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28 October 2014

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The Ark

Production Code: X

First Transmitted

The Steel Sky - 05/03/1966 17:15

The Plague - 12/03/1966 17:15

The Return - 19/03/1966 17:15

The Bomb - 26/03/1966 17:15


The TARDIS arrives some ten million years in the future on a giant spaceship carrying all the Earth's surviving plant, animal and human life (much of it miniaturised and in suspended animation) on a 700 year voyage to a new home on the planet Refusis II. Dodo is suffering from a cold - an unknown affliction in this era - and as the human Guardians of the ship and their servant race the Monoids have no resistance, a plague breaks out.

The Guardians place the travellers on trial and Steven is forced to defend them against allegations that they spread the disease deliberately. Fortunately, the Doctor finds a cure. The TARDIS leaves the spaceship, which Dodo has nicknamed the Ark, only to arrive back there as it is approaching the end of its voyage. Partly as a result of the earlier plague, the Monoids have now grown strong and enslaved the humans.

They plan to make Refusis II their own but, with the help of the invisible Refusians, the Doctor is able to persuade the two races to live together in peace.

Episode Endings

With the Commander suffering from the same fever that has killed a Monoid, Zentos demands that the strangers be made to suffer for the crime that they have committed. If the Guardians die now, it will have been pointless them leaving the Earth in the first place. On the Ark's scanner screen, the Earth is seen moving toward its final destruction...

Having arrived back on the Ark, the travellers head for the control room. On the way, Dodo notices that the statue that they earlier saw under construction has now been completed - but it has the head not of a human but of a Monoid.

Dodo is horrified that the Ark's launcher has exploded, stranding her and the Doctor on Refusis II. The Doctor states that the two of them will have to wait until another party arrives; and if no one comes, they will just have to stay on the planet.

The TARDIS is arriving at a new destination. Suddenly the Doctor vanishes from sight. Dodo suggests that this might have something to do with the Refusians, but the invisible Doctor tells his companions that it is some form of attack!


The First Men in the Moon.

The War of the Worlds.

The Lord of the Rings (a statue with a one-eyed replacement head).


Dialogue Triumphs

Steven : "If your medical records are anything to go by, this segment of time, far from being one of the most advanced in knowledge, is one of the worst."

Zentos : "We can cope with all things known to the fifty-seventh segment of time, but not with strange diseases brought by you as agents of the intelligences that inhabit Refusis."

Steven : "You're still on about that? I told you before, we know nothing of that planet."

Zentos : "My instinct, every fibre of my being, tells me differently."

Steven : "That, unfortunately, tells me only one thing."

Zentos : "What is that?"

Steven : "That the nature of man, even in this day and age, hasn't altered at all. You still fear the unknown like everyone else before you."

Dialogue Disasters

Monoid one : "Take them to the security kitchen!"


Dodo once went to Whipsnade Zoo on a school trip. The Doctor says that he couldn't take Dodo home even if he wanted to. Dodo has been rooting through the TARDIS wardrobes, finding a pageboy outfit (not Vicki's from The Crusade), and is criticised by the Doctor for her use of contemporary slang ('Fab!'). [The TARDIS, picking up on the Doctor's reservations, choses to follow the Ark to Refusis 2, showing that, even if the Doctor can't pilot it, it can navigate itself. See The Three Doctors.]

The statue is made of gregarian rock, and was supposed to last forever.

The origins of the Monoids are 'obscure': they came to Earth after the destruction of their own planet. The (previously mute) Monoids eventually benefited from human research that enabled them to talk, and provided them with their 'heat prod' weapons. The peaceful Refusians, thanks to solar flares, now have no physical existence.


Dating the Segments of Time


A spacecraft and the planet Refusis 2. The Doctor speculates that they are some 10 million years in the future.

Future History

Future History: Far into the future (the 57th segment of time), the Earth is destroyed by the sun going nova. Mankind and the Monoids undertake a 700 year journey to resettle on Refusis 2 (see Frontios).

The common cold was cured in the twentieth century, the vaccine being derived from animal membranes. As a result of this neither humans (including Steven) nor Monoids have any resistance to it. Knowledge of the virus was lost in the Primal Wars of the tenth segment. Unsuccessful time travel experiments were undertaken in the 27th segment of time.

The ship contains the last members of the human race, watched over by a small number of Guardians and their Monoid helpers. The majority of the human race and all other Terran life, plus the Monoids exist in miniaturised form. 'Audio space research' [radio telescopy] has provided much information about the planet, which is known to be inhabited. It is, however, almost identical to Earth in terms of climatic and other conditions. Dodo calls the ship The Ark, although the Commander is ignorant of the name (despite having heard of the Trojan war). The name sticks. The rules under which the Ark operates are referred to as Galactic Law.



The Monoids, who have no visible mouths, are seen (apparently) eating through holes in their necks.

There are occasional lapses by Jackie Lane into the Cockney accent in which she rehearsed the story, before the production team were instructed by their superiors that it was unacceptable for a regular character in Doctor Who to speak in anything other than 'BBC English'

There is a wonderfully dramatic moment at the end of The Plague when the completed statue with its Monoid head is revealed for the first time.

There are sequences set in the Ark's kitchen in the third and fourth episodes where small pills are seen to be transformed into recognisable food items - such as vegetables and fruit - when dropped into bowls of water.


The Doctor's advice to keep feverish patients warm is not to be recommended.

At the start of episode two there is an audible cue.

Fashion Victim

The mop-top Monoids.

Cast & Crew


The Doctor - William Hartnell

Dodo - Jackie Lane

Steven Taylor - Peter Purves

1st Guardian - Stephanie Heesom

1st Monoid and Monoid One - Edmund Coulter

2nd Guardian - Paul Greenhalgh

2nd Monoid and Monoid Three - Frank George

Baccu - Ian Frost

Commander - Eric Elliott

Dassuk - Brian Wright

Maharis - Terence Woodfield

Manyak - Roy Spencer

Mellium - Kate Newman

Monoid Four - John Caesar

Monoid Two - Ralph Carrigan

Monoid Voices - Roy Skelton

Monoid Voices - John Halstead

Refusian Voice - Richard Beale

Rhos - Michael Sheard

Venussa - Eileen Helsby

Yendom - Terence Bayler

Zentos - Inigo Jackson


Director - Michael Imison

Assistant Floor Manager - Chris D'Oyly John

Costumes - Daphne Dare

Designer - Barry Newbery

Film Cameraman - Tony Leggo

Film Editor - Noel Chanan

Incidental Music - Tristram Cary

Make-Up - Sonia Markham

Producer - John Wiles

Production Assistant - David Maloney

Special Sounds - Brian Hodgson

Story Editor - Gerry Davis

Studio Lighting - Howard King

Studio Sound - Ray Angel

Title Music - Ron Grainer and the BBC Radiophonic Workshop, arranged by Delia Derbyshire

Writer - Paul Erickson

Writer - Lesley Scott

Bottom Line - from The Discontinuity Guide

'A long time ago your ancestors accepted responsibility for the welfare of these Monoids. They were treated like slaves. So it's no wonder when they got the chance they repaid you in kind.' A clever and tightly constructed tale that could only work in an era that allows a two episode build up. The jungle set, complete with lizards, toucans and an elephant, is impressive, and the direction is inventive. The Ark is by no means perfect, but at least it tries.

Analysis - from Doctor Who, the Television Companion

The idea of a giant spaceship taking the last survivors of Earth on a generation-spanning voyage to a new planet provides a strong basis for this story, and was a far-sighted and innovative one for the time of its production - another example of the increased sophistication brought to Doctor Who by John Wiles and Donald Tosh. Also of considerable interest is the depiction of the apparently long-established relationship between the human Guardians and their Monoid servants (or should that be slaves?), which the former seem to think is quite cosy and amicable but - at least judging from the events of the second segment of the story, after the TARDIS returns to the Ark - the latter clearly consider somewhat less satisfactory.

The Monoids' ultimate overthrowing of their masters makes for an interesting reversal of fortunes - and it is, in a way, a pity that the script attributes this partly to the lingering effects of the cold virus unwittingly introduced by Dodo, as this rather dilutes the moral questions that the story implicitly poses about the humans' treatment of the Monoids in the first two episodes.

This subdivision of the story into two distinct segments was novel and interesting in itself. '[An] important thing to remember about The Ark,' noted Ian K McLachlan in Matrix Issue 6 dated May 1980, '[is] that it was really two two-part adventures stitched together. This is what makes it stand out in my mind and really made use of the Doctor's ability to travel in both space and time... In those days, the viewers had no idea at all how long an adventure was going to last. Each episode ran into the next one and the whole series was joined together... I loved the strange ending of episode two - which could not work to the same extent today with [viewers] knowing the length of a story [in advance].

There is however a negative aspect to this story structure, which is that there is little time in either segment for detailed plotting or extensive characterisation. This results in both being rather too simple for their own good, and the humans and Monoids being somewhat one-dimensional and faceless. One is actually tempted to wonder how the human race survived long enough to build the Ark in the first place, as those seen here are a very feeble bunch.

The Monoids are quite effectively realised as alien races go - the inspired idea of having the actor hold the 'eye' of the costume in his mouth and move it with his tongue works very well indeed, and it is surprising that this simple effect has not been used more widely - but the scripts' failure to develop them and provide a convincing background to their relationship with the humans ultimately tells against them. They are perhaps at their least successful in the second segment of the story when, despite writer Paul Erickson's attempts to liven things up by having them quarrel amongst themselves, they become basically just cliched monsters and the whole thing degenerates into a simplistic 'good versus evil' conflict.

On the plus side, the production has a very polished and surprisingly expensive look. The effects - including a giant statue, Earth burning up as it approaches the Sun and an exploding space shuttle - are quite ambitious and uniformly good. Even the sequences of the invisible Refusians causing objects to move seemingly by themselves, which could have been a great let-down, are very well achieved. Other points of note include the jungle set - another piece of excellent design work by Barry Newbery - which has the added bonus of being populated with live animals, including a snake, a toucan and even a baby elephant!

Overall though, despite its many good points, The Ark must be deemed only a qualified success.

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This episode guide is made up of the text of The Discontinuity Guide by Paul Cornell, Martin Day and Keith Topping, and Doctor Who: The Television Companion by David J. Howe and Stephen James Walker.

The Discontinuity Guide © Paul Cornell, Martin Day and Keith Topping 1995.
Doctor Who: The Television Companion © David J Howe and Stephen James Walker 1998, 2003.

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