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on 31 January 2012
The Wheel in space, not a classic but not a poor story by far, at this point in the series, the Cybermen were becoming badly over-used, its only really the next Cyber serial and their last until 1975, The Invasion that corrects the over-use of the Cybermen by not having them in it for nearly 4 episodes. In The Wheel, we have some great performances and a solid script from long time Doctor Who associate, David Whitaker. I'll admit now that I much prefer season 4 than the over-hyped classic filled season 5, only The Tomb of the Cybermen, The Ice Warriors and The Enemy of the World really stick out at me as great moments in Doctor Who's rather large canon.

Thats not to say that there are not some fantastic moments in Wheel, because if you have been lucky enough to see the brand new Loose Cannon C.G.I. reconstruction of this tale somewhere, then you will know that the opening episodes to the Wheel are quite something, the set designs and the claustrophobic atmosphere of Silver Carrier is fantastic, especially with that Servo Robot. Quite an action packed story the Wheel can be at times, the Cybermen here are not on-screen as much in this outing, they appear at the end of episode 2 and slowly and quietly move in and take the Wheel by force, but with only 2 Cybermen in the whole serial being seen, it does not feel grand enough.

The plans of the Cybermen are rather silly, they have made a star system go super-nova just so that some meteorites will menace the Wheel, and so the crew will then need to use the x-ray laser, of which the Cybermat's destroyed the Bernalium fuel rods that power the laser. The crew of the Wheel will then send two technicians over to the Silver Carrier and the Cybermen will hypnotise them and make them ferry the 2 Cybermen over to the Wheel. In which case the Cybermen will take the Wheel by force, destroy the menacing meteorites and then somehow take over the earth. Crazy. If they can make a star system go nova then why on earth can't they just break open the door of the Wheel and just take the bridge, like a gang {remember theres only 2} of pirates. It just baffles me.

Anyway, that aside, the casting by director Tristan DeVere Cole is excellent, we have Michael Turner as crazed Leader Jarvis Bennett, Anne Ridler as Dr Jemma Corwyn, Eric Flynn as Leo Ryan and Kenneth Watson as fool Bill Duggan. They are some of the stand out performances in this adventure for me and help to keep the story interesting. On fine form here are Patrick Troughton as the ever-energetic Doctor, Frazer Hines's Jamie bounces off really well against know-it-all Zoe Heriot. Wendy Padbury has a great first story here, very much an integral part of events, Zoe uses her vast knowledge to assist the Doctor in defeating the Cybermen, as well as learning to live life more and to have some human emotion once in a while. This is why she dared to sneak in to the TARDIS at the end of the story. At the conclusion, the Doctor and Jamie welcome Zoe aboad the TARDIS, but not before the Doctor relays the events of an encounter with the fearsome Daleks, bring on The Evil of the Daleks repeat.

Overall, I was pleased with this story, I suggest you try to grab hold of a copy of Loose Cannon's reconstructed version of the currently missing episodes 1,2,4,5. You might also want to hold off buying this single CD set and purchase the upcoming Lost TV Episodes Collection - Volume 5, to complete your missing episodes collection of Doctor Who.

Highly Recommended.

Many thanks for your time, its greatly appreciated,

M.B.
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on 2 June 2004
Perhaps it's because THE WHEEL IN SPACE has the reputation of being a plodding, unimaginative variant on the "isolated-group-of-humans-under-attack-by-alien-menace" plot, that it has taken so long for this 1968 soundtrack to see the light of day. Certainly, the 2 extant TV episodes (3 & 6) are by no means the greatest examples of '60s DR WHO you've ever seen. Even the presence of the popular Cybermen is not enough to make the story a favourite with fans.
Nevertheless,I rather like this one, and I feel the need to stick up for it. I suppose because I was expecting something far worse that I was pleasantly surprised by many aspects that do actually work.
First surprise was the sympathetic supporting cast. Gemma Corwyn, Leo Ryan, Tanya Lernov and others are by and large likeable and well-acted individuals who unlike say, the rather forgettable crew of THE MOONBASE (another Troughton tale of a space-base threatened by Cybermen)allow one to care about the fates of people other than the Doctor and his companions. Gemma Corwyn's death is genuinely affecting, especially as she is seen to be sharply intelligent as well as the person who seems to be most concerned about other people's well-being on the Wheel. One even has to feel pity for poor old Jarvis Bennett, the Wheel's controller. Unlike many other inflexible, disbelieving authority figures in charge of bases in DR WHO, Jarvis' problem is not that he's a grumpy old curmudgeon, or that he's possessed by extra-terrestrial mind control, but that he seems to have psychological problems. Now this may not be entirely credible for a man responsible for running a space station, but it does at least give us a character who's dramatically interesting.
Second surprise is how atmospheric the story appears as a soundtrack only. This is undoubtedly helped by the sound effects and background noises which double as the serial's music score. There is a real sense of the eerie mysteriousness of outer space. It is this creepy feeling which allowed this listener at least, to suspend disbelief about some of the less credible plot points: e.g. if the Cybermen can ionise stars, why do they need to take over the Wheel in order to invade Earth? Why do they need to go about their takeover in such an apparently over-complicated manner when they are clearly so technologically superior to humans in every way?
Third surprise: episode one which spends almost it's entire time concentrating on the Doctor and Jamie wandering round the deserted SILVER CARRIER rocket, is far less dull than I've heard it made out to be. In many ways it's a lovely little reminder of the soap opera style of the early William Hartnell stories. Here we have a welcome change of emphasis; a glimpse of Jamie's evident sadness at leaving Victoria is given to us. This focus on character, rather than on macabre menaces to humanity is refreshing because it's so unusual for the Troughton period. Also, it's a nice way for the audience to take a rest from weeks and weeks of bases under siege. Of course, in episode 2 we're straight back to business as usual...
Now I suppose that if you're not in the mood for this then yes, I've little doubt that some will find WHEEL IN SPACE a bit of a drag. Even I, with my charitable attitude, agree that the story would have been all the better for shedding at least one of it's 6 episodes. We don't get so much as a sniff of the Cybermen until right at the end of episode 2, and even then it takes them another episode and a half for them to sneak aboard the Wheel.
Again, the story's ending has the reputation of being disappointing. Rightly so, in my view. Someone closes an airlock door and the Cyberman spaceship is blown up by a laser gun...how absolutely thrilling. The real climax comes about halfway through the final episode where Troughton confronts 2 Cybs and frazzles one of them with a clever Cyb-frazzling device. Not exactly Chekhov I know, but we could have done with a bit more Troughton vs Cybermen action.
Nevertheless, despite its flaws, I rather like WHEEL..., not least because it introduces Wendy Padbury's uppity Zoe, a companion who I find it far easier to like than her predecessor; the rather hysterical Victoria. Padbury is an excellent narrator and I hope she'll be re-used for the soundtrack of THE INVASION, when the Beeb releases that.
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on 31 January 2012
Some fans see 'The Wheel In Space' as a story between seasons 5 and 6 and not belonging to either. This may be because the previous story 'Fury From The Deep' seems more like a season finale than 'The Wheel In Space due to the departure of Victoria.

However, this overshadows the fact that this is a really good story which works well on audio thanks to good narration by Wendy 'Padders' Padbury. The cyberman voices are more understandable than in 'Tomb Of The Cybermen' and maybe 'The Moonbase', and the characters are interesting and well written. The sound quality is consistently very good and episode 6 is crystal clear having been sourced from the surviving 35mm print. worth a listen
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on 24 January 2017
Pat Troughton's Doctor Who was a clown and a buffoon but at the same time had considerable gravitas and dignity (qualities lacking in some of the Doctor's later incarnations). It takes some serious acting to convincingly combine these attributes, although I suspect Troughton may have brought something of his own personality to the role. The Cybermen were an amazingly prescient concept- a warning to modern humanity of the dangers involved in over- reliance on cosmetic surgery and IT! The intellectually brilliant but insecure Zoe Heriot, who makes her first appearance in this adventure, is a character well ahead of her time and no helpless screamer. This complicated individual is played admirably by the utterly captivating Wendy Padbury, who also provides the narration on this audiobook- Miss Padbury has one of those voices which is just a joy to listen to. While the Wheel in Space is often criticised for its apparently clumsy plotlines, what we have here is, in my opinion, the best Doctor, the best monsters, and the best companion, ever. What more could we ask for (except the complete story on DVD of course).
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on 31 July 2004
Doctor Who has always been noted for the varying qualities of its stories - for example, we have 'classics' such as THE WEB OF FEAR, 'mediocre' titles like THE CHASE and stories that are regarded as well... not so good. Unfortunately, The Wheel In Space has often been lumped into the latter, and has the reputation of being a rubbish tale from what is regarded as a strong fifth season.
The story sees the return of the Cybermen - who by this point had returned four times within two years, beating the record previously held by the Daleks several years before. Unlike preceeding tales such as THE TOMB OF THE CYBERMEN and THE MOONBASE, this story seems slow and sluggish in comparison and being the first time a Cyberman tale was written by someone other than their original creators of Davies and Pedelar, perhaps this explains the reason...
That said, Whitakers' story is not as bad as some might think. The first episode, true, is devoid of action but comes across well on audio (probably moreso than on the original television broadcast in 1968!) whilst the radiophonic workshop must be comended for capturing the clastrophobic atmosphere of space, which again is evident on the audio recording.
Cast and crew are clearly defined, as the other reviewer commented, they are much better than that of THE MOONBASE and what improves on this is that each character has a SEPARATE IDENTITY and personality, they are not just a faceless bunch led by a leader. For example, Leo Ryan is very much the American action-hero, Bill Duggan the thoughtful 'space botanist,' Zoe the calculating and logical astrophyicist who eventually 'learns' to be emotive (a direct parallel with the Cybermen) and Gemma the reasonable and humane scientist. The multi-national feel is also better represented here, it complements the personalities of the crewmembers and helps to add to the dimensons of their characters.
Troughton appears to be enjoying himself here, showing multiple aspects to his character. Witness at the beginning, his sadness at leaving a friend behind, his concern for the crew during the Cyberman attack and his horror at realising he may have sent his friends to their death. Hines is also represented, the idea of one companion works best (and after the sixties this would remain a constant throughout the seventies) and is a support for the Doctor.
However, the Cybermen do fail slightly. It is logical to question how TWO Cybermen can pose a major threat to the Wheel, surely weapons (or lots of quick-setting plastic) could finish them off. Again, they appear more as robots, superior to the crew of the Wheel but relucatant to use their knowledge, instead of using strength to smash their way through, they merely pussyfoot around until they and their intentions are known to all. Although their listener knows their plans ahead of the Doctor, they do not really make sense - if they can ionise a star, why not simply overwhelm the Wheel. Similarly, the Cyber-spaceship and the walking Cybermen do not really pose a threat - the ship is destroyed too quickly and the walking force could have been admitted much earlier (even Padbury's narration can't hide that one!!) Similarly, the voices of the two Cybermen are difficult to distinguish and lack the quality of the Cyberplanner (which has the voice of previous Cybermen!!)
Padbury's narration is probably the saviour of the whole thing, it is effective and describes accurately without obscuring the dialogue, the events. Her narration is enthusiastic and like Hines, she shows a fondness for the show and an enthusiasm which is captured by her narration - I'd rather have those two than the monotone Anneke Wilkes!!
Should you buy this CD? It is an example of later sixties Who, when the series had settled after the transition from Hartnell to Troughton. Although not the best example (try The YETI ATTACK BOXSET,) of the period it isn't bad on audio and is better than expectations. As usual the sound quality is excellent and as it is currently in the sale (31st July 04) why not treat yourself and add this one to your collection, as the events depicted are continued in THE INVASION (released in November with THE TENTH PLANET - an essential purchase for all fans!)
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on 1 August 2007
"The Wheel in Space", by David Whitaker, after "The Tomb of the Cybermen", neatly bookends season five, Doctor Who's infamous "Monster season", with a second Cybermen story. Probably not as good as the first of the two, but still entertaining in a low-budget sort of way, "The Wheel in Space" also introduces a new companion, Wendy Padbury's character Zoe.
I've never been a Zoe fan (she's too smart and precocious for my liking, and tends to wind me up), but the character is better served here, apparently insecure about her own cleverness and feeling that her extensive scientific training has left her without a heart, which helps me to better understand the character. I find Zoe's role to be one of the strengths of the story.
In terms of weaknesses, well, effects are always one weakness of early Doctor Who: in the two surviving episodes, available on the "Lost in Time" DVD, we get to see the real special effects used for the deadly meteorite storm (which is otherwise a good way of adding to the menace conveyed by the story), and they are terrible. There are also, as ever, not quite enough Cybermen costumes available to really convince the viewer that a deadly army of the creatures lies in wait (this is reflected in the writing, as the Cybs actually take a back seat for much of the story, with their possessed human slaves doing more damage). The Cybermats are almost more menacing, because they are more numerous, and so insidious.
"The Wheel in Space" has a large cast, making the dialogue a bit harder to follow. However, for much of the time, who is saying what doesn't really matter, as many of the supporting characters are basically ciphers defined only by their various peculiar accents. The more interesting characters, unfortunately, have a tendency to die.
The story certainly has some inventive ideas, and brings the season to a satisfactory conclusion, albeit not going out with much of a bang. Props to the production team for the modelwork used for the ships and the space station as seen in the surviving episodes, which is actually quite good. Clear narration is provided on the CD by Wendy Padbury.
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on 6 February 2006
This well-plotted storyline (suffering only in the last moments of the final episode, which remains on film, from BBC's terrible low-budgeting policy which it chronically applied to this, one of the finest television series in history) features the great Patrick Troughton, the best of all possible Doctor Whos (and that includes the great Tom Baker, by a margin or so). It also introduces the adorable pixie sidekick Zoe, who remained with the Doctor and Jamie in Troughton's final, 1968-69, season. Troughton, who badly needed a rest, is sidelined for several episodes apparently to permit him to vacation, and the show is weaker for his absence. But he returns in the later episodes with his usual vigor, humor, and irresistable charm. Well worth a listen, especially if you happen to have the indispensible DVD set, "Lost in Time," which has the restored surviving two episodes (easy to miss; they're on the second menu of the second Troughton set DVD). Patrick Troughton gets gold stars in heaven for his unforgettable, magnificent, and very moving portrayal of the Doctor.
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on 16 October 2004
Don't believe what some may say : This is a 1st-rate Dr Who adventure - The review before this one gives some of the reasons why this is so.
In its own way it is as just as good as "Tomb Of The Cybermen" & "The Invasion".
The Cybermen's voices aren't as good as in previous tales but - despite being a little silly - they are still far preferable to the vaguely-demonic-bog-standard-Sci-Fi-deep-growl of the ersatz Cybermen of the 1980s.
Although it doesn't reach the high vistas of "The Evil Of The Daleks" - which to me is the pinnacle of Dr Who - the image of the Cybermen hatching out of egg-like bubbles ( which can be seen at the beginning of episode 3; one of the surviving episodes ) is a wonderfully fantastical, mysterious & mildly surreal image which has remained with me since childhood.
In my opinion it is only in the Hartnell & Troughton eras that any sustained level of poetic / aesthetic expression is achieved & as I'm writing this I might as well try & put another myth to rest as well - or more like throw my twopenny's worth in ! - ie the excellent "The Abominable Snowmen" is actually at least as good as "The Web Of Fear".
And ( while we're here ) I assume everyone else has noticed that the Sutekh character in the Tom Baker story "Pyramids Of Mars" sounds like an inferior version of the High Lama in "...Snowmen" : The actors even have similar names if memory serves me well ( ? ).
Probably this - & other similarities between these two stories -are well documented in fan circles / Dr Who lore.
As no doubt is the fact that it is Troughton who originated one of Tom Baker's Doctor's best-known idiosyncrasies : ie the sweet thing :
Here in "The Wheel In Space" this characteristic is displayed, for what is probably the 1st time, when he offers Jamie a lemon sherbet; later in "The Space Pirates" there is some mention of toffee or suchlike; & - most tellingly - in "The Three Doctors" he offers jelly babies ( to Omega probably ).
Anyway : Thanks for reading this fellow Troughtonites !
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