Doctor Who (1963)

Season 12 Episode 5

The Ark in Space, Part One

0
Aired Saturday 5:15 PM Jan 25, 1975 on BBC
8.5
out of 10
User Rating
41 votes
3

EPISODE REVIEWS
By TV.com Users

Episode Summary

EDIT
Deep space, the distant future: following Earth's devastation by solar flares, the survivors of mankind are in cryogenic suspension aboard the Nerva Beacon space station. The Doctor, Sarah and Harry arrive on board to find the station suffering from mysterious damage and some manner of creature at large…moreless

Who was the Episode MVP ?

Wednesday
No results found.
Thursday
No results found.
Friday
No results found.
SUBMIT REVIEW
  • Part of what makes the works of Robert Holmes so great is his incredibly diverse range as a writer.

    8.6
    With other authors, they have certain "trademarks" that give away who the writer is even if you don't see the name (ie: the Terrance Dicks scripts oftentimes have a sort of "classic Hammer Horror film" feel to them). And although Holmes did sometimes write scripts that were very similiar to each other in certain ways (ie: "Power Of Kroll" and "Caves Of Androzani" or "The Krotons" and "Mysterious Planet"), it is almost spellbinding to view all the stories he wrote and realise they were by the same man. Just because those stories could be sometimes be so radically different from each other.



    "Ark In Space" is an excellent example of a radically different Robert Holmes script. It focusses on being creepy and clausterphobic. With characters who are actually doing their best to not be colourful. There are no "double acts" either. Holmes isn't even trying to make some kind of symbolic outcry against eating meat or the British tax system. This is just pure, undiluted, fantastic storytelling. And it's Holmes just about at his very best here. Probably the only script he's written that beats this one is "Deadly Assassin". In my books, at least.



    There's a lot of praise to heap on this story and it's rather difficult to know where to start. One of the things that I definitely like is that it's radically different, in tone, from the previous story. If "Robot" was to be an indication of what the new season would be like, we would be expecting a whole bunch of "leftover Perwee" stories. But, as we finish up this tale and suddenly go off to Nerva Beacon, we see that the show is definitely moving off in a different direction. A direction it hasn't gone in in a while. This hard-core space opera again - not some earthbound UNIT story with the Doctor toiling away at a scientific device that will save the day while soldiers clamour about uselessly. And I, for one, am glad this radical change was occurring. The Pertwee era is not one of my favourites.



    It is interesting to note how much the Doctor suddenly seems to "settle down" for this story. In Robot, he's eccentric to the point of near-insanity. But, suddenly, he's become calmer and more reserved. This trend continues for the next few stories and throughout most of the early seasons of Baker's tenure. Only as we near the end of his travels with Leela does Doctor Four start to really go for the laughs. Although I had little problems with the funnier days of Tom Baker - I am, at least, thankful that he played the role so straightly for the first little while. It shows that he did take the role seriously. Which, admittedly, is something one is not so sure about during some of the debacles of the Key To Time or Season 17.



    Anyway, enough comments about the show itself. Let's move on to the specific story.



    We begin with a very nice series of opening shots showing the death of the Wirrn. Only, we haven't been told what these shots really mean yet. Thus creating a very wonderful sense of intrigue. A great way to start the story that got me interested, right away, in what this whole montage of scenes was supposed to mean.



    Then the TARDIS lands. The story, admittedly, does take a bit of time to really get rolling. But, given we're the second story into a new Doctor, this works in this context. And Holmes was smart enough to inject a sufficient amount of intrigue and danger into the mix to keep us interested. In a matter of minutes, the TARDIS crew nearly suffocates, then gets attacked by an auto-defence device whilst poor Sarah gets T-matted away to a cryogenics chamber. It's a crackling pace, in some ways. Whilst, at the same time, "filling in some time" nicely until we can get to the real plot.



    As we finally reach the cryogenic honeycombs, we start to really get the gist of what's going on. Earth has gone to bed to avoid a catastrophe. But, just like those "crazy Silurians and Sea Devils" all those many years before, something went wrong with the plan. They've overslept. And while they slept, a proverbial cuckoo bird has moved into the nest to push their eggs out.



    Even with the limitations of budget, there's some amazingly creepy and dramatic moments that take place as the story progresses. The eye in the solar stack or Noah fighting his own transforming hand are just a few of the better examples of this. They effects look horrifically cheap, but still inspire some level of legitimate horror because of the way the actors seem to overcome the cheapness of those effects.



    We also get one of the best monologues in the series history with the famous "Homo-Sapiens" speech. Colin Baker's "In all my travellings throughout the universe I have always fought against evil" speech is still my all-time favourite. But, once again, Ark In Space is ranking a very close second place.



    Robert Holmes also shows off that he doesn't need to populate his stories with eccentric characters in order to make the plot interesting. Both Earthlings and Wirrn are highly functional characters that evoke both menace and pathos at various times throughout the plot. This is probably what impresses me the most about his writing style in this particular story. It's almost like he's trying to be "anti-Robert-Holmes" (which, of course, cannot exist in our universe unshielded!) and he does a very good job at this. Thus proving that he is an amazing writer by resisting all the various nuances that made him so well-liked as an author and focussing on telling a story in a style he's never tried before. And, as the story progresses along, I can only be amazed at what he's able to do even when he's writing in a completely different style.



    The clausterphobia of the last two episodes moves to unparelled creepy heights. Those Wirrn costumes really do look pretty unconvincing. Yet still, as they try all kinds of nasty tricks to wipe out the few conscious humans, we really find ourselves caught up in the threat of it all. And Holmes ends things in a very unique way as we see the Doctor couldn't totally save the day on his own. It took that last shred of humanity in Noah to truly resolve the conflict.



    Finally we get some nice story-to-story continuity as the Doctor begins the adventure by yelling at Harry for what he did in the last minute of Robot and then gets the transmat working so that they can head off to "Sontaran Experiment". Also a nice touch that he really does grab a piece of the inspection hatch that will save his life in the next story. I love nice little touches like that. And that's what makes Ark In Space another "classic" Who tale. It's just chocked full of nice little touches. Collectively, all these "little touches" come together to present a gorgeous overall theme and storyline that truly takes one's breath away at how inventive the series can be with what could have been a bog-standard "space station/base under seige" plotline in anyone else's hands but Robert's.



    Let's face it, the late Mister Holmes was just-plain amazing and Doctor Who was truly blessed to have had him write so many stories for the show. And Ark In Space is an excellent example of that blessing. Especially since it shows off just how incredible of a range this man had. I still get a bit sad that he's gone. No other writer left quite the mark that he did.moreless
  • After the Pertwee-lite of Robot, the new production team really hit their stride with The Ark in Space.

    8.0
    This first Hinchcliffe-produced episode took Doctor Who in a wholly new direction. This first episode, featuring only the Doctor and his two companions, and set aboard a space station in the far future, was a wholly convincing effort. The Doctor now seems intense and serious, leaving the levity of the transformation episode far behind, but retaining that distinctly alien quality that Baker pulled off with such ease. The action, confined to a space station, is tense and claustrophobic, and the sets is surprisingly convincing, even if we never believe that there are more than 20 humans in cold storage. Harry Sullivan provides a useful target for the Doctor's humour and impatience, but Sarah Jane's role is unfortunately reduced to fit, in this first episode at least. A cracking standalone episode that promises much for the new season.moreless
  • The TARDIS lands on the Nerva Beacom. This four-part adventure sets the stage for the two-part Sontaran Experiment, and Genises of the Dales. The Doctor leaves the TARDIS behind in the conclusion of The Ark In Space. He beams down to earth and the nextmoreless

    10
    story, the Doctor defeats the Sontarans. He then defeats the Daleks in the six-part adventure, "Genesis of the Daleks. They use the time ring at the conclusion of part six and return to nerva beacom in "Revenge of the Cyberme, another four-part adventure, where the Doctor encounters the Cybermen. Stevenson shows the Doctor where a planet turned up and explains it turned up 50 years ago. In the conclusion, the Doctor destroys the Cyberme, and the TARDIS arrives and the Doctor, and Sarah and Harry return to earth to investigate something weird on earth and then Harry stays behind on earth.moreless

Trivia, Notes, Quotes and Allusions

FILTER BY TYPE

  • TRIVIA (8)

    • Several of the cyrogenic cells are empty, but there are no slime trails leading to them. With space at a premium it doesn't make sense to have empty cells, but the lack of slime trails means the Wirrn didn't take the bodies either. So where'd they go?

    • Why is the table screwed down to the floor? None of the other furniture is. Plus as the Doctor and Harry start to move the table there's no mounting in the floor where the screw was.

    • In the human-preservation chamber there are at least two levels of cells, but there are no ladders. How do the people get down when they wake up?

    • Given how readily the Doctor used his sonic screwdriver as a thermal lance in the previous episode, and how readily it went through reinforced metal, why doesn't he cut a quick hole here to get some air?

    • The space station noticeably "wobbles" as it orbits above Earth in the opening shot.

    • When they enter the cyrogenic chamber, the Doctor and Harry take forever to see the slime trail which is clearly visible to the audience from the start of the scene.

    • Not necessarily a goof, but you can see Sarah's knickers.

    • Look closely and you can see one of the cryogenically-frozen humans blinking, behind Harry as he is saying, "Doctor, are you serious? The entire human race?"

  • QUOTES (6)

    • Sarah: Where are we?
      The Doctor: I have no idea.
      Sarah: A little trip to the Moon, you said, just to prove to Harry –
      The Doctor: Well, I didn't expect him to start messing about with the helmic regulator!

    • The Doctor: Pity about the scarf. Madame Nostradamus made it for me. A witty little knitter.

    • Harry: Well, when you've seen one corpse, you've seen them all.

    • Doctor: There must be a remote control... You haven't touched anything, have you, Harry?
      Harry: Me?
      Doctor: Well, there are only two of us here and your name is "Harry."

    • The Doctor: You're improving, Harry.
      Harry: Am I really?
      The Doctor: Yes, your mind is beginning to work. It's entirely due to my influence, of course – you mustn't take any credit.

    • The Doctor: Homo sapiens. What an inventive, invincible species. It's only a few million years since they crawled up out of the mud and learned to walk. Puny, defenceless bipeds. They've survived flood, famine, and plague. They've survived cosmic wars and holocausts. And now, here they are, out among the stars, waiting to begin a new life. Ready to outsit eternity. They're indomitable… indomitable.

  • NOTES (9)

  • ALLUSIONS (0)

More
Less