An anonymous benefactor sent us another little treat in the post – the latest reconstruction of this story, complete with very impressive CGI.
Sue: The Wheel in Space. This must be good if you named our experiment after it.
Me: Erm, yes, well…
When the TARDIS breaks down on a deserted spaceship called the Silver Carrier, the Doctor turns his time machine into a regular police telephone box.
Sue: That’s a good anti-theft device.
Me: It’s preposterous! You can’t just turn the TARDIS into an empty box! Where does the rest of it go? It’s sounds like magic to me.
Sue: It’s a police box that flies through time and space, Neil. Where do you want to draw the line?
The Doctor offers Jamie a sweet to calm him down.
Sue: I used to have cravings for lemon sherbet when I was pregnant. Hang on a minute! I thought the Doctor ate jelly babies?
Large portions of this episode are spent watching a Servo Robot waddling up and down a corridor.
Sue: This CGI robot looks great. I can’t imagine what it would have been like with the usual stills. Random bleeping and humming for minutes on end, probably. This is almost watchable.
The Doctor and Jamie are feeling a little peckish, but thankfully help is at hand.
Sue: Oh, a food machine! I’ve missed them. Hang on… Cabbage? Who in their right mind asks for cabbage?
As Jamie and the Doctor chow down on some boiled vegetables, the Servo Robot releases some white spheres into outer space.
Sue: Oooh, Yeti spheres! Is this the final showdown between the Doctor and that Intelligence thingy?
When the Servo Robot starts acting up, Jamie disables it.
Sue: They should do that to all the villains – just throw a blanket over them. It works every time.
After being cooped up in claustrophobic spaceship for what feels like an eternity, our heroes suddenly find themselves in the middle of a busy space station.
Sue: It’s the International Base of the Week. Are there any foreign accents they haven’t tried yet?
The episode concludes with a vague threat, but it’s too little too late.
Sue: Well, that was strange. Did anything actually happen?
Sue: Is the attractive blonde the next companion? I bet you’d be happy with that, Neil.
Me: She does have a very nice nose.
Sue: You know, if there’s one thing that sums up 1960s Doctor Who more than anything else, it’s the sound of people’s feet clumping around on hard board floors. It’s annoying me now.
Jamie comes up with a new pseudonym for the Doctor to use.
Sue: Didn’t David Tennant’s Doctor call himself John Smith? Damn, did I sound like a fan just then?
Me: Yes. And yes.
Sue: Is it just me, or is this really boring? More boring than usual, I mean.
Me: No, it isn’t just you. I think I may have dozed off for a second back there.
I’m definitely conscious when Wendy Padbury makes her first appearance.
Sue: So is Zoe the new assistant? Or is it Tanya? Or Gemma? The suspects are starting to stack up. Can the Doctor take all three? If not, I’d vote for Gemma. Not only does she look like Shirley from EastEnders, she doesn’t take any shit like her, too. She’d be an interesting addition to the crew. Zoe is tiny. Pretty, though.
Me: She’s lovely. In fact, Wendy Padbury is the only Doctor Who actor I’ve ever had the courage to speak to without sticking a microphone in their face. I spent a very pleasant morning chain-smoking with her outside a hotel in Los Angeles, and I never mentioned Doctor Who. Not once!
Sue gives me a suspicious look, and then the episode concludes with a Cyberman emerging from one of the spheres.
Sue: I didn’t know that Cybermen were hatched from eggs. They must be really tiny. Like dolls.
Sue: It’s impossible to get a sense of scale. How big are these balls supposed to be? And how did they get through the hull in the first place? Still, at least it isn’t the Yeti. That’s something, I guess.
After performing our obligatory real episode dance, we settle back to watch our first moving episode after an unbroken run of 13 recons. And it feels wonderful.
Sue: The Cyberman in that ball looks like he’s trying to do the Tales of the Unexpected dance.
Meanwhile, two of the Wheel’s crew, Leo and Tanya, are conducting an office romance.
Sue: Get a room! Compare the size of your noses somewhere more private!
When an engineer named Duggan encounters a Cybermat for the first time, his reaction to them is almost childlike.
Sue: Does he think it’s a toy? Or a novelty hand-brush, perhaps? I don’t blame him, though. Who’d be scared of that?
And Patrick Troughton is back after a week off, thank God.
Sue: I really miss Patrick Troughton when he’s not around. He shouldn’t be allowed to go on holiday – he’s much too important.
Leo decides to berate Zoe for no readily apparent reason.
Sue: He doesn’t like Zoe because she won’t flirt with him. What a twat. Oh, hang on, this bloke is definitely famous.
Me: That’s Kevork Malikyan. He played the Greek student in Mind Your Language.
Sue: Can I call that show racist, or will I get into trouble for that as well?
And then Nicol, who has been pretending to ignore this episode up to now, suddenly chips in when Zoe starts reeling off her CV.
Nicol: It is highly unlikely that an astrophysicist would have studied pure mathematics. Pure mathematics isn’t what people assume it is. I think the writer has made a mistake.
Me: What? David Whitaker? Never!
Sue and Nicol love the Doctor’s line: “Logic merely enables one to be wrong with authority”, but it’s slim pickings.
Sue: It doesn’t look right when the Cybermen sit on chairs. They shouldn’t be that comfortable.
At least Sue can appreciate the Cybermats’ practical applications.
Sue: Can we employ some Cybermats to clean our floors? They’d save so much time. And why is this guy scared of the Cybermats when the other bloke wanted to play with them? You can’t have it both ways. Are they supposed to be scary or silly? Which is it? And why doesn’t he just stamp on them?
Sue winces when the scene’s dialogue is obscured by the sound of feet trampling across the wooden set.
Sue: Why don’t they take their shoes off? You never see their feet anyway, and it would sound so much better.
Sue: The people who made these CGI astronauts are very keen on Health and Safety. It’s good to see people lifting with their knees, even when they don’t exist.
It’s taken until her until the fourth episode, but Sue finally comments on Michael Turner’s increasingly bizarre performance as the Wheel’s controller, Jarvis Bennett.
Sue: He’s the worst actor to appear in the series so far. He’s definitely the worst base commander. He’s useless. At least the women are coming out of this story well. They are clever and capable, which is more than you can say for the men. The Doctor is pretty useless this week, too. What has he actually done so far? It’s William Hartnell all over again.
Jamie walks in on Zoe as she records some computations. Jamie apologises profusely.
Sue: It’s like that time I walked in on you when you were recording one of your stupid podcasts.
Me: But with less sexual tension.
Sue: I’ve just realised that these Cybermen look like they’re crying. And what’s the hole under its mouth for? Do they poke their tongues through it? Do they dribble out of it?
As Bennett’s insanity increases (“His acting gets worse the crazier he gets, and that ain’t easy!”), the Wheel’s crew decide to monitor his brainwaves.
Sue: No wonder he’s so paranoid. Does an alarm go off if he looks at pornography on an office computer?
The episode concludes with the Doctor rallying the Wheel’s crew against the Cybermen.
Sue: Finally! Why couldn’t he have done that three episodes ago?
Sue: (Sung to the tune of ‘The Wheels on the Bus’) And The Wheel in Space goes on and on, on and on, on and on. The Wheel in Space goes on and on, all night long!
I think I’m losing Sue.
Sue: I haven’t got a clue what the heart-shaped Cybermen just said. Which is a shame because I bet it was the plot. Sometimes you can be too experimental for your own good.
Zoe rues the fact that she has a mind like a machine.
Sue: She’s like a pixie Spock.
And then, thanks to the Australian censors…
Sue: Bloody hell! They’re repeatedly banging that poor bloke’s head off a wall! That was brutal! Where the hell did that come from?
The Wheel is threatened by a meteorite storm.
Sue: So, are these meteorites Cyber-eggs or what?
Me: What makes you say that?
Sue: They look like perfect spheres, so they must be the Cybermen. To be honest with you Neil, I haven’t got a clue what’s going on any more.
And then, accompanied by a very loud groan from Sue, Gemma is killed by a Cyberman.
Sue: Typical! Kill the strong woman, why don’t you?! I really hate this show, sometimes.
As Jamie and Zoe are almost blasted to smithereens during an ill-timed spacewalk, the Doctor admits he’s willing to sacrifice his companions for the greater good.
Sue: That’s a bit shocking. Do you think Jamie is aware of this?
When Bennett attacks a Cyberman, Sue isn’t impressed.
Sue: If he rugby tackled him, he’d stand a much better chance. Giving the Cyberman a hug isn’t going to work. Still, this Cyberman is just as bad. Why didn’t he kill Bennett with his accordion, instead of throwing him around like that? It isn’t very efficient.
The Cybermen check the Wheel’s personnel records, just in case an arch-nemesis of theirs happens to be on board. And then a hypnotised crewmember struggles to remember the Doctor’s name.
Sue: If Steven Moffat was writing this episode, he would have put in a “Doctor who?” joke, for sure. He wouldn’t have been able to resist.
As the scene plays out for what seems like hours (“Are they going to go through everyone’s employment records?”), Sue suddenly becomes distracted by the decor.
Sue: It looks like the cast of Star Trek have been replaced by a collection of lava lamps.
The Doctor confronts the Cybermen. It’s only taken him six episodes.
Sue: Why don’t they kill him? Why are they telling the Doctor their secret plans? They’ll be sitting down to discuss it with him over coffee, next.
The Cybermen decide to take the Wheel by force. They do this by walking from their ship to the Wheel. And when I say walk, I do mean walk.
Sue: Oh dear. This is terrible. Look at them flapping their arms around like chickens. This is not good.
The Cybermen attempt to gain entry through the Wheel’s loading bay, but Jamie ejects them back into the cold vacuum of space.
Sue: This is like the end of Alien. If the end of Alien was rubbish. Even the music is the same, and the spacesuits are similar, too.
Me: Well, it’s entirely probable that Ridley Scott saw this.
Sue: It’s an excellent template for how not to do it.
With the threat disposed of, things start getting back to normal on the Wheel (this mainly involves Leo and Tanya touching each other inappropriately).
Sue: There should be rules against that kind of thing. We work together and you don’t see us carrying on like that.
Me: More’s the pity.
Sue: Why don’t they pick David Ginola as the new companion? He’d be nice eye candy for the ladies.
Me: You do know that the actor who’s playing Enrico is blacked up, don’t you?
Sue: Oh, on second thoughts, they should probably take Zoe instead.
The Doctor finds Zoe hiding inside his TARDIS, so he shows her what she’ll be up against if she decides to join him on his adventures.
Sue: Oh, it’s the Daleks. I knew it wouldn’t be long before we saw them again. I bet the kids were pleased. Hang on a minute, haven’t we seen this before?
Me: Yes, it’s The Evil of the Daleks. The broadcast repeat is woven into the fabric of the programme, which means we really ought to watch it again.
Sue: What would Rob Shearman do?
Me: He skipped it.
Sue: We should probably watch it, then.
Me: In that case, you’ll be watching it on your own.
Sue: That was dreadful. I’m sick of that type of story now. That was easily Patrick Troughton’s worst story so far. Please tell me the next season does something a bit different. Please?