stop the space program and "pull back to Earth."
  • Earth Central is in charge of the space programme.
  • Zoe is perplexed when the Doctor mentions the Gordian Knot.

Cybermen Edit

  • Cybermats can cut into metal hulls and re-seal the holes undetected. They corrode bernalium and are vulnerable to quick setting hyperoxide plastic. They tune into brainwaves to find their targets, but can be confused by oscillating radio signals.

Science Edit

Species Edit

TARDIS Edit

Story notes Edit

  • The working title for this story was The Space Wheel.
  • This story is the first to have an incidental music score as well as sound effects provided by the BBC's Radiophonic Workshop.
  • Only episodes three and six exist in the BBC Archives. Episode six was transmitted from a 35mm black & white film print and retained in the BBC Film Library (although episode five was not) This was because all studio material was telerecorded on film instead of being recorded on videotape, no VT copy of this episode ever existed. A private collector obtained a copy of episode three and returned it in 1983.
  • The Radio Times programme listing for episode one was accompanied by a line illustration of two Cybermen and a Cybermat by the artist Russell, along with a black and white head-and-shoulders shot of the Doctor, with the accompanying caption "At 5.15 today Dr. Who (Patrick Troughton) and the Tardis crew begin a new adventure which will bring them up again their old enemies the silver Cybermen".
  • A clip from The Evil of the Daleks is used for a sequence in the TARDIS at the end of episode six, where the Doctor shows Zoe what she may face if she travels with him. This was used as a way to introduce a repeat of The Evil of the Daleks the week following the original broadcast of The Wheel in Space episode six. However, the clip used is actually from the end of episode one, rather than the beginning of the existent episode two, meaning that this story contains a few frames of footage from the currently missing first episode of The Evil of the Daleks.
  • The incorporation of the repeat screening of The Evil of the Daleks into continuity remains a unique circumstance in the history of Doctor Who, and indeed perhaps television in general. Although "clip shows" are common, in which flashbacks to past episodes are featured and are sometimes (in science fictional contexts) incorporated into the plot, this was a case where the production team actually incorporated a "reliving" of the events of a complete story into the continuity of the series.
  • Patrick Troughton makes no appearance in episode two as he was on holiday during the week when it was recorded. The Doctor is seen only as an unconscious figure, with Chris Jeffries doubling for Troughton.
  • Similarly, Anne Ridler was not hired for episode six so the dead Gemma Corwyn is represented by a double and photographs of Ridler are used for close-ups of Corwyn's body.
  • Deborah Watling's appearance in episode one was a recap from the end of the previous story Fury from the Deep. Unusually, Deborah received an on-screen credit for this appearance.
  • The Cyberplanner has the exact same voice as the Cyber-Controller from The Tomb of the Cybermen.

Production notes Edit

  • The story that was originally planned for this spot in the production schedule was to have portrayed a Dalek/Cybermen confrontation. Although this was disallowed by Terry Nation, he did give an important concession in return. He allowed for future Dalek stories — something that was not seen as certain at the time. His precondition for this permission would remain in effect the rest of his life: he had to be given the first right of refusal to write the script on any proposed Dalek storyline.[1] Meanwhile, Kit Pedler, whose involvement with the original idea for a Cyber/Dalek war is uncertain, brought an entirely different Cybermen story to the table in the form of The Space Wheel. He was teamed with David Whitaker to bring this idea to script form. The idea of a Cyber/Dalek war festered in the minds of both Doctor Who fans and production staff alike. It would not be realised on-screen until the 2006 episode Doomsday.
  • The spacesuits worn by Jamie and Zoe, previously seen in The Tenth Planet, later turned up as costumes in Star Wars: A New Hope and Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back (most famously worn by Bossk the Bounty Hunter).

Ratings Edit

  • Episode 1 - 7.2 million viewers
  • Episode 2 - 6.9 million viewers
  • Episode 3 - 7.5 million viewers
  • Episode 4 - 8.6 million viewers
  • Episode 5 - 6.8 million viewers
  • Episode 6 - 6.5 million viewers

Myths Edit

  • This story went considerably over budget. (It was one of the few stories of the second Doctor's era to come in under budget.)
  • There is a suspenseful scene in which the two Cybermen menace Zoe in the Wheel's library. (There is no such scene. The photographs that exist of this were specially posed for publicity purposes only.)
  • Only two Cyberman costumes were used in the making of this story. (A third was put together from stock for the sequence in episode six where a force of Cybermen space-walk toward the Wheel.)
  • Eric Flynn, who plays Leo Ryan in this story, was the son of Hollywood film star Errol Flynn. (Eric Flynn is not related to Errol Flynn)

Filming locations Edit

Production errors Edit

If you'd like to talk about narrative problems with this story — like plot holes and things that seem to contradict other stories — please go to this episode's discontinuity discussion.
  • The Cybermen's voices change drastically in episode three between their first scene and the cliffhanger. The sound box used for their voices had broken down.
  • During the scene in episode six where Jarvis Bennett is killed, the sound effect for the Cybermen's weapon is quietly but clearly audible throughout the scene, even when cutting between the corridor and the control room.
  • Patrick Troughton makes one of the series' all-time best line fluffs in episode six, when the Doctor earnestly entreats "We're all going to be killed shortly unless you switch over to sexual air supply." He meant to say "sectional air supply".

Continuity Edit

Home video and audio releases Edit

External links Edit

Footnotes Edit

  1. Shannon Sullivan's exploration of The Wheel in Space


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