(With “The Edge of Destruction”, we reach Part 3 of our Name Dropping journey through the First Doctor’s character arc as represented by his changing ways of addressing Ian: in which Ian gets a dressing gown, the Doctor gets a dressing down and Valerie Singleton make a cameo appearance.)
It’s difficult to draw conclusions about character arcs from this story as they’re all behaving strangely because of the situation. My contacts in the farming community are of the opinion that “The Edge of Destruction” is entirely a character piece and I can see what the teat-tuggers mean but, given how they’re all behaving, an off-character piece might be more accurate. The Doctor has certainly become more in control and more commanding than in the first 2 stories. He’s like a malign elf with great self-possession.
Their being off their mental trolleys also makes this is a slightly hard story for gathering evidence as to what any of the characters call each other. Even Barbara starts by calling Ian “Mr Chesterton”.
Since we’re gathering statistical evidence to inform Doctor Who scholarship for years to come, this also seems to be a good opportunity to start analysing all the various injuries suffered by Susan throughout her tenure. The sort of things which appear in the following sort of complaint: “Oh, (insert the word Ian, Barbara or Grandfather here), I’ve hurt my (insert name of body part here)”. We kick off with a double whammy here as poor Susan has hurt both her neck and head.
To be fair to Susan, she’s not as useless in this story as she generally is in my memory. For the first time since the pilot episode, she appears here as that unearthly child again as she threatens Ian with the scissors. Quite scary, almost alien and completely Elizabeth Taylor (or do I mean Tina Turner?) with that hair.
Curiouser and curiouser (said Alice), we see that Carole Ann Ford, when shot from a ground level camera, is the dead spit of Valerie Singleton. With Peter Purves due to join the TARDIS crew one day, can we expect the tribute to the classic Blue Peter trio to be completed before Ian departs as he perhaps pulls down his trousers to show off a large thigh bruise? We can butt hope.
For those of us who spent our childhood wondering just what lay beyond the console room, it’s strange to see how early we were shown another room in the TARDIS. And it’s not as if they needed the extra room. There’s a real sense of space in the console room here which was perhaps never matched until the TV Movie in 1996. Even the Time Rotor works far better and more smoothly on this original TARDIS set than in most later sets of the classic series.
Barbara continues to be a glorious revelation as she gives the Doctor another of her wonderful dressings down: “Don’t be so stupid. How dare you! Don’t you realise, you stupid old man, that we’d have died in the Cave of Skulls if Ian hadn’t made fire for you? And what about what we went through against the Daleks? Not just for us, but for you and Susan too. And all because you tricked us into going down to the city. Accuse us? You ought to go down on your hands and knees and thank us. But gratitude’s the last thing you’ll ever have, or any sort of common sense either.” How did the female companion archetype ever degenerate from this to Jo Grant?
Finally, it’s entirely possible that “the spring was stuck” is a better explanation than we get in the Deus Ex Machina resolutions to some New Who series arcs.
On to the point of our journey – what modes of address do we find the Doctor using for Ian in “The Edge of Destruction”? We get 1 x Mr Chesterton, 5 x Chesterton, 1 x Charterhouse (though he’s possibly teasing deliberately here), 2 x young man, 2 x dear boy and even one instance of just “sir”. Susan starts calling Barbara “Barbara” for the first time here. When will she start calling Ian “Ian” and will she beat the Doctor to it?
No name-calling pattern seems to be emerging yet so the tension mounts. However, at the end of the story, the Doctor is clearly behaving more friendly (friendlily?) towards Ian and Barbara, possibly out of guilt, so maybe he’ll start to unwind towards them from now on. I must watch the next story, Marco Polo, closely to examine the Doctor’s every facial twitch and slightest gesture to see if they tell us anything about his developing relationship with Ian.