Tom Baker as Doctor Who

Tom Baker as Doctor Who

Sunday, 15 February 2015

389 The Ark in Space: Part Four

EPISODE: The Ark in Space: Part Four
OVERALL EPISODE NUMBER: 389
STORY NUMBER: 076
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.
SARAH: Ow.
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?
SARAH: Yes.
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.
DOCTOR: What?
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.
DOCTOR: Yes.
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.

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