They should really name it, ‘The Lark in Space.’
Because, bubble wrap.
It’s so hard to do just one. But hey.
Anyway, the first part of TAIS starts off simply enough… it’s like Dead Space, only with short-haired virgo Barbie and more of Sarah Jane’s butt. Also, Ken is a Navy Doctor who works for the Navy, in the Navy. As a Navy Doctor. Wirrn the Navy now. Navies are…
On to the overview:
Harry Sullivan the Navy Doctor presses button, screws up TARDIS. TARDIS lands in darkened space station. Sarah gets kidnapped by cryostasis bed. The Doctor rewires the oxygen unit, and Harry wakes up the station’s residents, a really helpful bunch of post-human elitists. The Doctor then has a psychic commune with a giant Eric Carle model, and teaches the resultant alien race the meaning of Wirrn trouble now.
The Wirrn, the insectoid, hive-like alien race in question, did a lot for Whovian Kind in this episode. They gave us the joy of green slime and bubble wrap. They crawled on their backs through all those white corridors… stalking everyone, blocking exits, glaring those beady eyes and chasing the Doctor and crew around the station while Vira, the station’s chief Medical Technician and resident Eve, stood around staring and posing threateningly with her cryo-reversal doohickey while her boyfriend the captain got transformed into a pre-chrysalitic version of the main villain. Who then wiggled his goodbye after transforming into a full-fledged bug, proving that love really does continue after death. And bubble wrap.
Did I mention bubble wrap?
This entire episode is one of the elemental reasons Don’t Touch Anything made it into the Doctor’s list of rules.
Why did Harry have to touch the TARDIS’ helmic regulator? Why, Harry? Why? Stop doing that. Just. Stop.
I love this episode. Except for Harry’s annoying nonsensical attitude. Nothing wrong with Marter, but Harry was a plot device, albeit an amusing one, and once Tom Baker relieved the fears that an older actor could not do more physical actions sequences, he was written out. I miss him, frankly.
Sarah Jane, though, came off as slightly out of character and whine-y, especially during the scenes involving the cryo chambers and anything having to do with her being separated from the imminently more useful menfolk.
‘Sarah Jane: [hisses back] How do you think I’m doing, twit?’
‘Sarah Jane: [panicking] Oh, Doctor, I can’t move!’
‘Sarah Jane: No, I’m stuck!’
‘Sarah Jane: I’m jammed. I can’t move forward or back. [half sobs]’
‘Sarah Jane: Ow!’
Compare with some of Harry’s dialogue… quite scary, really, his dialogue:
‘Harry Sullivan: I said I was sorry!’
‘Harry Sullivan: I’m only trying to open the door!’
‘Harry: Gremlins can get into everything, old girl. First law of the sea.’
‘Harry: There you are, what’d I tell you? The Doctor’s a first class boffin!’
‘Harry Sullivan: How are you doing, old girl?’
‘Harry Sullivan: [affronted] Sorry, I thought you were stuck.’
At least the character of Harry has some self-awareness and utility here, if only as comic relief. But Sarah just… gets kidnapped, stands uselessly in corners, and generally complains like a nag on the sauce.
And speaking of on the sauce, there is an excellent scene with the Doctor and Sarah where he does his telepath thing on a piece of Wirrn and acts slightly plastered. Not the intention of the scene, but nonetheless a tasty little tidbit in this bento box treat.
The Doctor is in fine form on board the station, wondering about and rifling through panels like it’s his own private nest egg and he’s come to collect. And when he meets the queen of the Wirrn down in the engine room? There are some genuinely intense chase scenes in this ep, buttering the bread quite nicely.
Finishing up here, it is evident to this reviewer that The Ark in Space provides great character interaction, a touch of hash, and as always, that little dash of playfulness that winks out of every Doctor’s eye, all things that are sure to entice late-come fans with that classic appeal.
But the important thing here is always, did the episode do its job… which is to say, did the episode manage to invigorate the fanbase, ingratiate new fans to come into the blue box, and appeal to that little kid in all of us who just wants to say… Wirrn this together?
I can only speak for myself, and for myself, I posit a resounding ‘yes.’