Doctor Who: The Long Way Round: The Edge of Destruction – Part 2

The Edge of Destruction: The Brink of Disaster

Brink of Disaster

For the want of a spring the switch was lost

For the want of a switch the journey was lost

For the want of a journey the ship was lost

For the want of a ship the crew was lost

All for the want of a spring

The solution being so simple is both marvellous and frustrating. It actually links us nicely back to the repair jobs we see The Doctor doing in Hunters of Earth and An Unearthly Child. In fact, in the latter he specifically calls out a filament replacement as being a “rush job” so it certainly seems plausible it could happen this way.

And there is something wonderful about this ship that is so advanced being taken down by a simple faulty spring and lacking an ability to tell anyone this is what they are doing, having to just use whatever systems it has available. As The Doctor says, it is not the ship that is at fault it is the crew.

However, I am struggling to understand how some of this works. For a start, how did it melt the clock-faces on Ian and Barbara’s watches? Is this some kind of attack it can do or is it just making the crew think they are melted?

It also seems to affect the travellers mentally. They behave incredibly strangely, more than just surprise or distrust at the situation. Susan is actively attacking the bed with scissors, Ian thinks he is back in Coal Hill School and The Doctor drugs everyone. These are pretty far from where we left them all on Skaro at the end of The Rescue.

What are we to make of this? I still hold my prior theory of some sort of psychic attack makes the most sense, which suggests the TARDIS is more than just a machine? However, if it can communicate in this way, why could it not pass the correct ideas into their heads? Is the nature of machine so different that it has non-human conceptions of communication? The fact that I have to do so much guess-work is what is so frustrating about the experience.

And yet, the result of this intense conflict is rather wonderful. As going through all this seems to make them stronger as a team. Barbara seems to finally have time to process all that she has seen and been through, on top of The Doctor’s threats and she is much more shaken than anyone else1. We the get a lovely exchange between her and The Doctor:

What do you care what I think or feel?
As we learn about each other, so we learn about ourselves.

In this moment The Doctor admits his faults and Barbara seems to understand that people around her do care and appreciate her. This gives her the strength to go on, and seem to want to explore now more than just go home. For they are not even sure if it is Earth outside, and even if it is, it seems unlikely to be anywhere in England. But she does not simply push The Doctor to try again.

And this is a rather wonderful Barbara episode. Whilst they do all work together once again to get the solution2 Barbara is the one really able to work out these rather opaque messages are clues from The TARDIS to them. As The Doctor says it is only due to her insight that they are able to solve the problem.

With this episode giving this idea that the TARDIS is intelligent and can think, I suppose it is valuable to consider it another member of the travellers rather than just a conveyance.3 And in fact we get rather a lot of little points on it. As well as it having some sort of machine intelligence and defense mechanisms which are the key plot points, we also learn the level of its power. Apparently the power is under the central column and if it were to escape, it would blow you to atoms in split seconds. This level of power is what then helps make that it was just a faulty spring that almost disintegrated them all so interesting.

Now we pass on to another time and place. Hopefully, this one will not be so filled with horror. I know that is the format of the story so far but I feel they have come through so much already.

 

1. And likely justifiably so as she may well never have even left England given the time she lived in and, whilst living through the Second World War, has probably never experienced as much horror as the rest of the travellers. On the other hand, I am still not happy with The Doctor’s desire not to let Susan and Barbara know what is going on. As they are both clearly as smart and capable as he and Ian are. I think Ian may be a bad influence on him.

2. Although Susan’s knowledge of the TARDIS control buttons seems less necessary as The Doctor appears to have started labelling the controls. Something that is quite sensible given how often he forgets what they different buttons do.

3. I am using the pronoun “it” when referring to the TARDIS rather than standard non-binary “they/them” for now on the grounds both that it is textually what the other characters use and still seems to be considered a pre-programmed machine consciousness. If it hints at itself as either a more self-aware consciousness or it is later gendered, I plan to change the pronouns accordingly.

GS Blogger: Kris Vyas-Myall

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