- Patrick Troughton
‘The Wheel in Space’ (27 Apr–1 Jun 1968) – the six-part story that closes Patrick Troughton’s second season at the TARDIS helm – encapsulates many of the discourses that are frequently recounted when discussing the Second Doctor’s tenure (which ran from ‘The Power of the Daleks’ (5 Nov–10 Dec 1966) through to the ten-part epic ‘The War Games’ (19 Apr–21 Jun 1969)). These include aspects of the Doctor’s altered characterisation and Troughton’s interpretation of the role, the ‘base under siege’ format (see ‘The Macra Terror’ (11 Mar–1 Apr 1967), ‘The Ice Warriors’ (11 Nov–16 Dec 1967)) and the recurrence of the Cybermen as villains (see ‘The Moonbase’ (11 Feb–4 Mar 1967), ‘Tomb of the Cybermen’ (2–23 Sep 1967), ‘The Invasion’ (2 Nov–21 Dec 1968)). All of these issues, as well as consideration of the contextual factors encouraging them, have been detailed in previous academic research (see Chapman 49–74).
‘The Wheel in Space’ is also interesting for introducing the character of astrophysicist Zoe Heriot (Wendy Padbury) as a TARDIS companion. Although not occupying the same position in popular memories as others (Glanfield), Zoe remains to date Doctor Who’s only attempt at constructing a futuristic, Earth-originated companion over an extended run (49 episodes). Some may rightly question this assertion by pointing towards either Vicki (Maureen O’Brien) or Mel (Bonnie Langford) as other future-coded companions. As noted elsewhere (Wallace 106–7; Chapman 55–6) though, Vicki functions primarily as a replacement for Susan by continuing the First Doctor’s grandfather-like characterisation (see ‘The Rescue’ (2–9 Jan 1965)). Elsewhere, Mel – introduced suddenly in ‘Terror of the Vervoids’ (1–22 Nov 1986) as a computer programmer from early twenty-first century Earth – suffers from a lack of both screen-time (just 20 episodes) and a developed onscreen backstory. Zoe is thus the only companion to be constructed through discourses of humanity and futurity across an extended run of episodes. Building upon Chapman’s observation that other areas of Doctor Who during the Troughton era were rooted in ‘mapping the possible course of scientific and technological progress’ (Chapman 60) by tapping into the excitement of the emerging ‘space race’ and providing ‘plausible’ representations of humanity’s future, how does Zoe’s character intersect with these arguments?
Upon introduction, Zoe is coded as belonging to a different generation to Space Station W3’s other inhabitants; the character’s costume, juxtaposing lighter colours, contrasts with the black-and-white shades used for older, more senior, crew members and so visually communicates the character’s difference. Zoe is [End Page 223] also defined as intellectually superior and this connotes her status as a product of a futuristic education system where a commitment to Enlightenment principles of logic-based deduction are prioritised. Narratively, Zoe is thus initially aligned with other characters defined by a commitment to logic, such as W3’s Commander Jarvis Bennett (Michael Turner) and, at the extreme, the Cybermen. These other characters nevertheless function to represent sociocultural anxieties arising from such singular alignments: Bennett suffers mental collapse as the character’s engrained commitments are undermined whilst the Cybermen’s embracing of logic has resulted in rejecting the emotions that originally made them human. Recognising, in episode five, where an unflinching commitment to principles of rationality can lead, Zoe’s characterisation shifts towards embracing ‘feelings’ and so rejecting the educational system that has moulded her by stowing away in the TARDIS at the serial’s conclusion.
The story’s narrative structure is open to multiple interpretations. Generically, the plot replays sf’s repeated narrative tendency to contrast a representation of ‘humanity’ against forms of science, rationality and/or technology encoded as ‘Other’ (Telotte). Alternatively, Zoe’s progression could be read through cultural-historical discourses associated with the late 1960s by linking it to other telefantasy programmes from the period that have been analysed through recourse to countercultural discourses concerning youthful rebellion (J.R. Cook; Short). Zoe’s rejection of institutionalised education (a theme also explored in ‘The Krotons’ (28 Dec 1968–18 Jan 1969)) could perhaps be simplistically linked to this perceived zeitgeist...