Taking drastic measures to escape a TARDIS malfunction, the
Doctor and Jamie arrive on a rocket, the Silver Carrier, which
is bound for a space station called the Wheel. Other occupants
of the rocket send out strange egg-like spheres that penetrate
the surface of the station. Soon the Doctor, Jamie and the
Wheel crew find themselves up against rodent-like Cybermats
and their controllers, the dreaded Cybermen...
The Wheel in Space picks up where Fury From the
Deep, the BBC Radio Collection's previous release, left
off, with Jamie (Frazer Hines) and the Doctor (Patrick Troughton)
mourning the departure of their travelling companion Victoria.
Unfortunately, the story also picks up and rehashes its predecessor's
"base under siege" plot and a highly strung commanding officer
(in this case Jarvis Bennett, played by Michael Turner) of
the type previously depicted in The Ice Warriors, The
Moonbase and The Tenth Planet.
common with The Moonbase and The Tomb of the Cybermen,
the invaders' modulated voices are at times difficult or impossible
to decipher, which is not a good thing in an audio presentation.
Sadly, The Wheel in Space is the weakest of the '60s
Cyber-stories and the least compelling constituent of Doctor
Who's fifth season. The elaborate nature of the Cybermen's
plan slows the story down considerably and, when you stop
to think about it, which there is plenty of time to do, the
scheme is fundamentally pointless. The cyborgs dispatch Cybermats
in spheres, which can penetrate the Wheel's hull. The havoc
wreaked by the little critters forces the station crew to
unwittingly bring the Cybermen aboard. But the Cybermen on
the Silver Carrier also emerge from egg-like spheres - couldn't
these spheres have entered the Wheel just as easily and saved
everybody a lot of time?
Whitaker's script is further let down by some rather dodgy
science, as the courses of meteorites are somehow affected
by the destruction of distant stars. Like Blofeld in the Bond
film Diamonds are Forever, science was never Whitaker's
strong suit, but the man who previously worked as Who's
original script editor does bring a degree of continuity to
the Doctor's travels, by featuring the TARDIS' cryptic warning
system (which formerly featured in Inside the Spaceship)
and mercury link (which was previously damaged in The Daleks).
The writer's fascination with that mysterious metal mercury
continues a trend he established in previous Troughton scripts,
The Power of the Daleks and The Evil of the Daleks
(both due for reissue on CD in August).
guarantees this serial its place in history is its introduction
of the new companion ZoŽ (Wendy Padbury). Echoing the technological
horror represented by the artificially enhanced Cybermen,
ZoŽ personifies the dangers of behaving like a machine and
restricting one's thought processes to logic alone. Fortunately
for ZoŽ, and unlike the Cybermen or Star Trek's Mr
Spock, she grows concerned about her lack of emotion and seeks
to better herself, thus making her decision to join the TARDIS
crew entirely believable - and, dare I say it, logical? Her
commanding officer is less fortunate, however, as Bennett
gradually loses his grip on reality as the real world refuses
to adhere to his own limited outlook.
audio release also marks Padbury's debut as narrator. The
actress provides a lightness of tone and clarity of speech
that exactly meet the requirements of the job.
Wheel in Space is not a classic by any means, but thanks
to Padbury and colleagues such as Eric Flynn (as Leo Ryan)
and Clare Jenkins (as Tanya Lernov), who play likeable members
of the station crew, it's not wheelie bad nor a complete waste
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