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Dodo dooms mankind with a sneeze; cyclopses lock humans in a security kitchen; and incorporeal creatures sit down in chairs.

The Doctor, Steven and Dodo visit an Ark in space (not that one), where most of mankind has been miniaturised and put on shelves in cold storage. The few regular-sized humans around are aided by a race of cyclopses, called the Monoids, who may or may not be their slaves, and whose origins and presence on the ship are never divulged.

All seems fine until Dodo develops a 5-minute cold and sneezes, and subsequently infects every biped onboard with a deadly plague. It’s now up to The Doctor to cure the common cold and save the day.

But that’s not all – and let’s keep this as spoiler-free as possible – hm, were the troupe to leave and return, say, some centuries later, then it would potentially be up to them to rescue said humans from, say, a security kitchen.

Here's what we think of C023 The Ark

We rate Doctor Who stories on a scale from 0.0 to 5.0. For context, very few are excellent enough to merit a 5.0 in our minds, and we'd take a 0.0 Doctor Who story over a lot of other, non-Whovian stuff out there.

Leon | @ponken


jD | @mariuskane


Here's what we think of C023 The Ark

We rate Doctor Who stories on a scale from 0.0 to 5.0. For context, very few are excellent enough to merit a 5.0 in our minds, and we'd take a 0.0 Doctor Who story over a lot of other, non-Whovian stuff out there.

Leon | @ponken


jD | @mariuskane


Here's what you think 5 Responses to “C023 The Ark”
  1. Stephen | @sgamer82

    “The Ark” is the first TARDIS adventure for companion Dodo Chaplet and, in it, she sets what has to be the record for the most damage done by a companion in the shortest amount of time with the least amount of effort. Yeah, sure, Rose Tyler nearly broke Time in “Father’s Day”, but that took eight episodes into her run. That took running into the path of a speeding vehicle. That took work! Dodo nearly wiped out humanity within twenty minutes by sneezing.

    That said, I don’t have any particular like or dislike towards Dodo. I do like her interactions with the Doctor, as he deals with a granddaughter figure who is a very different creature from his beloved Susan and adventurous Vicki. His annoyance at her slang was good for a few chuckles. On the con side, I can’t tell if she was exceptionally slow on the uptake or just in denial about traveling through Time and Space.

    This was an interesting episode in a few ways. I think this is the first episode to directly show the direct consequences of the Troupe’s involvement in a world’s affairs. It’s also the first I can think of to revisit a location that the Troupe had previously been to. I can’t think of anything else offhand that does this until Jon Pertwee’s “The Curse of” and “The Monster of” Peladon episodes. We also have humanity’s turn of fortune as the Troupes’ doesn’t prevent humans from being weakened to the point that the Monoids take control, as immediately demonstrated by the revelation of the Monoid statue at the halfway mark. While pre-dating the film (though not the original novel), my first thought went to the ending shot of Planet of the Apes.

    I’ve said plenty of times that I forgive poor special effects. My rule has been not to mark down for them even if they’re silly. Won’t stop me from talking about them, though. The Monoids make me think of alien Beatles fanboys with their various moptops, their language collars in the second half look like they’re made of paper mache, and you can see the zippers in the backs of the costumes throughout.

    My one serious complaint about the Monoids would be how they seemed to just turn evil. They’re presented as partners with humans and, even if that weren’t completely true and they were servants, they never seemed anything close to the kind of slave race we’ve seen in the modern-day Ood. Yet the moment humanity declines they’re on top and ruling humanity with a hairy iron fist. I procrastinated some between re-watching the story and writing this review, so maybe I missed something or am misremembering, but even with the 700 year gap in time it seems that the Monoids went from decent fellows to “Humans Must Die” very quickly within the story.

    The Refusians, while probably another budget cop out like the Visians from the Daleks Master Plan, are is an interesting concept in that they’re a disembodied alien race that would actually enjoy having people living on their planet again. They just want to make sure they like their new roommates.

    I wouldn’t call “The Ark” a bad episode, but other than a few minor points I don’t feel anything particularly stood out for me. I’m going to take the middle ground and round it up to a 3 out of 5. There were some interesting concepts, and it’s always fun to see a first-time occurrence for the show, but I just don’t feel there was anything to warrant rating higher. On the other hand, I don’t want to rate overly low in case I end up marking down for something in the story I forgot or simply failed to catch on my own.

  2. Gallifreyan Buccaneer | @aluntrussler

    The Ark comes as a welcome treat in this era of Hartnell’s run, where it seems every story is either missing, or doing something a little bit different to normal. 12 episode Dalek epics, dispatching companions,gaining companions, twin Doctor characters and so on.

    It’s then so refreshing to have The Doc and co. land on an alien planet and go exploring and meeting the locals. Dodo debuts here, seemingly losing her working-class accent with each successive episode. She’s ok, that’s about all I can say about her. She’s even more of a stock young female companion than Vicki ever was.

    The Monoids are the most interesting part of this serial. Admittedly, they look absolutely idiotic with ping-pong balls for eyes and weird Beatle haircuts, but at least they’re tangibly alien. The important factor is what they represent. And I’m not a fan of it.

    For the first two episodes they’re essentially lower-class citizens to the humans, not speaking and just getting on with their work. Blah blah, plot happens, but then Doc and co. return to the planet to find The Monoids have taken over. Why is this? Because the humans became weak, and we trusted the Monoids enough to give them arms and a form of speech.

    Well that’s great, typical Doctor Who stuff, helping lesser races to co-exist. Except here they don’t co-exist, they become the new rulers. Ok fine, so they’re evil then? Well not really. They’re portrayed as incompetent, divulging crucial information to humans who they’ve overthrown, right out loud in front of them, and generally being un-fit to lead. Once they go full evil by planning to bomb the humans, The Doctor sides with the humans in killing the opposing Monoids off and re-enslaving the surviving Monoids! It’s just incredibly racist and Imperial writing, the exact kind of thing that doesn’t belong in Doctor Who. Even in this early era it doesn’t belong, and I’ll touch more on this in The Celestial Toymaker, as it just goes against the ideals of The Doctor. He didn’t snub the entire Sensorite race just because of a few bad apples. It’s equivalent to him meeting peaceful Germans in the 1930’s, returning in 1941 to find Nazis subjugating the country, and aiding the Alli! es to destroy and enslave ALL of Germany, not only the Nazis. We didn’t do this to the Germans, and it’s just wrong that The Doctor, who stands for the best of humanity, would support the condemnation of an entire race to be subservient, only because they chose to try and be independent. It stncks of the whole ‘White Man’s Burden’ thing of the late 19th century and is very much out of place in Doctor Who.

    Despite these misgivings, I can’t deny the story works. It whizzes along at a good pace, and it’s nice to have an alien planet exploration episode. I have to majorly mark down an otherwise good serial for horribly backwards writing.

    The Ark gets a 1.5.

  3. Peter Zunitch

    I didn’t mind this one. Kinda like it actually. Could certainly have been better. Could certainly been worse. The transport golf cart was a joke, and the way they lingered on it every time it was in shot is directorially and dramatically scuicidal.however if I ever find myself on the ark I’ll certainly know how to drive one, as I’ve seen 5 minutes of it on screen while everyone else stood around and stared.

    It could have used another pass or two on the script and more time on the aliens and it would have been great.

    Still it was a very epic concept and earns pts for that.

    I’m glad this is the last of the invisible monsters for a long time(possible exception being the dr himself in toymaker). It’s a cop-out of a plot device that hartenell writers have uses all too often lately

  4. Bertie Lukins

    Great review gang! JD is a welcome addition to the Classic Who squad. Just thought I’d pick up on the comments about “Gear!” being a strange (and possibly invented) colloquialism from Dodo/Dido/Dildo. I’m Australian but my mother is English and was brought up in Liverpool, and ‘Gear!’ was commonly heard from her around my household growing up. I always thought it was a specifically Liverpool thing, which is odd as I believe JD is from that neck of the woods and he was most adamant about it not being ridgey-didge slang. In the episode of the Simpsons that features Ringo Starr, Ringo uses the word “Gear!” to describe a gift that he’s been given (a painting, from memory?), adding some weight to the Liverpool slang thing. Anyway, doesn’t matter, let’s stick a pin in that. Thanks again guys!

  5. The Doctor, Steven and irritating new girl Dodo arrive onboard a spaceship, millions of years in the future, carrying the last humans away from the dying Earth to their new home among the stars. Along with them are the Monoids – an alien race who have clearly never discovered the concept of a hairdresser, and whom the earthlings treat as second class citizens.

    After some misadventures – in which Dodo sneezes over everybody, people die and the Doctor saves the day – the crew return to the TARDIS. Their next landing, however, brings them back to the same spaceship, 700 years later. But now the Monoids have taken over, and they have a cunning plan.

    There’s a surprising amount to like about this story. The idea of returning to the same place in two different time periods is great. It’s not quite as good as the 9th Doctor’s realisation that his interference in “The Long Game” created the environment for “Bad Wolf” but it is a solid idea nonetheless.

    In particular the way that things have changed in the intervening period – the rise of the Monoids and the fall of the earthlings – is very well handled, and the reveal of the Monoid statue at the end of episode two is a very intriguing cliffhanger.

    There are other great ideas too. We have all the animals rescued from Earth and coming along for the ride, allowing for a really nice scene with a genuine elephant. The notion of the common cold being deadly to advanced humanity is also very original. And the human race are mostly miniaturised: travelling through the galaxy in a petri dish. It’s all very imaginative.

    Finally, and I know it may put me out on a limb here, I really like the costume design. It’s bizarre, but very iconic. Dodo dresses up as a medieval squire, for no particular reason, which involves her wearing a pair of tights with only one leg. She flashes a fair amount of thigh, which only puts her in the same category as everyone else, who wear bathing costumes covered in ribbons. Meanwhile, the Monoids hairy heads and the giant moving eyeball in their mouths are very memorable, though they are admittedly a bit of a shambles below the neck.

    Perhaps the format – essentially two separate two episode stories – means that we fail to get decent adventures in either half of this story. The range of characters are limited, and each one is little more than a cliché. I struggle to remember any of them individually. I certainly don’t remember any of their names.

    Oh yes, and Dodo is a pain. At least the Doctor agrees with me. Only a few minutes into the first episode, he refers to her as “Most irritating!”

    – The Doctor’s horror at the thought that he might have been unwittingly spreading killer diseases around the galaxy is brilliant. “It doesn’t bear thinking about!” We suddenly remember all the alien planets the crew have visited and the civilisations they have encountered since “An Unearthly Child”. Did everyone die horribly shortly after the TARDIS left? No wonder the Doctor tries to tell himself that they’ve all been generally healthy up till now. Living in denial is always the best way.
    – “Take them away to the security kitchen.” It’s one of these lines where you ask yourself if you heard it correctly. The security… kitchen? Because it’s easier than looking after them in a cell? Because it’s better to give them access to knives and boiling liquids? Because… the budget doesn’t stretch to another four walls?
    – A Monoid cackles to Dodo: “It may not take as long as you think. Ha ha ha!”. No doubt he imagines this to be some sort of Shakespearian ‘aside’, dripping with unheard irony. He is sadly mistaken. “You’re up to something, aren’t you?” challenges Dodo. “Er… um…” he replies, “um… er…. no?” What a comeback!
    – Monoid #2 radios back to base. Instead of saying immediately: “Danger! Aliens!”, he goes on a long ramble about how he landed and opened the door and stepped outside and you won’t believe what I saw… wait till I tell you this… you’ll be amazed, I promise you… Next thing he is blown up, and the base just assume his battery has died and all is fine and dandy.
    – The Monoids have planted a fission bomb in the head of a 100m tall statue without anybody noticing. That’s genius.
    – The statue is thrown out of the spaceship. It drifts a few metres away, the head explodes with the force of a neutron star, and nothing on the ship is remotely damaged.

    The Ark is brilliant at world-building, but the plot is pretty standard and the characterisation is dreadful. There’s a nice moral message about the need to live together despite racial differences. It’s got a lot of great ideas, but it’s never going to be a classic.

    OVERALL: 2.9

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