The TARDIS lands on a space station orbiting the Earth in the distant future. It's seemingly deserted, but the Doctor, Sarah and Harry soon discover that they are not alone. Thousands of humans - the only survivors of the human race - are in cryogenic sleep, and while they've slept their Ark has been invaded. A parasitic insect race - the Wirrn - have taken control and threaten the very future of mankind.
The deeper dive:
- As well as being the second Fourth Doctor adventure, it was the second outing for the new Producer/Script Editor team of Philip Hinchcliffe and Robert Holmes. Their leadership saw Doctor Who stories take a darker, bleaker and sometimes more horrific turn – exemplified by the “body horror” of The Ark in Space.
- This adventure marks the beginning a loose arc, where the Doctor, Sarah and Harry are separated from the TARDIS. First they beam down to Earth to check Nerva’s transmat pads, only to fall victim to The Sontaran Experiment. They are then whisked away by the Time Lords to intervene in The Genesis of the Daleks, before returning to Nerva many thousands of years earlier to help thwart the plans of the Cybermen. The TARDIS drifts back to pick them up.
- Episode One notably sees only the three regular performers taking part in the action – something that hadn’t occurred since the third ever Doctor Who adventure Edge of Destruction. It also features a green and pink tinted title sequence, as opposed to the normal blue. This experiment was never repeated.
Alongside the usual interesting “making of” documentary with contributions from the original cast, the DVD also has another part of the excellent Dr Forever! series. Looking at Doctor Who merchandising through the years, this instalment focuses on original Doctor Who fiction, with contributions from Russell T Davies and Mark Gatiss among others. There are also the CGI sequences from the original DVD release of The Ark in Space and recently discovered news film footage of Tom Baker meeting children in Northern Ireland.
It’s a genuinely exciting and claustrophobic Doctor Who story, with a great cast and fantastic design (especially the cryogenic chamber). And two men who know a thing or two about Doctor Who - both new series showrunners, Russell T Davies and Steven Moffat - have singled out The Ark in Space as their favourite adventure from the 1963-89 run of Doctor Who.
The bottom line:
Doctor Who does Alien (four years before Alien)
Watch a classic clip from The Ark in Space here: