Doctor Who: The Ark DVD

Sunday, 27 February 2011 09:15

Materialising in what appears to be a jungle on Earth, the Doctor, Steven and Dodo soon realise that things are not what they seem. The sky is made of steel, and the jungle merely a colossal life chamber in a craft that has embarked on the most important expedition in the history of mankind. Needless to say, this is “The Ark” of this story’s title, and here we have an example of Doctor Who exploring more serious elements of Science Fiction.

It is ten million years in the future, and the Earth is soon to be engulfed by the Sun in a catastrophic explosion. The gigantic space ark has been launched to take the last humans to a new life on the distant planet of Refusis. Serving the Guardians of Earth are the Monoids, mute reptilian aliens, who are about to reveal their true colours.

Doctor Who - Time Lord meets Wells on DVDThe Ark's mission of deliverance is threatened by the arrival of the Time Lord and his travellers; Dodo inadvertently passes her cold to the Guardians - to them, it is a long-forgotten virus against which they have no defence. It is not long before people start to die, and the TARDIS crew are on trial for their own lives.

This is an adventure that shows Doctor Who trying to graduate to serious SF, away from the pulp movie trappings it had inherited from the 1950s. H G Wells is a major source of inspiration, the common cold as a deadly virus coming straight from “War of the Worlds”. Indeed, need we say more on this basis than looking to that other classic work “The Time Machine”? However, the idea of calling a holding bay a ‘security kitchen’ is definitely NOT Wellsian!

Villains of the piece are the Monoids, sporting Beatles-mop-tops and a single eye straight out of the trappings of the Illuminati. The production team obviously started off with good intentions as regards these creatures, but regrettably any edge is soon lost by them finally hitting the default-Bug-Eyed-Monster default button.

As is common with the monochrome episodes of Who, this quartet of adventures has been restored to a quality that must surpass its original broadcast edition. Clarity is terrific, and the shades of grey from the colour palette only assist the otherworld feel of the story.

The DVD extras on this release are as follows:

  • Commentary (in stereo). With actor Peter Purves (Steven) and Michael Imison (Director), all moderated with considerable knowledgeable aplomb by Toby Hadoke (“Moths Ate My Doctor Who Scarf”)
  • “All’s Well’s That Ends Wells” (13’ 14”) – just how much were ‘The Ark’ and many other of Doctor Who’s adventures through time and space inspired by the work of writer H G Wells? Gravitas is given to this featurette via writers and historians Matthew Swee, and Dominic Sandbrook, author and critic Kim Newman, literary editor Graham Sleight and the Open University’s Dr Anthony Keen.
  • “One Hit Wonder” (4’ 33”) – the Monoids only appeared in one Doctor Who story, possibly with good reason. What gives certain monsters an enduring popularity, destined to return over and over, whilst others are doomed to appear only once? With author Jacqueline Rayner, writers and historians Dominic Sandbrook and Matthew Sweet, and author and critic Kim Newman.
  • “Riverside Story” (20’ 17”) – Hammersmith’s Riverside Studios played host to the creation of many Doctor Who stories in the sixties. Matthew Sweet takes actor Peter Purves back to the studio that once also contained the Celestial Toyroom, the Plains of Troy and the planet Refusis to talk about the creation of “The Ark”. Director Michael Imison adds further expert testimony.
  • Photo Gallery (3’ 26”) - Production, design and publicity photos from the story.

Doctor Who “The Ark” is out now on DVD, with a running time of 85 minutes approx, a ‘PG’ certificate, and a RRP of £19.99 – or get it for less at www.culttvstore.com

Last modified on Thursday, 10 May 2012 16:37

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