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The Ark

The TARDIS takes the Doctor, Steven and Dodo into the far future, where they meet the last humans – and witness the end of the world…

The Fact of Fiction

Scratching beneath the surface of Doctor Who’s most fascinating tales…

The Earth destroyed by a sun, as seen on a spaceship scanner viewed by refugee humans en route to a lush, extraterrestrial Eden? Surely a few of the parents of Doctor Who’s most avid viewers must have been reminded of the closing moments of When Worlds Collide (1951), producer George Pal’s epic sci-fi saga of just 15 years earlier – in which, well, the Earth was destroyed by a rogue sun, as seen on the scanner of a spaceship crewed by refugee humans en route to a lush, extraterrestrial Eden. But the idea of an interstellar Noah’s Ark goes back further still; such an undertaking, to be crewed by successive generations of humans, was described by Russian spaceflight pioneer Konstantin Tsiolkovsky (1857-1935) in his paper The Future of the Earth and Mankind (1928). By the late 1970s, the idea was familiar enough to be satirised by Douglas Adams, in his radio comedy The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (1978) – in which we learned that humankind was descended from the management consultants and telephone sanitisers packed aboard the Golgafrincham B Ark.

So The Ark is nothing new in sci-fi terms; space arks, indeed, went out with the Ark. But it was rare, even in 1966, for Doctor Who to venture into the realms of ‘true’ science-fiction. But The Ark is a drama of consequences, too – two linked 50-minute episodes, effectively, the second exploring the consequences of what transpired in the first. Rather like (say) The Woman Who Died and The Girl Who Lived (2015)? Or The Pandorica Opens and The Big Bang (2010)? Or The Sound of Drums and Last of the Time Lords (2007)? In that respect, at least, ‘The End of the World and The Return of Doctor Who’ (1966) seems very modern. Very new.

The Steel Sky


In a Jungle, a reptilian biped (Eric Blackburn, uncredited) turns around… revealing its Cyclopean eye.

■ In the camera scripts, all this was indicated simply as ‘Jungle sequence’ – and appears, therefore, to have been largely director Michael Imison’s invention. The monitor lizard seen in the opening shot was supposed to be filmed close enough so it looked “like a huge monster” until the hornbill came into view – but, according to Imison, “the cameraman couldn’t find a lens that would do that, or misunderstood what I wanted…”

■ Imison claims the monocular Monoids, as they’re known, were his invention – having thought writer Paul Erickson’s original monsters “fairly indefinite” (but what were they? See Origin of Species box-out, page 62). Freelancer monster-makers Jack and John Lovell made the latex rubber Monoid costumes from Daphne Dare’s designs. As Imison had imagined, each Monoid’s eye was actually a painted ping-pong ball level with the actor’s tongue; yak hair ‘Beatle wigs’ were added to hide eye- and nose-holes from the viewer.

Elsewhere in the Jungle, the TARDIS materialises. Steven (Peter Purves) chastises new crewmember Dodo (Jackie Lane) for rushing out – without waiting to be told it’s safe to do so. Dodo insists that she knows where they’ve landed…

■ “You do?” boggles Steven. In the camera script, he was directed to do a ‘(double take)’, then repeat himself: “You do!”

… just outside London, she says, at a place called Whipsnade.

The TARDIS team enters another spaceship.

■ Whipsnade Park Zoo, just outside Dunstable, first opened to the public on 22 May 1931. n Originally, Dodo’s dialogue was given in Northern dialect: “I come [sic] here once before with the school,” for example – not “came here once”, as said on screen.

■ Likewise her line, “Earth? Well, it couldn’t be anywhere else now, could it?” was written as: “But it couldn’t be nowhere else, could it?”

She points out a chameleon, a monitor lizard and a locust.

■ As scripted, Dodo first drew Steven’s attention to ‘one of them flower things… There. They eat bugs and flies and things’ (meaning a Venus flytrap, perhaps, or some other carnivorous plant?). She then spotted a stick insect, and finally a chameleon.

■ Stage directions flagged up aspects of Dodo’s character – her braggadocio, for instance. When Steven asked how she knows all this, she replied: “Learnt it at school, didn’t I?” – then was directed to continue, “(boastfully) nothing you can tell me about nature study.”

Dr Who (William Hartnell) exits his Ship, telling his companions that this may indeed be Earth…

■ William Hartnell mangles his very first speech – giving “very strange” not once (as scripted), but twice; and misplacing the concluding ‘indeed’.

… but that reptilian biped is watching on.

■ In the original, we gained our first glimpse of a monstrous Monoid when the camera zoomed back here, to show a hand letting foliage fall across the shot: ‘Not an ordinary hand – one roughly shaped in the human mould but covered in heavy reptile scales. We see no more of the watcher – for the moment…’

“ Refusis will be ours. We will land there. We will create a Monoid world.”

Elsewhere: a number of humans are gathered on a Main Deck, where another of the reptilians delivers a printed-out verdict to the Commander (Eric Elliott): ‘20 – 0 = GUILTY’.

■ The teleprinter was an innovation arrived at after the scripts had been written. Originally, the scene opened thus: ‘C.U. [close up] reptile hand writing. Pull back as paper is handed to Commander sitting on dais…’

Two of the reptilians escort a prisoner in (David Greneau, uncredited). By leaving open a valve in the Heat Exchange Unit, he might have caused an explosion fatal to both the human race and their “friends”, the Monoids. The Commander sentences him to miniaturisation in the Minifier; he’ll be returned to normal size in approximately 700 years’ time…

■ “… when it can no longer be a danger to us.” ‘It’?! (As scripted, this was, more naturally, ‘he’.)

■ It’s not much of a punishment, is it? Given that all that the prisoner has to look forward to on the Space Ship is the inevitability of death after a lifetime’s worth of dreary plumbing maintenance, The Fact of Fiction would have left that Y valve open on purpose in the hope of being reborn on a paradise planet in seven centuries’ time – wouldn’t you?


■ The Ark was the first full adventure to feature new companion Dodo, drafted into the TARDIS crew after a stopover on Wimbledon Common in the closing moments of the previous serial, The Massacre of St Bartholomew’s Eve (1966). And it was the last to be credited to producer John Wiles, who’d first proposed a story set aboard a ship “so big that you could get the whole of South London into it. You could drive cars, ride bicycles – the whole notion of forests floating in the air…”

■ Wiles’ idea was given to Paul Erickson, who’d recently written for the BBC sci-fi anthology Out of the Unknown… but whom script editor Donald Tosh knew from the soap opera Compact. Late in May 1965, Erickson was commissioned to write scripts for a four-parter entitled The Ark. The first two episodes were delivered by Wednesday 1 September, then extensively revised later in the month; the final two instalments were delivered by Monday 1 November, then revised by Thursday 18 November. (None of these versions are known to survive – most or all of which predated Tosh’s ad hoc devising of Dodo in autumn 1965. So who was the Doctor and Steven’s fellow traveller in those early drafts – Vicki? Katarina? No-one knows…)

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About Doctor Who Magazine

Contents include: • Previews of the new episodes Knock Knock, Oxygen, Extremis and The Pyramid at the End of the World • Knock Knock guest star David Suchet is interviewed • An in-depth interview with Doctor Who the director of the first two episodes of the new series, The Pilot and Smile: Lawrence Gough • Doctor Who writers Frank Cottrell-Boyce (Smile) and Sarah Dollard (Thin Ice) reveal the stories behind their scripts • Bill Potts makes her comic strip début in the first part of the new comic strip adventure The Soul Garden, by Scott Gray, with art by Martin Geraghty. • It's the end of the world as we know it as The Fact of Fiction delves into the 1966 story The Ark. • DWM reviews of the first three episodes of the new series: The Pilot, Smile and Thin Ice. • Previews, book and audio reviews, news, the Watcher's column, prize-winning competitions and much, much more!