This, I confess, was a story for which I had no prior assumptions when I bought the DVD. Rather like The Enemy of the World, I thought I’d just watch it and see how it went. As you are about to discover, there are rather a lot of Jon Pertwee’s adventures high up my ranking, because I thoroughly enjoyed his time in the TARDIS. Colony in Space is one such example – a story for which a significant amount of its charm is derived from the recurring cast of Pertwee, Manning and Delgado.
Script Editor Terrance Dicks had very quickly worked out that the end of Season 6 solution to strand the Doctor on earth with a broken TARDIS simply wasn’t going to work – it restricted the producers to stories featuring either alien invasions or mad scientists. Having successfully ditched the requirement for fewer stories with more episodes, in Season 8 he came up with the ingenious solution of sending the Doctor off on missions for the Timelords any time he wanted him to escape from earth – a trick he would later re-use in Season 9 episodes The Curse of Peladon, The Mutants and The Time Monster. Colony in Space was therefore a crucial test case to persuade the BBC longer-term to end the Doctor’s (budget imposed) exile on earth.
Sent by the Timelords to the colony planet of Uxarieus in the year 2472 (leaving the Brigadier to make the briefest of brief cameos in episodes 1 and 6) the Doctor and Jo discover the earth colonists living peacefully, if distrustfully, with the natives of the planet – 1970s social commentary in full swing! Proceedings are then interupted, firstly by a mining corporation determined to ruin the colony so that the planet can be mined, and then by the appearance of season-long adversary the Master. It makes entertaining viewing for us to watch the Doctor try to work out why he’s been sent to the planet, and to negotiate his way through the different interested parties – as ever trying his usual combination of charm, bombast and Venusian karate. It transpires that the Master’s agenda is to seize a doomsday weapon of great power hidden on the planet – a planet that used to host a great civilization until the power of the weapon caused their race to decay.
This is a typical example of a six part adventure from the Pertwee era. In the Baker era one suspects the Master would have appeared much earlier, perhaps at the end of Part 2 rather than in Part 4 as in this adventure. While it does make for a longer viewing experience I really don’t mind in the least – the performances of the cast, and especially from Pertwee and Manning, are such a delight to behold that you don’t mind watching the story unfold slowly. Yes, there are some glaring plot-holes, and it could be debated whether the story needed the Master to feature at all (see also The Claws of Axos) but Colony in Space is a fascinating and highly enjoyable adventure.