Friday, April 17, 2015

The Ark — Blogging Doctor Who

We're putting everyone
on an ark in space.
I want to like “The Ark” more than I did, but I don’t. It’s an inventive concept that really doesn’t get explored much in Doctor Who: what if you could see the results of your actions, long after they happened? Finally, in the twenty-third story, they do exactly that. The four episodes of “The Ark” break into a pair of mini stories. It might have been more effective if they had filmed it as four episodes, then put another story between the second and third episodes.

Even so, things are not as good as they should be. As often happens in science fiction, they fudge the physics and get the biology spectacularly wrong. Guess what: there are undoubtably many strains of the cold virus to which I have no natural immunity, since there really isn’t any such thing. It’s sort of a standard trope in science fiction that were we not occasionally suffering from the common cold, it would manifest in a more virulent fashion. I don’t buy it.

I do, however, buy that the cold virus could be lethal to other life forms. Sure! Maybe the cold virus interferes with a vital pathway in Monoid physiology, just as the Ebola virus is a minor inconvenience (if that) to one of the local species of bat, but has a high fatality rate in other species, including humans. I buy that part.

The whole plot of a time traveler bringing a cold to the future is a pretty terrible idea. Also, the humans seem to be pretty much lost on anything resembling medicine. And it’s amazing how quickly the virus spreads, considering Dodo sneezes maybe twice. Really? The Doctor cures the common cold and all is well. They leave and come back 700 years later, though not by design. (For those who think that Susan was an irritating companion, for me Dodo is far worse.)

They’ve been forgotten and now the Monoids are in charge. The common cold is to blame, with the Doctor’s cure not all that successful (although it no longer kills Monoids). Here the plot just gets silly. As bothersome as the deaf-mute Monoids were in the first half, here they monologue. Not only do they talk, but they talk about their plans in comic villain style, just in case the good guys don’t find out that the Monoids plan to exterminate all humanity after getting safely to Refusis. It’s a pity the Monoids don’t have mustaches to twirl.

But if the deadly common cold is bad enough, in the second part, we get the invisible powerful alien. There had been a hint in the first episode that Refusis was inhabited, and that humanity had been invited to move there (although the number of people held in miniature means that either Earth was already depopulated or much of the population died when the planet went). Although invisible, the Refusians clearly have mass, since they compress cushions when they sit. It’s all pretty silly. In the end the Refusian leader casually saves the day and then offers a condition that the humans make peace with the Monoids, even though the Monoids had enslaved the humans and planned genocide.

Eye Candy for Gay Time Lords
The humans, knowns as the Guardians, wear a wholly impractical outfit that shows a lot of arm and leg. For the most part, young, attractive actors were hired to play the Guardians. Not fat guardians. Even Eric Elliott, who plays the rug-chewing Commander of the humans, was fit, even though he was in his 60s at the time (he was six years older than William Hartnell, but died six years after Hartnell). Yeah, you could watch it for the eye candy. Just not much else.

So, Is This a Must-See?
Sadly, despite what it accomplishes, no. The story is a bit of a muddle with too much of a deus-ex-machina ending.

Next: That one. Yuck.
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