Thursday, 1 August 2013

The Ark in Space

The 'Ark' - designed by Roger Murray-Leach
Great to get out of Earth and into space in this wonderfully atmospheric story penned by the new script editor, Robert Holmes.  Roger Murray-Leach comes up with a simply stunning design for the beacon, a space station where a select group of humans slept for 10,000 years to escape the Earth before it was ravaged by Solar flares and then recovered. They were meant to sleep for half that time though...
All the humans on the arc in suspended animation.
It’s a great idea, one put together very well for a great story with a few flaws here and there, but lots of time and thought in the writing, which I always appreciate. The language of the revived humans initially is almost like a computer or robot, Holmes was clever enough to tweak the way we speak and imagine how it might change, and perhaps become more ‘efficient’. Having said that, it does sort of taper off after episode two, and become more generic and atypical. Certainly Vira and Noah speak from an interesting lexicon of the English language, and even more curious is their response to the way Harry speaks.
Kenton Moore battles with an attack of bubble wrap!
Ian Marter is wonderful as Harry, a great idea to have him board the TARDIS and explore a bit of space with the Doctor and Sarah. The performance is pitched quite perfectly, and is good for a few laughs here and there. Tom Baker continues his strong start to the role, far more serious for much longer in this story than ‘Robot’, but he does serious just as well as he does crazy or joking. Wendy Williams as Vira is the only guest character to survive the story, which they could have emphasised more I thought. We lose a lot of characters to the big space graveyard in the story, and with seemingly only a few hundred at best on the ark, that’s a fair chunk!
Harry explores in episode one.
Kenton Moore was also well cast as Noah, the leader who soon turns into a Wirrin, the giant insect-like things that have invaded the ark. He had to wear green bubble wrap as he changes, which to be honest looks very dodgy by today’s standards. I've heard the arguments that bubble wrap had just been created at the time and therefore no-one would know what it was and so it looked ‘alien’ but I just can’t buy it!
Also we have the return of a Hartnell-style first episode, where the Doctor and his companions discover their surroundings. We don’t meet another character until episode two, so they can explore the ark throughout the first episode. Wonderful touch IMO. They fight the computer defence system which destroys Harry’s shoes, fight to reconnect oxygen before they suffocate, we hear the soft voice of Mother Earth as she pacifies Sarah. Wonderful opening episode.

Not sure if the ending particularly works, not sure exactly how the space shuttle connected to the ark, or how all the Wirrin could be on top of the smallish shuttle. But hey, not everything has to work in the world of Doctor Who, right?
The Doctor and Harry examine a Wirrin.

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