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Digital Subscriptions > Doctor Who Magazine > 495 (Jan 16) > The Wheel in Space

The Wheel in Space

Although it’s four-sixths missing from the BBC, there’s still plenty to enjoy in this 1968 story...
ILLUSTRATION: BEN WILLSHER

MISSING IN ACTION!

FIRST BROADCAST 27 April – 1 June 1968

The Doctor has just lost one of his companions and is trapped in a claustrophobic, inhospitable environment with nothing to do but eat, gaze at the stars, and try to work out how to open a locked door. A sinister, slow-moving robot seems to hold the secret, but who has programmed it – and to what end?

I’m sure everybody reading this will immediately identify this as being a judiciously-worded description of the events of the first episode of The Wheel in Space, the episode which is probably best known for being one in which almost nothing happens. The TARDIS has some trouble with its fluid link and turns into an ordinary police telephone box. The Doctor and Jamie emerge to find themselves on a supply ship drifting through space. After enjoying a meal, Jamie takes a nap while the Doctor tries to get into the control room. The Doctor is threatened by a robot, which Jamie defeats with a blanket and a rod from the TARDIS. And then, with about three minutes to go, we cut to the control room of a space wheel where a bunch of people we’ve never seen before are preparing to blow up the spaceship.

But I think there’s more to it than that. It’s actually doing a similar thing to Heaven Sent. The fact that it’s so slim on incident means that, for once, there’s time to spend with the characters as they come to terms with their loss. The way Victoria’s departure from the series is handled is – perhaps surprisingly – very modern and emotional. There’s a heartbreaking and understated scene between Victoria and Jamie in the final episode of Fury from the Deep where Victoria makes Jamie promise that they won’t leave without saying goodbye (as they typically do); we then see them walking away from Victoria on a beach in a wordless scene, before joining the Doctor and Jamie in the TARDIS as they watch her wave farewell on the scanner, a scene reprised at the start of The Wheel in Space. And later in the same episode, Jamie asks the Doctor, “What do you think Victoria’s doing now?” It’s only a small moment, a couple of lines, but it makes it clear that Victoria’s loss is felt, that the Doctor and Jamie miss her and it’s not business as usual, not quite, not yet.

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About Doctor Who Magazine

Contents include: Steven Moffat answers questions on Heaven Sent; Alex Kingston and Paul McGann interviews; a feature on Doctor Who Weetabix cards of the 1970s; Fact of Fiction – Death the Daleks; Time Team – The Eleventh Hour; reviews of The Husbands of River Song, The Wheel in Space and The Face of Evil; Christmas Quiz answers; Comic Strip – The Dragon Lord Part 2.
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