Sunday, 22 February 2015

390 The Sontaran Experiment: Part One

EPISODE: The Sontaran Experiment: Part One
TRANSMITTED: Saturday 22 February 1975
WRITER: Bob Baker & Dave Martin
DIRECTOR: Rodney Bennett
SCRIPT EDITOR: Robert Holmes
PRODUCER: Philip Hinchcliffe
RATINGS: 11 million viewers
FORMAT: DVD: Doctor Who - The Sontaran Experiment

"Glorious day. Beautiful unspoilt countryside. No one's set foot here for thousands of years."

The Doctor, Sarah & Harry materialise in a circle of silver spheres in the middle of moorland. The Doctor repairs the refractors on the transmat equipment while Sarah & Harry explore. The Doctor is observed by some humans while Harry gets trapped in a hole. One of the humans, Zake, is chased by a robot and falls to his death. The Doctor investigates and is stunned by Zake's friends and thus is missing when Sarah returns for help. Harry escapes through a tunnel and is nowhere to be seen when Sarah returns. Another human, Roth, saves Sarah from the robot and tells of the alien, who controls the robot, who is hiding in the rocks who is capturing and torturing them. Vural, Krans & Erak interrogate the Doctor. They don't believe he came from Nerva station. The Doctor spots an alien device embedded in the clothing of Vural. Roth is scared of returning to the camp because he knows Vural has been captured by the alien and released. He distracts the other enabling Sarah to release the Doctor. They return to the pit seeking Harry, which the Doctor falls into. Harry has escaped from the pit and finds a spherical silver space ship. He sees the robot return with the captured Sarah & Roth. The alien emerges from it's ship, which Sarah identifies as Linx.....

Not a bad episode, but I'm left wondering a few things: Why is everyone suddenly referring to the Ark as Nerva? I don't recall hearing it called that in the Ark in Space - I thought I'd missed something so I went back and checked the script. It's referred to as Nerva three times: once when the computer is talking to Sarah in episode 1, then when the recording of the Earth minister speaks to them all in episode 3 and finally in episode 4 when Vira responds to a communication request.

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And how did the Transmat station get to Earth? After how ever many thousand years you wouldn't expect them to be still functioning.... But there again they aren't are they? Maybe they were launched from the Ark when the first human was revived...... Either would account for the damage they seem to have received.

HARRY: Oh well, might as well have a recce while we're here. Coming old thing? Coming, Sarah?
DOCTOR: Enjoy yourselves. Trafalgar Square should be that way.
SARAH: Trafalgar Square?
DOCTOR: If this is Piccadilly.
SARAH: You're joking. Aren't you?
DOCTOR: Mind the traffic.
It's a nice touch insinuating that they've materialised on the site of central London with Trafalgar Square and Piccadilly both being mentioned, a conceit that script editor Robert Holmes would reuse some years later in the first four parts of Trial of a Time Lord where we get to see the remains of Marble Arch Underground station. See also Ark in Space part 4 for more links between this pair of stories and the first 4 episodes of Trial.

I know the Doctor was in the middle of repairing the Transmat unit when he heard what called him away but why did he leave his Sonic Screwdriver behind? He takes it everywhere with him!

DOCTOR: I've lost my sonic screwdriver. I feel completely lost without it.
SARAH: I found your sonic screwdriver. Doctor, the pit.
DOCTOR: Shush. What would I do without you?
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The Doctor is surprised to find anyone on Earth but it turns out the humans there are visitors too:
VURAL: One of our GalSec freighters went missing. We er, we picked up a distress call and came down for a look-see. Soon as we stepped from the ship it was vapourised. Nine of us were stuck here.
DOCTOR: Nine? Where are the rest?
VURAL: Vanished.
That's not strictly true. we see five of the people from GalSec in this episode: Vural, their leader, Zake, Krans, Erak & the slightly unhinged Roth.

Vural Zake Krans Erak Roth

Zake, played by stunt regular Terry Walsh, is killed during this episode, falling down a shaft trying to evade the robot. Roth in turn mentions that Heath & Splier were killed by the alien, do his compatriots not know that? That leaves two unaccounted for, one of which, unnamed, we shall see in the next episode.

The humans from GalSec don't believe The Doctor's story:

VURAL: So you better start telling the truth or you night find things getting a little rough.
DOCTOR: I'm sorry to keep contradicting you, but there is a transmat beam from Space Station Nerva.
KRANS: From where?
DOCTOR: Space Station Nerva.
ERAK: Is he crazy?
KRANS: A joker.
VURAL: You don't expect us to believe that.
DOCTOR: Nerva, transmat beam, Earth. It's as simple as that. Why don't you believe me?
VURAL: Because Nerva doesn't exist, that's why. There's no such place.
DOCTOR: Fascinating. You don't believe it exists, yet you've obviously heard of it.
KRANS: Everybody's heard of the lost colony.
DOCTOR: Lost colony? Ah. You mean it's become a legend like lost Atlantis?
ERAK: Like what?
DOCTOR: Lost Atlantis. It's a legendary city. A go, never mind. This is extremely interesting. Are you going to cut me loose?
VURAL: No, we're going to get the truth out of you first.
KRANS: Too right.
DOCTOR: Very colonial. You are from a colony, I take it?
VURAL: GalSec.
DOCTOR: Of course, on Nerva, they know that various colony ships left Earth. They'll be delighted to know that they're not the sole survivors of the human race. You are human?
KRANS: What do you mean?
ERAK: Of course we are.
DOCTOR: Oh, no offence, no offence.
So did they not notice the space station orbiting the Earth when they came into land then?

Even though his life is at threat the Doctor can't resist teasing the men a bit:

DOCTOR: Well, no. I'm a sort of travelling time expert. As you can see, Earth's been habitable for several thousand years, but they didn't wake up. Why? Clock stopped. Overslept. So here I am.
VURAL: Clock expert?
DOCTOR: Horologist, actually. And chronometrist. I just love clocks. Atomic clocks, wall quartz clocks, grandfather clocks
ERAK: He's still lying.
VURAL: Shut up, Erak.
DOCTOR: Cuckoo clocks.
More London allusions follow:
DOCTOR: Yes, well, I can't say I blame him for being wary of friend Vural, at any rate. You know, it's absolutely typical of Harry! How anyone in his proper mind could fall down a whacking great subsidence like. That's it!
SARAH: What is?
DOCTOR: Subsidence! A sewer or something. Maybe it's the Central Line.
SARAH: I'm not with you.
DOCTOR: I mean here must be some way out at the bottom. Hang on, Sarah. I'll just go down and take a look.
SARAH: Hey, you be careful, Doctor. If you break a leg or something, we'll never get you out.
DOCTOR: It's perfectly safe.
Of course it's very unlikely to be the Central line causing subsidence: that's a deep level underground railway, some distance down. The Circle, and it's attached lines the District, Metropolitan and Hammeresmith & City are all sub-surface, much closer to ground level and more likely to collapse.

Having admonished Harry the Doctor then becomes the second person to fall down the shaft which seems like a bit of time wasting. And if you've got just a 2 part story why wait till the end of episode 1 to reveal your monster thus limiting it's appearance to just the second episode? (watch later as King's Demons makes nearly exactly the same error!) The hiding of the Sontaran is compounded by the monster being in the story's name! Yes I know the monster reveal at the end of the first episode is sort of a tradition stretching back to the very first episode but come on we're pushed for screen time here!

As it is the reveal is nearly exactly the same as that of the end of the first Sontaran story, the Time Warrior, shown a year earlier:

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In the defence of writers Bob Baker & Dave Martin, who'd written Claws of Axos, The Mutants & The Three Doctors for the Third Doctor, this is the first 2 part Doctor who story since the Rescue the Rescue in January 1965 and the shortest story since the single part Mission to the Unknown in October later that year. The format would have a revival in the Fifth Doctor's era as it's used to push a season purely made of four part stories up to the 26 episode length required. As it is two 25 minute episodes of Doctor Who, when you remove one set of titles and a recap are almost the same length as modern single episodes.

Sunday, 15 February 2015

389 The Ark in Space: Part Four

EPISODE: The Ark in Space: Part Four
TRANSMITTED: Saturday 15 February 1975
WRITER: Robert Holmes
DIRECTOR: Rodney Bennett
SCRIPT EDITOR: Robert Holmes
PRODUCER: Philip Hinchcliffe
RATINGS: 10.2 million viewers
FORMAT: DVD: Doctor Who: The Ark In Space - Special Edition

"Noah, listen to me. If there's any part of you that's still human, if you've any memory of the man you once were, leave the Ark. Lead the swarm into space."

Vira attacks the Noah Wirrn allowing the Doctor to escape. The Noah Wirrn airs his race's grievances against the humans who destroyed their breading colonies. They desire to bread in the humans to gain their technological knowledge. The Doctor proposes electrifying the cryogenic chamber and Sarah proposes using the Ark's transport ship's power. Sarah agrees to take the cable through the ducting, but gets stuck and only wiggles free when the Doctor taunts her. They link the cable and repel the Wirrn trying to access the suspended animation chamber. Noah offers them safe passage off the Ark threatening to cut off the oxygen supply. The Doctor appeals to the human part of Noah but he refuses. Wirrn attempt to board the transport ship but Rogin drives them off by running the engines. The Wirrn spacewalk round the Ark to the transport ship. The ship's controls are set to automatic and the humans retreat to the Ark. Rogin sacrifices himself to save the Doctor and launch the transport ship. The human part of Noah seizes control and destroys the transport ship. Vira begins to revive the rest of the humans on the Ark, while the Doctor use the Ark's teleport system to travel to Earth to repair a power fault on the system......

That's not a bad episode at all.

Some great effects work during it. Sadly one of them, the Wirrn crawling on the surface of the station, is wasted by being shown on a monitor screen. A surviving model film sequence, included on the DVD for this episode reveals how goo this actually looked!

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The Wirrn's motivation for attacking the Ark is revealed in this episode, exposing an enmity between the two species that has arisen why the Ark's crew have slept.

WIRRN: Stay, Vira. Stay. Abandon the Ark, Vira. Take the transport ship. Leave now. If you stay, you are doomed.
VIRA: That would be desertion.
WIRRN: Then you must die, all of you. When the Wirrn emerge, you will be hunted down and destroyed, as you destroyed us.
SARAH: We've never destroyed. What does he mean?
WIRRN: Long ago, long ago humans came to the old lands. For a thousand years the Wirrn fought them, but you humans destroyed the breeding colonies. The Wirrn were driven from Andromeda.
VIRA: Andromeda? So our star pioneers succeeded?
WIRRN: Since then we have drifted through space, searching for a new habitat. The Ark is ours. It must be ours.
DOCTOR: But the Wirrn live in space. You don't need the Ark.
WIRRN: You know nothing. We live in space, but our breeding colonies are terrestrial.
DOCTOR: But you could leave the Ark and go on. There's plenty of room in the galaxy for us all.
WIRRN: In the old lands, senseless herbivores, cattle, were the hosts for our hatchlings. Now we shall use the humans in the cryogenic chamber. We shall be informed with all human knowledge. In one generation, the Wirrn will become an advanced technological species. We shall have power!
VIRA: That proposition is genetically impossible.
WIRRN: I already have all Dune's knowledge. High energy physics, quantum mechanics. Every ramate in the next hatching of Wirrn will possess the sum of your race's learning. That is why you must die.
I wonder.... were the Wirrn essentially mindless insects up until this point due to being bred using the cattle? Did their consumption of Libri kickstart the more calculating side of their personality we see here? Have they acquired the powers of speech from humans along with their knowledge too?

When taken in conjunction with the following exchange another interesting thought arises

SARAH: Ah well, that settles us.
DOCTOR: Besides, we can't let the Wirrn eat through the cryogenic sleepers as though they were a lot of
HARRY: Jelly babies?
DOCTOR: Exactly. Let them be turned into a lot of surrogate humans? It's the most immoral suggestion I've heard for a century.
Andromeda, Sleepers, and an abandoned Earth? Hang on are we talking The Mysterious Planet, the first four episodes of Trial of a Timelord? Is Holmes attempting to play off his earlier story when he returns to the show in 1986? Sadly, thanks to his untimely death we may never know but there are many parallels between Ark In Space, the following story The Sontaran Experiment and the much later sixth Doctor tale.

I wonder about the designers of the Ark and the Shuttle

SARAH: I was just wondering about the transport ship that Noah mentioned.
DOCTOR: What about it?
SARAH: Well, surely it has its own power system, doesn't it?
ROGIN: Four granovox turbines! That ship can generate twice the power of the Ark.
shuttleSo a small shuttle, which we've previously seen on the side of the Ark's model so it's introduction isn't a surprise, can generate twice the power of the much larger space station? Come on.....

But we know The Ark is an old structure, adapted to serve this purpose. Perhaps the shuttle is much newer, of a more advanced technology and thus more powerful that the older structure it's attached to, says he grasping at straws...

Does look a lot like Thunderbird 1 though. You can understand why that design got modified for the new CGI effects on the DVD

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The sets for the shuttle feature some very nice joined up design work:

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We enter the shuttle by a ladder underneath, seen in the launch bay set. we arrive in the shuttle control room by a ladder emerging from the floor. It connects the two sets in your mind and makes them feel much more realistic.

Similarly we have the access tubes that Sarah's crawling down:

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vlcsnap-2014-12-02-21h55m04s144 As well as being small they're an odd shaped, triangular, which makes you wonder what the designer was thinking because inevitably at some point someone's going to need to get down there. But they do match the shape of the access hatch that Sarah emerges from and indeed these triangular hatches have been in view round the ship since the very first episode.
Sarah's adventures in the tunnels gives the Doctor an opportunity to apply a little reverse psychology on her:

SARAH: Doctor, where are you?
DOCTOR: Straight ahead. Look, I'll shine a light.
DOCTOR: Can you see?
SARAH: Yes! Oh, Doctor, I can't move!
DOCTOR: Of course you can. You've got this far.
SARAH: No, I'm stuck!
DOCTOR: Don't panic, Sarah. Don't panic. Ease round and try again.
SARAH: I'm jammed. I can't move forward or back.
DOCTOR: Oh, stop whining, girl. You're useless.
SARAH: Oh, Doctor.
DOCTOR: Oh, Doctor. Is that all you can say for yourself? Stupid, foolish girl. We should never have relied on you. I knew you'd let us down. That's the trouble with girls like you. You think you're tough, but when you're really up against it, you've no guts at all.
DOCTOR: Hundreds of lives at stake and you lie there, blubbing.
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SARAH: You wait till I get out! I can manage. I don't need your help, thank you!
DOCTOR: Yes, you do. Yes, you do.
DOCTOR: Splendid.
SARAH: Go away.
DOCTOR: You've done marvellously, Sarah. I'm very proud of you. I really am very proud of you.
SARAH: What? Conned again. You're a brute.
DOCTOR: Me, a brute?
DOCTOR: Don't be ungrateful. I was only encouraging you. Come on.
It would seem she realises his trick and forgives him quite quickly!

Throughout the episode it seems as if Noah's totally gone, subsumed by the Wirrn but still armed with his knowledge.

WIRRN: Vira, can you hear me?
DOCTOR: She can hear you. What do you want, Noah?
WIRRN: Your resistance is useless. We control the Ark.
DOCTOR: And we control the cryogenic chamber. I repeat, what do you want?
WIRRN: We offer you safe passage from the Ark. Surrender now and your lives will be spared.
DOCTOR: Not a chance.
WIRRN: What does Vira say?
DOCTOR: She agrees with me
DOCTOR: Don't you, Vira.
WIRRN: Let Vira speak. She is the Commander.
DOCTOR: She's busy, resuscitating more humans.
WIRRN: You lie!
DOCTOR: Listen, Noah. Now hear me. You're beaten. The Ark is of no value to you without its humans, so why don't you just leave us in peace?
WIRRN: Humans require two mass pounds of oxygen a day to stay alive, Doctor. We Wirrn can live for years without fresh oxygen. If you refuse to surrender, we shall shut down the oxygen pumps.
DOCTOR: And if we surrender?
WIRRN: I have said. You will be allowed to leave the Ark.
DOCTOR: The Wirrn hate all humans. Once we step outside this chamber we'd be attacked.
WIRRN: I am the swarm leader. I guarantee your safety. The Wirrn will spare your lives, but leave the sleepers for us!
DOCTOR: Noah, listen to me. If there's any part of you that's still human, if you've any memory of the man you once were, leave the Ark. Lead the swarm into space.
DOCTOR: That's where the Wirrn belong, Noah. Not on Earth, not where you were born. Remember the wind and the sun, the fields, the blue sky? That's Earth, Noah. It's for the human race. Don't abandon it.
WIRRN: I have no memory of the Earth.
The Doctor however quite intends to back up his earlier statement in the previous episode
DOCTOR: It's not just our existence that's at stake, Sarah. It's the entire human race. It may be irrational of me, but human beings are quite my favourite species.
He intends to sacrifice himself to launch the shuttle and orders everyone from the launch bay
DOCTOR: Just leave this to me.
ROGIN: You know what'll happen when you cut that lock?
DOCTOR: There's no point in both of us being killed by the blast. Get into the Ark, man.
ROGIN: You don't want trouble with the space technician's union, Doctor.
ROGIN: That's my job.
Rogin, who's previously been a little bit cowardly but another of the very natural roles that Richardson Morgan tends to play, then displays some typical 70s union sensibilities, perhaps inspired by the recent scene shifters strike in Robot, that left a ladder sitting in the middle of a set. His sudden heroism and sacrifice saves the whole human race, saves the Doctor and I don't think he gets enough credit for it.

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The concept of Noah fighting the Wirrn from within has been present throughout the story so it's nice to see him make one final bid to stop them that succeeds.

VIRA: Doctor! Where's Rogin?
DOCTOR: Rogin's dead. I woke up in a protection hatch.
SARAH: Oh, Doctor, you're safe.
DOCTOR: Yes, we're all safe now, Sarah, thanks to Rogin's bravery. And perhaps something else.
VIRA: Something else?
DOCTOR: Yes, some vestige of human spirit. Was Noah on our side and one step ahead of us at the end?
VIRA: You mean by leading the swarm into the shuttle?
HARRY: Look.
VIRA: Space Station Nerva.
WIRRN: Goodbye, Vira.
SARAH: The shuttle's blown up!
VIRA: He must have known that that would happen. Noah deliberately neglected to set the rocket stabilisers.
DOCTOR: More than a vestige of human spirit. It can all begin now, Vira. Mankind is safe.
With the story over the series takes an unusual step for this era of the show: it leads straight into the next adventure by setting it up here:
VIRA: I must get my people back to Earth. Now that I've lost the transport ship, I shall have to rely on the matter transmitter.
VIRA: It'll be a long operation. It can only convey three people at a time.
DOCTOR: Yes, it could if it was functioning properly. The signal's faulty. Probably the diode receptors. I'll just beam down and check them.
SARAH: To Earth?
DOCTOR: Yes, that's where the trouble is. Here, fetch me a coat from the Tardis, will you? You never know what the solar flares have done to the weather.
VIRA: It isn't anything serious?
DOCTOR: What? Probably no more than a spot of corrosion. Whatever it is, it shouldn't take long to fix, and it'll give me a chance to see if the planet is fully viable again. What's keeping them? Sarah!
SARAH: Coming!
SARAH: Here's your coat.
DOCTOR: I don't remember inviting you two.
SARAH: Er, no, you didn't. But here we are.
HARRY: Well, the Brigadier did tell me to stick with you, Doctor, and orders is orders.
DOCTOR: I hope you don't mind being left.
VIRA: Well, I won't be alone for long. Life is returning to the Ark, and soon to the world.
DOCTOR: Have a jelly baby, Vira.
VIRA: Oh, thank you.
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Several people have pointed out over the years the strong resemblance of this story to Alien: crew in suspended animation, alien growing inside human, crew all killed until only one woman is left alive.... I like Ark in Space as a story, it's competent enough, and has grown on me much over the years. I think the slow start and lack of action till later on in the series may have put me off it in my younger days but I appreciate it more every time I see it now.

It was repeated as a 70-minute compilation on 20th August 1975 starting a series of summer repeats for the program that would last until the mid 1980s.

Very little material from the Hartnell & Troughton was repeated during their times as the Doctor:

1963 30 November An Unearthly Child Episode One only
1968 8 June - 3 August The Evil of the Daleks Trailed in programme by Wheel in Space 6,
voice over on part 1,
only missing story ever to be repeated

An Unearthly Child, the very first episode, was repeated the week after it's original broadcast just before the second episode, The Cave of Skulls, due to the circumstances surrounding the broadcast of the first episode while Evil of the Daleks was repeated in between the fifth and sixth seasons of the show with an in vision introduction during the previous episode, the final episode of Wheel in Space and then referred to during the following episode, the first episode of The Dominators.

It was during Jon Pertwee's time as Doctor who that repeats became a little more frequent:

1971 9 - 30 July Spearhead from Space  
28 December The Dæmons 90-minute compilation
1972 27 December 1972 The Sea Devils 90-minute compilation
1973 3 September Day of the Daleks 60-minute compilation
27 December The Green Death 90-minute compilation
1974 27 May The Sea Devils Unscheduled repeat of compilation,
replacing a cricket match
27 December Planet of the Spiders 105-minute compilation

Compilation versions of stories were shown generally at Christmas just before the new series began. Indeed the Planet of the Spiders compilation, of Pertwee's last story, went out the day before the first episode of Robot, Tom Baker's first story, was aired.

As well as the summer repeats which Ark in Space started, in the run up to the moved new season start, Christmas compilations continued for the first three years in the mid season Christmas break that the series took. These stopped during Tom Baker's fifth year when the series ran straight through Christmas.

1975 20 August The Ark in Space 70-minute compilation
27 December Genesis of the Daleks 85-minute compilation
19765 - 8 July Planet of Evil  
9 July The Sontaran Experiment Compilation
27 November Pyramids of Mars 60-minute compilation
4 December The Brain of Morbius 60-minute compilation
19774 - 25 August The Deadly Assassin  
31 December - 1 January 1978 The Robots of Death two 50-minute episodes
197813 July - 3 August The Invisible Enemy  
10 - 31 August The Sun Makers  
197912 July - 2 August The Pirate Planet  
9 - 30 August The Androids of Tara  
19805 - 8 August Destiny of the Daleks  
12 - 20 August City of Death  
1981 3 - 6 August Full Circle  
10 - 13 August The Keeper of Traken  

But by that point the summer repeats were firmly established. I have very fond memories of watching Pirate Planet, Androids of Tara, Destiny of the Daleks (which I had chickened out of watching after the original broadcast of the first episode), City of Death & Full Circle (neither of which I saw on initial broadcast) and Keeper of Traken (who's first episode I had missed the initial showing of)

1981 turned out to be a bumper year for Doctor Who repeats with the seminal Five Faces of Doctor Who season on BBC2. Faced with a longer gap between seasons and an incoming new Doctor for the first time in seven years, producer John Nathan-Turner arranged a series of early evening repeats on BBC2 featuring one story from each of the earlier Doctors, plus The Three Doctors, teaming them all together. For many, me included, this season was a revelation and a crucial factor in making us the life long fans we are today.

1981 2 - 5 November An Unearthly Child BBC2
9 - 12 November The Krotons BBC2
16 - 19 November Carnival of Monsters BBC2
23 - 26 November The Three Doctors BBC2
30 November - 3 December Logopolis BBC2

The season concluded with a repeat of Tom Baker's final story neatly leading into the new Doctor a month later.

A few things bug me about the Five Faces season:

I'd have started it on Monday 23rd November, the anniversary date, and run it right up till Christmas.

I'd have shown Carnival of Monsters and Three Doctors in the right order.

And, even though this messes the first point up, I'd have slipped another earlier Tom Baker story in there as the fourth Doctor's with Logopolis serving as the Fifth Doctor's story. To make it fit in the 5 week slot it would have to be at the expense of one of the Pertwees, but which one? The story uniting the first three Doctors or one of my favourite Pertwee tales? Either way I think it slightly unfair that Jo Grant got to appear in two of these stories but we didn't see Sarah Jane Smith.

The following summer saw another archive season with Doctor Who & The Monsters: three compilations of stories featuring the series top monsters and past Doctors. Jo Grant gets a third outing in two years but we do get to see Sarah and the Fourth Doctor together this time. I'd have been tempted to show The Time Warrior too to give The Sontarans an outing!

1982 12 - 19 July The Curse of Peladon two 50-minute episodes
26 July - 2 August Genesis of the Daleks two 45-minute episodes
9 - 16 August Earthshock two 50-minute episodes

Earthshock is the only story from Peter Davison's first season repeated following that season. However three were repeated the next year:

1983 15 - 18 August The Visitation  
22 - 25 August Kinda  
31 August - 1 September Black Orchid  
1984 6 - 13 July The King’s Demons  
20 July The Awakening Compilation
14 - 17 August The Five Doctors four 25-minute episodes

1984 was the last year in the program's original run that stories were repeated: one two parter from each of the 1983 & 1984 seasons plus the anniversary special broken down into four pieces, ending a tradition stretching back ten years to The Ark In Space. No Colin Baker or Sylvester McCoy stories were ever repeated during their time as Doctor Who.

Ark in Space was the first story novelised by Ian Marter, the actor who played Harry Sulivan in it. It was the only one of this season's stories not held by my local library: they had the other four which I read often! It was was released on Video initially as a compilation edition in the mid 80s and then later episodically in the early 90s. The original DVD release was the first to include optional computer generated shots to replace contemporary model work - see The Restoration Team website's Ark In Space article for an example. It works well here, but some other shows haven't had such good or subtle replacements. A 2 disc Special Edition DVD was released during 2013 adding several new special features not on the original.

Sunday, 8 February 2015

388 The Ark in Space: Part Three

EPISODE: The Ark in Space: Part Three
TRANSMITTED: Saturday 08 February 1975
WRITER: Robert Holmes
DIRECTOR: Rodney Bennett
SCRIPT EDITOR: Robert Holmes
PRODUCER: Philip Hinchcliffe
RATINGS: 11.2 million viewers
FORMAT: DVD: Doctor Who: The Ark In Space - Special Edition

"The Wirrn are here. They will..... We shall absorb the humans. The Earth shall be ours."

The voice of the chief Earth Minister echoes on a recording played through the space station. Noah, struggling against the alien form taking him over, orders everyone revived and taken to Earth before the Wirrn take over and places Vira in command. Harry sets to work reviving more of the remaining humans. Vira & the Doctor seek Noah and encounter him with his arm and much of his head changed. They dissect the Wirrn body they have removing it's brain and connecting it to a monitor which shows it approaching the station and then electrocuting itself. The Larvae emerges from hiding and kills technician Lycett but is driven back using fusion guns. They use the station's transmat to escape to the control centre of the station but after Rogin & Harry travel a power drain occurs and the oxygen pumps are stopped. The Doctor goes to the solar stack to reactivate the power where he finds an open cocoon and is approached by the Wirrn that Noah has become.....

Now we're into classic "base under siege" territory as the Doctor and the small group of humans are trapped and picked off one by one. We've not done this for AGES, possibly as far back as The Seeds of Death. The only thing that's spoiling it for me is that the Wirrn Larvae are so obviously bubble wrap!

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One of the main thrusts of this episode is Noah's transformation into what we now know is a Wirrn. Last episode he was more possessed, with his physical mutation revealed in the closing moments. At the start of this episode, spurred perhaps by the voice of the Earth leader, he regains some control and orders Vira to evacuate the Ark....

NOAH: Vira, hear me. This is an order. Expedite revivification. Commence main phase now.
VIRA: But Noah, the safety checks
NOAH: Ignore safety checks! We, you, are in great danger. Get our, your people to the Earth before
VIRA: Noah?
NOAH: Before the Wirrn. Vira, take command. Now hear me. You take command!
VIRA: What has happened? Commander, are you there?
NOAH: The Wirrn are here. They will ..... We shall absorb the humans. The Earth shall be ours.
VIRA: Noah! Noah!
NOAH: Vira. Vira, there's no time. They're in my mind, getting stronger. Libri is dead. You will all die. Must save our people. You must!
.... but even as he speaks he looses control again

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As the episode progresses we see his physical mutation increasing with more of his body being consumed by it. He becomes more confused which then leads to a revelation from Vira:

NOAH: Keep back! Don't touch me!
VIRA: Noah.
NOAH: Keep back, I said!
DOCTOR: Noah, tell us one thing. How much time do we have?
NOAH: Time?
DOCTOR: Before the Wirrn reach their adult form?
NOAH: It feels near, very near. The tearing free and then the great blackness rushing through.
VIRA: Noah and I were pair-bonded for the new life.
Although Noah is a Nickname, for Lazar, Vira would appear to be her real name: the biblical Noah's wife isn't named in the Bible.
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It's in the closing moments of the episode as the Doctor explores the eggs hatchery that the Wirrn have turned the power stack into that Noah's transformation into a full Wirrn is completed:

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The script has a couple of little nice character moments. Firstly Harry's chauvinistic streak is revealed:

HARRY: Well, I bet that did your female chauvinist heart a power of good.
HARRY: Well, I mean, fancy a member of the fair sex being top of the totem pole.
Now this is actually quite interesting because it suggests some time passes between their departure in Robot and when they return to 20th Century Earth in Terror of the Zygons. I don't think Harry would be making a comment like that if Britain had a female Prime Minister, which it does by the time they return!

The Doctor then confirms for us something we've suspected all along:

DOCTOR: It's not just our existence that's at stake, Sarah. It's the entire human race. It may be irrational of me, but human beings are quite my favourite species.
The production team are evidentially quite proud of the fision gun props that have been manufactured for the story so they give them a close up demonstrating the mechanism built into them:

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Returning to Doctor Who in this episode is Richardson Morgan, playing the engineer Rogin. He'd previously appeared in 1968's The Web of Fear as Corporal Blake and made a big impression on me when I finally got to see that story when it was recovered.

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The Wirrn operators in the story have been in many previous Doctor who stories: Terry Walsh was in one of the costumes in the first episode and amongst many appearances on the show as an actor and stuntman was a regular double for both the third and fourth Doctors. Stuart Fell was in both The Curse of Peladon & The Monster of Peladon as Alpha Centauri, the Planet of the Spiders as a tramp, The Android Invasion as a Kraal, The Brain of Morbius as the Morbius Monster, The Masque of Mandragora as an entertainer, The Invasion of Time as a Sontaran and State of Decay as Roga. Nick Hobbs meanwhile was also in both Peladon stories, as Aggedor and was recently Mr Nainby in new series episode Amy's Choice.

Sunday, 1 February 2015

387 The Ark in Space: Part Two

EPISODE: The Ark in Space: Part Two
TRANSMITTED: Saturday 01 February 1975
WRITER: Robert Holmes
DIRECTOR: Rodney Bennett
SCRIPT EDITOR: Robert Holmes
PRODUCER: Philip Hinchcliffe
RATINGS: 13.6 million viewers
FORMAT: DVD: Doctor Who: The Ark In Space - Special Edition

"I'm afraid I've something of a shock for you, You've overslept by several thousand years!"

The Doctor's activities start to revive the humans bringing one of their leaders Vira round. She revives Sarah, and their leader Lazar, nicknamed Noah. Vira tells them of the solar flares that destroyed all life on Earth. The Doctor tells her that they have overslept by many thousands of years and shows her the insect body. Elsewhere in the station a larvae creature crawls through the darkness. The Doctor investigates a power fault in the solar stack and finds the creature's trail, then it's cocoon as it starts to change. Vira discovers one of their number is missing. Noah holds the Doctor at gunpoint claiming "Earth is ours" then shoots him. The creature starts to emerge from it's cocoon. Noah encounters it in the solar stack and shoots it but as it falls it touches him on the hand. The recovered Doctor, Sarah & Harry go looking for Noah but he finds them and holds them at gunpoint again. Recently revived crewman Libri is scared of Noah when he sees him. A seemingly disorientated Noah orders the resuscitation stopped and leaves. The Doctor finds the remains of an egg shell in Dune's suspended animation pod and tells them that Dune has been consumed by the creature. Noah takes Libri's gun from him and shoots him. He notices his left hand has begun to change .....


That's not bad, if a little slow. We're half way through the story and hardly anything has happened. Just 3 of the crew of the Ark are awake: one is dead, one is possessed and I think the other is on our side!

Is that the series first use of a bubble wrap monster on the larvae form crawling around and Noah's mutating hand?

Noah's behaviour seems a little strange from the start, he's very antagonistic to the Tardis crew when he finds out that they're aboard:

NOAH: Touch that switch and I'll atomise you.
NOAH: Earth is ours.
DOCTOR: My dear man, if you think for one moment we're laying claim to Earth, you couldn't be more mistaken. We're here to help you.
That "Earth is ours" line in particular could almost make you believe he's controlled by aliens then but his transformation seems to occur after that when he touches the slime in Power stack. So why weren't the Doctor and Harry infected when they examined the slime in the corridor last episode? Does it loose it's potency that quickly?

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Vira, the chief Medtech on the ship, provides the explanation as to what the humans are doing there before the Doctor starts to explore the threat they face:

DOCTOR: What happened in the last days, Vira?
VIRA: Your colony has no records, no history? Where are you from?
HARRY: London, actually. England. The Earth.
VIRA: That is not possible. The Earth is dead.
DOCTOR: I'm afraid you're probably wrong about that.
VIRA: The solar flares destroyed all life on Earth.
DOCTOR: Ah. Solar flares. I see.
VIRA: Our scientists calculated it would be five thousand years before the biosphere became viable again.
DOCTOR: Oh, the absolute minimum, I'd say. But I'm afraid I've something of a shock for you, Vira.
VIRA: Shock?
DOCTOR: You've overslept by several thousand years. You see, when we came here, we found a massive systems failure.
VIRA: The systems have no capacity for failure.
DOCTOR: Possibly not. But a long time ago, when you were dormant, you had a visitor. Come, I'll show it to you.
VIRA: Is it from space? How did it get here?
DOCTOR: I don't know yet. But observe the size of the brain pan. It had a purpose in coming here, and once inside, it severed most of the satellite's control systems, including your alarm clock, so to speak.
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Had nobody noticed the trail to Dune's cryogenic chamber before that?

VIRA: Pallet three. I found it empty.
SARAH: Noah thinks that we're to blame.
HARRY: Chap's jumped ship, that's all. Happens all the time.
SARAH: Oh, come on. A space satellite's a bit different from a ship, Harry.
HARRY: You know, Sarah, I bet you there's the equivalent of a dinghy missing.
DOCTOR: It's not quite empty.
VIRA: Oh, what's that?
DOCTOR: Membrane.
SARAH: Membrane?
DOCTOR: Part of the eggshell.
VIRA: Where's it from?
DOCTOR: It's almost too horrible to think about.
DOCTOR: The egg tube is empty.
VIRA: That thing?
DOCTOR: The progenitor. The queen coloniser.
It then falls to the Doctor to expose the full grisly horror of what has happened to Dune:
DOCTOR: Ever heard of the Eumenes?
HARRY: Eumenes? One of our frigates.
DOCTOR: It's a genus of wasps that paralyses caterpillars and lays its eggs in their bodies. When the larvae emerge, they have a ready made food supply. Strange how the same life patterns recur throughout the universe.
HARRY: Doctor, are you saying that that slug thing?
DOCTOR: Ciliated larvae, Harry. Dune was power systems technician, I imagine.
VIRA: Yes, but how did you know?
DOCTOR: It, or they, went straight to the solar stack.
VIRA: You mean Dune's knowledge
DOCTOR: Has been thoroughly digested, I'm afraid.
SARAH: Don't make jokes like that, Doctor.
DOCTOR: When I say I'm afraid, Sarah, I'm not making jokes.
He is earlier on in the episode though:
DOCTOR: My doctorate is purely honorary, and Harry here is only qualified to work on sailors.
Behave Doctor!

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Noah, the commander of The Ark is played by Kenton Moore who'd got a previous Doctor Who appearance to his name as the Roboman that plunges into the Thames at the start of Dalek Invasion of Earth.

As Vira explains "Noah" is actually a nickname:

VIRA: It is a name from mythology. His real name is Lazar, but we called him Noah as an amusement.
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Playing Vira is actress Wendy Williams who was married to Fury from the Deep director Hugh David. This is Williams' only Doctor Who appearance and likewise Christopher Masters, who plays the short lived Libri, doesn't return to the program. Note the different coloured piping on the uniforms perhaps, like Star Trek, signifying department. Red for command, yellow for Medicine and Green for Engineering?

Although Ark in space was the second Fourth Doctor story broadcast it's the third made. Robot was made at the tail end of the Season 11 recording block. The first story in the Season 12 filming black was the Sontaran Experiment, an 2-part all location story. The same director, Rodney Bennett, then helms this story. He gets name checked in the first episode when The Doctor discovers a piece of equipment called a "Bennett Oscillator". The script was written by the show's Script Editor Robert Holmes when the original scripts written by Doctor Who veteran John Lucarotti weren't quite what the production team was looking for. Next up was the season's fifth story, the Revenge of the Cybermen, which as we will see shares some of the same sets followed by Genesis of the Daleks and Terror of the Zygons, which ended up being held back for the start of the show's 13th season.

Story Production Broadcast
Title Code Block Number Season Number
Robot 4A 11 5 12 1
The Ark in Space 4C 12 2 12 2
The Sontaran Experiment 4B 12 1 12 2
Genesis of the Daleks 4E 12 4 12 4
Revenge of the Cybermen 4D 12 3 12 5
Terror of the Zygons 4F 12 6 13 1

So although Ark in Space is the first story to bear the name of the show's new producer, Philip Hinchcliffe, it's the second that he filmed. Having come from a script writing & editing background at ITV, Doctor Who was Hinchcliffe's first foray into producing. At the time of writing he and Derrick Sherwin are the only two of the original series of Doctor Who's nine producers still living.