Edge of Destruction is a story that never quite lives up to its potential.
The synopsis sounds exciting, with the travellers trapped in a time ship that’s hurtling out of control to who knows where, but instead we get a mystery that never gets properly investigated until the following week. You have to wonder what on earth David Whitaker thought he was on about in the first episode in particular. None of that stuff with them all concussed and/or confused makes any dramatic sense whatsoever. It comes across as what it is, a writer desperate to pad out an episode with something that is intended to be dramatic and suspenseful but ends up being tediously slow. It`s only really when we get to the melting clock face that Part One gets remotely interesting. Which is a real shame because, as Nigel Robinson`s far superior novelisation proved, this is a story that could have been really creepy instead of really crappy.
Essentially it’s a “stuck in a lift” story but one where nobody talks to each other. That first episode could have had much more interaction between the characters of Ian, Barabara & Susan given that it’s the first time the three of them have been left alone without the Doctor since that fateful trip to Totters’ Lane. With the Doctor out of action, what are they going to do? That would have given the opportunity for some real drama instead of concussed confusion for all concerned, including the audience.
If it were being done again today there would be “character” moments in between the action, like there were in Father’s Day. But Whitaker completely misses that opportunity, leaving out the one thing you would have thought he would have taken advantage of with only the regular cast and the Tardis set to play with.
The other idea he could have played up more is that of the “ghost story”. The whole notion of something having got into the Tardis, playing on the characters` fears of that and letting their imaginations run away with them, would have been a much better way to fill a two episode gap in production.
Shadowy corridors would have been very cheap to do, not even requiring a recording break to move the Tardis wall flats around. But they missed that opportunity too. The whole story is something of an open goal that nobody seems quite able to score from, which is a shame. Yes, the hurtling back to destruction thing is a nice idea but due to a stuck switch? Maybe that`s why this particular Type 40 was already an antique when the Doctor “borrowed” her… and it would be done better in Castrovalva anyway…
As far as the show’s developing mythology there’s the wonderful notion that the Tardis is “alive” something sadly hardly ever touched on again, bar the odd line of dialogue. Shame. Such a pity that it’s so clunkily handled but then again, they were still making it up as they went along. This is only story three and we all know the troubled production history it had so maybe we shouldn’t be too harsh on Whitaker but it’s still mostly complete bollocks.
So as far as a Fan Edit of the story goes, what the hell can you do with it? Well you can cut out as much of the clunky dialogue as you can and some of the Doctor`s nastiness toward Ian and Barbara. This is the story where they stop mistrusting each other and all start to get on so it pays to try and emphasise that more. The whole thing is so involved, and of course there`s no subplot to cut away to, that it was simply a case of cutting lines wherever you could to help move things along.
I`ve replaced all the pictures on the scanner as they were a bit naff even for 1963 and done what I could with the Tardis doors to disguise that, despite what Susan may say, beyond them is nothing more threatening than a 1960`s TV Studio. Either that or they`ve arrived in The Land of Fiction a few years too early and don`t realise it…
There`s a curious lack of atmosphere in what could and should have been a very atmospheric production so that was my cue for lots of atmospheric, creepy music [you will recognise the composer straight away]. If only they`d had tone meetings back in the old days, “creepy” would undoubtedly have been the word they should have chosen for what could so easily have been the Hartnell equivalent of Midnight with a bit of The Doctor’s Wife in there too…