Doctor Who #207: The Wheel in Space Part 2

"Out in space, human beings have got to rely on routines, ordinariness."TECHNICAL SPECS: Missing from the archives. A reconstruction was used (Part 1, Part 2). First aired May 4 1968.

IN THIS ONE... Jamie is rescued from the "Silver Carrier" and given a tour of the Wheel by Zoe (first appearance!). Meanwhile, the Doctor sleeps.

REVIEW: The leisurely pace established in the first episode is once again in effect, especially for the Doctor, who sleeps through the entire episode (again, I'm reminded of the Hartnell days, and not in a good way). David Whitaker and Kit Pedler must share the responsibility, but Pedler's fingerprints are all over this, as the international crew of the Wheel spend a lot of time saying technical things about technical stuff. This, and the tour Jamie eventually gets, are bits of world-building and verisimilitude, but while I appreciate that, they're not particularly interesting or exciting. A lot of talking, and yay, some math as well. And while there's a spacewalk which might have been of interest to NASA buffs at the time, it leads to two men exploring the spaceship some more. Like Part 1 didn't already contain 15 minutes of exactly that.

At least we get to meet Zoe, the Wheel's "librarian", a scientifically-minded teenager with an eidetic memory who thankfully isn't a robot. She laughs at Jamie's kilt, and there's some fun interplay between the two characters as most of what she says sails right over his head. Quite obviously being introduced as the next Who girl, she's not too far physically from Victoria, but completely different in background and attitude. So it's good news that Jamie and Zoe (or Hines and Padbury, if you will) already have a comic spark between them. Of the rest of the Wheel personnel, only Gemma is filling out nicely, clever enough to see through Jamie's lies and intuitive enough to not let the Carrier get blown up before making more checks. The rest are difficult to digest, however. Jarvis Bennett is yet another dreary bureaucrat who won't listen to reason, a guy working on a research station who hates the unknown and panics at the smallest mystery. Tanya and Leo have a flirtation going on that might be fun if the dialog wasn't some of the worst in recent memory. And a bit part like Chang, with its ridiculous Chinese accent from a clearly non-Asian actor calls attention to itself in the most unforgiving way.

Plot holes continue to abound, and are probably what the Cyberman eggs are entering the Wheel through. Cybermen? Oh yeah, well it's hardly a spoiler with Pedler's name attached. Not that they're acting like Cybermen necessarily. Infiltrating a space station leaving only "drops in pressure" instead of full-on hull breaches is exactly what they did in The Moonbase and it didn't make any sense then either. Birthing out of giant eggs is the new wrinkle (though that's a pretty cool visual). We also have Jamie using the time vortex generator as a makeshift telegraph as it again plays the role of magic wand in the episode. Clearly, this is a bit written for the Doctor that most uncharacteristically became Jamie's when Troughton took a break. But aside from Zoe, this is historically important for another reason - Jamie in inspired by the label on some equipment to give the Doctor his "John Smith" alias. Technically, it's the first mention of it, but in reality, the Doctor has used the name before, in other languages. Maybe Jamie is only really remembering the Doctor's alias when he sees the labels (in which case, how convenient), as translated for him by the TARDIS or from his own linguistic knowledge, if any. Either way, I'm not sure it's enough to give the episode a recommendation.

REWATCHABILITY: Medium-Low - Another snooze-fest, and one without the Doctor, it is only partially redeemed by the first appearance of a companion and a neat entrance by the Cybermen (reprised in the next episode anyway).


LiamKav said...

Yay, Zoe!

Siskoid said...

You'll find that I'm not a fan of Wheel in Space, but I think Zoe is a joy.

LiamKav said...

I have memories of Zoe from a repeat of... I have no idea what episode, but the repeat was on in the early 90s on BBC2. I've picked up the Invasion since then, and confirmed that she is brilliant. Is she the first of the "smart girl" companions? I don't think Barbara quite counts...

Siskoid said...

Susan was the first smart companion, and the very first companion at that, but they played it down more and more as the show progressed. Vicki was also quite smart, with college degrees by the time she was 8 or something thanks to future super-education methods. I think Zoe is much more like her than any other companion. Enthusiastic and too smart for her own good, but largely inexperienced.

Anonymous said...

I always liked Zoe based on the surviving stories, but watching "The Wheel In Space" for the first time via recon last year, she struck me as horribly Adric-like, quite annoying. Thankfully they toned her down.


Siskoid said...


Keep reading as her character develops!


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