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Recap / Doctor Who S5 E7 "The Wheel in Space"

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The Wheel in Space
And here's Zoe, showing off the Zeerust-equivalent to the iPod.
Written by David Whitaker
Directed by Tristan de Vere Cole
Production code: SS
Air dates: 27 April - 1 June 1968
Number of episodes: 6

Jamie: Just you watch your lip or I'll put you across my knee and larrap you.
Zoe: Oh, this is going to be fun. I shall learn a lot from you.

The One With… gyrating Cybermen.

The Doctor and Jamie arrive on a spaceship and are attacked by a servo robot. Contacting a nearby space station, simply known as "the Wheel", they are rescued, but needless to say, more peril awaits.

The spaceship also releases some Cybermats which travel to the station and begin to prepare for an attack by the Cybermen. Meanwhile the Doctor and Jamie meet the crew, including a young teenage mathematical genius called Zoe Heriot. Some of the rest of the crew are being hypnotically controlled by the Cybermen, and the Doctor sends Jamie and Zoe to fetch a piece of phlebotinum from the TARDIS which will allow him to beef up the station's laser enough to destroy the approaching cyber-fleet.

Zoe stows away on the TARDIS, but is discovered by the Doctor who asks if she really wants to come with them, and shows a clip of a previous adventure to demonstrate the dangers. She still seems keen, so they agree to let her come along.note 

The first ten minutes of it were reconstructed in (colour) animation in 2018, as an audition piece for the animators of "The Macra Terror", and can be found on that DVD.


  • Action Figure Speech: The Cybermen indicate they are speaking by rocking their entire upper bodies back and forth. Their air of menace rather suffers as a result.
  • All There in the Manual: Later expanded universe sources, Doctor Who: Cybermen and its audio adaptation The ArcHive Tapes, have In-Universe historians identify these Cybermen as the "Late CyberFaction"note  following the Early CyberFaction, who appear in "The Invasion". The CyberFaction later upgrades to yet another form which settles on the planet Telos, becoming the CyberTelosians.
  • Auto-Kitchen: The spaceship that the Doctor and Jamie spend Episode 1 on has one.
  • Big Bad: The Cyber-Planner, who directs the Cybermen on the Silver Carrier and the Wheel from their mother ship.
  • Bigger on the Inside: The Doctor removes the component that allows the TARDIS to be dimensionally transcendental, so the inside reverts to a simple police box interior.
  • Book Ends: Season 5 begins and ends with a Cyberman story.
  • Broken Aesop: The Doctor's "Logic, my dear Zoe..." line is intended to show that Zoe is too sure of herself, and logic won't necessarily lead one to the right answer. The problem is that her reasoning isn't wrong, and logic has led her to the right answer: the Silver Carrier's arrival was not an accident.
  • Call-Back:
  • Complexity Addiction: So, the Cybermen's plan: Capture the Silver Carrier and have the Servo-Robot pilot it towards the Wheel. When nearby, it releases tiny pods across space that go into the Wheel and hatch Cybermats. The Cybermats then consume the Wheel's stocks of bernalium. Meanwhile, the Cybermen ionise a star to (somehow) divert an asteroid storm towards the Wheel. The crew of the Wheel will notice this, but be unable to use their defensive laser without bernalium. They will then discover that the Silver Carrier has plenty of bernalium on board, so will go over to get it. Two Cybermen have hatched out from large egg-like pods aboard the Silver Carrier and take control of the crewmembers who come for the bernalium, having them smuggle them back to the Wheel. These Cybermen will then poison the Wheel's oxygen supply, killing the crew. The Cybermen will then be able to use the Wheel as a beacon for their fleet. All of which raises the question: if they want a beacon, why not just build one? Siskoid's Blog of Geekery sums it up pretty well.
  • Costume Evolution: This story features a one-off redesign of the Cybermen that makes them even sleeker-looking and puts large thimbles on the ends of their once-pointy fingers. Most significantly, it ditches the simplistic facial design that had been in place since "The Tenth Planet" in favor of the "teardrop" design that would become commonplace for most future versions of the Cybermen (barring the "hazmat suit" rendition used throughout the '80s). Unusually, this design also features a teardrop on the bottoms of the Cybermen's mouths, a trait that later designs would quietly ditch.
  • Custom Uniform: Zoe's jumpsuit is a different design from the other characters'.
  • Dies Wide Open: How Jamie and Zoe find the body of Gemma Corwyn.
  • Early Instalment Weirdness: The Doctor offers Jamie a lemon sherbet rather than a jelly baby.
  • Emotionless Girl: Zoe, in her first couple of episodes.
  • Establishing Character Moment: Zoe's first scene has her relay instructions from her boss, only to be distracted by a mathematical problem she is completing in her head, establishing her as a human calculator.
  • Fake Shemp: A double plays the unconscious Doctor in the second episode. Similarly, Anne Ridler was not hired for Episode Six so the dead Gemma Corwyn is represented by a double and photographs of Ridler are used for close-ups of Corwyn's body.
  • Food Pills: The Doctor and Jamie, exploring a deserted spaceship, discovers a machine that dispenses cube-shaped food pills.
  • Freak Out: Jarvis Bennett is the latest in a series of base officers to go nuts during this season.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: Gemma Corwyn
  • Line-of-Sight Alias: Jamie coins the long-running "John Smith" alias for the Doctor from a piece of nearby medical equipment. Needless to say, this only raises Dr. Corwyn's suspicions.
  • Mathematician's Answer:
    Zoe: This Doctor friend of yours. Is he a scientist?
    Jamie: He is in a way I suppose, yes.
    Zoe: What's his speciality?
    Jamie: His what?
    Zoe: Well, is he a physicist, biochemist, astronomer, biometrician?
    Jamie: Yes, he is.
  • Meaningful Name: The Cybermen are often referred to in titles by the word silver (the Silver Menace, Nightmare in Silver, the Silver Turk, and so forth). So what's the name of the spaceship they use to Trojan Horse their way aboard the Wheel? The Silver Carrier, of course.
  • Retirony: Zig-zagged with Flannigan. He's attacked almost immediately after declaring he's eager for a year's leave back on Earth, but manages to fight and even (indirectly) kill one of his attackers. He's then subjected to Cyberman control. Later he's the first to be removed from Cyberman control, ultimately subverting the trope.
  • Sci-Fi Writers Have No Sense of Scale: The Cybermen's plan requires meteor showers — which they cause by blowing up distant stars.
  • Space Clothes: Zoe's catsuits are fondly remembered by fandom.
  • Special Edition Title: In the opening titles for all six episodes, the usual time tunnel sequence gradually fades out into a shot of the Wheel, while the theme music is still playing; the story title, episode number and writer are displayed over this shot of the Wheel rather than in the time tunnel sequence.
  • Tainted Veins
  • Take That!: One of the Doctor's lines to Zoe appears to be a dig at a certain other space travel TV show of the time who had a popular character who was all about following logic.
    The Doctor: Logic, my dear Zoe, merely enables one to be wrong with authority.
  • Tin-Can Robot: The servo robot in Episode 1.
  • What the Hell Is That Accent?: It's not noticeable in the existing episode, but Laleham provides another in a long line of godawful American accents—this time a "Southern" one.
  • Yellowface: The Wheel featured amongst its multinational crew a Chinese character, Chang, played by a white actor, Peter Laird, in yellowface, adopting an excruciatingly fake Asian Speekee Engrish accent.
  • Zeerust: Never mind Rose, Zoe was actually the first 21st century companion. A different, much groovier 21st century, featuring Space Clothes, Raygun Gothic, and Food Pills. Zoe probably played with jetpacks when she was a kid, it's just not mentioned...