After the excellent ‘Fury from the Deep’, and the sad departure of Victoria, it’s hard to view ‘The Wheel in Space’ as anything but a major come-down.
Whereas ‘Fury from the Deep’ was high energy and well paced, ‘The Wheel in Space’ is easily the dullest Cybermen story thus far, extremely formulaic and one dimensional. For starters, the Cybermen take until mid-episode four to get onto the ‘Wheel in Space’, the entire first episode is almost solely the Doctor and Jamie rummaging around an abandoned space ship, and then the Doctor hits his head and Jamie destroys a servo-robot and well, it’s just not very engaging at all. We get a glimpse of life inside the wheel but nothing more during the first episodes.
Then Troughton takes a holiday for episode two, although the set and model work for the wheel must be complimented. However, the Doctor and Jamie are rescued from the space ship by men from the wheel, who get to the ship by walking across space in space suits. Completely in plausible in my eyes. Then how did they get the unconscious Doctor back? They would have had to put a suit on him and carried him! Not that we see that.
The Cybermen appear at the end of episode two, which is mostly dialogue-heavy between the crew of the wheel. Jamie sabotages the wheel’s laser so they don’t destroy the ship with quick seal plastic conveniently labelled in the laser control room. It just sort of trundles along, Cybermats appear to destroy the bernalium store so that they have to go back to the ship to see if there’s any there. The Cybermen hide in a crate of bernalium and that’s how they get to the wheel. In episode four.
|Zoe look out! Behind you!|
The characters are pretty light on for character development. Zoe, played by Wendy Padbury, joins the TARDIS crew at the end of this one, and her character is rather good. She displays the angst of being so smart and yet not understanding others, and the sadness that goes along with that and being thought of as a computer very well. The Commander, Jarvis, is suitably and predictably mad, but why? There’s not a lot of explanation behind his actions and his pointless death scene where he attacks a Cyberman armed with nothing is just odd.
The Cybermen want the wheel so they can use it to get to Earth. Very little else is used to explain their motivation. They say ‘You know our ways’ a lot to the Doctor. The Cybermen voice in Episode Three is weak and very hard to understand, however from Episode Four onwards it is louder and better, even on the reprise from episode three.
I think the story looks very good for its time, but it is full of mystifying scenes of people walking a long way through space – how they propelled themselves I have no idea. Space walks are usually done on surfaces, not just through nothing. David Whitaker was handed a story idea from Kit Pedler and produced his most disappointing story, with typical Kit Pedler/Gerry Davis two-dimensional characters that merely serve a purpose. Plus one mad guy thrown in for good measure. It’s slow and very ungripping!
Look out for the use of a photo to represent a dead body in episode six, so they could save on money and not have to employ the actor for another episode!