Cool Things About “The Ark"
(And 24 Stupid Ones)
(But we're not telling you which is which)
(We're expecting you to work that out for yourselves)
By Alan Stevens and Fiona Moore
Originally published in Celestial Toyroom Issue 385
1. The story begins with a hornbill jumping on the head of a lizard.
2. Paul Erickson attended Panopticon in 1986 and a member of the audience asked him how much Lesley Scott contributed to the script. He replied that Lesley Scott did not contribute anything to “The Ark” and that she was credited for personal reasons he did not want to go into. The following year, Paul Erickson again attended Panopticon and was asked the same question by the same audience member, to which Erickson made the same reply, adding “and I believe you are the same person who asked this question last year.” The questioner was one Alan Stevens.
3. The music which accompanies the story is actually from Tristram Cary’s score for “The Daleks.”
4. The Monoids’ single eyes were positioned in front of the performer’s mouth, allowing them to move the “eyeball” with their tongues; just to draw attention to this fact, their eyelids look like voluptuous lips.
5. “It couldn’t be anywhere else than Earth, could it?” says Dodo, regarding the wildlife. Considering the amount of Earth-type life that’s out there on alien planets in the Doctor Who universe, monitor lizards and chameleons are no guarantee that it is.
6. Children are seen aboard the Ark, which is rare in any era of the programme.
7. The designers and producer seem to have gone to effort to subtly distinguish individual Monoids, with a range of body types and variations on the Beatle haircut on display.
8. Jackie Lane’s dialect wanders all over the map, from the Home Counties through to Manchester, but by the end of episode 2 she’s mostly keeping it to a straight RP.
10. Biblical Allegorywatch: A group of innocent scantily-clad people living in a paradise aboard an Ark, who are then cast out of that paradise by a group of reptiles wearing numbers once a woman introduces corruption, but are restored to a new paradise after they meet an invisible sky-being. That's like a Greatest Hits compilation of the Books of Genesis and Revelations.
11. It looks like a story they really pushed the budget on, with a huge cast, animals, children, camera crane, backdrops, big sets and a little motorized cart to ride on.
12. The budget clearly didn’t extend to providing a second alien race, however.
13. The backdrop painting seen in episode 1 also depicts a shuttle bay with shuttles like the ones which feature later on in the serial.
14. “Doctor, Steven, get a look at these fab pictures!” No wonder the Doctor starts complaining about her English.
15. The Doctor points to a picture and says “It looks like a zebra with two heads.” “Could be the imagination of the artist,” Steven replies. Both of them are ignoring the fact that it’s clearly a picture of two zebras standing together.
16. The Commander refers to the TARDIS as a “black box.” This suggests that he is watching this adventure in monochrome.
17. We know reconstituted, “just add water” foods were still considered massively cool in the 1960s, but dropping a pill into water to produce instant new potatoes or fried chicken is pushing it.
18. The whole premise isn’t a million miles from the Canadian SF series The Starlost, in which all the action takes place aboard a giant space ark which has been in transit for generations.
19. “The Ark” also seems to have been one of the stories most heavily raided by the authors of Nu-Who, being a clear inspiration to “The End of the World” and its sequels; “The Long Game”/“Bad Wolf”/“The Parting of the Ways” trilogy (in that the Doctor leaves a space-borne community on a victorious note, then returns a few generations later to find it’s all gone to pot); “The Doctor’s Daughter”; “Daleks in Manhattan” (check out Dalek Sec) and anything featuring the Ood.
20. “The End of the World” is set in the year five billion, which, as the Earth is destroyed in both it and “The Ark,” suggests that this corresponds to the date of the 57th segment of time, and that the Doctor’s estimate of the date as “at least ten million years” from 1966 is slightly conservative.
21. This story takes place so far into the future that the Daleks themselves are extinct. Noah’s Ark has also been completely forgotten, indicating that neither Christianity, Judaism nor Islam has survived, even as a mythology.
22. Despite this, the ship’s computers still run punch tape.
23. Michael Sheard played a doctor in this story, and Eric Elliott ignored him out of snobbery. But who remembers Eric Elliott now?
24. If the humans hadn’t planned for the possibility of an epidemic, how is it they’ve got “microvirologists” on board?
25. Also, why is it acceptable for Monoids to die, but not humans? No wonder the beggars rebelled.
26. The whole story is arguably a diatribe against racism (as the supposedly primitive, servile Monoids turn out to be just as sophisticated as the humans) and disability (as part of the reason the humans assume the Monoids to be stupid is because they can’t speak).
27. The story features TV’s first space burial.
28. Watch the monitor screen in episode 2 as Mellium says “My father would wish it”—the camera rather obviously hits something and wobbles crazily for a second.
29. As Steven points out, although these people might be living in the far future, they’ve lost a lot of useful information from the past, in a counterpoint to the usual 1960s portrayal of future societies as better and more advanced than our own. Their legal system also seems to have degenerated into trial by mob.
30. Given that the Doctor’s companions come from all over space and time, how is it there aren’t more cases of companions cross-infecting each other?
31. The Monoid holding the monitor lizard darts his eye from side to side in a way which suggests he has evil designs upon it.
32. The scene of the Monoid feeding the elephant is rather sweet.
33. Why do the Monoids call the humans “the humanoids,” seeing as they’re humanoids themselves? And surely they should be calling them “monoidoids?”
34. Monoid One is seen putting down a goblet as if he had just taken a drink. Is it a drink, though, or is it eyewash? At that, how does he eat the piece of fruit he selects?
35. Thanks to Roy Skelton’s vocal talents, Monoid Two sounds remarkably like the Spirodon Wester from the Pertwee-era take on the invisible-aliens story, “Planet of the Daleks.”
36. Meanwhile, the Refusian sounds like a Shakespearian actor shouting from just off the set.
37. The Monoids are described in part 4 as “rushing about.” Well, if a slow shuffle counts as “rushing about,” then yes.
38. Monoid Three says to Monoid One, “There is still no contact from Two on Refusis, One.” Add in the fact that the planet is actually called Refusis Two, and you have the makings of an Abbot and Costello routine.
39. The novelisation features a tennis game between Dodo and a female Refusian called Mary.
40. The wires on the three shuttlecraft are a little obvious in the effects shot.
41. The Monoid infodumps in Part 4 are painfully clunky. Presumably these were more tolerable in sign language.
42. The Monoids have a great range of dying gurgles in the fight sequence.
43. After shooting Monoid One, Monoid Four wipes his brow and throws down his gun in disgust, which says a lot about him.
44. The final version of the statue has the body of a human, the head of a Monoid, and is holding Refusis Two. The appearance of the model in the sequence where the Refusians throw the statue out the airlock, also, resembles the Oscar statuette.
47. The Refusians, it transpires, can lift several tons of solid stone and breathe hard vacuum.
46. Rather than taking the easy route of depicting the Monoids as a uniformly nefarious alien race, the writers do take the trouble to make it clear that they have a justified grievance against the humans, to have them fight amongst themselves, and to have them make peace with the humans at the end of the story.
47. In the final cliffhanger/lead in to “The Celestial Toymaker,” Steven can’t take his eyes off, erm, the design on Dodo’s halter-top.
48. The Doctor is rendered invisible at the end of the story, making this the third story since “The Daleks’ Master Plan” to feature invisibility as a plot point.
49. “You must travel with understanding as well as hope.”
50. The point of it all is: if you treat a group of beings as slaves, but give them the means to revolution, then they’ll turn the tables on you, no matter what the species.