The TARDIS materialises in a tropical forest, and the Doctor,
Steven and Dodo are surprised to find that it is situated
inside a vast spaceship. This is the distant future, and the
last survivors of Earth are on a 700-year voyage to the planet
Refusis II. Accompanying them are their one-eyed servants,
the Monoids. When Dodo unwittingly spreads her cold among
the spaceship's inhabitants, it proves deadly to them, and
the travellers are accused of sabotage...
the BBC is now releasing audio presentations of Who
stories that exist in full in its film and videotape archive,
one wonders why the company doesn't turn its attention to
Doctors other than Hartnell and Troughton. Several colour
serials would lend themselves well to such treatment. I'm
thinking of the rich dialogue in the Tom Baker story City
of Death and Peter Davison's Kinda.
Perhaps the Beeb is striving to fill the few remaining gaps
in its CD releases from Seasons 3, 4 and 5: there are only
Gunfighters and The War Machines left
to go before we will have a straight run of audios from Galaxy
4 to The
Wheel in Space.
it happens, The Ark works rather well on audio. We
are, of course, denied visual elements such as the impressive
Monoid costumes and the invisible Refusians (yes, invisibility
counts as a visual element), but at least we are spared the
sight of the future fashions, which will apparently involve
Paul Erickson and Lesley Scott's script is a high-concept
drama representative of producer John Wiles' intention to
give the series a harder scientific edge. Thus we travel farther
into the future than the show had ever taken us before and
witness the destruction of Earth. For the first and only time,
the TARDIS crew carry infection from one place and time to
another. For the first time, the travellers' wanderings are
shown to have consequences - and not very pleasant consequences
serial's format is also rather ahead of its time. Effectively
two two-parters bolted together, the second half of the story
takes place 700 years after the first, when the TARDIS crew
discover that the balance of power on the Ark has shifted.
Two 50-minute stories, the latter of which deals with the
consequences of the former - it sounds like something Russell
T Davies might have commissioned for the new series. And does
anyone else think that the double act of the hostile Zentos
(Inigo Jackson) and genial Commander (Eric Elliot) uncannily
predicts that of the B Ark's Number Two ("Can't I just interrogate
them a little bit?") and Captain from The Hitchhiker's
Guide to the Galaxy?
Earth's obliteration need not necessarily contradict the Christopher
Eccleston episode The End of the World, which depicts
a similar event but several billion years later. I would suggest
that the First Doctor's guess of "We must have jumped at least
ten million years" is inaccurate. Remember that this Doctor
is not as savvy about galactic history as he would become
in later incarnations. The planet's destruction in the two
stories is visually similar (not that you get to see it on
these CDs, of course).
downside of Erickson and Scott's script is some rather clunky
dialogue, particularly from the Monoids (Roy Skelton and John
Halstead) as they order people to the "Security Kitchen" and
repeatedly explain to one another where they have hidden their
bomb. Matters aren't helped by the elderly Elliot, who fluffs
several of his lines as the Commander, giving Hartnell a run
for his money. I think Hartnell wins, though, for managing
to mangle the line, "I-I'm going to teach you to speak English."
narrator, Peter Purves (Steven), discusses his work on the
show in a 20-minute interview at the end of the second disc.
Here we learn that he would have liked to return to the series,
but with Steven having become a corrupt dictator - something
for Russell T Davies to consider for future episodes. Unfortunately,
the actor doesn't rate the new series too highly, because
of its frequently Earthbound setting, which he sees as a "trick
this particular story arc is not one to be missed. You can't
refuse this - Refusis, geddit?
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