Doctor Who: The Wheel in Space

The episode The Wheel in Space is an excellent dramatic adventure, unfortunately not surviving in its entirety, but thoroughly enjoyable as an audiobook. Indeed, like so many classic episodes, it may be better as an audiobook, since the special effects of this period were even at their best disappointing compared to one is presently possible.

In this episode, Zoe is introduced, and she and Jamie will remain the Second Doctor’s companions until the time lords send them back to their own times and places in “The War Games.” Zoe is a prodigy whose head has been “pumped full of facts and figures” – not through technology but by a “parapsychology unit,” allowing her to be of particular use as a librarian, research assistant and adviser on the space station that gives the episode its title. Her logic and knowledge provide an opportunity for discussion of the relative value of logic and information versus “common sense.” Here’s perhaps the most relevant snippet of dialogue:

Zoe : “You can’t disprove the facts. It’s pure logic.”

The Doctor : “Logic, my dear Zoe, merely enables one to be wrong with authority.”

Jarvis, the captain of the station, has trouble handling the crisis in which they find themselves, because he doesn’t accept explanations outside of the laws of physics. In the context of the episode, this narrow outlook (including his disbelief in ESP) is viewed negatively. The relationship of logic and knowledge to science, explanation, wisdom, and common sense are explored, and so the episode can also provide an excellent starting point for discussing how all of the above may or may not relate to religion.

This is the first episode where the Doctor is referred to as “Doctor John Smith.” It is Jamie who comes up with the alias.

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  • Tony_theprof

    The photo, incidentally, was purely a publicity shot. The cybermen never actually menaced Zoe like that!

    • James F. McGrath

      Thanks for clearing that up – I listened to it as an audiobook and was trying to figure out whether there was some point at which the cybermen approached Zoe and I somehow hadn’t imagined it accurately!

  • Guest

    IIRC, Zoe was actually correct, though: the rocket did not simply drift off-course to the Wheel.