It’s common knowledge amongst Doctor Who fans that The Ark in Space is one of the best stories of all time; and quite rightly so. Written by the amazing Robert Holmes, it depicts the extraordinary journey mankind will make when the Earth is hit by solar flares and humanity faces extinction. Just forgive the bubble wrap…
Part one of The Ark in Space is one of the single greatest episodes of Doctor Who. Tom Baker, Ian Marter and Elisabeth Sladen carry the episode wonderfully as their characters walk straight into mad and troublesome situations. After Harry accidentally uncovers a secret room that Sarah gets trapped in, the Doctor and Harry proceed to save her from oxygen starvation, before accidentally freezing her in suspended animation, and nearly getting electrocuted by the beacon’s security system. One of my favourite moments in part one has to be when Sarah is being spoken to by the Earth’s last high minister, especially when a dreamy Sarah starts waving at her. The way our heroes continue to blunder into more and more trouble is beautiful to watch while the cliffhanger at the end of part one, which I shall not spoil, is one of the best and most shocking in Doctor Who history.
Part two sees the introduction of Vira and Noah, two of the humans chosen for survival. Vira is the first medtech on board the Nerva Beacon while Noah is in command. The two had been paired for recolonisation on Earth but felt differently about how to deal with the Doctor, Sarah and Harry. While Vira was happy to let them go, Noah wanted them dead as he saw them as dangerous. Part two’s cliffhanger might make you chuckle a bit but it certainly doesn’t detract from a good story; (in part two’s cliffhanger’s defence, bubble wrap wasn’t common in 1975.)
Parts three and four are a fight for survival. The insect-like Wirrn are taking over and the existence of the human race is at risk. A particularly creepy moment for me was in part three when the Wirrn cut the power and it went dark. It made me think about how scary it would be being trapped on board the beacon, in the dark, losing oxygen, and surrounded by aliens who want to lay their eggs in you. The background silence helps portray the fear excellently.
Part four was fantastic and gripping until the end. Just watching Sarah crawling through the tunnels is enough to make you feel claustrophobic, and Rogin’s sacrifice makes you wish you’d paid more attention to him during the story. However, the most brilliant thing about The Ark in Space is the chemistry between the Doctor, Harry and Sarah. Harry already improving through the Doctor’s mentoring, Sarah rolling her eyes when Harry gives her useless advice, the Doctor telling Sarah “we’re trying to make a plan” when Sarah already has the solution; all moments of pure brilliance that prove this is one of the best TARDIS teams Doctor Who has had.