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The Wheel in Space (TV story)

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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 TARDIS is landing, however the scanners show nothing. The Doctor's readings show that air and temperature is OK but they are surrounded by metal. The scanner begins to work. Jamie is delighted to see a lake which soon turns into a scene with birds then into a waterfall and then a beach. Jamie is confused but the Doctor explains that this is the TARDIS' defense mechanism and that there is danger. Before they can take off again there is a power overload which triggers a mercury vapour in the console room. The Doctor and Jamie have to leave. The Doctor opens a panel near the TARDIS door and removes a rod. The TARDIS begins to shake and tremble. They leave. The Doctor explains he has disengaged the time vector generator - the TARDIS is no longer bigger on the inside. They begin to search their surroundings. They appear to be on a stationary rocket. The Doctor feels in his pocket and offers Jamie a sherbet lemon. He ruminates over what the danger could be. He notices on the floor a trail of oil. Jamie absent-mindedly presses a button. A door opens. The Doctor and Jamie see a trail leading to another door at the end of the corridor. They carefully make their way down the corridors, observing the compact equipment to their sides. The Doctor listens at the door at the corridors end. It all seems safe - but what is the danger? Where is the crew? What has produced this track? The Doctor presses buttons on a console as Jamie wanders off. They wander back down the corridor checking hatchway doors to the side. They enter the living quarters and close the door. Jamie finds some water - not satiated by the sherbet lemon.


A servo robot in the control room begins to move. It opens and then closes the main door.


The Doctor looks out a window and sees that the ship is drifting in space. They cannot leave until they find some mercury for the TARDIS. They go and look but to no avail. They plan to check the control room but Jamie moans about being hungry. They move back down the corridor. They enter the living quarters and the Doctor moves to the machine in the corner. The Doctor presses some buttons on the machine which produces a large uniform square. Jamie turns his nose up. They move towards a small table and some chairs. Jamie is delighted to find his square tastes just like what eh craved the most - roast beef. They talk about Victoria - Jamie hopes she's safe and the Doctor reassures him she picked a good time to settle in. Jamie decides to sleep. He moves towards the crew's bed, removes his jacket and lays on the bottom one.


The robot opens the door and moves down the corridor.


The Doctor observes that there is no dangers in the space that they are in.


The robot observes the TARDIS, wheels around back into the corridor and closes and seals the door closed.


The Doctor listens at the door and then presses a button to open it. He moves up the corridor and notices an extra track on the floor. He presses the closed circuit screen but just gets static. He turns away perplexed.


The robot, back in the control room, operates the console.


The rocket moves with a jolt, throwing the Doctor to the wall. Jamie starts and runs into the corridor. The Doctor has hit his head and needs to get back to the TARDIS. They move to the door and attempt to open it but discover it sealed. Jamie helps the Doctor back into the crew quarters and onto a bunk bed. The Doctor implores him to lock the door before passing out.


The robot summons a container with bright orbs in it. They float off down the corridor.


Jamie observes a "great big silver thing" in space. Unseen by Jamie, the Doctor has left his bunk and is struggling down the corridor. He wants to get to the TARDIS. He uses the time vector generator to try and unseal the door. The Doctor places the time vector generator in his pocket and tries the buttons on the door. Sensing movement behind him, he turns slowly to see the robot. Jamie notices the Doctor is missing, grabs a blanket and runs into the corridor. He throws a blanket over the robot. They hurry back to the crew quarters and close the door. The robot frees himself. The Doctor gives Jamie the time vector generator and tells him it can be used as a gun. The robot is outside burning through the door. Jamie uses the time vector generator and blows the robot up. The Doctor has passed out.


At a nearby Earth space station the unusual behaviour of the rocket is being observed. The rocket is supply ship that went missing nine months ago and is 80 or 90 million miles off course. They try to contact the ship but to no avail. Jarvis, the leader of the station, states that the ship is a danger to them.

The orbs released by the robot are floating in space.

The space station pick up the signals from the orbs.

Unbeknownst to them the orbs are being absorbed by the ships.

Jarvis has made his mind up. He is to use the X-Ray laser on the ship and blow it up.

An unknowing Doctor awakes.

Episode 2 Edit

Space Control try to communicate with the rocket one last time. The laser is logged on. Communications Officer Leo Ryan crosses the room to talk to astronomer Tanya Lernov. Leo is all for destroying the rocket but Tanya is unsure.

On the rocket Jamie sees a light panel and prises it away from the wall. He pulls the light out, removes the wires and the lights go out. In the gloom, he sees the bright tip of the time vortex generator and takes it.

Dr. Gemma Corwyn, second-in-command of the space station, pleads to Jarvis to not destroy the ship. Jarvis stands firm. Gemma says that if the ship is on autopilot then it shouldn't have strayed so far from its course. Jarvis is staunch.

Jamie points the time vortex generator at The Wheel Space Station and turns it on.

The crew in The Wheel quickly snatch off their headsets and throw them to the desk. Leo helps a crewman who has collapsed over their desk into a bench.

Gemma and Jarvis are still arguing when Tanya bursts in and informs them of the crew. Jarvis orders the sound to be traced. Casually and Vallance, members of crew, help the fallen Rudkin to his feet and escort him out of the room to the medical bay. Jarvis orders the rocket knocked out when Tanya informs him that the signal is coming from the rocket. Jarvis sends some crew over to investigate.

Jamie looks with concern at the still prone Doctor then looks to the porthole. He sees two men in space-suits approaching. They tap on the porthole and Jamie points towards an airlock. As they move off, Jamie rushes from the living quarters. As soon as the men have docked in the rocket Jamie rushes in and informs them of the injured Doctor.

Later Leo and Tanya are talking. The Doctor and Jamie have been brought over to The Wheel. Leo is informed that there is a magnetic effect being registered on the hull of The Wheel. Tanya puts this together with the slight air pressure anomalies and begins to suspect they are linked to the rocket.

Unbeknownst to the crew, The Wheel is absorbing more and more orbs.

Gemma checks Jamie. Jamie is fine but the Doctor has concussion and a suspected fracture. Gemma sits down and takes down details from Jamie. Jamie gives his own name but doesn't know how to identify the Doctor. Jamie notices a name on some medical equipment and states that the Doctor is called John Smith. Gemma notices the same equipment and looks at Jamie with suspicion. Gemma asks Jamie how they ended up where they are. Jamie stalls for time. Gemma fetches some water. Jamie states that he became ill and was quarantined to his cabin. When he got better only the Doctor was still alive and he he hasn't told him what happened. Gemma seems content. Jamie rises to leave. Gemma organises a tour of The Wheel and suggests Jamie should hunt out Zoe in the library. As Jamie leaves Gemma goes to her desk and presses a switch on an intercom. She contacts Zoe and orders her to observe Jamie closely. Zoe vanishes from the screen but soon reappears. She pressed the wrong button.

Jamie approaches the library. As he enters Zoe is recording some astronomical data verbally into the library. Zoe turns off the recorder. She begins to laugh at the way Jamie is dressed before placing his kilt in a historical context.

She begins to show Jamie around the base and is soon accompanied by Leo. He points out some flowers from Venus that belong to a man called Bill Duggan as well as the motor that controls the X-Ray laser. Zoe questions Jamie about the Doctor but he evades the question.

Jarvis is eager for information regarding the Doctor too. He is worried about the morale of his crew and the break from routine. Gemma reports that she thinks Jamie has been lying; his blood doesn't seem to report that he has been ill or in space for very long. She also found the fact he turned down water as suspicious as this is something he would have lacked on the rocket. Gemma ponders over what the Doctor and Jamie could actually be. She wonders if they might be saboteurs. Jarvis seizes on this piece of information. In his mind they must be saboteurs and they probably murdered the original crew. Jarvis rises and rushes out.

Zoe shows Jamie into the Operations and Communications room. He asks her what The Wheel is. She e plains it is a multi-purpose construction but functions as: a relay station for Earth, a halfway house for deep space ships, a space research station and a stellar early warning station. They stumble into a conversation whereby they discover that Jarvis' orders to destroy the ship are going to go ahead. While the crew are busy, Jamie manages to slip away. Jamie looks round the power room and notices Bill Duggan's space flora. Seemingly dissatisfied with the flora he, again, looks round the room.

In the Operations and Communication room Jarvis has noticed the disappearance of Jamie. He questions Zoe and finds out they were last in the power room. Jarvis leaves the room after having a hushed conversation with Duggan. Duggan leaves the room shortly after. Nobody is really sure as to what is going on but Tanya sniffs a sense of intrigue and is still suspicious of the rocket.

Back in the rocket more orbs have formed. An alarm sounds and the orbs start to flow. A figure forms inside them. A hand breaks through the protection of the orb. It is. The hand is that of a Cyberman...

Episode 3 Edit

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 theSilver 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.

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.

Bennett 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. The Cybermen insist that they will obey.

Episode 4 Edit

The 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 in a box 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 marks the first appearance of the teardrop motif on the Cybermen's faces. This image would become iconic for the race, appearing on later redesigns before being retired in Earthshock and renewed in Rise of the Cybermen. Unlike future appearances, the "teardrops" appear on the center of their mouths' bottoms as well as on the corners of their eyes.
  • 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.
  • Several characters were renamed: Neil Corwyn became Gemma Corwyn; Tanya Lerner became Tanya Lernov; Tom Stone became Leo Ryan; Ken became Chang and Harry Carby became Enrico Casali.

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".
  • When Zoe is discovered hiding in the box in the TARDIS, the background is simply TARDIS interior circles painted on a draped cloth.

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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