|003:The Edge of Destruction|
|Doctor Who serial|
Barbara, Ian, the Doctor and Susan observe the broken clock inside the TARDIS.
|Director||Richard Martin (episode 1)|
Frank Cox (episode 2)
|Script editor||David Whitaker|
Mervyn Pinfield (associate producer)
|Length||2 episodes, 25 minutes each|
|Originally broadcast||February 8–15, 1964|
The Edge of Destruction (also referred to as Inside the Spaceship) is a serial in the British science fiction television series Doctor Who, which was first broadcast in 2 weekly parts on February 8 and February 15, 1964. The serial is distinguished as a rare "bottle episode", in that the entire story is shot on a single set, with just the main cast. It also serves to resolve several character threads that had been presented over the previous eleven weeks.
The Doctor, while attempting to correct the TARDIS's faulty navigation circuits, causes a small explosion. The Doctor, Barbara, Ian and Susan are all temporarily rendered unconscious. After they awake, Ian and Susan appear to have slight cases of amnesia and everyone begins to act strangely. Unexpected events are happening on the TARDIS, the travellers are becoming suspicious of each other's motives, and the Doctor even accuses Ian and Barbara of sabotage. Fearing that they have been taken over by some alien force — or that they have intentionally sabotaged the TARDIS in order to force the Doctor to return them to 1963 — he drugs Barbara and Ian unknowing that Ian is also suspicious and has not taken the drink given to him. The Doctor attempts to explore the problem without interference.
Gradually it becomes clear that the strange events are an attempt by the TARDIS itself to warn the crew that something is wrong. Thanks to Barbara's clue-gathering, the Doctor traces the problem to a broken spring in the Fast Return Switch. The malfunction is causing the TARDIS to head back to the beginning of time; the strange events were just the TARDIS's attempts to warn its passengers before the ship is destroyed. Fixing the switch brings all back to normal. Although the day is saved, Barbara is still affected by the Doctor's harsh words earlier. The Doctor is forced to do what he least enjoys — apologise, and admit that he was wrong about Barbara and Ian.
The story closes with the TARDIS materialising on a snowy landscape, where Susan spots a giant footprint in the snow.
This serial introduces the ideas that the TARDIS console and time column directly harness the energies which drive the ship, and that the TARDIS is "alive" and somewhat self-aware. These ideas would come up again on occasion as the original series progressed, but would become major plot points during the 2005 series, in particular in the episodes "Boom Town" and "The Parting of the Ways".
When Ian examines the injured Doctor, he remarks that "his heart seems fine." However, the Third Doctor serial Spearhead from Space reveals that the Doctor has two hearts. The tie-in novel The Man in the Velvet Mask states (incorporating an explanation for the discrepancy from fan lore) that the Doctor did not grow his second heart until his regeneration into the Second Doctor. However, the canonicity of spin-off media has never been clear. An alternative explanation can be found inThe Mind of Evil, "The Christmas Invasion" and "The Shakespeare Code", in all of which, one of the Doctor's hearts stops due to severe trauma.
This story explicitly states that the Doctor and Susan had visited other worlds before 1963 Earth. Susan mentions that four or five journeys back they had visited the planet Quinnis where the TARDIS had almost been lost. She explains the details of this pre-television tale in the 2010 Big Finish Productions audio drama Quinnis.
The Doctor's extensive wardrobe is first mentioned at the end of the story, with Ian showing off an ulster that the Doctor had received from Gilbert and Sullivan.
The mispronunciation of Ian's last name that began in the previous story, The Daleks, is used in this episode to signify that everything has returned to normal after the climax. Here the Doctor calls Ian "Charterhouse".
The Fast Return Switch is used again in the Eighth Doctor Big Finish Productions audio adventures Seasons of Fear and Neverland.
|Episode||Broadcast date||Run time||Viewership|
|"The Edge of Destruction"||8 February 1964||25:04||10.4||16mm t/r|
|"The Brink of Disaster"||15 February 1964||22:11||9.9||16mm t/r|
This story was written by story editor David Whitaker within two days. It was created as a hasty "filler" story so that the series would fit a thirteen episode run, which was all that had been granted at that stage. Budgetary restrictions meant that only the four regular actors and the TARDIS sets could be used for the filming. Today, this type of production using existing sets and no additional cast is common practice among television productions and is called a "bottle show").
Paddy Russell was originally assigned to direct this serial, but she was unavailable for the recording dates so Mervyn Pinfield was suggested as her replacement. Richard Martin was in the end chosen, but he was unavailable for the second episode so Frank Cox had to take over. The episodes were recorded in Lime Grove studio D 17 and 24 January 1964.
The "fast return" switch label on the TARDIS console appears to be written in felt-tip pen. Exactly why this was done is uncertain; on the DVD, documentary designer Raymond Cusick guesses that it was written during rehearsals as a guide, and producer Verity Lambert surmises that it may have been written so that Hartnell could find the switch. Both agree, however, that the label was probably never intended to be seen. Carole Ann Ford states the she and William Hartnell labeled controls on the TARDIS control panel during rehearsal, and assumed they would be blotted out before production.
The two episodes of the serial had individual titles. They were, respectively, "The Edge of Destruction" and "The Brink of Disaster." As was the case with other early Doctor Who serials, there are differences of opinion as to the appropriate umbrella title for this serial.
Various titles used over the years include:
Inside the Spaceship — the only title known to have been used on 1960s production documents, also used by writer David Whitaker in all correspondence throughout his life.
Beyond the Sun — used on the first edition of the 1974 BBC Enterprises sales catalogue A Quick Guide to Dr. Who, although the second edition declines to give any title for the story. It was actually a working title for The Daleks and has also at times been attributed to an unmade story byMalcolm Hulke called The Hidden Planet.
The Brink of Disaster — the title of the second episode, arbitrarily adopted for a fan list in the seeming absence of anything else.
The Edge of Destruction — the title of the first episode, arbitrarily adopted for the 1976 second edition of The Making of Doctor Who in the absence of any other known title, and subsequently used on the novelisation, VHS and DVD releases of the stories.
See: Doctor Who story title controversy
Doctor Who book
The Edge of Destruction
Series Target novelisations
Release number 132
Writer Nigel Robinson
Publisher Target Books
Cover artist Alister Pearson
Release date 20 October 1988
Preceded by The Ultimate Foe
Followed by The Smugglers
The serial was released on VHS in 2000 as "The Edge of Destruction and Dr. Who: The Pilot Episode". The US/Canada release in 2001 also included "The Missing Years" (see Lost in Time) documentary from 1998 (which was released with "The Ice Warriors" video tape in the United Kingdom). In 2006, it was included on The Beginning DVD box set, along with the previous two serials.
A novelisation of this serial, written by Nigel Robinson, was published by Target Books on 20 October 1988 under the title The Edge of Destruction. It was the 132nd Doctor Who novelisation by Target Books. The cover was made by Alister Pearson. 
The BBC has freely uploaded both parts of this episode to Youtube for promotional purposes.