The first 9 months Channel 12 in Philly had DOCTOR WHO, they ran the stories completely out of sequence. No kidding. It was like, "ROBOT", then "THE SONTORAN EXPERIMENT", then "REVENGE OF THE CYBERMEN"... no, not just every-other one. But I can't remember the rest. I do recall the 1st Leela they ran was "THE TALONS OF WENG-CHIANG", about a week or two before "THE HAND OF FEAR". Madness.

So I'd already seen Nerva Beacon some number of weeks before seeing "THE ARK IN SPACE". The visual design of the station, as a result, was rather anti-climactic. As was the "transporter" ending. How incompetent do you have to be to run a show that badly? It's like I've long said, a lot of people get paid good money to do really bad work.

Early-on, I felt UNCOMFORTABLE with the Hinchcliffe-Holmes era. There, I've said it. I got to REALLY like Tom Baker, apart from those scenes where his character's seeming INCOMPETENCE was just too "convincing". With Troughton, you knew it was an act. With Baker... you were never sure. Sarah, I had somehow fallen in love with (halfway thru "THE SONTORAN EXPERIMENT"-- it caught me by surprise). So, I liked the concept of the show, and I liked the main characters. But these UNRELENTING serious, SCARY, dark, downbeat, MORBID, violent stories... it's like, WHAT was going on here? I guess, just as the "horror fad" in movies was dying (and Hammer Films was about to go belly-up), as is typical for TV, running a bit late, the "horror" fad continued for a few more years past its expiration date.

I'm glad someone reminded me of this. Because over the years, many of these stories have grown and grown on me-- I've simply seen them MORE TIMES than all the rest of the show's entire run combined. And perhaps THAT's the single reason WHY these 3 years are so popular (I'd say 4, but when Hinchcliffe left, the quality did take a nosedive). Familiarity. Baker was MOST people's FIRST Doctor in America (he was my 3rd, but that's me). And, he lasted longer than any of the others. So to many fans, he's the "only" Doctor, or at least the only one that counts.

Similarly, Sarah was their FIRST "WHO" girl, and, the one who lasted longer than any other companion. Sure, The Brig lasted more years, but who'd seen Pertwee back then (apart from me, anyway), and he wasn't one of the girls. Ditto for Jamie, who had more episodes than any other supporting character (well, he did wear a dress... KILT!! KILT!!! heehee). But most of his episodes are missing... and many people REFUSE to watch BLACK & WHITE. (I'm not kidding.)

I have always HATED some of the design aspects of Nerva Beacon. WHO puts a door switch on the far side of the room from a door? WHO sets up a defense lazer that will probably KILL you the instant you turn it on? WHY have an internal transporter built into a couch or bed, the latter awkwardly placed above-behind a control console? These sets were clearly designed by someone with no knowledge or common sense regarding interior design.

The crew of Nerva Beacon are even worse. 5,000 years were supposed to go by, did they think EVERYONE they met when they woke up would be like them? Was this some kind of Fascist regime with a superiority complex? And the incessant cries of "REGRESSIVES!", referring to their accents and speach patterns, get silly, when Rogan wakes up, and his accent's much more pronounced than The Doctor's.

And Noah-- well, he's just a trigger-happy sociopath! SHOOTING the Doctor in mid-sentence, I'd say he DESERVED what happened to him. I feel sorry for Vira-- "pair-bonded" to someone like that. At least, near the end, she started to loosen up a bit.

I got VERY pissed at The Doctor for bullying Sarah in the tunnel. But then, every other thing out of her mouth in this story was rude and obnoxious and insulting, especially toward Harry.

I guess I'm in the minority. Two things really make this story stand out for me these days. The first is, it's very clearly a RETURN to Patrick Troughton. Some of Tom Baker's dialogue, especially in the first half, could have been written for him (and maybe it was). Except, Troughton, Jamie & Zoe were ALL more likable!  

The other thing is, I now tend to view this story less for what it was, than as a PREQUEL...  to Holmes' "THE MYSTERIOUS PLANET". Because there is a DIRECT connection between the two. Although we don't find out what caused the solar flare until "THE ULTIMATE FOE".

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Have you seen Quatermass and the Pit (the TV version)? At the end of one of the episodes there's a bit when the sealed part of the buried ship is opened and one of the dead Martians shifts in position. I think Holmes imitated that at the end of episode one. Noah's transformation recalls The Quatermass Experiment (the returned astronaut's transformation begins with his hand), and his sacrifice at the end recalls that serial's conclusion. (In the TV version - spoiler warning - Quatermass successfully appealed to the humanity of the astronauts who had been absorbed by the alien. Only the first couple of episodes exist now, but the script has been published. I haven't seen the movie.)

 

Holmes's Spearhead from Space likewise imitated the arrival of alien creatures on meteorites in Quatermass II. (Incidentally, I think the episode ending where General Scobie opens a door and sees his double is after the bit in Thunderball where this happens to Derval.) Seeds of Doom, which Holmes script-edited, imitated the man-transforms-into-plant-monster element from The Quatermass Experiment.

 

Holmes wrote Ark in Space after rejecting a script by John Lucarotti, which the latter described in an interview excerpted here.

I've seen the 1st & 3rd Quatermass films, but that's it.

THUNDERBALL, unfortunately, is a horrific mess. Knowing its history explains why. Over about a 2-year period, they went thru a dozen script drafts before the project fell apart completely. Nobody could make up their mind. Then Ian Fleming turned it into a very straightforward, coherent novel, but was sued over it. When Kevin McClory managed a deal with Broccoli & Saltzman to finally do it as a film (they were gonna skip it and go straight to O.H.M.S.S., which may explain why the bit about the atomic bomb threat somehow ended up as a sub-plot in GOLDFINGER), instead of using the book as the blueprint, they went BACK to the dozen scripts... and then wrote MORE.

Domino's brother being murdered and replaced by a double, who tries to hold out for more money and as a result is also murdered, was an unnecesary over-complication. It just would have been so much simpler if her brother had been a traitor but gotten killed after flying the plane himself.

And the incessant cries of "REGRESSIVES!", referring to their accents and speach patterns, get silly, when Rogan wakes up, and his accent's much more pronounced than The Doctor's.

 

One gets the feeling that Holmes started out writing "futuristic" speech patterns for the Nervans, but got bored with it after about an episode - Vira has stilted dialogue, but the technical type who gets introduced later on is a typical Holmesian wisecracker.

That's exactly what I mean.

Imagine Noah's HORROR (had he lived) when they would encounter the astronauts in THE SONTORAN EXPERIMENT. The Nerva Beacon people would suddenly be the "odd" ones.

Just watched this tonight. When Tom Baker challenges Styre to "personal combat", it's his first REALLY GREAT moment on the show!! "Do you think these miserable specimens could have conquered half a galaxy?"  Nice guy...

Watched ths again last night, just a few random thoughts:

1)On the commentary track, Sladen said that at the time she felt that Sarah was made to look quite weak in this story, and she was strongly considering quitting.

 

2)I hadn't really noticed before - it's only really the regulars in Part One, and mostly just the Doctor and Harry.

 

3)I did think that Wendy Williams was good as Vira - watching her loosen up a bit was fun.

 

4)The Wirrn larva was both disturbing and goofy.  The adult Wirrn was just goofy.

 

5)Noah hiding his infected hand reminded me of Stahlman in "Inferno".

 

6)I also liked the bit where the Doctor baited Sarah to get her through the tunnel.

 

7)Some fun quotes:

  • "Your mind is beginning to work. It's entirely due to my influence, of course.  You msutn't take any credit."
  • "Homo sapiens - what an inventive, invincible species."  He goes on at length about how swell humans are.
  • "My doctorate is purely honoray, and Harry here is only qualified to work on sailors."
  • "Your comrade is a romantic." "Perhaps we both are."
  • "But we called him 'Noah" as an amusement."  Barrel of laughs, you people.
  • "For once in my life, I feel surplus to requirements."
  • "I'm no regressive, I'm a naval officer."
  • "Sort of a galactic woodworm, I suppose."
  • "He talks to himself sometimes because he's the only one who understands what he's talking about."
  • "It may be irrational of me, but human beings are quite my favorite species."
  • "We found the queen in the cupboard."
  • "Harry, you go with the girls!"  You know, I'm no rampaging feminist, but somehow referring to Sarah and Vira as "the girls" bugs me.
  • "You don't want trouble with the space technicians' union, Doctor. That's my job."

 

8)Cliffhangers:

  • Part One: Harry finds a Wirrn in the closet!
  • Part Two:Noah's arm is covered with green bubble wrap!
  • Part Three: The Doctor meets Noah the Wirrn!
  • Part Four: The Doctor, Sarah and Harry beam down to Earth!

 

Overall:

A pretty good story - one that I wish could be re-made with better "creature" effects.

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