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The Ark in Space
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Synopsis


The Ark in Space
The Ark in Space
 Many thousands of years in the future, Earth becomes uninhabitable. Abroad space station Nerva, the remaining survivors of the human race drift amongst the stars in suspended animation. The Doctor, Sarah and Harry arrive to find vital systems have been sabotaged. As mankind begins to awake from its enforced deep sleep, The Doctor discovers that they are not alone…

 The Wirrn are an insect race that inhabit the cold depths of space. But they too have found the Ark and its sleeping occupants.

 Can The Doctor prevent the last of the human race from becoming the Wirrn's new source of food...?

Source: BBC DVD


General Information

Season: Twelve
Production Code: 4C
Story Number: 76
Episode Numbers:386 - 389
Number of Episodes: 4
Percentage of Episodes Held:100%
Working Titles:"Puffball" (episode 1) and "Golfball" (episode 4)
Production Dates: October - November 1974
Broadcast Started: 25 January 1975
Broadcast Finished: 15 February 1975
Colour Status: Colour
Studio: BBC Television Centre Puppet Theatre and BBC Television Centre (TC1 and TC3)
Location: None
Writers:Robert Holmes and John Lucarotti (Uncredited)
Director:Rodney Bennett
Producer:Philip Hinchcliffe
Script Editor:Robert Holmes
Production Assistant:Marion McDougall
Production Unit Manager:George Gallacio
Assistant Floor Manager:Russ Karel
Designer:Roger Murray-Leach
Costume Designer:Barbara Kidd
Make-Up Designer:Sylvia James
Incidental Music:Dudley Simpson
Special Sounds (SFX Editor):Dick Mills
Studio Sounds:John Lloyd
Lighting:Nigel Wright
Visual Effects:John Friedlander and Tony Oxley
Title Sequence:Bernard Lodge
Title Music:Ron Grainer and the BBC Radiophonic Workshop. Arranged by Delia Derbyshire
Number of Doctors: 1
The Doctor: Tom Baker (The Fourth Doctor)
Number of Companions: 2The Companions: Elisabeth Sladen (Sarah Jane Smith) and Ian Marter (Harry Sullivan) Additional Cast: Wendy Williams (Vira), Kenton Moore (Noah), Christopher Masters (Libri), Gladys Spencer (High Minister's Voice), Peter Tuddenham (Voice), Richardson Morgan (Rogin), John Gregg (Lycett), Stuart Fell (Wirrn Operator), Nick Hobbs (Wirrn Operator)Setting: Nerva Beacon Villain: The Wirrn

The Episodes

No. Episodes Broadcast
(UK)
Duration Viewers
(Millions)
In Archive
386Part 125 January 197524'58"9.4PAL 2" colour videotape
387Part 201 February 197524'49"13.6PAL 2" colour videotape
388Part 308 February 197524'05"11.2PAL 2" colour videotape
389Part 415 February 197524'37"10.2PAL 2" colour videotape

Total Duration 1 Hour 38 Minutes


Audience Appreciation

Average Viewers (Millions) 11.1
Doctor Who Magazine Poll (1998)80.04%  (Position = 20 out of 159)
Doctor Who Magazine Poll (2003)444 Points (Position = 32 out of 159)
Doctor Who Magazine Poll (2009)82.22% Higher (Position = 28 out of 200)
Doctor Who Magazine Poll (2014)84.63% Higher (Position = 22 out of 241)


Archives


 All four episodes exist as PAL 2" colour videotapes.



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Notes


This story was written by Robert Holmes, from an original script written by John Lucarotti, which was rewritten because it was considered unusable. Robert Holmes rewrote "The Ark in Space" as a four part story as a lead in to the two part "The Sontaran Experiment". Due to the extensive rewrite John Lucarotti did not receive any on-screen credit.

John Lucarotti's originally story line included an ark, an uninhabitable Earth, humans who had 'over-slept' and aliens who had entered the ark in the meantime. Noticeable differences include the race of the aliens and that The Doctor went to the ark intentionally and with purpose. John Lucarotti's aliens, named the Delk, had the ability to replicate instantly. This would have been Lucarotti's fourth contribution to the show and his first since the First Doctor's era.

Producer Philip Hinchcliffe believed that in order to expand the show's core audience, it was necessary to broaden the show's appeal to adults, and "Ark in Space" demonstrates this with its use of horror, particularly the inexorable transformation of Noah into an alien creature. A scene in which the half-transformed Noah begs Vira to kill him was deemed too scary for children and had to be cut.

This story and the following story, "The Sontaran Experiment", were sent to production together. Although this story was recorded after "The Sontaran Experiment", it was planned all along to exchange the two stories in the transmission order. "The Ark in Space" therefore became the second story for Season Twelve – following "Robot" which had been held over from the end of the previous recording block.

Since both "The Ark in Space" and "The Sontaran Experiment" were effectively being made as one large production, they shared the same director: Rodney Bennett.

Along with the two-part "The Sontaran Experiment", this story was a replacement for a six-part story called "Space Station" by Trevor Langley that was cancelled.

The sets for this story were re-used for "Revenge of the Cybermen" as a cost-cutting exercise. This latter story is partially set on Space Station Nerva but at an earlier time.

"The Ark in Space" shares a number of ideas with the 1966 First Doctor story "The Ark" and also bears a resemblance to the Ridley Scott’s film Alien released in 1979.

Peter Tuddenham, who provided some of the voices in this story, is more famous for providing the voices of Orac, Zen and Slave in the BBC SCI-FI series Blake's 7. He also provided voices in "The Masque of Mandragora" and the 1987 Seventh Doctor story "Time and The Rani".

The Wirrn are natives of the Andromeda galaxy, who lived on herbivores until the humans arrived and fought them for 1000 years, driving them out. When they take over a person, they absorb their memories into the group mind.

The Wirrn grubs were constructed by designer John Friedlander out of plastic bubble-wrap packaging, painted with latex and sprayed green.

It is revealed that Solar flares wiped out all life on Earth.

It is only mentioned once, by Vira, but Noah's name is Lazer, Noah being a joke due to his role on Nerva.

As well as being the first story to feature The Doctor's yo-yo, which he uses to take a gravity reading, The Doctor is also seen using a cricket ball to try to hit the switch controlling the Ark's defence systems.

The music played to Sarah Jane Smith while she is being processed is Handel's Largo.

This story forms part of a continuous series of televised adventures for the TARDIS crew, beginning from the end of "Robot" and continuing through to "Terror of the Zygons".

The title sequence for Part One was tinted pink and green as an experiment, but was not repeated for the subsequent episodes. The title sequence would stay constant for the next six years.

This story set the tone for the early Tom Baker years after the flippancy of the Fourth Doctor's opening story, and is considered a classic by my fans.

Episode two was watched by 13.6 million viewers resulting in it being the fifth most watched programme for the week. This was the highest chart position ever achieved for an episode, of the original run of the show, and for the whole of Doctor Who until the 2007 Tenth Doctor story "Voyage of the Damned" which was placed second for both the week it was originally broadcast in and for the entire year. The highest rated episode (in terms of viewing audience) is the fourth and final episode of the 1979 story "City of Death" (with 16.1 million viewers).

This story was repeated on BBC One as a 70 minute omnibus in August 1975.

This story first came out on VHS, in an omnibus format, in June 1989. It was then re-released in February 1994 in episodic format. This story was also released on Laserdisc by Encore Entertainment in 1996. The DVD release, in April 2002, includes new CGI footage replacing the models of the Ark and the transport ship as an option.

A novelisation of this story, written by Ian Marter, was published by Target Books in May 1977. This was Ian Marter's first novelisation for Target Books (he would write several more before his death in 1986). Ian Marter played Harry Sullivan in this story, making him the only writer (to date) to have ever written a novelisation based upon a story in which he appeared. Interestingly Ian Marter alters the ending so that the travellers leave in the TARDIS. Also in the original script, Wirrn is spelled with only two 'r's. In the Target Books novelisation, Wirrrn is spelled with three 'r's.

The Wirrn also appear in the BBV audio play "Wirrn: Race Memory". The Eighth Doctor encounters the Wirrrn in the BBC The Eighth Doctor Stories novel "Placebo Effect", by Gary Russell, which delves further into their history and psychology. They also appear in the Big Finish Productions audio story "Wirrn Dawn", by Nicholas Briggs, which is set during the war between the Humans and the Wirrn.



First and Last

The Firsts:

 The first trip in the TARDIS for new companion Harry Sullivan played by Ian Marter.

 The first episode contains the first instance where no one but the regulars take part since the the 1963 First Doctor two-part story "The Edge of Destruction".

 The first story to feature The Doctor's yo-yo.

 Philip Hinchcliffe's first involvement in the show as Producer.

 The first Doctor Who story to be directed by Rodney Bennett.

 Roger Murray-Leach's first involvement in the show as Designer.

 The first Doctor Who story to be watched by more than 13 million viewers.

 The first Doctor Who story, released by Target Books, written by Ian Marter.


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The Plot

WARNING: May Contain SpoilersHide Text
The Ark in Space
The Ark in Space

The Doctor and his two travelling companions, Sarah Jane Smith and Harry Sullivan, arrive on an apparently deserted space station orbiting Earth in the far future. They discover that the deactivated Space Station Nerva, known as The Ark, contains the last survivors of the human race in suspended animation. Earth having been evacuated thousands of years earlier when solar flares threatened to destroy all life.

On The Ark they discover that the sleeping humans have not reawakened when they should have, because of a fault in the station’s power supply. After getting past the onboard security systems The Doctor and Harry realise that Sarah, after becoming trapped in a sealed room and nearly suffocated due to a damaged air supply, has trigged the automated hibernation unit and has inadvertently been placed in suspended animation with the other sleeping humans.

What they do not realise, at first, is that The Ark has been invaded by a Wirrn Queen, a large insect like creature, who has other plans for the sleeping humans. Before the TARDIS arrived the Wirrn Queen had already taken the body of Technician Dune, and with his knowledge of the space station, had laid her eggs close to the solar stacks - The Ark's power source - intending to use the remaining sleeping humans as food stock for her young. Then, with her task completed, the Queen had hidden herself away in a storage locker and died.

The Doctor
The Doctor

On arriving at the hibernation area The Doctor and Harry manage to locate Sarah in suspension in one of the cryogenic pallets. Harry, while searching in some cupboards for a resuscitation unit with which to revive Sarah, discovers the dead Queen. They then realise that The Doctor's reactivation of the space station's systems has caused the revival of the humans to start. The first human to be revived is Vira who agrees to help revive Sarah. The Ark's leader, nicknamed Noah, is also revived but when he goes to examine the solar stacks he becomes infected by one of the emerging larvae.

The Doctor realises that Noah, who starts to act strangely, is turning into a Wirrn. Noah though manages to fight off some of the alien influence and orders Vira, via the communications system, to expedite the revivification and get everyone off the station before the Wirrn absorb them and then take over the Earth.

The Doctor and Harry
The Doctor and Harry

Realising the danger they are all in The Doctor and his friends gain the trust of the other humans and, while Harry and Sarah start to revive the rest of the technical crew, The Doctor and Vira go off to find Noah. They soon discover him and Vira is shocked to discover that a growth has taken over most of the left side of his body. With Noah no longer fit to be the leader Vira takes command. However, Vira wants to carry out Noah's last orders and continue the revivification, until The Doctor points out that it will take too long, as the Wirrn will have matured from their larval stage into adults before then. He argues that to defeat the Wirrn they must be destroyed while they are in their dormant pupae stage.

However, after fending off an initial attack and knowing that the Wirrn have at last become dormant, The Doctor goes to the power room, where he finds the Wirrn pupae. As he tries to reactivate the solar stack, Noah - by this time fully transformed into a Wirrn - attacks him.

Fortunately, Vira and Sarah have followed The Doctor and so are able to rescue him. As they back out of the room, Noah tells Vira to leave the station in the transport ship, or else the Wirrn will hunt them down when they emerge. Noah then explains that a thousand years ago, the Wirrn were driven from their home, Andromeda, by human space settlers. Since then, they have drifted through space, looking for a new world, and have now claimed The Ark for their own. While the Wirrn can live in space, their breeding colonies are terrestrial, and they need humans as hosts. They intend to absorb all human knowledge, achieving revenge for the loss of their original home and becoming an advanced technological species within a single generation.

Sarah on the Transmat Table
Sarah on the Transmat Table

After the failed attempt to destroy the Wirrn The Doctor suggests that they somehow electrify the cryogenic chamber to stop the Wirrn from feeding on the sleeping humans. But as the Wirrn control the solar stack they have no means to maintain the electricity. Sarah suggests using the transport ship, which must have its own power generators. After running a cable through conduits, to prevent the Wirrn cutting it they are able to electrify the walls of hibernation area so driving the Wirrn back.

Realising what The Doctor and the humans have done the Wirrn Swarm Leader, offers the others safe passage from The Ark if they leave remaining un-revived humans for the Wirrn. If they do not, the Wirrn will shut down the oxygen pumps. The Doctor tries to appeal to what is left of the human in Noah with reminders of what Earth is like, asking him to lead the swarm into space where they belong, but Noah claims he has no memory of Earth. Meanwhile, the Wirrn try to board the transport ship in an attempt to cut off the power supply.

There is nothing The Doctor can do to stop them and so orders Vira to initiate automatic take off and evacuate the space ship. With all the Wirrn inside the transport ship heads off into space. Suddenly without warning the transport ship explodes – it seems that in a final act of humanity, Noah deliberately neglects to set the shuttle's stabilisers so destroying himself and his fellow Wirrn.

With the threat over The Doctor agrees to help Vira and offers to pop down to Earth using The Ark's transmat system to ensure that the diode receptor beacons are correctly tuned in order to receive the returning humans. Sarah and Harry elect to accompany him and so all three depart leaving the TARDIS still aboard The Ark.

 
Sarah Being Processed
Sarah Being Processed
The Doctor and Harry Explore
The Doctor and Harry Explore
A Dead Wirrn
A Dead Wirrn
The Larva Slug
The Larva Slug
 
Vira Revives Noah
Vira Revives Noah
Noah Becomes Infected
Noah Becomes Infected
Noah as a Wirrn
Noah as a Wirrn
The Wirrn
The Wirrn




Quote of the Story


 'Homo sapiens. What an inventive, invincible species. It's only a few million years since they crawled up out of the mud and learned to walk. Puny, defenceless bipeds. They've survived flood, famine and plague. They've survived cosmic wars and holocausts. And now, here they are, out among the stars, waiting to begin a new life. Ready to outsit eternity. They're indomitable.'

The Doctor



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Release Information

FormatTitleRelease Date (UK)Code NumberCover ArtRemarks
Audio
LP
Science-Fiction Sound Effects No. 191978REC 316Sound Effects
Audio
Tape
Science-Fiction Sound Effects No. 191978Sound Effects
Video
VHS
The Ark in SpaceJune 1989BBCV 4244Photo-montageOmnibus format
Video
VHS
The Tom Baker YearsSeptember 1992BBCV 4839PhotoClip only Introduced and commented on by Tom Baker Double cassette release
Audio
CD
30 Years at the Radiophonic Workshop1993BBC CD 871Photo-montageSound effects
Audio
CD
Pyramids of Mars (Classic Music from the Tom Baker Era)1993FLMCD 134Music score
Audio
CD
The Worlds of Doctor Who1994FLMCD 715Photo-montageMusic score
Video
VHS
The Ark in SpaceFebruary 1994BBCV 5218Photo-montageEpisodic format Re-released budget-priced
Video
Laser Disc
The Ark in SpaceOctober 1996EE1158Episodic format
Video
DVD
The Ark in SpaceApril 2002BBCDVD 1097Clayton Hickman
Audio
CD
Doctor Who at the BBC Radiophonic Workshop Volume Two - New Beginnings 1970-1980May 2005WMSF 6024-2Music and sound effects
Video
DVD
The Ark in SpaceFebruary 2013BBCDVD 3672Special Edition
Audio
CD
The 50th Anniversary CollectionDecember 2013Photo-montageOriginal Television Soundtracks
Video
Blu-Ray
Doctor Who: The Collection - Season 12 (Limited Edition)June 2018BBCBD 0435Photo-montageBlu-Ray Limited Edition boxed set containing 5 specially restored stories
Video
Blu-Ray
Doctor Who: The Collection - Season 12 (Standard Edition)May 2021BBCBD 0526Photo-montageBlu-Ray Standard Edition boxed set containing 5 specially restored stories


In Print

FormatTitleRelease Date (UK)PublisherAuthorCover ArtRemarks
Novel
Novel
Doctor Who and the Ark in SpaceMay 1977Target No. 4Ian MarterChris AchilleosISBN: 0-426-1163-1
Novel
Novel
The Ark in SpaceMay 1991Target No. 4Ian MarterAlister PearsonVirgin new cover reprint.
ISBN: 0-426-1163-1
Script
Script
The Scripts Tom Baker 1974/75October 2001BBC BooksBob Baker and Dave Martinphoto-montageHardback. Contains an introduction by Terrance Dicks. ISBN: 0-563-53815-5
Novel
Novel
Doctor Who and the Ark in SpaceMay 2012Target No. 4Ian MarterChris AchilleosBBC reprint with introduction by Steven Moffat. ISBN: 978-1-84990-476-6
Doctor Who CMS Magazine (In Vision)Issue 2 (Released: February 1988)
Doctor Who Magazine - ArchiveIssue 218 (Released: October 1994)
Doctor Who Magazine - Time TeamIssue 344 (Released: June 2004)
Doctor Who Magazine - The Fact of FictionIssue 463 (Released: September 2013)
Doctor Who DVD FilesVolume 90 (Released: June 2012)

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Photo Gallery


The Doctor and Companions

 
Tom Baker
The Fourth Doctor

   

Elisabeth Sladen
Sarah Jane Smith
 
Ian Marter
Harry Sullivan
   




On Release

Audio LP - Sound Effects No. 19
Audio LP - Sound Effects No. 19

BBC
AUDIO
Original VHS Video Cover
Original VHS Video Cover

BBC
VIDEO
Tom Baker Years VHS Video Cover
Tom Baker Years VHS Video Cover

BBC
VIDEO
Sound Effects CD Cover
Sound Effects CD Cover

BBC
AUDIO
   
Pyramids of Mars CD Cover
Pyramids of Mars CD Cover

Silva Screen
AUDIO
Worlds of Doctor Who CD Cover
Worlds of Doctor Who CD Cover

Silva Screen
AUDIO
Episodic Release VHS Video Cover
Episodic Release VHS Video Cover

BBC
VIDEO
Laser Disc Cover
Laser Disc Cover

Encore Entertainment
VIDEO
   
DVD Cover
DVD Cover

BBC
VIDEO
Audio - Volume 2: New Beginnings
Audio - Volume 2: New Beginnings

BBC
AUDIO
Special Edition DVD Cover
Special Edition DVD Cover

BBC
VIDEO
The 50th Anniversary Collection Cover
The 50th Anniversary Collection Cover

BBC
AUDIO
   
The Collection Season 12 Limited Edition Blu-Ray Cover
The Collection Season 12 Limited Edition Blu-Ray Cover

BBC
VIDEO
The Collection Season 12 Standard Edition Blu-Ray Cover
The Collection Season 12 Standard Edition Blu-Ray Cover

BBC
VIDEO



In Print

Target Book Cover
Target Book Cover

Target
NOVEL
Reprinted Virgin Book Cover
Reprinted Virgin Book Cover

Virgin
NOVEL
BBC Script Book Cover
BBC Script Book Cover

BBC
SCRIPT
Reprinted BBC Book Cover
Reprinted BBC Book Cover

BBC
NOVEL
   



Magazines

Doctor Who CMS Magazine (In Vision): Issue 2
Doctor Who CMS Magazine (In Vision): Issue 2

CMS
Doctor Who Magazine - Archive: Issue 218
Doctor Who Magazine - Archive: Issue 218

Marvel Comics
Doctor Who Magazine - Time Team: Issue 344
Doctor Who Magazine - Time Team: Issue 344

Marvel Comics
Doctor Who Magazine - The Fact of Fiction: Issue 463
Doctor Who Magazine - The Fact of Fiction: Issue 463

Marvel Comics
   
Doctor Who DVD Files: Volume 90
Doctor Who DVD Files: Volume 90

GE Fabbri


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