Saturday, 5 March 2016

107 The Ark Episode 1: The Steel Sky

EPISODE: The Ark Episode 1: The Steel Sky
TRANSMITTED: Saturday 05 March 1966
WRITER: Paul Erickson & Lesley Scott
DIRECTOR: Michael Imison
PRODUCER: John Wiles
RATINGS: 5.5 million viewers
FORMAT: DVD: Doctor Who - The Ark

"The Earth also is dying. We have left it for the last time."

The Tardis lands in a jungle containing animals from many areas of Earth. Dodo, who has a cold, thinks they are in Whipsnade Zoo until the Doctor points out the steel roof and they meet the one eyes shaggy haired reptiles the Monoids. The mute Monoids serve the Guardians, humans who have left a doomed Earth behind that will shortly be destroyed by the sun. The Ark they are travelling in journeys to the far off planet of Refusis. The rest of the population of the Earth is stored in a shrunken state on the ship as are any Guardian punished for neglect of their duties. Although most are welcoming, showing the travellers the massive statue being constructed by hand during their 700 year voyage, some of the Guardians are hostile, and this increases when first the Monoids and then the humans are affected by a fever. They have caught Dodo's cold and as the cold virus was eradicated on Earth centuries ago they have no defence. When a Monoid dies from the fever and the expedition's commander is taken ill the travellers are imprisoned.

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That wasn't bad at all.

There's some cracking concepts being thrown around here: the jungle in a spaceship, the signing aliens, Earth to be destroyed by the sun and the shrunken populace of the planet being transported to a new home in a massive starship. The scale of the Ark is emphasised by the large main set complete with an electric car moving round it.

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Having wussed on doing a real Cyclops in the Myth Makers this story opens with one fully visible on screen and goes on to show us a decent Jungle set with the background of some music reused from The Daleks.

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The Jungle set is partially pre filmed at Ealing, where our friend the Elephant puts in it's appearance and is presumably where the cracking shots from some height were filmed too:

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Of course our expectations of the Monoids as a threat are some what under mined by seeing them working with the humans early on, maybe that could have been saved until after they'd captured the Tardis crew.

Steven's judgement on them is a little odd:

DOCTOR: What do they look like, dear boy?
STEVEN: Terrifying. Is this is Earth, it's no longer inhabited by human beings.
DOCTOR: Shh. You'll frighten the child. Come on.
Has he so quickly forgotten the events of Galaxy Four a few stories previously?

It's left to the commander to explain what they're doing there:

STEVEN: Look, who are you and these creatures that serve you?
COMMANDER: Like you, we come from the Earth. The origin of the Monoids is obscure. They came to Earth many years ago, apparently from their own planet which was dying. They offered us their invaluable services for being allowed to come on this joint voyage.
STEVEN: And where you are going?
COMMANDER: To Refusis Two. The Earth also is dying. We have left it for the last time.
STEVEN: The last time?
COMMANDER: Yes. In a short time it will burn and be swallowed in the pull of the Sun.
STEVEN: Then we must have journeyed forward millions of years.
When the Doctor tells him of their travels through time he is able to narrow it down slightly as to how far they've travelled:
DOCTOR: Including the Daleks.
COMMANDER: Nero, the Trojan wars, the Daleks. But all that happened in the first segment of time.
DOCTOR: Segment? To use your phrase, sir, what segment are we in now?
COMMANDER: The fifty seventh.
DOCTOR: Good gracious! We must have jumped at least ten million years.

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The unnamed Commander, Eric Elliott, is in charge of the expedition but Zentos, Inigo Jackson, is swift to taker control when he's taken ill. By this point I'd already taken against him. He's prosecuted a man earlier in the episode who's involved with Mellium, the commanders daughter played by Kate Newman, and from the look he gives her he's obviously got designs on her. He then shows a suspicious almost paranoidly xenophobic attitude towards the new arrivals and any potential inhabitants of the planet they're journeying to:

ZENTOS: You yourself, I take it, are human?
STEVEN: Why yes, of course.
COMMANDER: Why do you doubt him?
ZENTOS: They could be Refusians sent here to intercept us, to sabotage our mission.
STEVEN: Refusians? From the planet you're headed for?
ZENTOS: We only know them as intelligence's that inhabit that planet. They might have a way of assuming human bodies, of using them to pass, to mingle amongst us!
As soon as the cold virus takes hold he's quick to have the travellers arrested!
ZENTOS: Seize them! All of you listen! The success of all we stand for, everything aboard this spaceship is suddenly endangered by the strange fever. A fever brought by these strangers in our midst! I invoke the special Galactic law against them. Hold them, take them into custody, and later they will be made to suffer for the crime that they have committed!

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Only one other human is named in this episode: Manyak, the chief controller who shows the Doctor the control deck is played by Roy Spencer who later returns in the currently missing Troughton serial Fury from the Deep as Frank Harris.

There's several people, both those credited on the episode, and uncredited, appearing as Monoids. Eric Blackburn had been an extra in Myth Makers 1: Small Prophet, Quick Return, as was David Greneau, the Defendant as the trial, while Monoids Bernard Barnsley and Chris Webb would return as a UNIT Soldier in Doctor Who and the Silurians Episode 2 and a guard Curse of Peladon episode 1 respectively. All the Monoids we mention appear in all four episodes of this tale.

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As you can see there were a lot people cast as Guardians, the Ark's crew. Roy Douglas was an Extra in Myth Makers 4: Horse of Destruction while Mark Allington is a Lynch Mob Member in Don't Shoot the Pianist & Johnny Ringo, the second and third episodes of the Gunfighters later this series before appearing sixteen years later as a Man in Market in Snakedance part one. Most of the Guardians, for reasons which will become obvious, only appear in the first two episodes of this serial but Iris Fry who's only in this episode later returns as a slave in Day of the Daleks Episode Three. When I originally watched this for the blog this entry went up Wednesday, 9 March 2011 and I said

A brand new DVD of the Ark awaits me: It's been a while since I saw this story so I'm approaching it almost new.
The DVD was released 14th February 2011 about three weeks before the original blog entries for this story went up!

This is only the second time the Tardis has landed in a Space vehicle (1964's The Sensorites is the first) but it will become a staple of the series. Troughton does it in Wheel in Space & The Space Pirates, Pertwee in The Mutants and Frontier in Space, Tom Baker in Ark In Space, The Invisible Enemy, Underworld, Nightmare of Eden and would have done in Shada. Peter Davison visits Spaceships via the Tardis in Four to Doomsday, Mawdryn Undead, Terminus & Enlightenment, Colin Baker does it in the Terror of the Vervoids section of Trial of a Timelord leaving McCoy & McGann as the only original Doctors not to visit a space vehicle using the Tardis.

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