The Ark In Space
The TARDIS brings the Doctor, Sarah and Harry to the Nerva Beacon in the
far future, where the remnants of humanity have been placed in suspended
animation because of the risk of deadly solar flares on Earth. The humans
have overslept by millennia, however, due to the incursion of the
insect-like Wirrn. More Wirrn are gestating within Noah, the Beacon's
leader, and as Noah starts to succumb to the alien influence, the human
race faces imminent extinction..
The first storyline considered for the Fourth Doctor was “Space
Station”, submitted by Christopher Langley on December 30th, 1973.
New Doctor Who script editor Robert Holmes commissioned this
four-part story on January 24th, 1974. As Langley worked on his scripts,
Holmes and incoming producer Philip Hinchcliffe conceived the cost-saving
notion of using the same sets for a second serial; this would become Revenge Of The Cybermen. Shortly thereafter, it
was also decided that the studio-bound “Space Station” would
be made by the same crew as a two-part location-only adventure, The Sontaran Experiment, which would act as
something of a coda to Langley's story. “Space Station” was
therefore rapidly becoming a lynchpin of Season Twelve.
Unfortunately, by the end of May, it was clear that Langley's scripts were
unacceptable and a replacement would have to be found. With this story --
Serial 4C -- now burdened by several plot and structural requirements,
Holmes turned to John Lucarotti on the recommendation of former script
editor Terrance Dicks. Dicks had worked with Lucarotti on the short-lived
science-fiction drama Moonbase 3, but Lucarotti's affiliation with
Doctor Who went back more than a decade; he had last written The Massacre Of St Bartholomew's Eve in 1965.
Lucarotti was commissioned to write episode one of The Ark In Space
on June 5th, with the contract for the other three installments following
the day after.
Lucarotti's adventure concerned a massive space ark carrying
cryogenically-frozen humans, which has been invaded by the Delc. The Delc
are fungi, grown from spores floating in space. The primary Delc take the
form of floating heads, while their servitors appear as headless bodies.
The Delc are impervious to most harm because any impact just causes the
release of more spores. Fortunately, the Doctor eventually discovers that
the Delc are susceptible to electrocution, and ultimately knocks the
primary Delc out into space with a golf club. Having spent so long away
from Doctor Who, Lucarotti hewed to the early-Sixties tradition of
giving each episode its own title. Playfully, Lucarotti used only one-word
names, each time ending in “ball” (such as
“Golfball” for the final installment).
Unfortunately, contact between Lucarotti -- who wrote from his houseboat
moored at the French island of Corsica in the Mediterranean -- and Holmes
was sporadic, a situation further hampered by a postal dispute. When
Lucarotti's scripts arrived in July, they were once again met with
disapproval. With time growing short, it was decided that Holmes would
rewrite The Ark In Space himself, although Lucarotti would be paid
in full for his work; Hinchcliffe secured retrospective approval for this
on October 8th. Completing the new scripts in just eighteen days, Holmes
discarded many of Lucarotti's ideas, although he preserved the basic
premise of a space ark invaded by an alien intelligence (now the insectoid
Wirrn rather than the fungal Delc).
Since both The Ark In Space and The Sontaran
Experiment were effectively being made as one large production at
the start of Doctor Who's twelfth recording block, they shared the
same director: Rodney Bennett. Bennett disliked the end of Holmes' story,
which saw Noah draw the Wirrn out into the depths of space, away from the
Ark. Bennett wanted the Wirrn to meet a more decisive end, and suggested
they could be dissolved by water. Holmes rejected this notion, and instead
amended episode four to have Noah blow up the shuttle with the Wirrn
aboard. Bennett also ignored Holmes' original idea that Vira should be
black (and possibly Haitian), instead casting the caucasian Wendy Williams
in the role.
Work on The Ark In Space began with a day's model filming at the
Television Centre Puppet Theatre on October 16th. This was followed by a
two-day studio block in BBC Television Centre Studio 3, on Monday the 28th
of October and Tuesday the 29th. The first day saw the recording of part
one, as well as scenes in the control rooms and the cryogenic chamber for
part three. Episode two was taped on the second day, alongside material
from the beginning of the third installment.
Cast and crew relocated to TC1 on Monday, November 11th for the start of
the second studio block. The majority of the outstanding episode three
scenes were completed on this day, together with part four sequences set
in the second control room and the transom. Tuesday the 12th was concerned
with the rest of the fourth installment, in addition to part three
material in the second control room, the cryogenic chamber, and the access
Hinchcliffe intended to take Doctor Who in a more mature direction,
but the producer was aware that this new approach had to be instituted
carefully, given the programme's chiefly juvenile audience. As a result,
Hinchcliffe decided to cut one significant sequence from The Ark In
Space following consultations with Head of Serials Bill Slater. This
was a longer version of the encounter between the Doctor, Vira and the
half-Wirrn Noah. In the excised material, Noah was to describe the dual
ecstasy and torment of becoming a Wirrn, culminating with a plea to Vira
to kill him, which she is unable to bring herself to do. Both Hinchcliffe
and Slater feared that this scene would prove too disturbing to
Although The Ark In Space was made after The
Sontaran Experiment, it was planned all along to exchange the two
stories in the transmission order. The Ark In Space therefore came
after Robot, which had been held over from
the end of the previous recording block. Any fears that the public might
react badly to Tom Baker's new Doctor following Jon Pertwee's five-year
tenure were quickly allayed, as episode two (broadcast on February 1st,
1975) drew 13.6 million viewers to finish fifth amongst UK programmes
for the week. This was the highest chart position yet achieved in the
history of Doctor Who, and was just the first sign of the
incredible success Baker would bring to the show.
- Doctor Who: The Handbook: The Fourth Doctor by David J Howe,
Mark Stammers and Stephen James Walker (1992), Virgin Publishing, ISBN 0
426 20369 8.
- Doctor Who: The Seventies by David J Howe, Mark Stammers and
Stephen James Walker (1994), Virgin Publishing, ISBN 1 85227 444 1.
- Doctor Who Magazine #218, 26th October 1994, “Archive:
The Ark In Space” by Andrew Pixley, Marvel Comics UK Ltd.
- Doctor Who Magazine Special Edition #8, 1st September 2004,
“You Ain't Seen Nothing Yet” by Andrew Pixley, Panini
- In-Vision #2, February 1988, “Production” edited by
Justin Richards and Peter Anghelides, Cybermark Services.
||25th Jan 1975
||1st Feb 1975
||8th Feb 1975
||15th Feb 1975
|Sarah Jane Smith|
|High Minister's Voice|
|John Lucarotti (uncredited)|
|Production Unit Manager|
|Title Music by|
|Ron Grainer &|
|BBC Radiophonic Workshop|
|Incidental Music by|
|Visual Effects Designers|
|Doctor Who: The Ark In Space Special
|Doctor Who and The Ark In Space by Ian