In which we find out the cause of the strange goings-on in The TARDIS and put to rest some of the antagonism between the travelers.
I suppose I should start with the positives. The best part of this episode are the character moments where Ian, Barbara, and The Doctor finally reach peace with one another. After some harsh accusations against the teachers in the previous episode, The Doctor is saved once more by Barbara and he is forced to concede her point. Ian and Barbara are not to be looked at with suspicion. They are valuable and should be treated as such. Ian forgives The Doctor quite easily, before the apology is even offered. Barbara, however, takes time to listen and has to take time to dwell on the apology. Hartnell and Hill have a particularly touching scene where The Doctor is all charm and grandfatherly toward Barbara. They have put aside their differences and must work together. I love this scene and Hartnell and Hill have a great chemistry together here.
Another positive are the concepts. First, the idea that, when faced with immanent destruction, The TARDIS initiated a defense mechanism where it locked itself out of time, so to speak. This doesn’t prevent destruction, but it does slow the danger long enough for those inside The TARDIS to try to work out the problem. What an imaginative idea! The writers of this show have really worked to create a time machine that is more than a mere machine. The Doctor even admits that The TARDIS is capable of thinking, after a fashion. It doesn’t have an intelligence like humans do, but it can think logically, like a machine, The Doctor says. Is The TARDIS alive? At this point, The Doctor seems to indicate that it isn’t, but that doesn’t mean The TARDIS is devoid of intelligence, even if it is an artificial, reasoning intelligence. The other concept I enjoy is that the difficulties in this story were caused by nothing more than a broken spring in a switch. This is mildly anti-climactic, but adds a degree of believability to the show. I have spent a month trying to fix my dishwasher, growing more aggravated with each failed attempt. After finally giving up and calling a professional, he determined that there is one small part in the drain motor that is broken. As such, the dishwasher is trying to drain water and spray water at the same time. Due to this, a broken spring makes a lot of sense to me.
What doesn’t work in the story? Ultimately, the odd behavior is never fully explained, at least not to my satisfaction. Perhaps it is due to The TARDIS’ manipulation of time so that it can put off its own destruction. That really seems to be the only explanation that fits, and even that doesn’t satisfy me. The other item that I don’t quite get is the reasoning behind the melting time pieces. Barbara intuits that the melting signified time being taken away, and I suppose that works in a symbolic way, an attempt to visually convey the concept mentioned above, but it hardly seems necessary when a line of dialogue would suffice. Plus, there are images on The TARDIS scanner that convey the idea just fine. I guess the melting time pieces were thought to gave a couple of really good images, and the odd behavior was used to lure viewers back. Looking back on the story, I think it just created an opportunity for some questionable acting. All in all, a good attempt at something original and conceptual, but not terribly successful. Since each episode had a different director, I almost wonder if this contributed to the unevenness. The first episode was a bit slow and not nearly as strong as the second, but that could also have been a script problem. The best part of the story is the last ten minutes. Thankfully it wasn’t dragged out to four episodes. I don’t know that I could have handled it.