Saturday, 26 March 2016

110 The Ark Episode 4: The Bomb

EPISODE: The Ark Episode 4: The Bomb
TRANSMITTED: Saturday 26 March 1966
WRITER: Paul Erickson & Lesley Scott
DIRECTOR: Michael Imison
PRODUCER: John Wiles
RATINGS: 7.3 million viewers
FORMAT: DVD: Doctor Who - The Ark

"You must travel with understanding as well as hope."

The loss of the launcher causes dissent in the Monoid ranks, led by 4 who opposes 1's rule. The Monoids leave the Ark for Refusis taking with them their own shrunken race. Finding the wreckage of the capsule causes a battle to erupt between the two Monoid factions. The Refusian travels back to the Ark in one of the Launchers and when the Doctor learns that the bomb is in the statue he uses his great powers to throw the statue off the ship out of the airlock. 4's forces win the battle and return to the Ark with the Doctor & Dodo. The Refusian welcomes both Monoids and Humans to his planet but only if they can live together in peace. The Tardis crew leave, but shortly after the Doctor vanishes from the console room...

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This is one of those episodes that's growing on me as time goes by. Having encountered the Monoids and Humans the Refusian is starting to have concerns about sharing his planet with them

REFUSIAN: Doctor, we are, as you know, concerned about the arrival of the Ark and what it will mean to this planet.
DOCTOR: Yes, yes, I can quite understand that. That is why you destroyed the Launcher?
REFUSIAN: Here, we've always known peace. Never war or conflict.
DODO: You're not the only ones like that. The Guardians, you know the humans who travel in the spaceship, they have used to have your ideas too.
DOCTOR: Yes, that's true my dear but, you mustn't think they were perfect. Oh, no. Sometimes they were extremely intolerant and selfish.
REFUSIAN: Is that why they were conquered by the Monoids?
DOCTOR: Exactly.
DODO: Yes, I know. But there are some of them left who wouldn't mind rising up against the Monoids and trying to do better.
REFUSIAN: Then we will allow them time to make their attempt. We will wait for the passing of one day before we think in terms of employing defensive measures.

The Monoids then are divided and fall on each other wiping most of them out. That then leaves just the bomb on The Ark, which still holds the miniaturised Human & Monoid populations so must be found and destroyed. Fortunately the Refusian is willing to help and moves the statue out of the ship. How does he do it? He's small enough to fit into the capsule yet moves that huge statue? Can he change size? Has super strength? Telepathy?

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It's then left to the Doctor to remind the Guardians of their responsibilities to their co-travellers:

DODO: Do you think you'll be able to get everything down onto Refusis now?
DASSUK: We'll manage, especially if the Refusians help us.
REFUSIAN: We'll do everything we can to assist you in settling on our planet.
DASSUK: Thank you.
REFUSIAN: But one thing you must do.
VENUSSA: What's that?
REFUSIAN: Make peace with the Monoids.
DOCTOR: He's right. A long time ago, your ancestors accepted responsibility for the welfare of these Monoids. They were treated like slaves. So no wonder when they got the chance, they repaid you in kind.
REFUSIAN: Unless you learn to live together, there is no future for you on Refusis.
DASSUK: We understand.
DOCTOR: Yes, you must travel with understanding as well as hope. You know, I once said that to one of your ancestors, a long time ago. However, we must be going. Goodbye.
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As a whole I'm not wildly enthusiastic about the Ark as a story. There's some nice background ideas being thrown around and I like the idea of returning to the scene of an earlier adventure to examine the consequence. But both are done better later: notably Curse & Monster of Peladon return to the same place 50 years later and we get human populations being shipped to new homes on Spaceships in Invasion of the Dinosaurs, Frontios and, notably, Ark in Space.

But my appreciation for the technical aspects knows no grounds. Knowing the limitations of how Doctor Who was made in the sixties this episode is a wonder being recorded out of scene order and then assembled in the editing suite featuring a pitched battle shot on film and several effects shots of the launcher travelling. Seriously, watch this with the production subtitles on, you'll be amazed at what they managed and appreciate the effort even if the story doesn't do it for you. What's more amazing is that Michael Imison was no longer required as a director by the BBC after masterminding this story: his superiors handed him notice terminating his directorial contract as the final episode went before the cameras. Given the technical accomplishments here that's criminal. He would go on to script edit the second season of Out of the Unknown later in 1966, 4 examples of which survive to this day and can be seen as part of the Out of the Unknown 7-Disc DVD Set.

A couple of new Monoid extras are added to the throng this episode: John Caesar has been the 2nd Man in Market in The Romans 1: All Roads Lead to Rome and an Egyptian Warrior in Dalek Masterplan 9: Golden Death. He returns as a Cowboy in all four episodes of The Gunfighters, a guard in all four episodes of the Macra Terror and even gets an onscreen credit in the fourth episode, a Pirate Guard in The Space Pirates episode 1 and a pirate in episodes 4 & 5 of the same story, C.P.O. Myers in The Sea Devils episode six and the R/T Soldier in Invasion Of The Dinosaurs part one. Bill Richards was previously a Sailor in The Chase 3: Flight Through Eternity and returns as a Pirate in The Space Pirates episodes 1 & 4, an Alien Guard/Union Recruit in The War Games episode three and an 1862 Union Soldier in The War Games episode four.

We've been on DVD for our first complete story this season, but next episode we're back to Audio. In fact from here on in Hartnell's reign there's almost an odd exists/missing pattern to the stories:

The ArkExists
Celestial ToymakerMissing (bar part 4)
The GunfightersExists
The SavagesMissing
The War MachinesExists
The SmugglersMissing
The Tenth PlanetExists (bar, annoyingly, part 4)

Officially producer John Wiles departs as of the end of this episode, but with the departed Donald Tosh his influence will be felt for a while yet. Lurking in the background of the production staff of this series are a couple of names that will be familiar later on: Chris D'Oyly-John, the AFM, will be a production assistant and production unit manager on many forthcoming Doctor Who stories while Production Assistant David Maloney, who has already served in the same role on The Rescue & The Romans, will return many times as a director before becoming producer of Blake's 7

Paul Erickson's sole further contribution to Doctor Who was to novelise this story for Target books in 1986. It was released on video in 1998 and on DVD on 14th February 2011 just before I first blogged about this story.

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