"Doctor Who" The Ark in Space: Part One (TV Episode 1975) Poster

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A fan favourite and rightly so
Leofwine_draca17 March 2015
Review of the Complete Story:

THE ARK IN SPACE is one of the most entertaining of the Tom Baker DR WHO serials, purely because the storyline is so good. The entire serial is set on a remote spaceship, which is rapidly being taken over by some sinister space parasites who've got murder in mind. To make things more interesting, the spaceship is a kind of futuristic 'ark', carrying mankind's last hope on board.

There's plenty to love about this production: strong technical values (for DR WHO), high stakes, interesting characters, effective performances from the leading cast members, and memorable creatures. The aliens are brought to life via green paint and bubble wrap, and despite this they're oddly effective - and a lot of fun, it goes without saying.

Even better, THE ARK IN SPACE gives Baker's Who plenty to do, as he investigates technical matters and later attempts to stop the annihilation of the human race. Elizabeth Sladen is on strong and funny form as Sarah Jane, and there's constant threat and excitement from the encroaching threat of the extraterrestrial menace. Everything you could want from DR WHO, really...
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Tom really gets to work.
Sleepin_Dragon18 October 2019
The Doctor, Harry and Sarah arrive on board a space station, and discover something has gone wrong aboard among the invaluable cargo.

The previous story, Robot, was pretty good, I always thought it had a very Pertwee feel about it, it could have easily been Jon instead of Tom. Ark in Space really does feel like the start of Tom's era,and for fans like myself, the start of the show's golden era. Sarah doesn't get a lot to do here, but the combination of Baker and Marter is a total joy. Harry's awe at events is always so enjoyable.

Made a few years before Alien, this kind of horror in deep space story would become very popular for many years.

Part one has tension, action, a sense of horror, and a sense of mystery, plus a strong cliffhanger. It's a real winner. 9/10
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watch out for insects! and an metamorphosed Noah!
Quinoa198411 August 2008
This is a really cool Doctor Who episode, one of the first with the inimitable Tom Baker (who also happens to have some of the greatest reaction shots I've ever seen, movie or TV or otherwise), as it deals with a swarm of larva-hatching-in-bodies insects on an "ark" out in space. The ark, as we learn, was created for the purposes of making sure there were some members of the human race who survived following a terrible event on Earth some thousands of years ago (the Doctor isn't quite sure what year it is when he arrives with Sara and his other friend, but it's certainly many thousands of years, "past 30th century"). While one might expect there to be more women on board to help the future of the human race procreate, or that there would be more multi-ethnicity, it's still a fantastic premise that surmises what's good in human beings to persevere... but what can also be unexpected to corrupt it.

The bugs on display here, as well as the slimy larva counterparts, are of course cheesy and silly and all that and a bag of Doctor chips, but I somehow didn't mind them after a short while. In fact, they're probably more convincing than if they were done today with chintzy Sci-fi channel type CGI, as we can at least see these creatures for all their ten cents are worth. And the essential conflict of the piece, from a script by Robert Holmes, is very well crafted and giving Baker plenty to do (within his range as the Doctor) in a short stretch of time - including strapping a device to his head to read the mind of one of the greenish slug things, at his own cost! I also loved the whole idea that Noah himself, on this 'ark', would suddenly turn into the chief villain and possible annihilator of the (apparently not quite) last hopes for humanity. There's even an awesome bit with Sara climbing through a vent, with the Doctor supporting (or rather helpfully berating) her through to the other side.

Like the best of Doctor Who, it's witty and clever without going too high-falutent, and the special effects and creatures are wonderfully dated.
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The Baker Era Starts Here
Theo Robertson21 March 2011
Warning: Spoilers
Review Of All 4 Episodes - Slight Spoilers

It says a lot about DOCTOR WHO when within the space of a month you're watching an entirely different TV show . If Robot was a traditional Pertwee story with Jon Pertwee replaced by a clowning imposter then Ark In Space is a quantum leap . Robot featured much location filming with a large cast , Ark features effectively one studio bound set with a small handful of supporting characters . Indeed the first episode features only the trio of the Doctor , Sarah Jane and Harry

The story itself by Robert Holmes borrows greatly from THE QUATERMASS EXPERIMENT where an alien parasite has infiltrated a " space ark " where the remaining survivors of humanity are hibernating waiting for a time where the Earth becomes habitable once again after a solar disaster . Script editor Holmes and Philip Hinchcliffe borrowed a lot from horror literature and cinema and this gives the first hint where the show under their tenure would be heading

The story itself was great success on its broadcast . I do vividly remember the cliffhanger to episode one and thought the creature that fell out of the cupboard was one of the Metebelias arachnids from Planet Of The Spiders and being slightly disappointed when a week later they were a different species of alien . Episode two however was watched by 14 million viewers and was the 5th most watched TV show of that week .never before had a DOCTOR WHO episode reached that high in the weekly TV charts and It wouldn't be until Dec 2005 with The Christmas Invasion that this record would be broken

How well Ark stands up 35 years after it was broadcast is no doubt open to debate . Certainly very young fans of the new show will enjoy it . There might be some criticisms that the story is very static but wouldn't claustrophobic be a better adjective ? It certainly has a doom laden atmosphere and no matter how unconvincing some elements are it remains one of the best stories from the 1970s
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A good Doctor Who story.
poolandrews25 March 2007
Warning: Spoilers
Doctor Who: The Ark in Space: Part 1 starts as the Doctor (Tom Baker) & his companions Sarah Jane Smith (Elisabeth Sladen) & Harry Sullivan (Ian Marter) by mistake arrive on a huge space station called the Nerva which is orbiting Earth 100's of years in the future. At first they discover that the oxygen has been turned off, several important cables have been deliberately cut, that the space station contains 100's of human beings in hibernation & that it is being used as some sort of ark to preserve the human race from some unknown event. However humans aren't the only lifeforms on board...

This Doctor Who adventure was episode 5 from season 12 that aired here in the UK during early 1975 & was Tom Baker's second story, directed by Rodney Bennett so far I like The Ark in Space. The script by Robert Holmes has a fascinating premise which updates the classic 'Noah's ark' story which I thought was a pretty clever idea & one some might say is feasible, but despite an amusing & imaginative back-story this is Doctor Who & of course there's plenty of the things which makes this series so endearing, fun & downright entertaining. This hasn't given way it's story completely yet as a lot of this opening episode is build up & exposition but we get a few glimpses of a slimy alien slug thing & another alien creature during the average cliffhanger ending to this episode.

Being a BBC production the budget was tight, however I really like the dated 'futuristic' look with giant computer stations which would have looked old fashioned during the 90's & are downright silly looking now but I just think they add a lot of character & are good fun. The rest of the space station looks pretty decent though. The funny scene when the Doctor & Harry shuffle along the floor under a table to avoid being shot is worth watching this episode for alone.

The Ark in Space is a good story & this is a good opening episode.
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Creative Borrowing
JamesHitchcock14 October 2016
"Doctor Who" scriptwriters could occasionally be guilty of stealing ideas from previous serials, and could even be shameless enough to acknowledge their thefts by using a slightly adapted version of the earlier title. The similarities between the Second Doctor adventure "The Seeds of Death" and the Fourth Doctor's "The Seeds of Doom", for example, go well beyond the titles. "The Ark in Space" borrows not only the title but also some of the themes from the First Doctor story "The Ark". Perhaps the scriptwriters assumed that the master tapes of "The Ark" had been safely erased- as had been done with so many early episodes- so nobody would notice their plagiarism. In fact, "The Ark" is one of the few serials from that part of the programme's history to have survived the BBC's cultural vandalism intact.

The Doctor, Sarah and Harry find themselves on a space station which turns out to be an "Ark", a vehicle containing the last few survivors of mankind, who have been placed in suspended animation to escape a disaster which has wiped out life on Earth. ("The Ark" made use of a very similar scenario; the next serial after "The Ark in Space", "The Sontaran Experiment", shows us what has been happening on Earth during the interim). Several of the crew of the Ark are revived in the course of the story; we learn that their leader is, for obvious reasons, nicknamed "Noah". (His real name is Lazar, a reference to the raising of Lazarus from the dead). The main threat to the Doctor, his companions and the inhabitants of the Ark comes from the Wirrn, a race of predatory alien insects who see humans as a tasty source of food. (The word "Wirrn" is pronounced, approximately, "wirren"; it does not rhyme with "burn"). "The Ark" is not the only story to have served as inspiration for this one. The Third Doctor adventure "The Green Death" also featured gigantic insects and their larvae, and made use of a toxic fluorescent green slime, a plot device which also appeared in "Inferno".

"The Ark in Space" was the first "Doctor Who" serial to be produced by Philip Hinchcliffe. It is one of those serials (and there were quite a number of them) which suffered noticeably from the programme's notoriously parsimonious budget. The adult Wirrn are not too bad, but their larvae are all too obviously made out of bubble-wrap spray-painted lime green. Hinchcliffe, however, wanted to increase the show's horror content to increase its appeal to adults, and he largely achieves this, particularly in the sequences in which Noah is slowly transformed into an insect. Noah, in fact, is a well-realised character; he is not particularly sympathetic, even in his human form, yet at the end proves himself capable of great heroism.

Despite its dodgy special effects, "The Ark in Space" is not a bad serial. The storyline is well paced and generates significant amounts of tension. And for all its lack of originality, there have been claims that the serial may itself have been the victim of some creative borrowing. It certainly seems to have been an influence on the various "Alien" movies.
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Ark lark
Lejink20 June 2014
As a kid in the 70's, I never watched any of Tom Baker's Dr Who adventures. Partly it was a reaction to losing "my Doctor", Jon Pertwee, a great favourite of mine, but more likely, I'd probably outgrown the show. Now with previous episodes like this available, I decided to break my taboo and tune in for the first time on the fourth doctor, understanding that this was considered one of his best-remembered outings.

Immediately I watched, I was taken back to my childhood remembrances of the show, bad and good. In the former category, you get the rubbish special effects (I thought the use of models depicting spaceships went out with Gerry Anderson and as for the big green sock meant to portray the Wirrn monster...?!?), grating incidental music in the background, the awful Sarah Jane Smith crying "Doc-tah, Doc-tah" any chance she gets and with a ridiculous display of facial movements unfortunately shown in close up). On the positive side, there are the actually pretty good set design, a reasonably interesting and involving story and of course Tom Baker as the Doctor himself. He's the only one in the whole cast you can't see acting and he plays the whole thing with a twinkle in his eye and with consummate ease.

I will look out for other Baker-led adventures of our favourite Gallifreyan even though he'll never better Pertwee or Patrick Troughton as my favourite incarnation of the Time Lord.
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Fantastic sci-fi claustrophobia and parasitic alien attacks on humans - a classic forerunner of Alien.
A_Kind_Of_CineMagic18 November 2014
Review of all 4 episodes:

Whether there is a direct influence from this on Ridley Scott's 'Alien' I do not know but either way it clearly foreshadows ideas seen in that film. It has humans in stasis for space travel, a claustrophobic atmosphere on a space vessel under attack, 'body horror' as aliens attack humans parasitically and a strong and intelligent female crew member taking a lead role. It is striking how this story has many similarities with that famous film which came a few years later and all those similar aspects are really good ones.

This story is top notch Doctor Who. It is intelligent, very entertaining, sometimes very funny, sometimes scary (particularly for children), atmospheric and exciting with brilliant scripts by John Lucarotti, overseen by the show's greatest script editor Robert Holmes. It is superbly acted by the whole cast.

The Doctor, Sarah Jane and Harry arrive by accident on the space station Nerva which is an Ark of human knowledge, Earth history, culture and life. It contains specially selected representatives of the human race sleeping in stasis and being sent out from Earth at a time when the planet was threatened by solar flares. The time in stasis has gone way longer than intended (10,000 years) due to the station being attacked and sabotaged by an alien creature. This creature is a giant insect called a Wirrn. It has laid larvae on board and the Wirrn are multiplying and attacking with the intention of absorbing the humans and gaining all human knowledge into their collective intelligence. The human leader is touched by a Wirrn larvae and begins to slowly metamorphose into a Wirrn.

The space station setting is superbly created and it is a pity that alongside such excellent sets, machinery and backgrounds the creature effects are unable to match that quality. Effects are no worse than any other productions of the day (Doctor Who or many other TV shows). It was hard to make great effects at that time, on that budget and schedule so it is actually not a real criticism and the sets etc are so good that overall the production is great and glosses over these lesser effects.

The story itself is interesting and thoroughly good quality throughout. The guest characters are excellent with the convincing acting and clever characterisation of 'Noah' (Kenton Moore) who is being gradually taken over by the alien parasites as well as the aforementioned strong female guest lead character, Vira, played beautifully by Wendy Williams. When you add this to the wonderful Sarah Jane (Elisabeth Sladen) it gives us two top class strong female roles. As well as the always great Sarah Jane we have Harry Sullivan (Ian Marter) in his second story and first trip in the TARDIS. He is a high quality addition as he is well acted, funny, likable and adds to the story. The technician Rogin is another good character.

This is a top class story and a true classic with Tom Baker really establishing himself as an incredible Doctor in only his second story. He still maintains some wonderful humour but is more serious and deep thinking than in his first adventure. New Showrunners, Hinchcliffe & Holmes, are putting their stamp on the show straight away in a powerful and hugely impressive way and nobody could be better as The Doctor than Tom Baker.

All 4 episodes 10/10.
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A masterpiece.
wavybracket17 July 2016
Warning: Spoilers
The Doctor, along with Sarah Jane Smith and Harry Sullivan, are shot into the distant future and find themselves on what appears to be a space station filled with the human race put on ice. Before long Sarah has gone missing, they have been attacked by an automated guard and they've stumbled across acts of sabotage.

This is the first great of the Tom Baker era, a claustrophobic intelligent thriller which pre-dates Alien. The first episode is more or less a two-hander, showcases the acting skills of the two male leads and the strong direction as they negotiate "old dark house"- type suspense. Whilst it's true the special effects were on a budget, the quality of the story means this can still hold its head up high as a classic piece of sci-fi.
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A fantastic science fiction story brings in the brilliant change of pace the show needed
hodgesdanny4 May 2020
Wonderful story that can really be called Tom Baker's first adventure. Strong supporting cast, terrific set design, and a return to the rather extraordinary science fiction ideas that were more prevalent in the 60's.

The blatant use of bubble wrap may seem hilarious now, but it simply highlights how recent and unknown the invention was at the time.
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An excellent Tom Baker Doctor Who story with proper BBC monsters!
grotifer10 January 2007
Warning: Spoilers
The Doctor and Sarah Jane arrive on a space ship filled with humans in cryogenic suspension, and encounter large insects that are preying on the crew, before and after they are woken by the Doctor. This is one of my favourite Doctor Who stories, not just because it has Tom Baker in it, but also because it has some of my favourite BBC monsters in it. The large preying mantis-like creatures have been laying their eggs in the bodies of the crew and they start to mutate into giant caterpillars. These larvae look like sleeping bags covered in the larger type of bubble-wrap and sprayed green (no doubt because they are) and hilariously you can see the actor inside peeping through the mouth at times! If you like this type of ridiculous monster as I do you will certainly enjoy this story. I enjoyed the plot too, but not as much as the monsters. And the adult insect monsters are worth seeing too, but not as entertaining as the larvae.
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