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Doctor Who - The Ark in Space (1975)

Cast: Tom Baker, Tom Baker, Elisabeth Sladen, more...
Director: Rodney Bennett, Rodney Bennett
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Studio: BBC Warner
Genre: Foreign, Science Fiction , Television, British TV, UK, Sci-Fi TV, Sci-Fi TV
Running Time: 98 min.
Languages: English
Subtitles: English
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The TARDIS materializes on the derelict space station Nerva Beacon, sometime in the far future. The Doctor (Tom Baker) finds that the station is home for the last inhabitants of the long-dead Planet Earth, who are being kept in suspended animation. No sooner have the Doctor and his travelling companions Sarah (Elisabeth Sladen) and Harry (Ian Marter) digested this than the Nerva Beacon is threatened with a dangerous surge of solar radiation. Written by Robert Holmes, "The Ark in Space" ran four episodes, the first of which originally aired January 25, 1975. ~ Hal Erickson, All Movie Guide

GreenCine Member Reviews

A great early Tom Baker story by Saroz February 16, 2004 - 10:22 PM PST
1 out of 2 members found this review helpful
"The Ark in Space" is one of those titles DVD-enthusiastic Who fans saw coming a long, long way away. It was one of the first Who video releases, one of only a handful of stories released on laserdisc, and maintains a consistent popularity that regularly puts it at the top of the list when people think of "great Tom Baker stories," or even great Doctor Who in general. It's a claustrophobic story with shades of the later film Alien, with alien larvae infecting an "ark" of the final few thousand members of humanity. The alien effects are, of course, cheap and often silly, but the characters win out. Most particularly, the first of the four half-hour episodes is a great example of how to do Who with only the regular cast.

I was quite taken aback by the video element of "The Ark in Space". There is no irritating jitter to one side of the screen, and the colors seem - well, more vibrant, somehow. After the disappointing transfer of "Robots of Death" and the un-remastered, Region 1-only "Key to Time" set, I am definitely happy to report that the Tom Baker stories have just as good a chance as any to look crisp and fresh on DVD.

Most publicized amongst the extra features are the new CGI model effects. You have the menu option to either watch the story with the original model effects from 1975, or see the new ones integrated throughout. Personally, I would go for the former option. Here's what bothered me about the new CGI: while the medium and long shots of Nerva Beacon are undeniably gorgeous and very atmospheric, any time the Ark passes directly in front of the camera - the two prime examples are in Part 1 - my disbelief was instantly shattered. It is clearly a computer-generated model, and looks very fake that close to the viewer, without any shadows to hide it. While the original 1975 model shots are hokey, and a touch embarrassing, I am at least used to them - so I'll continue watching the story that way.

The DVD also contains a number of other extras, ranging from the excellent - a 1975 interview with Tom Baker, a 2001 interview with designer Roger Murray-Leach, and an brilliant production trivia subtitle track - to the ridiculous - a new CGI "space station schematic feature", and the mind-numbing Howard Da Silva PBS voiceovers. Most of the extras, including a commentary with Tom Baker, Lis Sladen and producer Philip Hinchcliffe, a reconstructed trailer, cast biographies and a photo gallery, fall somewhere in the middle - worth watching once, anyway.

For all my criticisms, "The Ark in Space" is a must-see Doctor Who DVD. Sure, several of the extras are lightweight, but what good ones there are prove very, very good, and the story is of a very high caliber to begin with. Plus, who knows, maybe you'll like those CGI effects more than I did!

GreenCine Member Rating

(Average 7.10)
42 Votes
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