"The Ark" is an odd Doctor Who story. It comes at a point of great change in the production team, when the people making the show seemed uncertain where they wanted to take it. Bear in mind that Doctor Who was still only three years old, and for many TV series that could be a complete lifespan. Some viewers thought the show was getting tired or silly. The outgoing production team had wanted to bring more intelligence and wit to the show, but William Hartnell in particular had fought this, feeling it was above all a children's programme. As a story, "The Ark" perfectly demonstrates this behind-the-scenes identity crisis.
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.
on 17 April 2009
From Doctor Who's third TV season in 1966, this black and white William Hartnell story sees the time-travellers arrive on the eponymous space version of Noah's famous vessel, complete with catalogued life forms from across the universe. Somewhat stagey and at times amateurish, this is of its time but gives some precious insight into why the programme has lasted all these years. The Monoids are superb - despite their bonkers wigs - and The Doctor is at his inimitable best: Shrewd, sometimes crabby, but always one step ahead. The set design is pretty impressive for the mid-60s and you could do worse than get this if you're a fan - hopefully it'll be out on DVD soon.
A 1966 Doctor Who story, from William Hartnell's third and final season in the role, comes to dvd. With all four twenty five minute long episodes on one disc.
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.
on 22 January 2011
Personally i am glad they have released this story, i think it's a clever, intelligent story, that seems to be overlooked, this story as the title describves, takes place on The Ark, which is grand in scale and looks very impressive, it centres on the human race and the twist comes at the end of episode 2, where the Monoids who seem to be the slaves of the human on the Ark, turn the tables and you see how different they treat their hosts, its also a for-runner for later stories, the Human Ark ship of The Ark in Space, and the invisible inhabitants of another world, similar to Planet of the Daleks, Hartnell gives an inpressive performance as do Purves and Lane.
The story does have some morals,including if you have a cold, which no one has had for thousands of years, then stay inside the TARDIS.
Extras on this story include
The 'Commentary' is moderated by Toby Hadoke and features Peter Purves (Steven) & Michael Imison (Director). Toby does an excellent job of guiding the guests, of which both contribute evenly with some great stories and memories. One such story tells us how unaccommodating the BBC was to the Elephant (seen in Episode One) at the time, and how the director had to keep it in a van outside of his house, overnight.
'All's Wells That Ends Wells' looks at Doctor Who's connection to H.G. Wells, and the inspiration taken from his work. In particular looking at the similarities between The Ark, and H.G. Wells' The Time Machine, The Invisible Man, The Sleeper Awakes and The War of the Worlds. It includes interviews with Matthew Sweet (Historian & Writer), Kim Newman (Novelist & Critic), Dominic Sandbrook (Historian & Writer), Tony Keen (Research Associate, Open University) & Graham Sleight (Editor, "Foundation").
Even fans of Wells' work will be surprised at just how much influence he appears to have given to this story.
'One Hit Wonder' casts a light on why some Doctor Who monsters only appeared once, with a spotlight on The Monoids, in particular. The feature includes interviews with Jacqueline Rayner (Author), Dominic Sandbrook (Historian & Writer), Kim Newman (Novelist & Critic) & Matthew Sweet (Writer & Historian).
This feature could have been a little longer, perhaps focusing on some of the other 'one hit wonders' such as The Zygons, The Sensorites or The Axons.
'Riverside Story' is a 20-minute feature that looks at London's Riverside Studios; Doctor Who's temporary home from 1964-1968.
Presented by Matthew Sweet as he brings Peter Purves back to the location, we learn about some of the challenges that The Ark faced, not to mention, how to build a Jungle within a spaceship!
The documentary also features sit-down interviews with Peter Purves and Michael Imison (Director).
Apart from the main story itself, this documentary is the set piece in The Ark DVD, adding newfound respect for a building that was instrumental in one of Doctor Who's most important periods.
The 'Coming Soon Trailer' is for the Mara Tales box-set. It's a terrific trailer, cut perfectly together with a slick soundtrack and CGI titles that will have you counting down the days until its release. The final spoken line in the trailer sums up the imminent release perfectly... "The Mara's waited a long time for this return, I think it plans to be spectacular".
As with previous releases, there are the usual 'Radio Times Billings', 'Photo Gallery' and 'Production Information Subtitles'.
Overall another great release and one i will be adding to my collection, and one that's worth a second look, despite the monsters having beatlesque type wigs.
on 3 January 2012
1966's The Ark is a great little 4 part Hartnell story, I must admit I am a fan of this story, yet again, the serials I enjoy are usually slated by the fans but hell, I enjoy this classic. I have been waiting for years for this story to finally come out on DVD, and so after 12 years in Feb 2011 it was finally released and I bought it straight away, When I got the DVD, the first thing I noticed was the effort that is put in to these releases these days, you pay for quality with Doctor Who and quality is what you get, the picture quality is outstanding and the presentation of the DVD is simple and delightful, I always look foward to getting my hands on the latest release.
The Ark is rare in its own right because it exists, the serials that surround the Ark are missing, so how on earth did this serial survive in full and un-threatened by the fires of the BBC cut-backs. Anyway you look at it, lets be grateful that it does exist and that the BBC have finally seen fit to release it to the viewing public. The Monoids have never been very popular I know and I can't say I'm their biggest fan, but they are effective villains and get the job done. I love the 2 stories you get for the price of one, the first 2 episodes revolve around the TARDIS crews arrival on the Ark in the year 10,000,000 then to add more to events, new companion Dodo's cold starts killing the crew of the Ark and the three are convicted of murder, there execution follows soon. Before events take a turn for the worst however, the leader of the guardians Eric Elliot lets them try to find a cure, which the Doctor swiftly does and they are all friends again, they depart at the end of part 2 and rematerialise 700 years later near the end of the voyage and find that the monoids have taken control.
The last 2 episodes concerns the TARDIS crew and the guardians fighting back against their Monoid oppressors. In the end they are overpowered, and submit, their new friend and neighbour Mr Refusian tells them to make up or p**s off as they do not tolerate violence. The Doctor, Steven and Dodo depart but whilst in the TARDIS the Doctor disapears and thier adventure with the Celestial Toymaker begins.
Great story, great DVD and great extra bonus features, this is a must have for any Doctor Who fan's DVD collection.
Story - 10/10
DVD - 10/10
Bonus - 10/10
Overall - Great buy and highly recommended.
Many thanks for your time,
on 10 May 2012
Having just watched The Ark for the first time I am happy to say I wasn't dissapointed. William Hartnell's Doctor is on great form here as he enters a story which has been inspired by the works of H.G Wells ( The Time Machine being the main source). The Tardis lands on a huge space station complete with a jungle and wildlife, the Doctor with his companions Dodo and Steven find that the station is ruled by the last survivors of a dying earth and a race of servant creatures called Monoids who are on route to a new planet similar to earth with plenty of resources to survive. However it turns out that the Dr's companion Dodo has a dose of the common cold and the inhabitants are not immume and react very badly to the virus. As the story goes on the Dr and co are accused of murder and go about proving their innocence and help find a cure. Halfway through the story their is quite a cool little twist as the Dr reappears 700 years later on the Ark and finds that the Monoids are no longer slaves and now rule the humans.
The Ark is a strong Who addition, the only downfall is the Monoids are a bit silly and don't pose a real danger the way the Daleks or Cybermen do. However this is only a slight nag in what is an imaginative and very enjoyable adventure. If you want to expand your Who collection then why not add this little gem? You might find yourself very entertained!
on 11 April 2011
To me, William Hartnell, the original was THE Dr Who.
You won't find any of the special effects which are such an integral part of the modern version of the show. Everything was run to a tight budget but there was an unadulterated magic which didn't need such support.
It's great to have this classic adventure on DVD at long last together with a number of fascinating special features. Hopefully there are still a few more Hartnell adventures yet to come.
on 14 October 2012
Now I have to admit that I'm not normally a fan of the very early Doctor Who serials; from The Zarbi's vaseline on the camera lens, to The Sensorites' general dullness, they just leave me cold; despite having read and really enjoyed the Target novelisations as a boy - I've always thought that they worked much better in my head! However, having said that, The Time Meddler is a superbly realised story that stands up well today, whilst the serial that started it all back in '63: 'An Unearthly Child', has also dated remarkably well. This story I would say falls somewhere between the two for me; I actually really like The Monoids and their transformation from servile 'Ood-like' beings to haughty overseers is a particularly effective and well-handled one. The story though has very little to it, and the pace is far too conservative. Added to this, Dodo and Stephen make a limp pair of companions, with the former's dodgy Northern accent especially jarring. Finally, the DVD extras are unremarkable, and the whole package feels satisfactory rather than anything special.
Doctor Who - The Ark is, along with The Face of Evil, perhaps the only story in the series' history that deals with the possibility that the traveller in time and space's meddling may not always have the desired effects. It's a game of two halves that's heavily influenced by H.G. Wells, with Hartnell's Doctor and his companions arriving in a jungle with a metal sky that turns out to be the first of the series' arks containing the remnants of humanity, here on a 700 year voyage to a new home served by the cycloptic Beatles mop-topped Morlock-like Monoids. It's not long before the humans are dropping like flies because of the reintroduction of the common cold, but that's not the worst of it. Having managed to resolve that crisis, the Doctor and company inadvertently return hundreds of years later to find that their earlier actions resulted in the enslavement of the humans under the Monoids...
The Ark is one of those stories that's often enjoyable for the wrong reasons - the Monoids hairstyle alone renders them comic even before they attain the power of speech and bark orders like "Take them away to the security kitchen!" - but there are some good ideas in it and a terrific payoff to the second episode, while having the Doctor and his companions turn out to be the catalyst for a crisis threatening the survival of the human race is a particularly intriguing concept. There's some fun extras on the DVD as well, with an audio commentary by Peter Purves and director Michael Imison, featurettes on H.G. Wells' influence on the show, the monsters who were fated never to make a return appearance in the show and the series' time at the Riverside Studios, the latter offering a particularly fine contribution by Purves about the practicalities of shooting the show and Hartnell's attitude to losing the role, as well as the usual stills gallery and onscreen production trivia. Not one of the great Who stories, but still a worthwhile release for the aficionados that benefits from much improved picture quality over the earlier video release.
on 2 January 2014
This story is in most places clever and inspired, it is also brilliantly shot and directed with some excellent special effects. The sets are also superb, especially those for the jungle on board The Ark, the use of genuine animals including an elephant improve these sets further.
In common with 1964's 'The Sensorites' there are some interesting moral issues here; the Humans and Monoids catch Dodo's cold and start to die from it because they have no resistance to it. Really this is the Doctor's fault for transporting Dodo to the Ark and putting the humans there in danger. The Monoids revolting and taking control of the Ark is intriguing because they had been treated like slaves by the humans.
The part two cliffhanger of seeing the massive statue of the Monoid is very effective. I also thought the idea of having the last two episodes take place 700 years after the first two was ingenious. That said the second two episodes aren't quite as successful as the first two because there's some very clumsy exposition with Monoids stupidly giving away parts of their plan.
The Monoids look quite daft and the level of cruelty they subject the humans to after they take control erases any empathy the viewer may have had with them.
William Hartnell and Peter Purves are both on fine form, sadly Jackie Lanes is weaker and her accent is obviously Manchester even though Dodo is from London. Despite these niggles 'The Ark' is very entertaining overall.
The special features include 'Alls Wells that ends Wells' a 13 minute feature that explores HG Wells' influence over Doctor Who which is reasonably interesting. 'One hit wonder' is a sub 5 minute feature which discusses the strengths and weaknesses of the Monoids, this too is decent.
The best special feature is 'Riverside stories' a 20 minute feature about Doctor Who's time at Riverside studios. There are interviews with Peter Purves and 'The Ark' director Michael Imison. Even though this is supposed to be about Doctor Who at Riverside most of the time is spent analysing 'The Ark', nonetheless it's very entertaining.
In all this is a very good story and a fine DVD release.