Doctor Who #209: The Wheel in Space Part 4

"Are there any ordinary circumstances in space?"TECHNICAL SPECS: Missing from the archives, aside from a few brief clips. I have, of course, used a reconstruction (Part 1, Part 2). First aired May 18 1968.

IN THIS ONE... The Cybermen are smuggled inside the Wheel, and a couple of crew members are killed. But it's mostly a coffee break.

REVIEW: Whitaker and Peddler probably think their procedural style taps into space race fever - how will Man live in the Space Age? - but decades later, it just feels like (yet more) padding. The base personnel actually take a lunch break in this. Zoe and Jamie play with a tape recorder, and instead of causing conflict, Zoe concedes that it really doesn't matter. That's right, scenes that ADMITTEDLY don't matter. Let's discuss shift work now! Let's ask the Doctor if he wants a cup of coffee! Groan. I get they want to do some world-building, but showing the boring bits of space travel is not what's going to get space race fans going.

There ARE some good ideas in here, of course. This seems a future that medicates to prevent mind control, and Zoe is apparently the product of "parapsychology". There's mention of ESP which Bennett doesn't believe in. So we're not just exploring space, but the human mind as well. We're unlocking the mysteries of the brain, in a way that seems vaguely Manchurian Candidate to me, but I don't want to judge. Zoe, to her credit, doesn't want to be a robot - many "brainchildren" have trouble connection to their emotions - she wants to feel things. That's a bit of a reversal from other companions who approach the universe as emotional beings interested in learning things. Zoe already has a lot of information at her disposal, but no emotional connection to it. We'll have her screaming her little heart out in fear soon enough.

As for the plot, well, the Cybermen hypnotize crewmen who smuggle them over to the Wheel, but they don't really do much there, killing or taking control only those who come upon them in the hold. So Chang and his accent are killed, and Bill Duggan (and his equally indeterminate accent - is he supposed to be an American or something?) is mind controlled until he gets himself electrocuted. Jarvis Bennett is NOT mind controlled, at least I don't think so, but his mind has snapped anyway. I'm not sure I buy it. His motivation is that he can't deal with things he can't explain, which is just silly for someone in his profession, and when pushed to the extreme, he just denies there's any problem at all. From panic to cheerfulness in a matter of minutes. And it's confusing too, since there are also mind controlled individuals walking around. It casts doubt on him as well, but surely, his refusal to believe in the danger represented by the nova puts him at odds with the Cybermen's plans to protect the Wheel (yes, after putting it in danger in the first place, wheels within Wheels, if you will).

REWATCHABILITY: Medium-Low - Another brain dead plot, and there just isn't enough of the main trio to save it.

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