Friday, 7 May 2010

The Ark


  1. After the last twenty episodes of full-on dull, The Ark comes like a drink of cold refreshing water from an oasis after a long trek through the desert.

    That spooky and atmospheric opening! A one-eyed monster! (No sniggering at the back, there...) A baby bloody elephant, no less!

    And the change in pace from spooked-out Katarina to blasé Dodo is nice. Though perhaps a little too blasé.

    The set design is stunning, as is the direction. The plot relies on no-one being stupid - again, a lovely change from recent times. Things happen! Hard (for the times) science! A generational starship, even, in Doctor Who in 1966! Time travel as a plot device! Rehydrated space food! (OK, the fact it turns into perfect cooked potatoes just by adding water might be a bit dodge - but no more than Star Trek's replicator, surely?)

    And great writing too, from Paul Erickson and
    Lesley Scott, the first writing team seen in the series. There's a wonderful sense of disconnect between the first two episodes and the second two, as the previously-voiceless Monoids can now talk. Disconcerting!

    Speaking of the Monoids, their prosthetics are effective in a way that doesn't really come across in the stills. "They were treated like slaves - no wonder when they got the chance they repaid you in kind."

    I noticed a new name in the credits this time, too. Story Editor: Gerry Davis. Could he be the reason for the sudden improvement?

    Whatever it is, I'm excited about the Mission again for the first time in a long while. The Ark was a marvellous story, and it really feels like we're back on track again.

  2. At last, a good story!

    One of the key factors in the success of this story is that it is actually two two-part stories. There is no opportunity for the story to drag because both halves are well paced and compact. Whilst the plots are undemanding they are particularly interesting for the moral questions that they ask.

    For me it was innovation that stood out about this story. The Ark sets are suitably futuristic and look good, as do the jungle sets in the arboretum. The design of the giant statue is very striking and effects employed to convince us of its size are surprisingly effective. The effects generally are good but who could fail to be charmed by the Ark’s landing crafts spinning haphazardly through space towards the planet (almost as if suspended on a length of cotton!)! The trump card in terms of design has to be the Monoids. The costumes are extremely effective, in particular their one moving eye at the bottom of their faces (though, when we repeatedly see them putting down a glass, or having a tray cleared away, I became desperate to see them eat and drink… the mind boggles as to how they do so!). Also the characterisation of the race, their shambling gait, their sign language and the excellent vocal performances of Roy Skelton and John Halstead.

    The only real criticism that springs to mind is the inherent lameness of invisibility. Auntie Beeb would probably have loved all the exotic races the Doctor encountered to be invisible, it’s a little rum for the viewer though, however well executed.

    The cast are all good though special mention must go to Hartnell who seems quite invigorated and at home with the role (and only fluffs I think two lines), also look out for the first of many guest appearances by Michael Sheard, don’t blink or you’ll miss him!

    Oh, but what happened to Dodo’s accent?

    A really fresh, pacey and interesting story - more like this please. PLEASE!!

    Better than - The Rescue
    Not as good as - The Daleks

  3. The Ark has lots of charm im amongst some frustrating faults.
    As has been pointed out, the pace is quick as it is what amounts to two two-parters. The sets are super and I loved the elephant as much as Piers. I also loved the fact that by landing back 700 years later the crew are forced to confront the effects of their travels on the civilisations they meet and how they influence the future.
    The bad points - the plots are perhaps a little too simple, and I have to disagree a little with Rob on the design of the monoids. The faces are really a delight and I share Robs eagerness to see how they eat. However, the fact that their one foot is in fact two more or less tied together means the battle on the Refusis is one of the most static and unintentionally funny I've seen. Also, there are a number of occasions where a Monoid has his Heat Ray trained on The Doctor and Dodo while a Guardian trails behind. For the love of God, just hit him man!!!!
    Hartnell is on form again, but Steven and Dodo suffer from not having anything particularly interesting to do - unless you count Dodos wandering accent!!!! Nice to see her relaxed attitude to space travel continues, the only side effect being a sudden development of both a nasty cold and the abilty to speak Received English after her Northern debut.
    Overall, though, this story is fun to watch, has some interesting touches and doesn't outstay it's welcome. 5/10