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DVD Review

DVD cover

Doctor Who
The Ark


Starring: William Hartnell
RRP: £19.99
Certificate: PG
Available 14 February 2011

The Doctor, with companions Stephen and Dodo, travel ten million years into the future. Apparently landing on Earth the Doctor soon surmises that the anomaly in their environment really means that they are on a massive generational Starship. The Starship is inhabited by the remnants of the human race, travelling to their new home on the planet Refusis II. The humans have brought along an alien race, the Monoids, who fulfil all the menial work. The trio’s arrival sparks a catastrophe, when the human and Monoids contract Dodo’s cold, a virus to which they have no resistance. Fleeing the ship the TARDIS crew return to the same place several hundred years into the future to discover that the Monoids are now the masters, the human race having been reduced to slavery...

The Ark is a season three, William Hartnell, story, which was written by Paul Erickson and directed by Michael Imison. The story was originally transmitted between 05 and 26 March 1966.

The Ark is notable for a number of reasons. Structurally it remains one of the few stories which truly showed that time travel often changed the travellers perspective on events and in doing so challenging the expectation of the audience. Within this single story the same ship is visited in two different time periods. Whilst this remains an interesting story element, it does have a downside. With the story split into two parts there remains very little time to develop the supporting cast as anything other than two dimensional.

This reductionism in the characters is carried forward into elements of the plot. When the travellers return to the ship the change in the social order has nothing to do with the humans maintaining, what in reality is a slave race, but rather is explained away as a consequence of Dodo’s cold virus.

The show is also notable as a reflection of the BBC’s dislike of non-conformity in the form of Dodo’s accent, At the start of the show she sports a regional accent, which was quickly squashed by the BBC who demanded that she spoke the usual BBC English, so as quickly as it arrived her regional accent is consigned to the bin. The audience would have to wait for the arrival of Ben, which also coincided in a change of the program's controllers, before a regional accent would be accepted.

The basic structure of the story has been pretty much lifted from H. G. Wells (21 September 1866 - 13 August 1946) The Time Machine with a few other elements thrown in, Wells would turn up as a character in a Colin Baker story. The strange structure means that the show is interesting while not completely successful. Had it been extended to six, instead of four parts, it may well have done better.

Once again we are presented with a surprisingly good print with a mono sound track. The show comes with an informative full length commentary Peter Purves and Michael Imison, moderated this time by Toby Hadoke.

Extras are more limited this time, probably due to the age of the show. First up is All Well’s That Ends Wells (13 min, 16 sec) which looks at Well’s writing and its influence on the early Doctor Who, with writer and historian Matthew Sweet, Dominic Sandbrook, Kim Newman, Graham Sleight and Open University’s Dr Anthony Keen.

One Hit Wonder (4 min, 36 sec) takes a look at why the Monoids, and other monsters, only appeared the once. The Monoids had the potential, given that the design of having their single eyeball placed in their mouths was striking, this from a man who has a bedroom full of Daleks and not a single Monoid in sight. Thankfully the piece doesn’t spend too much time before coming to the conclusion that a guy in a rubber suit just won’t cut it for most kids.

Riverside Story (20 min, 20 sec) tells a part of the BBC’s smaller studios history, which hosted many of the early Doctor Who stories. Matthew Sweat takes Peter Purves back down memory lane, with some honest reflections from the actor.

The disc is wrapped up with the usual photo gallery, the ever informative info text and PDF materials. The Coming Soon (1 min, 15 sec) is for Kinda and Snakedance.

So it’s a good if flawed effort from the team.


Charles Packer

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