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Doctor Who The Ark in Space [VHS] [1975] [1963]
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29 of 32 people found the following review helpful
TOP 500 REVIEWERon 23 February 2013
The Ark in Space was a bold statement that Doctor Who was under new ownership. After five successful years, Jon Pertwee and his producer, Barry Letts, had both just departed and new producer Philip Hinchcliffe was keen to take the programme into deeper and darker waters.

Hinchcliffe was lucky not only to have the experienced writer and script editor Robert Holmes on hand, but also he had the considerable talents of incoming Doctor, Tom Baker. The Ark in Space was Baker's second transmitted story and the third in production order, but given his assured performance you could be mistaken for assuming he'd been in the part for years.

The central concept of the story is deeply disturbing - a group of parasitic aliens called the Wirrn infiltrate the Space Ark where the last members of the human race are in deep hibernation and they proceed to lay their eggs in the helpless humans. This allows the Wirrn to consume their hosts, thereby inheriting the knowledge of their helpless victim.

Whilst the concepts are horrifying, some of the realisations are maybe less so. There's no getting around it, but when Noah is infected by the Wirrn, the initial possession looks uncomfortably like his arm is covered in green bubble wrap, for obvious reasons. But by the time this happens you should have already bought into the concept of the story and its ideas. If not, then it's probably best to switch off DVD and do something else.

As I've said, Tom Baker is never less than totally mesmerising. The relatively small cast allows Baker substantial screen time and Robert Holmes' script gives him plenty of good material to work with. He is ably supported by Elisabeth Sladen and Ian Marter as Sarah and Harry. It's easy to see why Sladen would go on to become one of the most popular of all the Doctor's companions, although here she does overplay a little. Later on as her working relationship with Tom Baker deepened they would enjoy more subtle byplay.

Although Ian Marter didn't remain with the series for long, his square-jawed, enthusiastic performance was a definite plus for the early Tom Baker serials. Here he gets some good two handed scenes with Tom early in the story, and handles them very well - it's a shame that there weren't more of them during his time on the show.

Originally released on DVD in 2002, this special edition has slightly improved picture quality. But anyone thinking of upgrading will surely be doing so for the additional special features.

All of the original special features from the first release have been retained, with the exception of the news report on the filming of Revenge of the Cybermen. As it's also on the Revenge DVD, this is no particular problem. Disc 1 has a new making of documentary, running for half an hour, called A New Frontier. This is an entertaining watch, and it was particularly nice to see Wendy Williams (Vira) and Kenton Moore (Noah) recount their memories of the show.

All of the material on Disc 2 is new to DVD and kicks off with The Ark in Space - Movie Version, a 70 minute edit produced for a BBC repeat in 1975. Back in the 1970's it was quite common to edit Doctor Who stories down for an omnibus repeat, there's another example on Planet of the Spiders. This is an interesting curio, and good to have on disc.

There's a couple of other small Tom Baker pieces. Scene Around Six which dates from 1978 is a news report featuring Tom Baker visiting schools in Northern Ireland. The reaction of both children and adults to Tom and his interaction with them is just wonderful to see. It's a small reminder of just how popular he was back in the day.

The second Tom Baker item is just over a minute of mute 8mm film from the location filming of his first story, Robot. It's short, but incredibly sweet as it gives a lovely behind the scenes look at Tom's debut story.

The other major new special feature is Doctor Forever! - Love and War. This is the first in a new series of documentaries which will appear on the Doctor Who SE's to be released this year. This edition looks at the range of original fiction published by Virgin and the BBC in the 1990's and has some notable and interesting contributors, amongst them Russell T. Davies, Rob Shearman, Mark Gatiss and Gary Russell. It's an entertaining half hour for anybody who remembers and read the books, the only slight drawback is that it's presented by Ayesha Antoine who has all the warmth and animation of a block of wood. Thankfully she's not on screen very long, as the voices who shaped Doctor Who in the 1990's take centre stage to tell their stories.

If you've not got The Ark in Space then it's an essential purchase, as it's one of the very best Tom Baker stories. If you already have the 2002 DVD, then you need to weigh up whether the new special features are worth a repurchase. In my opinion they are. And whilst The Ark In Space might look dated and slightly unconvincing in places, there's no denying that it still packs a punch - nearly forty years after its original transmission.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
TOP 500 REVIEWERon 12 February 2015
An essential story that revealed a new vision for `Doctor Who', the full magnificence of Tom Baker's Fourth Doctor, the dark imaginings of Robert Holmes and the indescribable horror of frothing, green, alien, multi-nucleate bubblewrap... 5*

Amazon have bundled together reviews of all versions of `The Ark in Space'; this reviews the 2013 Special Edition with the new extras. If this story is new to you, then it's one you really must see; everything that makes the Tom Baker years so popular is right here, in only his second broadcast story. If you already have the earlier release, then the picture quality of this Special Edition is superb - the all-studio video production is incredibly crisp, bright and colourful. I think it's the best quality I've seen to date and it looks brilliant when upscaled on an HD TV. The new DVD extras are enjoyable too, including an excellent `making of' feature.

The DVD sleeve notes say firmly that this story is a classic - and they're right. New producer Philip Hinchcliffe and script editor (and here also the writer) Robert Holmes lifted the series back out among the stars, to the home of many First and Second Doctor adventures. Robert Holmes only had a few weeks to fill an unexpected gap in the production schedules, after other scripts were thought impractical, but the results are excellent with a very strong story and great writing.

The space-station setting is starkly lit and gleaming white for the most part, but with moments of gloom and shadow appropriate for what might be called the first `Gothic' story. It began this most famous era with a simple but horrific idea. There are certain wasps on Earth that lay their eggs in caterpillars so the larvae have fresh, *living* food - the Wirrn are giant `wasps' and they need something large for their grubs to eat - something about the size of a person ...

This story has a well-known `fault' which I personally don't find a problem at all - the Wirrn in their putrescent larval stage are made from green bubblewrap. In 1975 this wasn't obvious, people mostly sent parcels wrapped in cardboard and brown paper and even tied up with string, so bubblewrap wasn't widely known. Even today, this doesn't spoil the illusion for me any more than, for example, imagining we can see "the vasty fields of France" on stage during `Henry V'. Here we are out in the infinitely more vasty starfields of space and imagination can work overtime.

As well as the strong script (years before `Alien'), this story works for three reasons: superb sets, fine direction by Rodney Bennett and excellent acting. Roger Murray-Leach's sets may have been built on a small budget, but they don't look it - or sound it, with their cathedral-like production acoustics. Forty years later, Space Station Nerva still looks impressive; back in 1975 it was astonishing. In the first episode the Station almost becomes a character itself, as the three regulars carry the story along on their own with great performances, exploring the mystery of an intact, seemingly abandoned space station with only the merest hint of a `monster' - until the unforgettable first cliffhanger!

Tom Baker is utterly magnificent. When he first appeared in `Robot', I liked the new Doctor but it seemed odd seeing a new actor in what was obviously the sort of UNIT story that had been home to Jon Pertwee, my Doctor, for five years. This story is different; with a futuristic vision and really great writing, Tom Baker creates a new, delightfully alien Doctor of sheer brilliance. His soliloquy on humanity in episode 1 is perhaps the best this Doctor ever delivered for the awe and wonder it evokes, and his humorous, slightly spiky interaction with Harry Sullivan is another highlight.

Ian Marter gives a great performance as the unflappable naval Surgeon-Lieutenant, acting as a foil for the Doctor's wit and hardly turning a hair as alien horrors surround them on this, his first trip in the TARDIS. He's such a good companion and so well written that Sarah is actually sidelined for the first half of the story, though this is partly for good plot reasons. Elisabeth Sladen mentions this on the commentary and was apparently unhappy about it, but as the story unfolds Sarah establishes an entertainingly jokey friendship with Harry and shows just what she's made of, putting herself deliberately and literally into a tight spot to help the Doctor's plan.

The guest cast are few but very good. First Medtech Vira (Wendy Williams) emanates cool intelligence - a product of a constrained society in crisis: "there was not much joke in the Last Days" - but we can tell there is a caring person behind the professional façade. EngTech Rogin (Richardson Morgan) is a complete contrast, with his clever and matey engineer's personality and annoyance that his prediction of a "snitch-up" has come true. There are two more Techs, Lycett and Libri - also well played and at least they are around long enough to get names and some lines ...

Kenton Moore is excellent in a monster of a role as Commander `Noah'; at first ruthlessly efficient and really unlikeable with his eugenic talk of `regressives' and the `gene pool'. But it's another very unsettling idea in the background of this story - if you could only save a few hundred people from Earth, how would you choose? His `breakdown' (and worse) is very well played and it was originally even better than we see it.

Because while I don't find the bubblewrap `makeup' a problem, what still disappoints me about this story is the ugly cut made in episode 3 at the climactic encounter between the Doctor, Noah and Vira. As the commentary explains, it was filmed, looked great, must have been emotionally intense and would have been very memorable - but it was cut on grounds of `taste'. A great pity, especially as this made Noah a less sympathetic character, since we lost the full poignancy of his and Vira's doomed love-story. Ian Marter's excellent `Target' novelisation shows what we missed here and also at Lycett's literally sticky end.

The Doctor and his friends certainly help a great deal, but the ultimate heroes of this life-affirming adventure are the five awakened humans of Space Station Nerva - all of them - willing to make any sacrifice and proving that they are indeed members of, as the Doctor says, "an invincible species".

This is a terrific story where Tom Baker really took off as the all-new, truly regenerated Time Lord and the legend of the Fourth Doctor was born. 5*

Thanks for reading.

NOTE: You'll probably want to navigate to the second page of the `Special Features' Sub-menu and select `Alternative CGI Effects'. These impressive effects, inserted seamlessly into the story, make the exterior views of Space Station Nerva look as good as the interiors have always done.

DVD Special Features
On Disk 1:
The commentary with Tom Baker, Elisabeth Sladen and Philip Hinchcliffe is as entertaining as you'd expect and also has a lot of fascinating background information.
NEW: `A New Frontier' (30 min) is a really good new `making of' documentary, with Philip Hinchcliffe and director Rodney Bennett, plus the actors' perspective from Wendy Williams and Kenton Moore, enjoyable and very interesting.
NEW: A very good photo gallery including some fun informal and rehearsal pictures.
`Roger Murray-Leach Interview' (10 min): the designer talks about his work on several memorable shows during the Tom Baker years, very good.
Several small items: The original and CGI replacement effects sequences, original BBC trailer, schematics of `Nerva Station', an impressively bleak `TARDIS-Cam' short animation.
Two `Easter Eggs'.

On Disk 2:
NEW: The edited `movie' 70 minute version, unrestored. This is how we were sometimes (rarely) allowed to see a `Doctor Who' story repeated, at Christmas etc. Really an item for completists, but it does demonstrate the leap in quality to the final restored version.
NEW: `Doctor Forever! - Love and War' (30 min): Fans of the Virgin range of `Doctor Who' novels will love this history of the Doctor's survival in print from 1990 to 2005, with an excellent group of contributors.
NEW: `Scene Around Six' (10 min): BBC News film of Tom Baker's visit to Northern Ireland in 1978, cheered by huge crowds. Anyone who still underrates classic `Doctor Who' and its impact should see this: vox populi.
NEW: `Robot 8mm Location Film' (1 min): short but good film of the stars on location in Tom Baker's first story.
Several items as PDFs:
Radio Times listings, two product promotions and a fun, 69-page `Technical Manual' (1983) covering the Doctor's own technology and the fully or semi-robotic characters from K-9 to the various types of Dalek and some very obscure characters indeed. And plans for making a card model TARDIS!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 15 September 2014
A bona fide `Doctor Who'. That's how they describe according to the sleeve notes inside the DVD.

This is one of the best well-known and classic stories of `Doctor Who' from the Tom Baker era. Second in his first season of the show, `The Ark In Space' is a story that truly defines Tom Baker's Doctor and is a good taste of classic `Doctor Who' story-telling.

`The Ark In Space' was originally released on DVD in 2002. Now it has been repackaged and re-released as a brand new a 2-disc special edition DVD with Disc 1 containing the story and Disc 2 containing additional special features to enjoy!

The story is written by Robert Holmes, one of `Doctor Who's popular and best writers on the show. Robert Holmes had recently taken over the job as script editor for the series during the Tom Baker era and was working alongside new producer Phillip Hinchcliffe. Both Holmes and Hinchcliffe would work together to craft a new era for the show and set out to tell tantalising and really gripping story full of gothic horror and suspense for the audience to enjoy.

The first story for their era would be `The Ark In Space'. Carried over from the previous Barry Letts/Terrance Dicks era, the story was meant to be written by former `Doctor Who' writer John Lucarotti. Unfortunately due to a disagreement with the script being too ambitious, producer Phillip Hinchcliffe asked Robert Holmes to re-write the story again from scratch and come up with a brand new four-parter. What Holmes brought up was an unusually creepy space adventure that is set in the far reaches of humanity's future and with lots of slime and insect-like creatures in the mix.

The story of `The Ark In Space' begins with the Doctor, Sarah Jane and Harry arrive on the space station called Nerva. The place seems abandoned and fully automated with safe-guards installed that can blow up the Doctor's long scarf, Harry's shoes and a cricket ball adding to the list. But they soon discover that this space station houses thousands of cryogenic sleepers waiting to be reawakened to begin a new life on Earth. But something has gone wrong as something has invaded the station and has evil intent on destroying the human race. Can the Doctor, Sarah Jane and Harry be able to stop this new menace called...the Wirrn?

This is an interesting story to watch, even if the action seems slow at first in the first episode before we get to blazing guns firing on green creatures in Episode Three. The idea that Robert Holmes addresses of humanity and Earth on the edge of extinction by solar flames and surviving in cryogenic chambers waiting to be revived is frightening indeed. I'm glad I'm not in that somewhat bleak future. But the concepts are pretty well detailed; constructed and realised through this traditional space station setting, and it's one that appeals to Robert Holmes very much. He would use ideas like this again for his final story in `The Trail of a Time Lord' with Ravalox.

The last surviving members of the human include Vira, played by Wendy Williams. Vira is revived by the Doctor and Harry when they discover her in her cryo-chamber. Vira's an interesting chamber to watch. She's not an automatically friendly person to begin with. She seems rather cold and efficient, even though she is a `med-tech' (the future equivalent of a Doctor, I think). But as the story develops she learn more about her when she's forced the decision of command by Noah and gets to reveal interesting traits about her character we've never known before. I like how Wendy Williams plays Vira and its slightly amusing when she's rather remissive of the Doctor and Harry's presence aboard the Ark.

The `prime unit' (leader) of humans aboard the Ark is Noah (`as in Noah's ark') played by Kenton Moore. I enjoyed Kenton's performance as Noah. Noah starts off as being an efficient as Vira is, and is immediately distrustful of the Doctor, Sarah Jane and Harry being aboard the station. But as the story progresses, Noah gets infected with some green slime at some point and starts to lose his mind. The Wirrn begin to take over him, and we see during an episode cliff-hanger Noah's hand revealed in a green organic casing that must be both frightening for the audience to watch and for the audience to see. Noah acts very strangely and is seemingly speaking for someone else when the Wirrn are inside his mind. Tragically and sadly, Noah gets taken over and becomes a fully grown Wirrn with intent on destroying the human race.

But of course this story's star of the show is Tom Baker himself. This is an early point in Tom Baker's career as the eccentric time-traveller with floppy scarf. I really like how Tom's Doctor manages to find his feet in this story. He's barely started following his previous debut story in 'Robot', and yet he's managing to find his character. I like it when he's playing with his yoyo at the start, and also when he tries to mind-link his brain to the Wirrn's mind in `Part Three' and seems confident and aloof about it. "It may be irrational of me, but human beings are my favourite species" is one of Tom's Doctor's classic lines from the series. I like how Tom's Doctor interacts with Harry and when he encourages Sarah Jane to crawl through the tunnel to reach the other side with insults even though he doesn't mean anything by them.

Sarah Jane Smith is also lovely to watch in this story. I like Elisabeth Sladen as Sarah Jane, who works well with Tom's Doctor. It's quite a shock when Sarah Jane is suffocating in an airless room aboard the Ark and when she's being processed to be put into a cryogenic chamber. Sarah Jane gets to wear a white uniform in this story when being put in cryogenic sleep. I like it when she's making jokes with the Doctor or having a bit of friendly banter/rivalry with Harry. I like that exchange of dialogue between Sarah Jane and the Doctor when discussing the Wirrn. "Don't make jokes like that, Doctor."; "When I say I'm afraid Sarah, I'm not in the habit of making jokes." The defining moment for Sarah Jane in this story of course is when she's trying to crawl through the shaft and is on the verge of giving up before the Doctor `encourages' her along. When the Doctor `insults' her, she's pretty angry with him for it, but is relived and slightly annoyed when the Doctor didn't mean it and that was the moment that defined both their relationship.

Harry Sullivan was great to watch in this story too. Ian Marter's a very good actor who I like very much. This is of course Harry's debut story as a companion following his recent first appearance in `Robot'. He joins the TARDIS crew, and is agog as to where they are on the space station. Sometimes Harry seems a little dim at times, but he does show a sense of coping with his own intelligence to unfamiliar situations. The Doctor seems to approve of Harry for doing this. "Your mind's beginning to improve Harry. It's all down to my influence of course. You can't take full credit." I like it when Harry gets to show his caring side as a medical doctor whenever Sarah Jane comatose or when trying to help Vira with getting revived. It's the start for a new journey for Harry as a companion. It's such a shame his run of stories didn't last beyond one season as Ian's a very good actor and the working relationship between him, Tom and Sarah Jane is standout.

I like some of the space station designs of The Ark/Nerva beacon. They're so futuristic and traditional as to what space exploration could look like and seems quite appealing even though the walls are stark, white and bland. The story feels like an old-fashioned style of space adventure with the Ark space station designs, but it's good to watch on screen. When we get down to the solar stacks on lower level, it's dark and spooky and some of the Wirrn have already got in when the Doctor goes to look. This is where the Doctor becomes serious and it gets even more creepy when the Wirrn start to hatch out or when Noah as one of them goes for the Doctor.

The Wirrn I must say are pretty interesting monsters. They look like insects on first hand. But in actual fact these are cunning creatures who absorb and digest not only people's bodies but also their knowledge and wisdom. This is a pretty gruesome and horrible idea, but it works effectively in the story especially when Noah goes mad. The Wirrn come from the Andromeda Galaxy and are out for revenge on the humans since it turns out their breeding colonies were destroyed as a result of the humans exploration into a space. Sometimes it's difficult to take these Wirrn seriously since they lumber around and look like men in insect rubber costumes. But they're an interesting monster in terms of concept.

The story has had in its legacy with many things, especially since this story became the first in a trilogy of stories featuring the Nerva space stations. The trilogy includes `The Ark In Space'; 'Revenge of the Cybermen' and the Big Finish story 'Destination: Nerva'. It's also had a legacy for the Wirrn, as they would return to feature in more `Doctor Who' stories on audio including 'Wirrn Isle' and 'Wirrn Dawn' and also in a non-Doctor Who audio by BBV called 'Wirrn: Race Memory' with Sarah Sutton that I've enjoyed.

The special features on this 2-disc DVD include the following.

On Disc 1, there's a making-of documentary on the story called `A New Frontier' with interviews with cast and crew. This includes producer Phillip Hinchcliffe; director Rodney Bennett; actors Wendy Williams and Kenton Moore; designer Roger Murray-Leach and new series Dalek voice artist/Big Finish supreme Nicholas Briggs. There's also an interview with designer Roger Murray-Leach on his work for the series. There's a Model Effects Roll footage as well as CGI Effect Roll footage. There's also 3D Technical Schematics for the Nerva Ark space station; and there's a trailer for the first episode of the story shown on BBC One back in 1975.

There's also an unused `Alternative Titles' to watch that was based on the Season 11 Jon Pertwee format. There are Alternative CGI sequences to watch during the story that can be switched on and off. There's the first of series of CGI model sequences called `TARDIS-Cam no. 1'. There's also a photo gallery and an info-text commentary option to watch during the story. There's also an audio commentary to watch and enjoy featuring Tom Baker, Elisabeth Sladen and producer Phillip Hinchcliffe.

On Disc 2, there's a Movie Version of `The Ark In Space' to watch that was originally shown in 1975 possibly as a Christmas special I think.

There's a special documentary of a series of a special documentaries called `Doctor Forever'. This episode is called `Love and War' and it focuses on `Doctor Who' books published during the wilderness years during the 1990s and early 2000s and this got me interested as it focuses on the Virgin and BBC Books era and includes interviews with Russell T. Davies; Mark Gattis; Paul Cornell; Robert Shearman; Gary Russell; Joseph Lidster; Peter Darvill-Evans; etc.

There's also `Scene Around Six' which is a special amount of rare news footage featuring Tom Baker in costume during a promotional visit to Derry and Belfast with a group of children. There's also `Robot 8mm Location Film' footage that was found and is brief amateur film on the making of Tom Baker's first story `Robot'. There's also PDF materials containing a `Radio Times Listing' for the story, The Doctor Who Technical Manual and Promotional Materials for Cross & Blackwell and Nestle. There's also a Coming Soon trailer for the next DVD release which is a special edition DVD of the William Hartnell story `The Aztecs'.

`The Ark In Space' is certainly a classic story worth enjoying and is a well-popular one by Robert Holmes. I'm sure this is a story worth adding to your `Doctor Who' DVD collection, as it contains such a gripping plot and imagination throughout and is well worth it to watch Tom Baker's Doctor with Sarah Jane and Harry as his companions.

The next story with the Doctor, Sarah Jane and Harry is 'The Sontaran Experiment'.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on 27 May 2006
fundamentally, this is a good story.

dated by todays special effects and pace, but must have been quite striking at the time.

the show is the start of a seasonal four story arc, which technically ends with Revenge of the Cybermen, (the sontaran experiment and genesis of the daleks saandwiched between them).

Naturally, this was to save money during a very tight season, presumably, most of the cash was spent on Genesis, as technically, that story seemed better.

Typical dr who, bubble wrap sprayed green must have been extremely fearful in the mid-seventies, i still to this day feel sorry for the actor who had to endure these scenes, dressed in plastic like he was... ;-)

still, its an enjoyable dr who romp, and well worth a buy
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 5 April 2000
Humans lie in kryogenic suspension on a remote ark, the only survivors of the solar flares which have devastated the Earth. However, Nerva Space Station has been infiltrated by a deadly race of space creatures, the Wirrn, who are intent to wipe out the last remaining shreds of humanity.... The Ark In Space is simply wonderful. The terror of being physically converted and turned into something else is ever present, and some of the scenes are horrific, especially when the viewer finds out that this conversion is possible via the infected hand of one of the recovered humans being revealed in one of Whos all time classic episode endings in part two. Admitedly, the bubble wrap monsters are a little too obvious, but they do not take too much away from the eerieness of this story, which is taken to a new level by the superb incidental music. Tom Baker and the regulars, especially Liz Sladen as Sarah, are excellent in the Ark's claustrophobic surroundings. A fantastic story, this is Doctor Who pushed to it's creepy best.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Tom Baker’s earliest ‘outer space’ serial in the title role of Doctor Who was this, a tale of giant insect-like aliens invading a space station where thousands of humans are being ‘stored’ in cryogenic sleep, awaiting the day when they are to be re-awoken – the day when the Earth is once more inhabitable after being ravaged by solar flares. When the Time Lord, along with travelling companions Sarah-Jane Smith and Harry Sullivan arrives on Space Station Nerva however, the Wirrn have already insinuated themselves into the infrastructure, and are busy devouring the sleeping bodies of the blissfully ignorant people, swelling their own numbers and preparing to take over The Earth itself.
Of course, it’s easy to decry the ‘not-so-special effects’ and poorly-realised monsters on display here, however to do that I think misses the point entirely. Although I’d say that the model shots of the ‘ark’ as well as its clinical interior are both excellent and would stand-up today, what really makes this serial is good old Uncle Tom. Love him or loathe him (and to be fair most fans seem to love him), he embodied The Doctor’s ‘alien-ness’ like no-one else before him, and surely like no-one else ever could. His sudden bursts of energy, maniacal grin at any hint of danger, and his innate remoteness (whilst somehow still displaying his fondness for Sarah and Harry), are just some of the things that make this so much more than a run-of-the-mill base-under-siege classic Doctor Who story. On top of this, the late-lamented Ian Marter plays old-fashioned naval surgeon Harry Sullivan as an immensely lovable duffer, and it would have been good to see him travel with The Doctor and Sarah more regularly. Say what you like about the bubble-wrap, the supporting cast are all superb, and the whole package is immensely satisfying for an ageing Whovian like me.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
The ark in space was the story that got me into Dr Who. it's amazing now that just three actors can keep the story moving for the whole of episode one, but they do and it works very effectively. For its time the set's were very impressive. I remember watching a documentary where Philip Hinchcliff stated that Tom Bakers voice was so good you could use it to move a story on wards or increase the suspense with just him describing something without seeing it, he was right. The Dr, Sarah and Harry land on the space station Neva which had been previously visited by a Wirrn, an insect life form. It has laid its eggs in the solar stacks and absorbed the body and mind of one of the sleeping humans. The Doctor's reactivation of the station's systems causes the humans to start to revive. Their leader, nicknamed Noah, becomes infected by one of the emerging larvae and is slowly taken over. On the extras you find out all about how bubble wrap became a favorite for the manufacture of monsters, at the time it worked well, and now it still looks effective. As for the Wirrn, they were a little clumsy, however its proof when you have an excellent script that you forgive such things. The commentary is the same as the original issue and the CGI effects are still included as an option. You also get the original 70min edited together omnibus episode broadcast around Christmas 1975, and a nice making of documentary. Other extras are a news item of the time, and 8mm behind the scenes film from Robot. The main feature is the same as the original with the same option to have the CGI effects recreated in 2002 the original release of this story.So this edition is for about an hour of extra not on the original disc. 2013 is going to be a very re-release year, as well as the Ark in Space we will be getting the Aztecs, Inferno, Green death and Visitation, funny how things change when we are reaching the end of the schedule of releases role on the Mind of evil.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
"Doctor Who: The Ark in Space" was only the second serial that Tom Baker starred in, but his instant ease in the role shows why he was one of the best Doctor Whos ever. This serial has very hokey special effects, but the story is a pretty solid, straightforward sci-fi alien-invasion story.

The TARDIS randomly arrives on a space station in orbit of Earth, thanks to Harry fiddling around with the controls. And after Sarah is briefly put in suspended animation, the Doctor discovers that this station is called the Ark -- it's a sleeper station with the last remnants of the human race, since Earth has been rendered uninhabitable.

However, something sabotaged the station's power, leaving the suspended animation lasting for thousands of years longer than intended. Yeah, it's obvious what happened as soon as a giant bug falls out of a closet.

The Doctor soon discovers that there are more giant insects -- known as Wirrn -- infesting the ship, especially since one of them laid eggs in a now-dead crew-member. And the ship's commander is beginning to act strangely as an alien consciouness turns him into a giant mass of green bubble-wrap.

Yeah, the weakest part of this serial is the special effects, which are rather hokey even by old "Dr. Who" standards -- the giant dead Wirrn looks like somebody's science project. Buuuutttt... fortunately, that is the biggest problem this serial has.

One of the best parts is the depiction of the 29th-century humans -- cold, rigid, repressed, and apparently big fans of eugenics. Example: Noah immediate reviles the newcomers as "regressives" who could contaminate their perfect genetics. What, he thinks they're going to go on a mad babymaking spree?

But to the writers' credit, they don't get preachy on us. And despite the hokeyness of the Wirrn, there are some genuinely creepy moments as green ooze and larvae overcome the station's power systems.

And of course, there's Tom Baker. He was pretty new to the role, but gave this story a lot of intelligence as well as kooky humor (the scene where he verbally abuses Sarah as motivation). Elisabeth Sladen gives a nice solid performance, but Ian Marter is... well, he's just there to be an extra pair of hands.

"Doctor Who: The Ark in Space" is a solid sci-fi adventure, and a lead performance that reminds us why Baker is still one of the favorite Doctors ever.
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35 of 40 people found the following review helpful
on 29 January 2002
An early outing for Tom baker as the Doctor ably assisted by Elisabeth Sladen and the late Ian Marter as Sarah and Harry. This horror story in space centres around a space station in orbit of the earth in the distant future. This ark holds the remaining members of the human race awaiting to return to Earth after it has become habitable again. The problem involves creatures who have invaded the station. I will leave the rest of the story to you but some of it is generally unsettling for what many regard as a childrens programme. The DVD includes new special effects which are seamlessly inserted into the story. However this is not the only reason to buy this the acting is excellent and the story is generally gripping. A definite buy for any fan.
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14 of 16 people found the following review helpful
Story: 4/5 - Extras: 3/5
Tom Baker's second story in the role (although The Sontaran Experiment was filmed first) is vintage Who. Scripted by prolific Who writer Robert Holmes, The Ark in Space is one of those entirely studio-bound stories with shonky model work and a rubber monster. As such, the futuristic setting looks pretty dated, but as the story relies as much on character work as it does on conventional sci-fi conceits, it doesn't really matter.
Even at this early stage, the Fourth Doctor's character is becoming well-established, complete with Tom Baker's trademark toothy grins and effective put-downs, and Ian Marter is very proper and British as over-his-head Naval medic Harry Sullivan. Only Elisabeth Sladen's Sarah Jane Smith gets a poor treatment here, made to act even more terrified and hopeless than usual (not to mention spending half of the first two episodes in cryogenic sleep).
The small guest cast is well performed, particularly Wendy Williams' Vira, whose certainty of and adherance to the established rules gradually unravels as the story continues. Kenton Moore as Noah and Richardson Morgan as Rogin are decent if more forgettable characters, with Noah's struggle against possession by the Wirrn being reasonably well-played.
Despite the obvious use of bubble wrap in the construction of the Wirrn larvae, The Ark in Space holds together well as a story. I always prefer my Who when it goes on location, but with a decent script a limited set budget can be overcome; maybe, however, the lighting could have been more moody. The model footage is looking old, but as a feature of the DVD one can enable a series of replacement CGI footage that looks pretty good.
In terms of special features, the leading feature is a moderately entertaining commentary by Tom Baker, Elisabeth Sladen and producer Philip Hinchcliffe. As well as the traditional photo gallery, there are a couple of interviews; some unused title sequence footage and model shots; a couple of related cuttings from the BBC archives; and of course the usual informative on-screen production notes. Not a bad package overall.
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