THIS STORY TAKES
BETWEEN THE TV
STORIES "ROBOT" AND
FROM A STORY BY
'THE ARK IN SPACE'
RELEASED IN APRIL
MANY THOUSANDS OF
years in the future,
Aboard space station
Nerva, the remaining
survivors of the
human race drift
amongst the stars in
The Doctor, Sarah
and Harry arrive to
find vital systems
have been sabotaged.
As manking begins to
awake from its
enforced deep sleep,
the Doctor discovers
that they are not
The Wirrn are an
insect race that
inhabit the cold
depths of space. But
they too have found
the Ark and its
Can the Doctor
prevent the last of
the human race from
becoming the Wirrn’s
new source of food...?
The Ark in Space
25TH JANUARY 1975 - 15TH FEBRUARY 1975
I wonder if, as he sat frantically trying to rewrite John Lucarotti’s script (which itself had been born out of the ashes of Christopher Langley’s abandoned “Space Station”), Robert Holmes realised that he was writing a story that would still be popular almost thirty years down the line. In fact, so popular would it prove, “The Ark in Space” would be chosen as just the second serial (out of a possible forty-two) to represent Tom Baker’s Doctor on DVD.
And, complete with brand new CGI effects (which can be turned on or off at the viewer’s discretion, purists will be pleased to note), “The Ark in Space” has never looked this good. After years of exile on Earth, Holmes’ claustrophobic story firmly re-establishes the Doctor as a traveller in time and space as he tries to prevent the insectoid Wirrn devouring the last remnants of the human race who are in cryogenic suspension aboard space station Nerva, the Earth having been ravaged by a solar flare.
Aided and abetted by Holmes’ razor-sharp dialogue, “The Ark in Space” really sees Baker find his feet as the Doctor. The whole serial is sated with memorable one-liners, delightful scenes of his tormenting Harry and, of course, that immortal soliloquy - “Homo Sapiens…”
However, despite it being a firm fan favourite, I have always found “The Ark in Space” to be
a distinctly average affair. For all its atmosphere, the story progresses very slowly. For instance, alone on the Ark for most of the first episode, the new Doctor and his companions are stretched very thinly indeed across the twenty-five minutes. Furthermore, perhaps more so than many of its peers, “The Ark in Space” is really let down by some dreadful effects,
and whilst the Restoration Team have sought to remedy this so far as they are able by recreating the Ark using CGI for this DVD release, for me this only highlighted the extent of the rest of the production’s shortcomings. The Wirrn themselves were probably as good as they could have been expected to be, but the transformation of man into Wirrn using green bubble-wrap… Ouch.
Above: Space Station Nerva, with the benefit of hindsight...
Beyond the new CGI footage, the DVD has some other nice features, most notably a commentary featuring Baker, Elisabeth Sladen and then-incoming producer Philip Hinchcliffe. Baker is surprisingly restrained in the earlygoing, but once he gets into his stride is far more entertaining than the four episodes that he was brought into comment on. He had me in stitches talking about his wanting to call his autobiography All Friends Betrayed, and joking about how his real name is ‘Judas Baker’… Ironically, scant few of Baker’s interesting comments are anything to do with “The Ark in Space”!
Elsewhere on the disc can be found what is referred to as a “TARDIS-Cam”. Essentially this is just a visually striking sequence CGI featuring the severed head of a Cyberman, but it certainly goes to show just how impressive Doctor Who would look were it made today,
even with the most modest of budgets.
Also included is an interview with Baker, evidently shot on location at Wookey Hole during the filming of “Revenge of the Cybermen”; a delightfully feeble contemporary trailer; an interesting alternative version of the early Baker title sequence; a modest photo gallery; and the now customary, and frankly indispensable, production subtitles. The DVD is certainly a tremendous improvement on the limited release that “The Robots of Death” had, but I still feel that more use could be made of the format – they do have nine gigabytes or so to play with here.
And so “The Ark in Space” is a welcome addition to the range; not fantastic by any means (in terms of both the serial and its DVD accoutrements), but solid throughout. It may not be a serial that I would have personally chosen for release so early in the schedule, but it is one that will doubtless please most fans.
Copyright © E.G. Wolverson 2006
E.G. Wolverson has asserted his right under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act, 1988 to be identified as the author of this work.
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