Doctor Who: Looking Back At THE ARK IN SPACE

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Christopher Morley looks back at The Ark In Space and the beginnings of a legendary TARDIS traveling team; the Fourth Doctor, Sarah Jane Smith and Harry Sullivan.


Ah, the early days of a new Doctor.

Whilst still getting used to the new man, post-regeneration can be a tricky business. Robot gave us the Fourth incarnation of the Time Lord, a man radically different from his three past selves, certainly more of an alien. The Ark In Space, a favourite of former New-Who head boy Russell T Davies and broadcast 40 years ago today on January 25th 1975, represented the new Doctor's first proper outing.

The humans went in in their droves, hurrah, hurrah...


Only while they've been asleep waiting for their Ark to deliver them to a new home in the stars, the Wirrn have wirrmed their way in! And to think the new man in charge of the TARDIS wouldn't have been there to do a spot of pest control if Harry hadn't mucked about with the helmic regulator.
DOCTOR: You're a clumsy, ham fisted idiot.
HARRY I said I was sorry, didn't I?
DOCTOR: What? Come out! And don't touch anything.
HARRY I'm only trying to open the door. Oh, I say. We've gone!
SARAH: Who's gone?
HARRY: I mean, this isn't.. We aren't where we were when... I've gone mad.
SARAH: That's how I felt the first time. Where are we, Doctor?
DOCTOR: I've no idea.
SARAH: A little trip to the moon, you said, just to prove to Harry...
DOCTOR: I didn't expect him to start messing about with the helmic regulator. Come away from there, Harry.
HARRY: You could sell that thing, Doctor.
DOCTOR: I could what?
HARRY: Jolly useful in Trafalgar Square. I mean, hundreds of bobbies hiding inside it.
SARAH: Harry....
(And of course British policemen have been using the handy blue boxes ever since the first one was installed in Glasgow in 1891!)



It's big alien bugs that demand the Doctor's attention, though. And he's experienced a fair few, not least the Zarbi & giant maggots. Arks are nothing new either. He can probably even remember his trip to a Wheel In Space, at a push. That's at least three ticks in the Classic Who spotters guide, then! Extra-terrestrial insects aboard a space station might indeed yield many a point & pint should the cynical fan wish to play a ''spot the stock element'' drinking game. But hold taking a slug of your preferred alcohol beverage for just a second.


Ginger pop, anyone? Whatever you're drinking, refrain from downing it. For while it may indeed seem strange to revisit old ground with a new face, in this case far from it.

The new TARDIS team of the Doctor, Harry & Sarah need time to get to know each other, & just as the man he had been four selves ago found with Ian & Barbara, a bond can be forged under pressure. A similar principle applies here. The three barely know each other, & yet here they are having to get the Ark out of trouble just as the man who's taken to jelly babies rather fondly found himself having to escape the politics of the Stone Age when he was younger, older-looking & grumpier with the two Coal Hill School teachers who once stood at his side just as Sarah & Harry do now.

There is at least some sense of kinship from the off, unlike the old misery-guts wishing those two teachers would leave him to it in that Totters Lane junkyard!
DOCTOR: What are you doing here?
IAN: We're looking for a young girl.
DOCTOR: We?
BARBARA: Good evening.
DOCTOR: What do you want?
At this point we can jump forward to the end of Robot:


DOCTOR: We're just going on a little trip. Would you like a jelly baby?
HARRY : Little trip? What, in that old police box?
DOCTOR: Yes, as a matter of fact, in that old police box.
HARRY: Oh, come along now, Doctor. We're both reasonable men. Now, we both know that police boxes don't go careering around all over the place.
DOCTOR: Do we?
HARRY: Of course we do. The whole idea's absurd.
DOCTOR: Is it? You wouldn't like to step inside a moment? Just to demonstrate that it is all an illusion.
HARRY: Well, if you think it'll do any good.
DOCTOR: Oh, yes, it'll make me feel a lot better.
Compare & contrast with Ian Chesterton's all the more withering assessment the moment he first sets foot inside!
SUSAN: We've left 1963.
DOCTOR: Oh, yes, undoubtedly. I'll be able to tell you where presently. Zero? That's not right. I'm afraid this yearometer is not calculating properly. Hm! Well, anyway, the journey's finished. (to Ian) What are you doing down there?
BARBARA: What have you done?
IAN: Barbara, you don't believe all this nonsense?
SUSAN: Well, look at the scanner screen.
DOCTOR: Yes, look up there. They don't understand and I suspect they don't want to. Well, there you are. A new world for you.
IAN: Sand and rock?
DOCTOR: Yes, that's the immediate view outside the ship.
BARBARA: But where are we?
IAN: You mean that's what we'll see when we go outside?
SUSAN: Yes, you'll see it for yourself.
IAN: I don't believe it.
DOCTOR: You really are a stubborn young man, aren't you?
IAN: All right, show me some proof. Give me some concrete evidence. I'm sorry, Susan, I don't want to hurt you, but it's time you were brought back to reality.
SUSAN: But you're wrong, Mister Chesterton.
DOCTOR: They are saying I'm a charlatan. What concrete evidence would satisfy you?
IAN: Just open the doors, Doctor Foreman.
DOCTOR: Eh? Doctor who? What's he talking about?
BARBARA: They're so sure, Ian.
IAN: Yes, I know.
BARBARA: And remember the difference between the outside of the police box and the inside.
IAN: Yes, I know, but. Are you going to open the doors or aren't you?
DOCTOR: No.
IAN: You see?
DOCTOR: Not until I'm quite sure it's safe to do so.
A quite marked contrast to his later self's ' I'm quite sure its not safe to open the doors, but I shall do anyway'' attitude, we're sure you'll agree!

And though they might not have been a unit when they first stepped out to take on the Wirrn, the newer Doctor, Harry & Sarah will become one, in much the same way the First, Ian & Barbara did.


After the Wirrn swarm is dealt with, the TARDIS party transmats down to Earth to repair the receiver terminal and allow the Ark colonists to repopulate the planet. What followed was The Sontaran Experiment, Genesis Of The Daleks, Revenge Of The Cybermen and Terror Of The Zygons. A run of very fondly remembered adventures.

The Doctor left for the Planet Of Evil, with just Sarah Jane by his side - Harry staying back on Earth with UNIT. But why?

It seems that the development of Harry's character harks back to that of Ian Chesterton. 30 year old Ian Marter was originally cast in the role by the production team when they decided that the incoming Fourth Doctor would be portrayed by an older actor, and thus would not be able to handle the more physical action scenes. Very much like the role of the younger male companions the First Doctor travelled with. But After 40 year old Tom Baker was cast, such concerns were allayed and Harry Sullivan was written out after only one season.


Harry returned to fight The Android Invasion, and off-screen Ian Marter and Tom Baker remained good friends - co-writing a script for a proposed Doctor Who movie - even if he did call him an imbecile during the show...



Their time as a travelling trio may have been short, but their legacy is immense.
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