Monday, 1 July 2013

Colony in Space

I have really enjoyed all Pertwee’s stories to this point, but faced with this one I wonder – is this the weakest Pertwee adventure to date? It’s a fair question. Malcolm Hulke presents us with very much a political story about colonists in the future on a quarry-like planet in a battle with miners would want to strip it clean. Still somewhat relevant today. It is a little slow in parts, and perhaps some aspects of design fall short of what was aimed for, nevertheless I still found this to be an interesting and engaging adventure.
A developed life form - a native.

Firstly – after eight stories on Earth, the Doctor is finally given a short leave of absence to fight the Master – oh yes he is back yet again! Four stories out of four in the eighth season. A peculiar choice by the production team I have to say. We have three types of aliens as well, the most common and mute group are called ‘Primitives’ by the colonists and miners alike – a comment on colonialism in various place for sure.
Sometimes you have to consider when something was written – the 1970s was a time when many African nations had just gained and were gaining their independence from Colonial rule. This story hints at that, but also paints mining companies as great evil beasts, which I think was Hulke’s central point.
The Master, meanwhile is after the ‘Doomsday Weapon’, hidden in the primitive city. His plans and tussle with the Doctor are a secondary storyline strangely to the one of the colonists and the miners duelling it out for the rights to a planet neither come from. Hulke could have chosen to go down the line of the rights of the locals, but curiously did not. Instead the audience roots for the colonists to overcome the nasty IMF (Interplanetary Mining Federation or something like that) which eventually they do. The Doctor plays almost no role in that in the end.
The Doctor about to KO a primitive.
Bernard Kay and the Doctor.
The characters are well written and well-rounded in this one, unlike some others in the past (such as ‘The Krotons’) where two dimensions seemed too many for the writer to use. Bernard Kay plays the mineralogist Caldwell, who is so disgusted by his own party he decides to become a colonist in the end. It’s Kay’s fourth appearance in Doctor Who, he is a very good actor. He plays a character with torn convictions and obligations. The leader of the Colonist is played by an actor in his third Doctor Who story, John Ringham who appeared in ‘The Aztecs’ and also ‘The Smugglers’, both with William Hartnell. His character is also torn – should he fight the company, or try to prevent the colonists going crazy? Hulke always writes good characters and there’s a host in this one.
I liked some of the design elements – the Primitives were ok, poor things running around in green tights, but I really liked the small strange creatures in the city, although Jo screams at one in horror when she first sees it, which I felt was a way over the top reaction and very unwarranted. The Primitive city was well realised, but again I struggled to understand where things were on the planet in relation to each other.
All in all, when Malcolm Hulke writes, he makes you think and question life, and that’s a good thing in my book. This story really stretched the production team I feel, but it still deserves a decent score.


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