The Edge of Destruction
Broadcast on February 8th 1964 @ 5.15pm (10.4 million viewers)
Before 2015’s ‘Heaven Sent’ rewrote the record, ‘The Edge of Destruction’ had the smallest cast for a complete televised story of Doctor Who. Spread over two 25 minute episodes it features the Doctor and his original trio of companions, Ian, Barbara and Susan, and is set in the confines of the ship. As a result, the story is sometimes also referred to as ‘Inside the Spaceship’ or the second episode’s title ‘The Brink of Disaster’. It is only the third serial in the programme’s early development and follows directly on from the story which introduced the Daleks to the world. What it succeeds in doing is reaffirming to the viewer that the four travelers are not friends at this point but hold an uneasy alliance, two school teachers from planet Earth in the company of two aliens from an, as of yet unnamed, other world.
The decision to set a story inside ‘the ship’ is largely a financial one, utilising the expensive TARDIS set but it also provides an exploration of the wondrous machine which Ian Chesterton bumbled into only a few months previously. After a small explosion, the regulars are rendered unconscious and wake up with amnesia symptoms. Confused and suspecting each other, the episode sees ‘cabin fever’ strike the characters. Subtlety, the episode ponders what effect the time and space machine can have on the mind, alludes to the ship being sentient and also if outside forces can enter. This culminates with the episode cliffhanger as a pair of hands from an unknown assailant grabs the Doctor by the throat. Overall, the episode is psychologically intriguing and full of suspense and works so well because the Doctor and his granddaughter at this point in the show are unknown alien quantities.
Memorable Moment (Spoiler Warning)
It is absolutely impossible to see a scene involving a character brandishing a pair of scissors in a family show broadcast at a Saturday tea time in the 21st Century. As a result, the scene with Susan and Ian sticks in the mind. Although Susan is a pupil at Coal Hill School we quickly learn in the programme’s debut episode that she is not human and it is important for the viewer to remember that. However, the way in which she frantically stabs at the sofa with the scissors is particularly disturbing. They are quite a long set of scissors too as the camera moves across to focus on the discarded implement!
The Doctor – William Hartnell
Barbara Wright – Jacqueline Hill
Ian Chesterton – William Russell
Susan Foreman – Carole Ann Ford
Director – Richard Martin
Director – Frank Cox
Producer – Verity Lambert
Writer – David Whitaker
Watch as a possessed Susan attacks Barbara
Also first aired On This Day…
- The Seeds of Death: Episode 3
- The Ark in Space: Part 3
- Kinda: Part 3
- Mawdryn Undead: Part 3
- Resurrection of the Daleks: Part 1 (45-minute edition)