Continuing Our Celebration of the 50th Anniversary of the Cybermen
The Wheel in Space
By David Whitaker
and Kit Pedler
“You know our ways. You must be destroyed.”
After saying their farewells to Victoria The Doctor makes an emergency landing, due to the mercury fluid link exploding, on what appears to be an abandon spaceship. The pair end up exploring the ship in hopes of finding some Mercury when The Doctor suspects they are not alone after all. The ship is being controlled by the Servo Robot and he is doing what his masters have programmed to do. Pilot the ship to the Wheel and release debris towards the Wheel. The Servo Robot notice there are others on the ship and proceeds to handle the situation as it pilots the ship hard off course causing The Doctor to lose his balance and hit his head taking him out of commission.
Jamie is on his own to deal with the Servo Robot but not before it accomplishes its orders and starts the activation of two strange spherical objects in the ship. Jamie and The Doctor are soon saved by the crew of the Wheel and Jamie gets himself in trouble by sabatoging the lazer as he was trying to save the TARDIS from being destroyed inside the spaceship. Unfortunately that act by Jamie was poorly timed as the two figures in the sphere are Cybermen and they plan on taking over the Wheel as a launching point to invade Earth. As usual it’s up to The Doctor to save the day and stop the Cybermen from taking over the Wheel.
The Wheel in Space closes the monster season that is Season Five and Patrick Troughton’s second season as The Doctor. What is unique about this season is that it started with a Cyberman story in The Tomb of the Cybermen and finished with one in The Wheel in Space. The Wheel in Space is definitely the weaker of the two Season Five Cybermen stories but it isn’t the worst Cybermen story in Doctor Who. In fact I really enjoyed this story even though I only had the Target novelization, telesnaps and the surviving episodes three and six.
The novelization was a pretty good read as it was written by the legend himself Terrance Dicks. I enjoyed reading The Wheel in Space as the book was pretty good and Terrance Dicks made it very exciting with a lot of tension added to it as you could really get a feel for the panic everyone felt when it was discovered that the Cybermen were involved. You couldn’t really get that from the telesnaps with the surviving audio. Well it is just a still photo and you are not going to get much emotion out of that. But with the telesnaps you sort of get a hint of what is going on but it isn’t really the same as animation or the actual episodes. At least you can watch the final episode and see the flying Cybermen which in itself is pretty funny to see.
What I enjoyed was the fact that the Cybermen where plotting to take over the Wheel by stealth. They first used the rocket to get them to the Wheel so they can deploy the Cybermats as the first wave of the takeover to help in disabling the Wheels laser which unknowingly Jamie does it for them to save the TARDIS. Then they used the Trojan horse method and use mind control on the crew that went to get Bernalium which helps power the laser. I like the fact that the Cybermen used mind control. We first see this happen in The Moonbase and again in The Tomb of the Cybermen and I liked that they did it again in The Wheel in Space as it made The Cybermen more frightening as the could use human slaves to infiltrate the control center and sabotage it without anyone knowing the Cybermen where involved until it’s too late. This is something I wish the writers of NuWho would get back to doing as it adds another dimension to the Cybermen and makes them a bit more menacing.
The Wheel in Space is the first appearance of Zoe played by Wendy Padbury. Zoe would join The Doctor and Jamie at the end of episode six of The Wheel in Space by sneaking into the TARDIS and hiding in a chest. She would be the last new companion for the Patrick Troughton era as Zoe would only be a companion for the last season of the Second Doctor.
Unfortunately only two episodes out of six have survived as back in the Sixties and Seventies the BBC junked and destroyed a lot of their archive material to make room for the new stuff and The Wheel in Space and 97 other Doctor Who Episodes are still missing today and hopefully someday they get recovered from overseas sales or private collectors.
The Wheel in Space is a simple base under siege story that has a lot going for it even though the Cybermen were not in it as much and that The Doctor was incapacitated for an episode and a half with The Doctor suffering from an injury in the first episode. Patrick Troughton was on vacation and a double was used in episode two in his place for the scenes with an unconscious Doctor. Even still with the Cybermen in the background, one of the few things I was disappointed in, the story was pretty good as you tried and figured out what the Cybermen where up to. I would love to see the Servo Robot in action someday as it appeared to be pretty cool but his episodes are missing. The Wheel in Space is a very slow story but it is a very entertaining story with some good moments and you get to see the Cybermats wreak havoc on the Wheel.
Grade B -