Serial C:
Inside The Spaceship
(aka The Edge Of Destruction, Beyond The Sun)


Something is very wrong with the TARDIS. After an explosion knocks everyone unconscious, its four occupants awaken to find the time machine malfunctioning in strange ways. The doors open to reveal a white void, clock faces melt, and the scanner screen displays a baffling series of images. To make matters worse, those aboard behave in an increasingly erratic, paranoid and even violent manner. Has some strange force invaded the TARDIS, or is one of the time travellers actually sabotaging the Ship? As hysteria mounts and the seconds slip away, they find themselves on the brink of disaster.


Doctor Who was nearly cancelled before it even began. In late October 1963, BBC Chief of Programmes Donald Baverstock had effectively indicated that he would not allow the show to proceed beyond its initial four-part serial, due to perceived cost overruns. Head of Drama Sydney Newman and Head of Serials Donald Wilson -- two of the chief architects of Doctor Who -- intervened and managed to assuage Baverstock's concerns. The result was that Baverstock agreed to authorise the production of the first thirteen Doctor Who episodes.

At this stage, the first three serials were intended to be Anthony Coburn's 100,000 BC (four parts), Terry Nation's The Daleks (seven parts) and John Lucarotti's Marco Polo (also seven parts). Because the thirteen-episode order would only take the series up to the second installment of Lucarotti's story, it was agreed that a new two-part adventure should be developed which would be inserted between The Daleks and Marco Polo. Story editor David Whitaker agreed to tackle these scripts over the course of a weekend. On November 1st, the result, known as Inside The Spaceship, was officially added to the schedule. (Some references cite “Beyond The Sun” as an alternative title for this story, but this was actually a working title for The Daleks. The confusion arose when a mid-Seventies BBC Enterprises document used the incorrect title.)

The first three serials would exploit each of the settings envisaged for Doctor Who: past, future and “sideways”

Due to concerns about a story editor commissioning himself, Whitaker agreed that he would be credited only as the author of Inside The Spaceship. He was not formally commissioned until several months later, on February 10th, 1964. As the basis of his adventure, Whitaker turned to an idea he had mooted during July 1963, of a narrative set exclusively inside the TARDIS which would serve as a showcase for both the Ship and its passengers. Moreover, it would enable the serial to be produced very cheaply, further allaying concerns about Doctor Who's budget. As an added bonus, this would allow the first three serials to exploit the three types of setting originally envisaged for the programme: past, future and “sideways”.

The director originally assigned to Inside The Spaceship was Paddy Russell, who ultimately proved unavailable; she would later direct several Doctor Who stories, starting with 1966's The Massacre Of St Bartholomew's Eve. On January 6th, 1964 there was a suggestion that Doctor Who's associate producer, Mervyn Pinfield, might replace her. The following day, it was instead agreed that Richard Martin -- who had directed some episodes of the preceding story, The Daleks -- would take over. Subsequently, it was realised that Martin would not be available to helm the second episode. This installment was ultimately allocated to Frank Cox, another of the BBC's junior directors.

As recording approached, small changes were made to the adventure's climax. Originally, the two schoolteachers shared the deduction that the TARDIS was trying to communicate with its passengers, but now Barbara came to this realisation on her own. The resolution to the crisis was made more exciting; Whitaker's script had simply described the Doctor flipping the setting on the Fast Return Switch.

Requiring no pre-filming, nor indeed any supporting cast, Inside The Spaceship went before the cameras on two consecutive Fridays -- January 17th and 24th -- at Lime Grove Studio D in Shepherd's Bush, London.

  • Doctor Who Magazine #276, 7th April 1999, “Archive: Inside The Spaceship” by Andrew Pixley, Panini UK Ltd.
  • Doctor Who Magazine Special Edition #7, 12th May 2004, “Do You Want To Know A Secret?” by Andrew Pixley, Panini Publishing Ltd.
  • Doctor Who: The Complete History #2, 2016, “Story 3: Inside The Spaceship”, edited by John Ainsworth, Hachette Partworks Ltd.
  • Doctor Who: The Handbook: The First Doctor by David J Howe, Mark Stammers and Stephen James Walker (1994), Virgin Publishing.
  • Doctor Who: The Sixties by David J Howe, Mark Stammers and Stephen James Walker (1992), Virgin Publishing.

Original Transmission
1: The Edge Of Destruction
Date 8th Feb 1964
Time 5.15pm
Duration 25'04"
Viewers (more) 10.4m (21st)
· BBC TV 10.4m
Appreciation 61%
2: The Brink Of Disaster
Date 15th Feb 1964
Time 5.17pm
Duration 22'11"
Viewers (more) 9.9m (31st)
· BBC TV 9.9m
Appreciation 60%

Dr Who
William Hartnell (bio)
Ian Chesterton
William Russell (bio)
Barbara Wright
Jacqueline Hill (bio)
Susan Foreman
Carole Ann Ford (bio)

Written by
David Whitaker (bio)
Directed by
Richard Martin (bio) (episode 1)
Frank Cox (bio) (episode 2)

Title music by
Ron Grainer
BBC Radiophonic Workshop
Raymond Cusick
Associate Producer
Mervyn Pinfield (bio)
Verity Lambert (bio)

Updated 7th May 2020