105 – The Ark

This story from William Hartnell’s third season suffers from one simple flaw: it is not The Ark in Space.

I grant you this is a slightly harsh summary in that the two stories have fundamentally different storylines and moral messages, but I think it accurately reflects why those who have watched Tom Baker’s classic adventure first are left somewhat underwhelmed by this tale. What both share in common (along with Matt Smith story The Beast Below) is the theme of humanity in the far future escaping desolation on earth on giant space stations. The Ark in Space has the colonists remain close to Earth, trusting that disaster will pass and they will recolonise the planet, whereas The Ark has the Doctor and his companions landing on a spaceship bound for a new planet, together with another human-like species, the Monoids – cunningly named for the fact that they only have one eye.

As adventures go it ticks over at a reasonable pace, and is not over-long at four parts. Hartnell, while certainly not at the height of powers, displays all the authority that came from being wholly confident in the role, and Steven is more than capable as his long standing companion. Whereas Dodo takes all of five minutes to provoke dislike from the viewer, having joined the crew at the end of the previous adventure. The big learning (much to poor Jackie Lane’s cost) was that a bubbly care-free companion doesn’t really work in Doctor Who – which is why Dodo was to be written out only a few short stories later in The War Machines.

Of course, Dodo also holds the record for most havoc caused within first few minutes of joining the TARDIS – inflicting the last known survivors of the human race with the cold – a virus long eliminated in future human history, and which they subsequently have no immunity to! While the Doctor cures the cold, the travellers arrive back on the Ark 700 years later to discover a second strain of the virus decimated and weakened the humans, enabling the Monoids to stage a coup and enslave the population. First impressions and all that …

The day is ultimately saved, and the Doctor brings reconciliation between those Monoids who survive the backfire of their attempted genocide on the humans, and the now freed humans, to settle on their new homeland. As I say – as stories go it actually ticks along quite nicely, and once you leave to one side the actors playing the Monoids are quite clearly holding their eye in their mouths, you find yourself enjoying it. I suspect when first shown, this was quite a well regarded story – I certainly enjoyed discovering it on DVD. As I say, it’s only flaw was one it could not have anticipated – and that was an even better space station story to be shown in Season 12 …

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2 thoughts on “105 – The Ark

  1. Pingback: Thinking about TARDIS crews … |

  2. Pingback: 66 – The Time Meddler |

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