Wheel in Space

Written by David Whitaker and Kit Pedler

Directed by Tristan de Vere Cole

Humans are not rational creatures. They are rationalizing creatures. It is rare for someone to start off with some premises and then use rational thought and logic to come to a conclusion with an open mind. Far more common is for someone to know the conclusion they are looking for and try and work backwards to meet up with the evidence. This is often particularly clear when listening to the bizarre arguments put forward by religious or right wing people. Which is one of the reasons that “Logic, my dear Zoe, merely enables one to be wrong with authority” is one of my favorite Doctor Who quotes.

For the guy who created the cybermen, Kit Pedler wasn’t particularly creative. Plotwise, this story is somewhat familiar. Bunch of scientists. Check. Space station floating out in the middle of nowhere. Check. Inevitable attack by cybermen. Check. In fact, in many ways this story is indistinguishable from the Moonbase, not to mention all the other base under siege stories from this particular era. Happily, the ever awesome David Whitaker was able to take what was by this point a rather familiar idea and turn it into something great. It may not be the best Who story, but it is rather entertaining and easily watchable (listenable?) and one that I regularly go back to.

Whitaker’s script is the main reason for this, and the reason that it stands out from the crowd of other base under siege serials. As well gems like the logic quote, the whole script is peppered with lines like “I feel as if someone’s been hitting me all over with small hammers” or “Kilt? Kilt. A barbaric form of garment as worn by a kiltie! Are you of Scandinavian origin? Danish?”.

As well as being awesome, there is something else those two lines have in common: they are both spoken by new companion Zoe. The Doctor’s last companion, Victoria was sadly given very little to do other than scream, get rescued and moan endlessly. Happily, Zoe is more or less the polar opposite of this. In fact, I would go as far as to say that this is possibly my favorite TARDIS crew, and Zoe is a big part of that. She’s the only human companion that the Doctor has ever had who can actually keep up with him intellectually. She may not have his spark of indefinable genius, but she is every bit as bright when it comes to creative logic and reasoning. I’m pretty sure that Wendy Padbury was, and still is, beautiful enough to keep most of the dads watching. Unlike just about every other companion in the classic series, with the exception of Ace and possibly Romana, she actually has an arc, even if it is just Spock’s. Just as importantly, she fits in perfectly with the rest of the TARDIS crew, and right from the start they feel like a single unit.

So as they sail off into the next chapter of time and space, this time actually letting their new friend what she might be in for, the Doctor and his companions leave Patrick Troughton’s second year in the role. The bad guys in this season may have sucked huge balls, but through it all Troughton and Hines were both top notch, and Deborah Watling really did do a good job with a dreadful role. Troughton had already well and truly proven himself in the role, but this year cemented him in the position. The best was yet to come, however, as his third and final year would turn out to be, IMHO, one of the best in Who history. Would it be smooth sailing all the way through, or would there be bumps along the way? Find out next time in The Dominators.


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