The Doctor (actor William Hartnell), Steven Taylor (actor Peter Purves) and new companion with a heavy cold, Dodo Chaplet (actress Jackie Lane), arrive on what appears to be a zoo-like environment which is in fact a spaceship. They discover its inhabitants live ten million years into the future when the Earth is finally going to melt when the sun expands and the Ark is off on a seven hundred year enforced migratory flight to Refusis. It isn’t just humans on-board, who are guardians for the miniature preserved humanity and its environment, there are also the slave Monoids who care for the habitat. That far into the future, when the common cold has been sorted out centuries ago, many succumb to Dodo’s cold. It makes some of the humans very ill and starts to kill the Monoids.
Justice is swift and the three time travellers are ordered to be thrown off the Ark but although ill, the human leader agrees that the Doctor should be allowed a chance to find a cure, providing that the now sick Steven is his first guinea pig. It goes without saying that a suitable treatment is found and with grateful thanks, they leave or do they?
The TARDIS materialises back on the Ark at the end of its voyage seven hundred years later and find something has happened. Through a mechanical device, the Monoids had become enhanced by the cold virus and no longer rely on sign language but can speak through a communication necklace, even if they need identifying numbers to tell each other who they are. This change also ended in a revolution and the Monoids are now the rulers and the remains of the guardian humans the slave drudges. This had to have happened in this generation or the humans would have lost what technological knowledge they had.
With the Doctor and his companions also help prisoner, the Monoid leader, called One for those keeping count, needs to see how the Refusisans are going to see a change of…er…management. To this aim, he sends his deputy, Two, with one of the guardians, the Doctor and Dodo down to Refusis to get the lay of the land. Meanwhile, on board the Ark, Steven and the remaining guardians discover that the Monoid leader has planted a fusion bomb to destroy them when they finally leave and need to discover where it is.
On Refusis, they meet or rather discover that the Refusian there is inivisible but wants peaceful inhabitants. Not exactly helped when the Monoids arrive and have their own civil war, led by Four. Any more is spoiler.
If you think of the tenth Doctor taking Rose to see the end of the Earth in the distant future than these events happen shortly after that if you want to put things into perspective.
The Monoids are an odd species, looking like an alien Beatles group, sans the music, facial features and originally, any voice. The fact that their clothes are designed so they waddle than walk, it’s only the heat rifles they carry and their utter ruthlessness that gives them a distinct advantage.
The audio commentary from director Michael Imison and actor Peter Purves gives insight into production as well as the rather cold dismissal attitude of the BBC from that time period. I think the biggest regret at the end is seeing the start of ‘The Celestial Toyroom’ and realising it’s a lost story because I agree with Purves, that it was a favourite of mine as well. Although both Purves and Imison agree that the final execution of the story didn’t come as well as they would have liked, they did like the overall idea of seeing the same place at different times.
The focus on the extras is basically on comparisons between HG Wells’ stories and ‘Doctor Who’. Any time travel story is essentially going to have some form of connection to Wells, as indeed with any novel that is the first to do something.
‘The Riverside Story’ is probably the most interesting as these studios, unlike the Limegrove Studio, still exists and we get to see around it as it is today as well as behind the scenes footage from the 60s. You get a better appreciation of the technical rehearsals which ensures the camera crews don’t collide with their or other camera crews ground cables.
‘The Ark’ is a bit of an oddball story in the early ‘Doctor Who’ mythos but you have to admire how much was done with such a tiny budget.
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(region 2 DVD: pub: BBC BBCDVD2957. 1 DVD 98 minutes 4 * 25 minute episodes. Price about £ 5.50 (UK) if you know where to look)
cast: William Hartnell, Peter Purves and Jackie Lane
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