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Doctor Who - The Ark [DVD] 
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The TARDIS arrives some ten million years in the future on a giant spaceship carrying all the Earth's surviving plant, animal and human life (much of it miniaturised and in suspended animation) on a 700 year voyage to a new home on the planet Refusis II. Dodo is suffering from a cold - an unknown affliction in this era - and as the human Guardians of the ship and their servant race the Monoids have no resistance, a plague breaks out.
The Guardians place the travellers on trial and Steven is forced to defend them against allegations that they spread the disease deliberately. Fortunately, the Doctor finds a cure. The TARDIS leaves the spaceship, which Dodo has nicknamed the Ark, only to arrive back there as it is approaching the end of its voyage. Partly as a result of the earlier plague, the Monoids have now grown strong and enslaved the humans.
They plan to make Refusis II their own but, with the help of the invisible Refusians, the Doctor is able to persuade the two races to live together in peace.
- Commentary by Peter Purves (Steven), Michael Imison (director), and Toby Hadoke (Moths Ate My Doctor Who Scarf)
- All’s Wells That Ends Wells A new documentary exploring the influence of H. G. Wells on Doctor Who
- One Hit Wonder What gives a monster staying power?
- Riverside Story Peter Purves returns to Riverside Studios, Hammersmith, home to numerous 1960s Doctor Who stories
- Radio Times Billings (PDF DVD-ROM – PC/Mac)
- Production Information Subtitles
- Programme Subtitles
- Photo Gallery
- Coming Soon Trailer
- Digitally remastered picture and sound quality This story was originally broadcast on BBC1 between 5th March – 26th March 1966
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The story is something that the show has only done every so often. Genuine science fiction. Using the old genre concept of a generation ship.
The TARDIS lands on a huge spaceship, far in the future, that contains all that is left of the human race. Planet Earth is doomed and humanity is on it's way to an intended new home on a faraway world. It will take seven hundred years to get there. Thus most of the human race has been shrunken to microsopic size and is in storage and the rest are guardians. Those who keep the ship going. Generations of them will live and die doing their work over the centuries of the voyage.
Animals are kept in forest zones, and that's where the TARDIS arrives. They actually used a real elephant and chameleon for these early scenes. The ship has alien servants onboard in the shape of the Monoids. Strange looking creatures who have one eye where you would expect the mouth to be and hairstyles that make look like the Beatles.
It's so far in the future that the common cold has long since been cured. Thus when the Doctor's companion Dodo brings it onboard, an epidemic spreads. Put on trial because of this the TARDIS crew have a fight for their lives.
That's just the first two episodes. Because a very neat twist at the end of part two - and a striking cliffhanger - sends the story in a different direction. Using another good science fiction concept. As the Doctor and friends find that their actions have had consequences....
Wonderfully ambitious for it's time and very well directed, the setting is very convincing. But the story does fall down somewhat because of the Monoids. Many will find them silly, especially their voices.
The guardians have strange made up names, none of which quite stick, and most tend to do nothing other than stand around in the background. Although one who has to deal with betrayal by those he trusted in later episodes does have his moments.
William Hartnell's increasing ill health does mean that the Doctor is a rather static observer for most of it. And the first two episodes can be very static also, but the pace does pick up in parts three and four.
It's not a story that quite comes off, but you have to admire it's ambitions and intentions, and it's a generally worthwhile watch. And it does feature in episode two the first of the six appearances in the show that veteran British character actor Michael Sheard made. And he was always worth watching.
It does end on a cliffhanger, which leads into an episode that no longer exists in the bbc archive. But if you don't know what happens next listen to Doctor Who: the Celestial Toymaker.
The dvd has the following language and subtitle options:
English audio captioned.
Production information subtitles.
The radio times billings for the story as a PDF file which can be accessed by putting the disc onto a computer.
A trailer for the next release in this range.
And three features:
One hit wonder: which looks at what makes a successful Doctor Who monster who gets to feature in more than one story. Unlike the Monoids. This is fun and makes good points but it's a bit short at just five minutes.
Unlike All's Wells that ends Wells, a thirteen minute long feature about HG Wells and his influence on the show. As a documentary about him it's excellent, but it's on different ground in discussing his influence on the show, as the links it makes between the Ark and his work are seemingly nothing more than coincidence.
Riverside story is a twenty minute long feature about the studio where this and many of the other early stories were made. Both a very good making of documentary and an interesting history of how tv was produced at the time, it's a really good watch.
The story is really three and a half out of five stars material, but the extras just push the whole thing up to a four out of five.
The TARDIS crew land in a jungle, but soon discover that they are on a giant spaceship. The Earth's human and animal population are aboard on a 700-year long voyage to a new world. They are served by the Monoids, one-eyed mute aliens who have been permitted on the journey in exchange for their services. But when the Doctor's new companion Dodo brings the common cold on the ship, neither the humans or the Monoids have any immunity and people begin to die. The Doctor must find a cure before the TARDIS crew are found guilty of potentially wiping out the human race...
On the one hand, "The Ark" is quite daring and experimental: the story is one of the more futuristic Hartnell adventures, and the narrative offers an important vision of mankind's future in the Who-niverse (this would be revisited at various points throughout the old and even the new series). Also it features some of the largest sets of the period - there is enough room for the Monoids to drive mini-trucks around, and we even get the occasional crane-shot (not to mention they even have an elephant!). Even the structure is unusual: we effectively have two two-part stories set on the same spaceship but set several centuries apart. For once we get to see the long-term effects of the Doctor's actions as the cold virus has weakened the humans against the Monoids who now have speech and have enslaved them. At the time, each episode had an individual title, so the audience at home must have thought the story was over when the TARDIS took off at the end of the second episode, only to get a shock twist.
However, at times the story, or rather its presentation, becomes quite childish. Once the Monoids can talk there is no shutting them up - they tell everyone their evil plans and they have the thought processes of a ten year old. Then there are the invisible, god-like Refusians who have built a magic castle for the humans to live in. The supporting cast often get a drubbing by critics, but actually they are not bad, it's just that with only two episodes for each cast they don't get enough screen time to make a big impression.
The Monoids are often mocked, but I think they are surprisingly effective and suitably alien-looking. In fact, the mini-documentary about them was rather disappointing. It spent most of the time slagging them off whereas it would've been nice to learn how they were designed, and to see contributors discuss other one-story monsters from the classic series.
All in all, a bit of a mixed bag, but still a fascinating insight into the period, and a story that never lacks ambition.
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Several great concepts here: the earth being destroyed and its inhabitants seeking a new home, the consequences of introducing disease to a...Read more