Wednesday, 6 March 2013

Classic Who: The Ark in Space

I've just finished watching the 1975 Doctor Who story The Ark in Space, with Tom Baker as the lead. I vaguely recalled seeing it as a rerun in the 80s and the image of giant insects crawling over the hull of a space station has remained with me. Despite getting some good reviews and being a favorite of Russell T Davies and Steven Moffat, I was a bit underwhelmed.

The story revolves around a colony of humans in hypersleep aboard an ark orbiting a post apocalyptic Earth. The Doctor and his companions trigger the wake-up process. A handful of the colonists emerge but then discover that an insectoid race called the Wirren has infested the craft and the creatures propose to use the dormant humans as breeding hosts. It's essentially a classic sci-fi 'spam in a can' movie. I was surprised to see how much similarity there is to Alien (released four years later) and plaudits must go to the writers for exploring the insect breeding cycle successfully. There are even scenes duplicated by the Scott masterpiece - people crawling through heating ducts and groping around in gloomy hangar-bays.

However, the story is let down by the usual Who missteps. Too little story spread over too much time, poor camera coverage coupled with woeful editing and some really bad alien costumes. All this serves to erode any of the horror the writing does such a promising job of setting-up. Sadly one is left with a lacklustre second-rate sci-fi drama.

The story ends by neatly setting up the next adventure - The Sontaran Experiment which I have on my playlist.



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