Monday 8 June 2020

What's Wrong With... The Ark

A rather middling sort of story, which annoys some as it is the first complete story to have survived intact in the archives since The Time Meddler, and one of only three complete stories from the whole of the third season.
It's the first story to have a woman on the writer's credit - except that Lesley Scott never actually wrote any of it. She was the partner of Paul Erickson, who decided to share the credit with her. This was his only story. The director is Michael Imison, and this was his only work on the series as well. He found out that he wasn't going to be offered a BBC contract just as he was going into studio on the evening of recording the final episode.
This was the first story to really reflect what producer John Wiles and Story Editor Donald Tosh wanted to do with the series. The notion of a generational spaceship had come from Wiles. Ironic, then, that Tosh had already left by the time this went into production, replaced by Gerry Davis, and John Wiles was already handing over to Innes Lloyd, and this would be his last on screen credit.
As everyone knows, this story comes in two halves. The first two episodes see the TARDIS arrive on a space ark which is about to take the population of a dying Earth to a new home on the planet Refusis II. The Doctor's new companion Dodo has a cold, which she passes on to the crew of the Ark, which proves lethal as they no longer have immunity. Also are affected are cyclopean, reptilian Monoids who serve the human crew. After initially being sentenced to death for deliberately bringing the contagion, the Doctor is allowed to find the cure. The TARDIS leaves at the end of the second episode - only to arrive in exactly the same spot 700 years later, when the Ark has now arrived at its destination. However, Dodo's cold has had far reaching consequences, and now the Monoids have become the masters, enslaving the humans who they plan to exterminate when they claim Refusis II for themselves.
The idea that the Doctor and companions can see the consequences of their travels is a good one, especially when it takes place within the same story. It should be remembered that at this time stories didn't have overall titles on screen, and viewers did not know how long an adventure was going to last, so people watching at the time would have thought they had just witnessed a two part story when the TARDIS suddenly landed back at the same location it had just departed from.
So why is this story not regarded more highly?
Well, there are some very good production values - and some not so good ones. The costumes leave a lot to be desired. The Monoids waddle like ducks as their legs are solid down to around the knees. They have silly Beatles mop-top haircuts - to hide the fact that their heads quite literally zip up the back. The haircuts also hide the actors' eyes, as they have half a ping-pong ball in their mouths to replicate the Monoid eye.
The humans are lumbered with grass skirts over their knickers - or at least that's what they look like. In 700 years, they don't decide to do anything about these outrageous costumes, unless fashion really does go round in circles.
The Doctor and companions have brought a deadly disease on board. They are locked up - but never properly quarantined. They are accused of being spies from Refusis II. How could the Refusians have gotten to Earth so quickly, if it will take the humans 700 years to travel to them? What makes them think that there are even Refusians on the planet? Why select a planet that is already inhabited as a new home when there must be lots more uninhabited worlds within 700 years travel time. Why go there at all if you believe that not only is the planet inhabited, but the natives are hostile towards you - enough to send spies who are going to poison you.
Dodo's accent goes all over the place, and it is hard to know if it is changing or if it is just being affected by her doing "having a cold" adenoidal acting. (Actually, the plan had been for her to have a regional accent, and she had started with this, but then the BBC top brass decreed it had to be RP - Received Pronunciation). Despite having travelled to societies all over the cosmos, the Doctor has a problem with her use of slang.
For a story that's supposed to be all about tolerance and different species getting along together, no one seems to bother too much when Monoids die from the infection, but it is a totally different story when humans start to expire.
When the TARDIS rematerialises in the jungle, the surrounding plants are exactly the same as they had been some 700 years earlier, after there has been a revolution. Amazing that the gardening was kept up for so long, even through all these troubles, and the plants were manicured to the exact same shape and height as they looked 700 years before. Maybe this is why there is a CCTV camera pointing at the TARDIS landing site. Monoid One seems to recall the Doctor's previous visit, as he's able to dig out the footage of their departure remarkably quickly, bearing in mind he had 700 years of recordings to go through.
It's one of those stories where there are cameras only where the plot requires them to be. There aren't any looking at where the Monoids have planted their bomb, for instance, otherwise Steven and the humans could have just looked back through the CCTV footage to spot the Monoids hiding it, rather than spend hours hunting for it.
The enslaved humans are held in what's referred to as the "security kitchen". Needless to say no other story has ever featured a security kitchen. A room full of implements which can cut and stab and skewer and slice and dice might not be the most sensible place to put your prisoners. Even if the humans hadn't thought of poisoning their Monoid masters, you'd think they would at least have pee'd in the soup at some time.
You can understand why the Monoids were helped to develop artificial voice boxes by the humans, but you do have to wonder why they went along with helping them develop heat guns when they are all unarmed themselves.
When exactly did the Monoid revolution take place? The statue which was supposed to depict a human being has a Monoid head, so did the change of regime happen exactly when they had just got to the neck, or was there a bit of human head which the Monoids lopped off? Would it really take 700 years to build this statue anyway? It is supposed to be really, really big, yet it can fit through the hangar doors at the end.
More silly science - the Refusians were rendered invisible by "a galaxy accident".
No fluffs from Hartnell this time, but the actor playing the Commander struggles with the word "approximately" in the first episode.
Surprisingly, the Monoids don't trip over their feet all that often, but there is a very noticeable trip from Monoid Two when he is in the Refusian house.

No comments:

Post a Comment