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Doctor Who - The Ark in Space

episode 76

UK 1975
produced by
Philip Hinchcliffe for BBC
directed by Rodney Bennett
starring Tom Baker, Elisabeth Sladen, Ian Marter, Kenton Moore, Wendy Williams, Chrisopher Masters, Richardson Morgan, John Gregg
written by Robert Holmes, script editor: Robert Holmes, music by Dudley Simpson

tv-series
Doctor Who, Doctor Who (Tom Baker), Doctor Who (classic series), Sarah Jane Smith

review by
Mike Haberfelner

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In his time-and-spaceship, the TARDIS (Time And Relative Dimensions In Space), Doctor Who (Tom Baker) and hiscompanions Sarah Jane (Elisabeth Smith) and Harry (Ian Marter) land on a giant spaceship that stores hundreds of cryogenically frozen humans ... it seems to be the Ark of humanity, since earth was apparently destroyed by sunflares, so the last survivors were sent up to wait for the earth to be inhabitable again, which lasts a few thousand years.. But there are two other things our heroes discover that are a bit disquieting: First off, someone has turned off the alarmclock, so humanity has overslept by several thousand years, and there are some unwanted passengers aboard, giant insects called the Wirren, and they have chosen the ark to feed on the humans while breeding..

But when Vira (Wendy Williams), the first one to wake up, finds crewmembers missing, her first suspects are the Doctor and his companions, and Noah (Kenton Moore), the captain of the ship, once woken up goes even further and wants to eliminate our heroes ... but then Noah himself gets bitten by a Wirren and slowly turns into one himself ... and soon they are all over the ship, pretty much take it over while the Doctor and his companions and a few survivors already woken up hide in the escape missiles and make plans to fight the Wirren from there.

In the end though, our heroes manage to lure the Wirren into the escape missile and launch it into space, and it seems that Noah, by now a full-fledged insect by appearance, has preserved enough of his human side to blow up the missile (him included) once far enough away from the Ark. And once more humanity is saved ...

 

On a pure story level, The Ark in Space seems to be prefiguring Alien by a few years, plus the very clinical design of the space station interiors give theepisode an especially chilling atmosphere. Where the episode does not succeed though are the dirt-cheap special effects, which are often on Ed Wood-level: The miniatures look nothing short of ridiculous, the insect outfits look anything but threatening, but worst of all are the Wirren in larva state, which is nothing more than a man wrapped in bubble-wrap, painted green. That the sets, despite their clinical style, are rather cheaply made too - and obviously so - does not help either.

Now I am not necessarily one to complain about cheap sets and effects, nor am I one to think that good effects make a good movie or a big budget is a saving grace (more often the opposite is true), only in this case a little more money could have helped the good story tremendously.

 

review © by Mike Haberfelner

 

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Robots and rats,
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Tales to Chill
Your Bones to

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Tales to Chill
Your Bones to
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a collection of short stories and mini-plays
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Tales to Chill
Your Bones to

the new anthology by
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Out now from
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On the same day
a Burglar wants to kill you
and your Ex wants
to make up ...
... and for the life of it,
you can't decide
WHICH IS WORSE!!!

 

A Killer Conversation

produced by and starring
Melanie Denholme
directed by
David V.G. Davies
written by
Michael Haberfelner
starring
Ryan Hunter and
Rudy Barrow

out now on DVD