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13 February 2013

Manufacturer: BBC Worldwide Consumer Products

Written By: Robert Holmes

RRP: £20.42

Release Date: 25th February 2013

Reviewed By: Dale Who for Doctor Who Online

Review Posted: 13th February 2013

The TARDIS arrives on an apparently deserted and deactivated space station Nerva, otherwise known as the Ark, orbiting Earth in the far future.

There the Doctor, Sarah and Harry discover the last survivors of the human race held in suspended animation, Earth having been evacuated thousands of years earlier when solar flares threatened to destroy all life.

* * *

It's another re-release; this time on the tale of the Wirrn and Nerva Beacon. The picture and sound quality have been remastered again, and are as sharp as you're going to get.

Disc One is the original release, complete with two Easter Eggs, and optional CGI effects, and goes as follows.

Disc One:

Commentary - A feature commentary, with Tom Baker (The Doctor), Elisabeth Sladen (Sarah Jane Smith), and Philip Hinchcliffe, discussing the story with many memories and anecdotes.

A New Frontier - From ideas, via many rewrites, to screen; the making of The Ark In Space. Philip Hinchcliffe, Rodney Bennett, and various cast members come together to discuss the serial. Wendy Williams (Vira in the story) is especially entertaining looking back at her role.

It's fairly obvious that the cast and crew loved the story, from the warm and glowing way they relate their experiences. From popping bubblewrap to a lack of slime, it's all covered in this entertaining little featurette.

Roger Murray-Leach Interview - The set designed sits on a white sofa and discusses how to make an Ark for Who out of "two and sixpence". Construction of ingenious corridors, multi-level sets, and how to take The Doctor to hospital. Roger's tenure on Doctor Who consists of The Ark In Space, The Sontaran Experiment, The Deadly Assassin, Planet of Evil and The Talons of Weng-Chiang. There's also Blake's Seven, but he doesn't want to talk abut that...

Model Effects Roll - A model of Nerva Beacon, and a particularly troublesome scout ship that simply will NOT take off properly! A short-ish extra, featuring the many tries and takes recorded for the blast off. Seems oddly reminiscent of Button Moon in some parts...

CGI Effects Roll - An altogether more impressive view of the Beacon, courtesy of some computer wizardry from the first release of this story. Beautiful graphics and a very different rocket ship departure from the Model version. It's glorious to look at, but slightly jarring when viewed in the story, which is an option available on this disc.

3D Technical Schematics - More CGI gloriousness, this time showing the layout and specs of Nerva Beacon. Again, beautiful graphics, and a few in-jokes in the names of the devices. Short, but very pretty.

Trail - A proper old school BBC1 trailer for Doctor Who, with Ark's first episode. A short clip, a *huge* lime green logo and a remind that the episode will be on at "5.35, tomorrow, on BBC1."  Wonderful nostalgia trip.  So very different from how it's done these days...

Alternate titles - A few different slide and tunnel effects, and a dreadful version of the TARDIS  leading into a slight variant of the first Tom Baker era title sequence.  

Alternate CGI sequences - Choose between the original model sequences, or the updated, beautiful CGI created for the release.  As previously noted, it might jar a little seeing it in the story but it's only a momentary thing, it never detracts from the story or makes you lose where you were.

TARDIS Cam No.1 - From the "BBC Fictionlab" back in 2002 comes the TARDIS Cam, odd little snippets of footage of the trusty old Police Box in various locations. A lovely model TARDIS, very similar to the ones later sold by ARC models in a limited run.

Photo Gallery - It's time for the usual mix of behind the scenes and publicity stills from the show, set to a variety of weird background FX noises. Particularly enjoyable are the stills with the look of disgust on Sarah's face and she's holding bits of Wirrn innards.

...and that's disc one wrapped up. No "Coming Soon Trailer" on this disc, which is slightly unusual. However that's only half of the story, as there's a helping of new extras on Disc Two!

Disc Two:

TV Movie version - A revised repeat from 1975, cut down to seventy minutes. The BBC used to screen these when live sporting fixtures went awry, due to bad weather or industrial action; or as "Christmas treats" - where this particular edit comes in. Those were the days, when there'd be an unscheduled Doctor Who story on a Saturday afternoon!!

Doctor Forever: Love & War - The story of Doctor Who books from Virgin's New Adventures onwards. When Doctor Who went off-screen in 1989 the books continued to take the TARDIS into new territory, with a new adult take on the Time Lord and his adventures. Talking heads contributing to this history of the New Adventures include Gary Russell, Paul Cornell, and Russell T. Davies. Mark Gatiss reads an excerpt from his book "Nightshade", and reminds us of just why he's SO good at writing Doctor Who and Sherlock; and RTD gives us a glimpse of "Damaged Goods", and then examines how it's inter-related to post 2005 Doctor Who.

The series didn't end terribly happily, and that too is looked at in this featurette. It's an honest look and a worthy new extra. Brilliant.

Scene Around Six - Footage from what happens when a Time Lord is let loose in Ireland. Tom Baker on both sides of the then divide, lighting Christmas trees, bewitching primary schools, and being treated like an absolute hero by hordes of kids. The power of Doctor Who. Tom Baker obviously adores it all, and it's all very light, fun, and heartwarming. Awesome footage of an awesome Time Lord.

Robot 8mm Location Footage - Silent film of behind the scenes filming for Tom Baker's first story. There's Bessie, and UNIT, and rather brilliantly there's the Brigadier in sunglasses. Short, but raises a smile.

Coming soon Trailer - It's another special edition - this time with the original TARDIS crew. When the time travellers arrive in the temple of Yetaxa, Barbara is mistaken for a reincarnation of the Aztec deity; and that's where there troubles really begin. William Hartnell stars in The Aztecs: Special Edition is out soon!

There are, as always, the usual Info Text and PDF Radio Times options, and Subtitles and Audio Navigation are included as standard.

There's a lot to love about The Ark In Space: Special Edition, however most of it was covered on the original release. This special edition re-release doesn't have masses from the era in which it was made added to it, so they've bulked it out with various miscellania (such as the featurette on the New Adventures). The footage of Tom Baker in Ireland is excellent though, and almost justifies the revamp by itself. It's not a stellar DVD release, but a good one all the same.

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