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26 April 2013

Will Brooks’ 50 Year Diary - watching Doctor Who one episode a day from the very start... 

Day 116: The Bomb (The Ark, Episode Four)

Dear diary,

After everything I said yesterday, the Monoids actually look really good here! The scenes where they emerge from the jungle on Refusis and attack the others is fantastic. Yes, they're a slightly silly idea, and yes they don't quite work as well as they might have hoped, but I'm completely won around. It'd be interesting to see a modern take on them. Has anyone drawn up any designs for a re-imagined Monoid?

I find that this is another one of those episodes where I'm left with very little to say. Over the last three days, I've praised the direction, the design, the story… and all of that's waiting to be talked up again here. Stories like this are tricky, because you really don't quite know what to talk about without repeating yourself. A lot.

It's fair to say that the story suffers one of its few less successful effects here, when the Monoids leave the Ark and head for the planet. The shot of the shuttles leaving the ship is plagued by some very obvious wires, but I think it's a case of falling back on my old argument - the original broadcast wouldn't have been on a screen as big as this, or with a picture as clear as this.

There's a wonderful special feature on The Ark DVD, during which Peter Purves talks about the way that the programme would have been seen back in 1966. They show the image on a tiny TV set, and with the contrast up high - just as it would have been when first shown. The shot they use is the opening scene, where the Monoid turns to the camera and it's our first introduction to this world. It looks great. I wonder if I can play with the settings on the Mac and watch an episode in a worse quality than the DVD affords, just to see how it might have looked? That would be an interesting experiment for maybe an episode that's not particularly well regarded.

On the whole, I've rather enjoyed The Ark. It's not a particularly stand-out story in the way some others the season might be, but there's a lot in there to be praised, and I'm surprised it's not considered more popular. I don wonder, though, if it may work a little better were it given the Mission to the Unknown treatment: splitting it apart. Would the story be given any more impact if they had their two episodes dealing with Dodo's cold, left as we see here, and then headed off to another story. They could even move on and do the Celestial Toymaker story - the final few minutes of today's episode would tag onto the end of Episode Two quite well.

Then, having spent four weeks away, they could return to the Ark, and Dodo could still do her whole 'Oh, look! They've completed the statue! Do you remember, last time we were here, they said it would take 700 years…' and play the story out just the same. It might be nice to see the story given a bit more space to breathe like that, and give the real impression that time has passed for the Ark, by making time pass for us. I guess that can jut be one of those 'what ifs'.

Next Episode: The Celestial Toyroom

Next Episode: The Celestial Toyroom 
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