We resume the countdown with a two-part adventure from Season One. The Edge of Destruction was written to fill the block between The Daleks and Marco Polo while having to accommodate not having the budget for a major storyline. This apparent weakness actually led to a story that probably helped the show in the long run by giving two episodes only featuring the TARDIS crew, and focused entirely on their relationship with each other – and not least the relationship of Ian and Barbara to the still unpredictable character of the Doctor.
The story plot can be summarised very simply: after taking off from the planet Skaro the TARDIS goes wrong, and the Doctor has no idea why it is not working. After Susan goes a little crazy (in a very frightening way), the Doctor accuses Barbara and Ian of sabotaging the ship, who in turn accuse the Doctor of refusing to take them home. Finally it is discovered that the very obviously labeled ‘Fast Return Switch’ is stuck – by unstucking it, the TARDIS returns to normal, and the Doctor apologises for suspecting his new companions.
In the full view of history, the story was crucial for building camaraderie between the Doctor and his human companions – and for moving the Doctor from a somewhat irascible old man, to a still alien character, but one with a softer and more vulnerable side – one capable of identifying with humanity. It could be argued therefore that while The Daleks won Doctor Who a huge fanbase, The Edge of Destruction was critical for helping fans to love the TARDIS crew, and not least the Doctor, paving the way for the longevity that sees the show continuing today.
So it is a crucial and historic story, and certainly one the viewer will remember. Although it is also not one you would rush to dig out on DVD, and not really 45 minutes you would want to enjoy in isolation. As mentioned, it is a very psychological story, and the sections in episode one where Susan loses her senses were recognised by showrunner Verity Lambert to have been over-the-top – her actual words were “I am amazed that we were not banned for that!” So while you will enjoy watching it after The Daleks and ahead of lamenting the absence of Marco Polo – I think that’s rather the point. It’s a good story to enjoy – but not all by itself.