“The Edge of Destruction” is a rather odd, two-part story that follows “The Daleks.” It is the third story starring William Hartnell as the Doctor. From what I can gather, it was a filler story because Doctor Who had been granted a 13 episode run and “Un Unearthly Child” and “The Daleks” only added up to 11 episodes. The TARDIS is the only location and the four principles are the only characters.
The story begins with everyone on the TARDIS unconscious. Gradually, they begin to wake up (Barbara first, who then wakes up the others), but they are suffering from amnesia and are confused about what has just happened. The Doctor is the last to wake up; he is wounded with a gash on his head. Susan, however, is able to get a bandage for the wound. Soon all four are acting strangely, as well as the TARDIS. Susan becomes convinced that an alien being has taken over someone on the ship. She gets a hold of a scissors and begins to threaten Barbara and Ian with it, but they always manage to stop her before she does any harm. Soon, Susan and the Doctor begin to suspect Barbara and Ian of sabotaging the TARDIS in an attempt to return home. Finally, thanks to Barbara’s reasoning, they figure out that the TARDIS is trying to tell them something and work together to solve the problem.
The first part of this episode reminded me a bit of the new Who episode, “Midnight.” Although it turned out not to be an alien possessing someone, the paranoia of the episode made me wonder if it could have influence Russell T. Davis in any way when he wrote “Midnight.” Of course, in this episode it was the Doctor and Susan who were growing increasingly paranoid of the others, not the other way around, as it was in “Midnight.”
It was also interesting that this episode brought up the idea of the TARDIS being more than a machine. It was actually attempting to communicate with the Doctor, even though he is dismissive of the idea that the TARDIS can think. It’s also the first episode in which Barbara is more than simply dead weight. She is responsible for saving the group, by realizing that the TARDIS is trying to communicate with them. It was nice to see her take a more active role.
Overall, I found this episode a bit disappointing. I enjoyed the first part, but I felt that the “solution” didn’t really answer all of the questions. Mainly, why was Susan threatening people with scissors? I know she was confused after being knocked unconscious, but this is not a part of her normal personality, so I was not sure why she would physically threaten people. Still, it did serve to unite the group before their next adventure, which was necessary to keep from rehashing the same suspicions and disagreements over and over.