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24 September 2014

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Colony in Space

Production Code: HHH

First Transmitted

1 - 10/04/1971 18:10

2 - 17/04/1971 18:10

3 - 24/04/1971 18:10

4 - 01/05/1971 18:10

5 - 08/05/1971 18:10

6 - 15/05/1971 18:10


The Time Lords discover that the Master has stolen their secret file on the Doomsday Weapon and decide to send the Doctor to retrieve it for them.

The TARDIS takes the Doctor and Jo to the desolate planet Uxarieus in the year 2472. There they become involved in a dispute between some beleaguered colonists and the crew of an Interplanetary Mining Corporation (IMC) spaceship over the ownership rights to the planet. The Doctor learns that the indigenous Primitives and their High Priests worship a large machine tended by a creature called the Guardian.

The Master meanwhile arrives in the guise of an Adjudicator sent from Earth to decide the fate of the planet. He forces the Doctor to take him to the Primitives' underground city, where they learn that the machine is in fact the Doomsday Weapon, capable of destroying entire planets. Its radiation emissions have brought about the decline of the Guardian's race and are also responsible for the crop failures that the colonists have been experiencing.

The Doctor persuades the Guardian to destroy the Weapon rather than let it fall into the Master's hands. The two Time Lords get clear just in time as the machine explodes, and the Master then escapes in his TARDIS. The colonists, meanwhile, attack the IMC men and force them to surrender.

Episode Endings

The Doctor, investigating the colonist Leeson's dome, is menaced by a robot.

The Doctor is again menaced by the IMC mining robot, which is now directed by the security chief Morgan and wields a pair of vicious claws at the ends of its arms.

The Primitives drag Jo into their city through a door that swings open in a rock face.

A gun battle breaks out between the colonists and the IMC men. The Master tells the Doctor and Jo that they are both about to become the victims of 'stray bullets' and aims a gun at them...

The Master sees on a hand-held scanner device that Morgan and the IMC scientist Caldwell are about to rescue Jo from his TARDIS, where she is held prisoner in a sealed transparent tube. He prepares to press the button on the front of the device that will cause the tube to be flooded with poison gas...

The TARDIS materialises back in the UNIT lab, where the Doctor and Jo find the Brigadier waiting for them. The Doctor tells Jo that they have arrived back only seconds after they left. The Brigadier is confused, but the Doctor cautions Jo not to try to explain - he would never understand.


Land claim Westerns.

Dialogue Triumphs

The Doctor : "I am every kind of scientist."

Captain Dent : "All colonists are eccentric. That's why they're colonists."

The Master : "One must rule or serve. That is the basic law of life. Why do you hesitate? Surely it's not loyalty to the Time Lords, who exiled you to one insignificant planet?"

The Doctor : "You'll never understand. I want to see the universe, not to rule it."

The Master : "It's always innocent bystanders who suffer."

Dialogue Disasters

The Doctor : "There's no animal life, just a few birds and insects."

Double Entendre

The Doctor : "Don't worry, Jim'll fix it!"


The Doctor recognises Uxarieus, but knows nothing of it. He's an expert in agriculture, carries sample jars, and can do conjuring tricks. The Master has a more advanced TARDIS than the Doctor, disguised as a spaceship. A sensor beam across the door alerts the Master who activates a knock out gas. Inside are filing cabinets, and holding tubes for prisoners. His rod-like device can kill and features some sensors. He also carries gas bombs and a device showing his TARDIS' interior.

The Time Lords have stranded the Doctor by fixing a homing control in his TARDIS, which he futilely hopes to bypass by making a new dematerialization circuit (see the yo-yo line from The Claws of Axos). The TARDIS travels outside the space/time continuum, during which the scanner shows swirling colours [the vortex] which resolve into a picture of the approaching planet [the TARDIS appears back in normal space on its way to a landing].

The Time Lords secretly send the Doctor to Uxarieus, since they're aware that the Master has stolen the Doomsday Weapon report and the file on the planet. [The three of them talk covertly, and are watching a Time Space Visualizer, breaking the laws of time without a second thought - very CIA. One of them is played by Graham Leaman, who was also a Time Lord at the Doctor's trial, and may well be the same character. They're obviously worried that somebody will get their hands on a stellar manipulator (cf. Remembrance of the Daleks).]

The Uxariens have mutated into three varieties, all psychic, the highest of which can communicate and teleport small items. At the height of their civilisation they used the Doomsday Weapon to destroy a star, forming the Crab Nebula.


Earth, [late 1970/early 1971;]

Uxarieus, 1-5 March 2472 (despite the fact that the calendar uses the days of the week for 2471).

Future History

Earth during this period is home to 100 billion people, and is polluted, with a repressive government. Humans are still prone to epidemics, and some are housed in floating island blocks. Planets are assigned for either colonisation or mining (the Interplanetary Mining Corporation, its HQ on Earth, seeks duralinium for building), but can be spared the latter on grounds of historical interest. Disputes are resolved by the Adjudicators Bureau. Robbing spaceships is a capital offence under interplanetary law (cf The Space Pirates).


The TARDIS materialises and dematerialises instantaneously, rather than fading in and out as usual.

Mary Ashe is played by Helen Worth, now best known for her long-standing role in Coronation Street.

The Master's TARDIS is now disguised as the Adjudicator's spaceship and its interior is seen for the first time (barring a tight shot of one wall seen on a screen in Terror of the Autons).


The main action of this story takes place on the planet Exarius. (The name given to the planet in Malcolm Hulke's script for Episode One is Uxarieus.)


IMC still use tape spools.

In episode two the monitor screen onboard their ship turns bright blue in every close up.

The Brigadier is fortunate that when he walks to where the TARDIS vanished and tells it to 'come back at once', that it does so in a different corner of the room.

Jo's scepticism about the TARDIS being mobile is odd as she saw it dematerialize in the last story.

The 'popping' (rather than fading) TARDIS materialisations.

If the Master was so ready to kill the Doctor at the end of episode four, why does he use a non-lethal gas when the Doctor goes into his TARDIS? (He only learns that the Doctor can guide him into the primitive city after he releases the gas!)

Fashion Victim

Jo's big belt.

The colonists' hippy gear.

Dent's hairdo.

Cast & Crew


The Doctor - Jon Pertwee

Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart - Nicholas Courtney

Jo Grant - Katy Manning

Alec Leeson - John Tordoff

Alien Priest - Ron Haymann

Allen - Stanley McGeagh

Ashe - John Ringham

Caldwell - Bernard Kay

Colonist - Pat Gorman

Dent - Morris Perry

Guardian - Norman Atkyns

Holden - John Herrington

Jane Leeson - Sheila Grant

Leeson - David Webb

Long - Pat Gorman

Martin - John Line

Mary Ashe - Helen Worth

Morgan - Tony Caunter

Mrs. Martin - Mitzi Webster

Norton - Roy Skelton

Primitive and Voice - Pat Gorman

Robot - John Scott Martin

The Master - Roger Delgado

Time Lord - Peter Forbes-Robertson

Time Lord - John Baker

Time Lord - Graham Leaman

Winton - Nicholas Pennell


Director - Michael E Briant

Assistant Floor Manager - Graeme Harper

Costumes - Michael Burdle

Designer - Tim Gleeson

Film Cameraman - Peter Hall

Film Editor - William Symon

Incidental Music - Dudley Simpson

Make-Up - Jan Harrison

Producer - Barry Letts

Production Assistant - Nicholas John

Script Editor - Terrance Dicks

Special Sounds - Brian Hodgson

Studio Lighting - Ralph Walton

Studio Sound - David Hughes

Studio Sound - Tony Millier

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

Visual Effects - Bernard Wilkie

Writer - Malcolm Hulke

Bottom Line - from The Discontinuity Guide

Well meaning, and much more interesting before the Master arrives, at which point it turns from a Hulke political parable into a typical runaround. Rather like watching socially-aware paint dry.

Analysis - from Doctor Who, the Television Companion

Like season six's The Space Pirates, Colony in Space can be seen as a reworking of certain elements of the Western genre in an outer space setting. This is most apparent in the conflict between the simple but good-hearted settlers (or colonists), eking out a poor living from a hostile landscape, and the unprincipled mining company (IMC) trying to cheat them out of their rightful land allocation. The spear-wielding Primitives are the science-fiction equivalent of Red Indians, while the Master takes on the role of the local lawman who has to adjudicate between the competing interests.

'This classic Doctor Who story is well remembered for being the third Doctor's first adventure away from Earth,' noted Gordon Roxburgh in Matrix Issue 8, dated May 1981, 'and unfortunately that's its only redeeming factor in the eyes of many people. Colony in Space is undoubtedly one of the best written stories of the Pertwee era. I cannot think of any other serial which flows so smoothly along... Malcolm Hulke was indeed a master at writing the longer stories...'

Roxburgh is not the only commentator to have expressed such a positive view of the story. Chris Dunk, for example, writing in Oracle Volume 3 Number 3, dated December 1979, described it as 'an epic saga with so very much to commend it to the Doctor Who fan at various different levels'. The problem with this assessment is that, although the story is indeed refreshing in its setting and contains some interesting ideas and well-drawn characters, it is distinctly short on visual interest and dramatic incident and consequently comes across as being rather dull and lifeless.

Attempting to defend it against such criticisms, Dunk argued that it 'was nowhere near as dull as the landscape' and indeed 'pulsated with excitement', and went on to suggest that 'one of the most interesting things about it was the great number of differing factions involved, leading to confrontations galore, cloak and dagger espionage and general thrills 'n spills.' This, however, greatly overstates the story's appeal.

Such action as there is tends to be of the 'cowboys and Indians' variety - the colonists use rifles, as in a Western, and there is an admittedly superb fist fight in the final episode between the colonist Winton and the IMC security man Rogers (played by stuntman Terry Walsh) that involves them both getting covered in slurry in a watery area of the clay pit location used for the story.

The most exciting moment in the entire six episodes is probably the revelation of the Master in the guise of the Adjudicator from Earth, but even this has less impact than it might have done, owing to the predictability of his arrival (this having been telegraphed in the very first scene of the opening episode).

Another flaw in the story is that the history of Uxarieus's indigenous civilisation, although interesting in itself and well presented, is revealed almost entirely through the Doctor's own deductions. The Primitives and their High Priests could hardly be described as characters in their own right - unlike, say, the Silurians in Malcolm Hulke's previous credited contribution to the series - and even the Guardian, incidentally the most poorly realised of all the aliens on show here, makes only brief appearances to deliver pronouncements from on high.

All in all, Colony in Space was a rather unfortunate choice of story for the third Doctor's initial foray away from Earth. As Paul Mount puts it in Doctor Who - An Adventure in Space and Time in 1985, 'Although [it] is by no means a bad story, it somehow seems a shame that something a little more unusual and out-of-the-ordinary couldn't have been created for such an auspicious event.'

< The Claws of AxosThird DoctorThe Daemons >

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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