Tuesday, 3 May 2011

23: The Ark - A Game Of Two Halves!

Written by: Paul Erickson.
Companions: The Doctor, Steven Taylor, Dodo Chaplet.
Monsters/Villains: Monoids, Refusians.
Brief Synopsis: Aboard a giant space ark, Dodo's cold nearly kills the entire human race and their servants the Monoids. Returning 700 years later the TARDIS crew arrive to find that things have changed somewhat. 
Rating: 7/10.

The Elephant!
It's a lovely day here at the Ark Stadium, the birds are squawking, the lizards are... sitting there, and... oh my god there's an elephant on the pitch. Is that a mascot? If you've just joined us, we've got a wonderful line up today as the mighty Guardians FC take on the giants of Monoids United. Both teams vying for the coveted Refusis II cup. Surely only one of these teams can go home with this sought after new home planet. But which team will it be? One thing that both of these teams have in common is incredibly unfortunate kits. The Guardians in their thin split-stip hula style kits and the Monoids in their umm.. dresses. And that's the whistle, and oh boy the Guardians are really giving the Monoids a run-around, they're treating them like their slaves! And, oh my goodness, it's only two minutes after kick-off and what's that on the pitch? It's a 1960's Police Telephone Box. It just appeared out of nowhere!

The Guardians FC.
It's genuinely wonderful to be actually watching an episode again. I really didn't appreciate it's predecessors enough and after quite a few episodes with only audio for company The Ark is a real treat. The Monoids may not be one of Doctor Who's best monsters; their single eye was achieved with a ping-pong ball painted like an eye held in the actors mouth, the rest of their face was covered by a 'Beatle' wig. They also wore a sort of skirt effectively giving them a single leg. Their feet have just two great toes. They clearly didn't have the staying power of the Daleks or the Cybermen, but there is a soft spot in my heart for them. The Ark was the first black and white Who I can remember actually enjoying. I though the story was neat and I liked the split narrative. It's great to get to see years later how the Doctor has effected one of the places he visits. The only real downside to The Ark is Jackie Lane as Dodo, but she doesn't actually have much to do in this story apart from start all the problems in the first place.

Monoids United.
And what's happening now? A girl has stepped out of the blue box she's wear a very classic kit from the time of the Crusade and oh no! She's got the common cold. Both teams aren't going to like that! And look at that, our first booking of the match. One of the Guardians has made a bad boo-boo so he's off to be miniaturised to be reconstituted in 700 years time! What a shame! Well, at least it wasn't expulsion. 

The Guardians are the remnants of the human race. They departed just prior to the Earth's imminent destruction and are on a 700 year journey to what they hope will become a new home for their race: the planet Refusis II. They have miniaturised and stored all of the human race in what look like ice trays in a giant fridge, only a few people have elected to stay and act as 'guardians' over the human race. The Commander of the Guardians describes the origins of the Monoids as "obscure." In other words lazy writing. Apparently they offered their "invaluable services" basically acting as slaves in return for passage on the journey. The Guardians are building a giant statue of Man by hand. They elect to do so, so that the construction can be completed gradually, culminating at their arrival at Refusis II 700 years on.

Oh no! One of the Monoids has be taken ill and is being stretchered off the pitch. That cold virus is starting to rear it's ugly head. And oh my god, I can't believe it the Commander, the captain of the Guardians has been taken ill also. That's gonna be a real upset for the Guardians. And, yes, I've just heard that the deputy commander Zentos will take over as team captain. And Zentos is close to the goal, one of the Monoids has shuffled off his mortal coil and.... GOAL!!!! That's 1-0 to the Guardians.

The Guardians and Monoids have never experienced the common cold, it was wiped out long before they were born so they have no resistance to it. The Doctor and co are put on trial for bringing the cold virus to the Ark. Bloody Dodo! (Plus what kind of a name is Dodo? I know it's short for Dorothea but really? Dodo?) Also, I do have to question why it's so much more worse when a Guardian dies than a Monoid?

The Doctor and Steven, with Dodo in somewhat odd attire.
Oh my goodness, what an upset, another Monoid bites the dust and it's another goal for the Guardians. That cold virus really is deadly. 2-0. Wow, just seconds later a Guardian expires, making it 2-1 with everything to play for. They are going at it hammer and tongs.

The Doctor and co loose the trial and it is decided that they will be ejected into space and that the Monoids will do this as they were the first to loose one of their own to the virus. The commander changes the verdict and allows the Doctor to experiment to discover the cure. Jackie Lane as Dodo occasionally slips into the cockney accent in which she rehearsed the story. The production team were instructed by their superiors that it was unacceptable for a regular character to have any other accent than BBC English. The Doctor actually chastises Dodo for saying "okay."

There's a Doctor is in the dugout and, Yes, I have confirmation he has acquired the needed animal membranes and yes he has cured the common cold. Back of the net! He's cured the Commander and he's back on the pitch as Captain just in time for the whistle and that marks the end of the first half and what a match we've had so far. Rejoin us in 700 years time for the culmination of this apocalyptic battle between these two titan teams.

Another hilarious offering from the Monoids are their unfortunately slow transports that are even slower than walking. At the end of the second episode the TARDIS dematerialises and then rematerialises in the same place. The TARDIS has travelled no distance in space but 700 years in time. The ship's journey is very nearly complete and the giant statue has been finished. In place of where the human head should be there is a Monoids.

The Monoid headed statue.
And I haven't seen a game like this since Planet of the Apes. This really is a game of two halves. The Monoids have really turned this around and are clearly on the offensive, lets see what happens in the second half. Where are the Guardians their presence on the pitch is practically nonexistent.

In the 700 years the TARDIS crew have been away the Guardians helped to develop a voice box machine and heat prods for the Monoids, who have revolted and taken power, turning their previous masters into slaves themselves. Armed with the ability to speak and using the heat prods as weapons, they have even numbered themselves in place of names.

I just can't believe this upset. What a change, can we please get an instant replay of when the Police Box departed. The Doctor clearly controlled the immediate impact of the fever but a mutation has developed  sapping the will of the human Guardians.

We then get possibly the funniest line in Doctor Who history. After the Doctor and co are captured, Monoid 1 orders another Monoid to "Take them away to the security kitchen!" We learn that when Dodo referred to the ship as being "like Noah's Ark," she unwittingly named the ship. I can't help but think that making the Monoids "evil" diminishes the story. The Guardians may have used the Monoids as slaves but they didn't plan to leave them behind to die.

Sadly this moment never happens in the story.
And a new player for the Guardians Steven Taylor has tried to trap a Monoid, but it's failed and oh my god, a Monoid just used his heat prod and killed a Guardian and it's a Goal. It's tied up at 2-2.

The Doctor, Dodo, Monoid 2 and a Guardian make the first landing on Refusis II. Initially it seems there are no Refusians and just to prove how rubbish the Monoids really are as monsters Monoid 2 smashes a vase and throws some flowers on the floor to get the Refusians attention. Petty much? We then learn that the Refusians are invisible. There was a giant solar flare, so they no longer have a 'being' one can see or recognise. Monoid 2 also manages to give the game away, just (as I have discussed before) as all traitors do in early Who. A while after they leave, the Monoids plan to use a fission device (which is a bomb for those laymens out there) to destroy the Guardians and the Ark, but a Guardian witnesses this plan on a monitor.

Oh my and another Guardian kicks the bucket. 2-3 to the Monoids. And oh yes it's a red card for Monoid 2. The Refusian ref, who has been oddly absent from the game thus far makes a fair call. So it's goodbye to Monoid 2 as the Ref-usian destroys the launcher before he can report to Monoid 1. You can really tell that this is causing some dissention in the ranks and Monoid 4 is clearly starting to doubt the leadership of Monoid 1.

We learn that the bomb is in the head of the statue. The Monoids all abandon the Ark and arrive on the planet leaving the bomb timed to explode in 12 hours. The Doctor and Dodo contact the Guardians from one of the landed launchers and a Refusian returns one of the launchers to the Ark.

Oh my goodness the crowd is going wild. A fight has broken out on the pitch. Monoid numbers 4, 5, 21 and 63 are getting right up in the faces of 1, 9, 10, 52 & 77. They're on the same team but right now you'd never guess it. Oh my god and they're shooting each other. One, two, three, four of them dead. That's an own goal. It's neck and neck at 3-3. This is intense!

The Guardians discover that the bomb is in the head of the statue. But it's only with help from the Refusian who lifts the whole statue into the launcher bay, that they are able to launch it into space just seconds before it explodes. The Refusians promise to help the Guardians colonise the planet but only if they make peace with the Monoids. The Doctor says the Monoids were treated like slaves so it's no wonder they returned the favour. Yes they were slaves, which was clearly wrong but the Guardians weren't planning to commit genocide and kill all the Monoids.

And that's it, full time. 700 years on. And it's a tie. 3-3. Who'd have thought after all we've been through with these teams that we'd get that result. So they're gonna have to share the Refusis II cup. I have to say in all my years commentating I have never seen anything quite like this. What a match!

I must admit that although I don't think The Ark is one of the best stories ever, I do have a guilty pleasure for it. After everything has settled, we return to the TARDIS, where both Dodo and Steven have changed clothes; Dodo in to something less crusade and more swinging sixties. Suddenly the Doctor sneezes and starts to vanish. Is it the refusians? Is it Dodo's cold/annoying accent? No, it's more serious. This is some kind of attack.

Join me next time for the whimsical, Celestial Toymaker.


Anonymous said...

This particular blog is dedicated to my good friend Edward Blagrove!! Doctor Who and Football, what more could he want...

Anonymous said...

1/ Dodo has a cold when she boards the Ark. Flu-like symptoms are associated with second stage syphilis.

2/ The Doctor’s cure for the infection is derived from animal membranes. Early condoms were made from animal gut.

3/ In episode three, Dodo says, “it’s all my fault. If I’d known it was going to be like this, I’d never have come.” The Doctor replies, “well you did come, my dear, so it’s too late to be worry about that - and stop sniffling!” Although it’s true that STDs can be transmitted through bodily fluids, the intention here has more to do with pruriency, and the forging of a link between female desire and original sin.

4/ the Doctor is told that although he “controlled the immediate impact of the fever... a mutation of it developed later on that sapped the will of the humans.” Monoid One also describes the humans as a “simple people.” Syphilis has four stages of development. During stage three, the symptoms of stage two disappear, which can cause the victim to believe s/he has recovered. With stage four comes mental retardation.

5/ Paul Erickson was borne in 1920 and served in the armed forces during the war. As a result, like all enlisted men, he would have been bombarded with (usually highly misogynist) propaganda about the various forms of VD, its symptoms and how best to avoid it. It’s also worth noting that most of the adult males watching Doctor Who in 1966 would have been ex-National Service men, and so would have been ideally primed to picked up on Erickson’s little “joke”.

Steve said...

So, Dodo changes from one lame costume to another.  Maybe not the right girl to portray the Swinging 60's, but wait, Polly is on the horizon, and she's the real deal!  Of course, The War Machines is the only full story you'll get with her that's on video.  Too bad neither actress has many more existing episodes with which to show off their characters.

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