Doctor Who: The Ark
DVD review (region 2)
Directed by Michael Imison
Starring William Hartnell, Peter Purves, Jackie Lane, Inigo Jackson
Release date Out now
Arriving on the Ark — a generation starship carrying the remnants of humanity to a new world — the Doctor’s companion Dodo infects the human crew of ‘guardians’ and their Monoid servants with flu. Returning to the Ark 700 years later, the TARDIS crew find things have changed, but not for the better…
The Ark is another overlooked story that isn’t well regarded by Doctor Who fans. It comes late in William Hartnell’s term as the Doctor, features a poor line up of companions in Steven Taylor (Peter Purves) and Dodo (Jackie Lane), and the serial’s alien creatures — the Monoids — have ping-pong ball eyes and wear Beatles wigs.
The Monoids are a major failing, and they are unfortunately central to the story. For the first two episodes they are mute servants who suffer most from Dodo’s infection. In the second two episodes — set 700 years later — they have overthrown the humans and unfortunately found their voices (so they can feebly explain their evil plans to those who will try and stop them).
Given that, director Michael Imison has worked wonders. The comings-and-goings on the planet of Refusis sees some of the best special effects work seen on the show to that time, with some lovely forced perspective shots and some great matte work showing the full expanse of the Ark ship. It’s all wasted effort, however. Despite the great hard-SF ideas in the serial, the poor realisation of the central alien creatures undermines all the successful elements.
This is an extras-lite release, but the added-value content is all very good. There’s a feature on H.G. Wells’ influence on Doctor Who (which was considerable) and The Ark specifically, including a potted biography of the author, while the short One Hit Wonder examines why the Monoids never returned to the show — one commentator astutely points out that their more successful modern equivalent is the Ood (due to return to the series later this year).
Riverside Story is a nice 20-minute history of Doctor Who’s time at Hammersmith’s Riverside Studios during the show’s second and third years, which doubles up as a description of the production process of 1960s television with great contributions from Purves and Imison on the creative challenges they faced. Shame about the main story, though… Brian J. Robb
A good package supporting an ambitious story that fails miserably thanks to the less-than-stellar Monoids.