The Ark (Doctor Who)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search

023 – The Ark
Doctor Who serial
Ark (Doctor Who).jpg
The inhabitants of the Ark discover that they have uninvited guests.
Directed byMichael Imison
Written byPaul Erickson
Lesley Scott
Script editorGerry Davis
Produced byJohn Wiles
Executive producer(s)None
Incidental music composerTristram Cary[1]
Production codeX
SeriesSeason 3
Length4 episodes, 25 minutes each
First broadcast5 March 1966 (1966-03-05)
Last broadcast26 March 1966 (1966-03-26)
← Preceded by
The Massacre of St Bartholomew's Eve
Followed by →
The Celestial Toymaker
Doctor Who episodes (1963–1989)

The Ark is the fifth serial of the third season of the British science fiction television series Doctor Who, which was first broadcast in four weekly parts from 5 to 26 March 1966.

The serial is set at least ten million years in the far distant future. In the first two episodes the time traveller the First Doctor (William Hartnell) and his travelling companions Steven Taylor (Peter Purves) and Dodo Chaplet (Jackie Lane) arrive on a generation ship that Dodo names "the Ark". The Doctor searches for a cure for a fever that has spread across the human and Monoid races on board the ship, who have no immunity to it. The last two episodes are set 700 years later, and involve the Doctor, Steven and Dodo working with the Refusian race to stop the Monoids from wiping out the last of humanity with a bomb.

The story constitutes Dodo's first journey as a companion to the Doctor. It is also the earliest serial of the third season to exist in its entirety.


At least ten million years in the future the TARDIS materialises on a vast spacecraft with its own miniature zoo and arboretum. The First Doctor and Steven are explaining the basics of their time travel ability to their new companion Dodo Chaplet when she starts to show signs of a cold. The three are taken to the control chamber of the vessel by the mute single-eyed Monoids. The Monoids live in peace alongside the humans who command the spaceship, their own planet having been destroyed, but they often do much of the menial work. The humans explain that the Earth is about to be destroyed because of the expansion of the Sun, and that the ship is an "Ark" sent into space with the last remnants of humanity, civilisation, and various flora and fauna. The human Guardians in charge of the craft run a tight ship: failure to conform to their rules means either death or miniaturisation until they reach their destination, an Earth-like planet called Refusis II, which takes nearly 700 years to get to. As an amusement during the journey a vast statue is being carved by hand, depicting a human being.

Dodo's cold spreads among the Monoid and human populations, who have little natural immunity. When the Commander of the Ark collapses with the malady Zentos, the Deputy Commander, assumes that the travellers have deliberately infected the ship and places the whole ship on alert. After a trial, during which Steven collapses with the fever, Zentos orders the execution of the Doctor, Steven and Dodo, but the ailing Commander intervenes to protect them and permits them access to medical equipment to devise a cure. The Doctor is able to recreate the cold vaccine from the membranes of animals on the craft, and this is administered to the crew. The Commander, Steven and the others who have been infected are soon on the road to recovery. Their work done, the trio observe the end of Earth on the long-range scanner before the Doctor leads them back to the TARDIS.

The TARDIS rematerialises back on the Ark, but 700 years later. They learn that after a second wave of the cold virus introduced a genetic weakness into the humans the Monoids staged a coup and took control. They have completed the statue in the image of themselves, and now have voice communicators and use numerical emblems to distinguish each other. The surviving humans are now the Monoids' slaves, and the Doctor and his friends are sent to the kitchen to help to prepare meals for the Monoids. Two humans, Manissa and Dassuk, believe that the moment of their liberation is at hand. Steven tries to help them in a revolt, which is unsuccessful.

The arrival on Refusis is close at hand and a landing pod is prepared. Monoid 1 wants to make sure that the new world is inhabited only by Monoids, despite promises that the human population will be allowed to live there too. A landing party is assembled—the Doctor, Dodo, Monoid 2 and a subject Guardian named Yendom—and they soon reach Refusis II and start to investigate. A stately castle, which seems to be unoccupied, is in fact the home to the Refusians, giant beings rendered invisible by solar flares. They welcome their guests, but want to share the planet only with other peaceful beings. Monoid 2 and Yendom flee the castle, and en route Yendom realises that the humans will not be allowed to reach Refusis with the Monoids. Monoid 2 kills him and shortly afterwards is killed himself when the landing pod explodes.

Monoid 1 decides to colonise Refusis without more checks on the planet, but once they land and discover the destroyed landing pod other, more cautious, Monoids revolt, sparking a civil war. The Doctor, Dodo and a Refusian use the confusion to steal one of the launchers and send the Refusian back to the Ark.

The Monoids have placed a bomb on board the ship and plan to evacuate soon to the planet, leaving the humans to die. Word of this threat spreads and spurs a human rebellion. They discover that the bomb has been placed in the head of the statue, which the Refusian helps to dispose of into space before the bomb explodes. The humans now begin to land on Refusis themselves, having been offered support by the Refusians on the condition that they live peacefully with the remaining Monoids.

Shortly after the TARDIS departs the Doctor becomes invisible in the TARDIS control room.


Although Lesley Scott is credited as a co-writer, she does not appear to have done any actual work on the scripts. Her then-husband, Paul Erickson requested that she be given a credit, but her name appears on no other related documents.[2] A Lesley Scott was credited as a contributor to the Dr. Who Annuals published by World Distributors/World International,[3] but it is not clear whether this is the same person.

The Monoids were played by actors, each holding a ping-pong ball in his mouth to represent the alien's single eye. The upper portion of the actor's face was hidden by a wig.

Cast notes[edit]

Roy Spencer later played Frank Harris in Fury from the Deep (1968). Terence Bayler later played Major Barrington in The War Games (1969).[4] Australian actor Bill Hunter played one of the Guardians; however, he remained uncredited.[5][6]

Richard Beale, who provided the disembodied voice of the invisible Refusian, later played Bat Masterson in The Gunfighters (1966).

Michael Sheard made the first of six appearances in Doctor Who; he subsequently appeared in The Mind of Evil (1971) with Jon Pertwee, Pyramids of Mars (1975) and The Invisible Enemy (1977) with Tom Baker, Castrovalva (1982) with Peter Davison and Remembrance of the Daleks (1988) with Sylvester McCoy.

Broadcast and reception[edit]

EpisodeTitleRun timeOriginal air dateUK viewers
(millions) [7]
Archive [8]
1"The Steel Sky"24:005 March 1966 (1966-03-05)5.516mm t/r
2"The Plague"25:0012 March 1966 (1966-03-12)6.916mm t/r
3"The Return"24:1919 March 1966 (1966-03-19)6.216mm t/r
4"The Bomb"24:3726 March 1966 (1966-03-26)7.316mm t/r

Reviewing the serial in 2009, Patrick Mulkern of Radio Times stated, "The concept is fine, especially with the time-lapse cliffhanger to episode two ... Otherwise the plot is lacking in dramatic incident and there are often tracts of extreme tedium."[9] He felt that the Guardians did not have enough time to develop and called the Monoids "somewhat ludicrous", though he did praise the direction, music, and effects.[9] DVD Talk's John Sinnott gave the serial three and a half out of four stars, writing that the first half was "slow" but became interesting when the TARDIS crew returned.[10] Arnold T. Blumberg of IGN rated the serial an eight out of ten, highlighting the "snappy and exciting" pace and the "surprisingly top-notch" production values, aside from the Monoids.[11] SFX reviewer Ian Berriman rated it three out of five stars, describing it as "quaint" with the Monoids being "laughable" villains.[12] However, he did note the ambition of the story, that it was faster-paced than others at the time, and the "positively epic" sets.[12] Brian J. Robb of Dreamwatch praised the direction but wrote that the "ambitious story that fails miserably thanks to the less-than-stellar Monoids".[13] Charlie Jane Anders of io9 listed the cliffhanger of "The Plague"—in which the TARDIS crew leave and return in the future—as one of the greatest Doctor Who cliffhangers in a 2010 article.[14]

Commercial releases[edit]

In print[edit]

The Ark
Doctor Who The Ark.jpg
AuthorPaul Erickson
Cover artistDavid McAllister
SeriesDoctor Who book:
Target novelisations
Release number
PublisherTarget Books
Publication date
October 1986 (Hardback) 19 March 1987 (Paperback)

A novelisation of this serial, written by Paul Erickson, was published by Target Books in October 1986.

Home media[edit]

This story was released on VHS, in 1998. It was later released on CD with linking narration by Peter Purves. The CD also includes an interview with Peter about this story and his time on Doctor Who.[15] This CD is available as an audio book on the iTunes Store.

The Ark was released on DVD on 14 February 2011 in region 2, and on 8 March 2011 in region 1.


  1. ^ Re-use of music recorded for The Daleks
  2. ^ Pixley, Andrew, "Doctor Who Archive: The Ark," Doctor Who Magazine, #228, 2 August 1995, Marvel Comics UK, Ltd., p. 26.
  3. ^ Pixley, Andrew, "The Ark: Archive Extra," Doctor Who Magazine Special Edition, #7, 12 May 2004 (The Complete First Doctor), Panini Comics, p. 73.
  4. ^ "BBC - Doctor Who Classic Episode Guide - The War Games - Details".
  5. ^ Muriel's Wedding star Bill Hunter 'gravely ill' Archived 20 May 2011 at the Wayback Machine, ninemsn, 18 May 2011.
  6. ^ Production notes, The Ark DVD, BBC.
  7. ^ "Ratings Guide". Doctor Who News. Retrieved 28 May 2017.
  8. ^ Shaun Lyon; et al. (31 March 2007). "The Arc". Outpost Gallifrey. Archived from the original on 31 March 2008. Retrieved 30 August 2008.
  9. ^ a b Mulkern, Patrick (7 March 2009). "Doctor Who: The Ark". Radio Times. Retrieved 19 January 2013.
  10. ^ Sinnott, John (16 March 2011). "Doctor Who: The Ark". DVD Talk. Retrieved 19 January 2013.
  11. ^ Blumberg, Arnold T. (8 March 2011). "Doctor Who: The Ark DVD Review". IGN. Retrieved 20 January 2013.
  12. ^ a b Berriman, Ian (11 February 2011). "Doctor Who: The Ark – DVD review". SFX. Retrieved 19 January 2013.
  13. ^ Robb, Brian J (15 February 2011). "Doctor Who: The Ark". Dreamwatch. Archived from the original on 6 June 2012. Retrieved 19 January 2013.
  14. ^ Anders, Charlie Jane (31 August 2010). "Greatest Doctor Who cliffhangers of all time!". io9. Retrieved 19 January 2013.
  15. ^ "Doctor Who: The Ark (TV soundtrack)". Big Finish Productions. Retrieved 23 November 2012.

External links[edit]

Target novelisation[edit]