I tell Sue that The Ark is only two episodes long. I hope the risk to my own personal safety will be worth it…
The Steel Sky
Sue: Moving images again at last. And only two episodes as well. This should be a walk in the park.
This episode doesn’t piss about. The first thing we have to contend with is a Monoid.
Sue: That’s very sinister. Where’s its mouth?
Me: It doesn’t have a mouth.
Sue: It had better not talk, then. If I ever hear one talking, I’ll be very disappointed.
The second thing we have to contend with is even weirder: Dodo’s exuberant exit from the TARDIS (“It has such a reassuring sound, don’t you think?” – the TARDIS, not Dodo).
Sue: What on earth is she wearing? Have we missed an episode? Was she wearing that under her coat or did she change into it? Was she on the way to a fancy dress party or an appointment with a psychiatrist when she bumped into the Doctor? They’re the only possibilities I can come up with that make any sense.
Me: Go with the latter. Throw in multiple personalities, if you like.
Sue: She doesn’t sound very Mancunian this week.
Sue: She did change into that ridiculous costume! What on earth was going through her mind when she choose it? And why change into anything at all? And what were Steven and the Doctor doing at the time? It doesn’t make sense! Hang on, did she just change her accent in the middle of a sentence? Unbelievable. And is she supposed to be suffering from hay-fever? Oh, that’s a nice high angle shot…
You’ll all be pleased to know that Sue falls for Michael Imison’s trap. She believes that the elephant she is looking at is some cleverly integrated stock footage. She even comments on it, bless her.
Sue: That almost works. The split screen effect is quite good, actually. I like this director. He’s trying.
Me: The elephant is in the room!
Sue: Oh yes, so it is.
Me: Isn’t it amazing? They got a REAL ELEPHANT! You must be impressed, surely?
Sue: It’s not that impressive. Didn’t Blue Peter have an elephant that pooed all over their studio floor? Wasn’t Peter Purves involved in that as well? It’s nice and everything but I don’t see what the big deal is, to be honest. Unless the elephant plays a massive role in the plot.
Me: Well, er…
Sue: What a waste of money.
When the Doctor and his companions are taken to see the Guardians, Sue is amused by the Monoids’ means of communication.
Sue: Their sign language is very advanced. The one-eyed thing just waved its hand a bit and the human translated it into four, very detailed sentences. Amazing.
The Guardians give the Doctor – and us – a massive info-dump, and it doesn’t take Sue very long to spot the logical flaw.
Me: I’ve just thought of something. If the voyage to this new planet takes 700 years, this lot will be dead long before they get there, yes? Well, how come the criminals get to sleep through the really shit bit? They are shrunk, put into storage, and then they wake up centuries later to reap all the rewards. It doesn’t seem very fair to me.
Just as we are about to discuss this (and it’s an excellent point), members of the Ark start dropping down with really bad cases of hay-fever.
Sue: Oh, brilliant! Not only is Dodo really annoying, she’s going to kill everybody as well. Is she cursed? Is this why she’s called Dodo? Does every species she come into contact with become extinct? Is that her gimmick?top
Sue: I still don’t see what these Monoid creatures are bringing to the plot. They just seem to be there to do the light filing and heavy lifting.
When a Monoid corpse is blasted into space, Sue is impressed that we actually see the body fly out of the airlock.
Sue: That was pretty good, actually. They didn’t need to show that – they could have cut away – it just goes to show that this director is really doing his best.
The Doctor, Steven and Dodo are suspected of being alien spies from the planet they are heading to (“Didn’t anyone bother to check if the natives were friendly before they left?”), and they are incarcerated for spreading a deadly plague. Steven volunteers to defend them all at a hastily arranged trial.
Sue: Is Steven really the best person for this? Shouldn’t the Doctor be stepping up to the plate at this point? Steven will just shout at everyone.
And then Steven comes down with the virus himself, which, as far as Sue is concerned, makes absolutely no sense whatsoever.
Luckily, the main Guardian, who is watching the Ark’s equivalent of Sky News from his sickbed, gains enough strength to stop everyone from being flushed out of the airlock. He gives the Doctor an opportunity to find a vaccine to cure everyone and, er, he does!
Sue: That was a bit quick. Is that it?
Me: Looks that way.
Sue: Is that the Earth blowing up?
Me: Yes it is.
Sue: A tennis ball on fire? That’s the Earth blowing up?
Sue: What an anti-climax. I know it looks a bit shit, but shouldn’t somebody make a speech or something? It’s only the Earth blowing up! No? Oh.
Me: What mark are you going to give this one?
Sue: It was short. That’s something, I guess. The direction was pretty good – it’s just a shame the camera operators weren’t up to the task: they kept banging into everything – although, to be fair, sometimes the director didn’t cut when he should have – this scene with the Monoid driving the airport luggage buggy away at a snail’s pace is a perfect example. And the bit in episode one, where Steven almost suffocates Dodo, is another. But the main problem I have with this story is that it didn’t go anywhere. What was the point of it all? But it was enjoyable enough, I suppose, so I’ll give it -
And then the TARDIS rematerialises.
Sue: Not another ****ing jungle! They are really getting their money’s worth from this set.
And then the Doctor drops a bombshell. They have returned to the Ark.
Sue: Eh? What’s going on?
The Doctor, Dodo and Steven explore the Ark’s interior but it is completely deserted. But that’s not all. A statue that was supposed to take centuries to build has been completed…
Sue: Oh that’s clever, they’ve gone forward in time.
And it now has the head of a Monoid!
Sue: Ohhhhh. That’s very clever…. hang on a minute…
Sue: You told me this story was only two episodes long!
Me: Ouch! Stop hitting me! I’m sorry, love, but the twist only works if you don’t expect it. Audiences in 1966 -
Sue: Yeah, yeah, yeah. It’s very Lost, actually. It’s just the type of mind-**** they’d try. Oh well, I suppose two more episodes of this isn’t the end of the world.
Me: No, we’ve already seen that.
Sue: But you have to promise never to do that to me again. I like to know how many episodes I’m facing so I can mentally prepare myself. You git.
The Ark has become a place where the one-eyed homicidal maniac is king. The Monoids (“They can talk! No!”) have revolted against the humans and they rule the survivors with a rod of iron.
Sue: You can’t really blame them. The humans had it coming. If I’d been enslaved for 700 years, I’d be pissed off as well.
Me: What is it with alien races that can’t be bothered giving themselves names? It’s so lazy.
The Doctor, Dodo, a Monoid and a human from the Ark are sent to the planet below to scout about while Steven is sent to stew in the security kitchen. Or maybe he’s been sent to make a stew in the security kitchen? It’s unclear.
Sue: A security kitchen? I’m sorry, a what kitchen?
Me: The Monoids really like their cakes.
Sue: And how to they eat this cake, exactly? I can’t see a hole for them to put any food into.
Me: Yes, I know. It really doesn’t bear thinking about.
When a Monoid enters the kitchen – for a nice potato salad perhaps – the prisoners/sous chefs all react to Sue’s exasperated suggestion that they should jump him. His peripheral vision is probably rubbish.
Sue: Just poke him in the eye!
Sadly, the Monoids gain the upper-hand and a poor, innocent waiter is shot dead. Steven gets really pissed off, but that’s just par for the course for Steven.
Sue: He really needs to take some Valium.
Meanwhile, on the planet Refusis II, the Doctor and company finally meet a Refusian who is – wait for it – invisible!
Sue: They must have run out of money. They probably spent it all on the elephant.
The Refusian is brought out of hiding when a Monoid throws some flowers on the floor and threatens to smash a vase. Yes, really. The Refusian explains that his people have built a lovely city for the new arrivals to live in and Sue is touched by their hospitality.
Sue: Aw, that was nice of them.
The Refusians then show another side to their nature by blowing up a Monoid up before he can warn his comrades to bring plenty of vase smashers with them when they take over the planet.
Sue: That’s gotta hurt.top
There’s a bomb on the Ark (“I’d have put it in the statue’s ball, if it had been me”), and most of the episode revolves around people hopping backwards and forwards like they’re taking part in a deadly version of pass-the-parcel.
Sue: I think Steven’s pulled.
Me: I think he’s got another bang to worry about first.
Civil war breaks out between the Monoids and it isn’t long before the jungle is littered with their corpses. When the collaborator, Maharis, is killed in the crossfire, Sue is thrilled by the development (“He was so annoying”).
Sue: This is the Monoid version of Reservoir Dogs. They should have a poster with one Monoid standing over a wounded Mondoid, with their silly guns drawn.
Me: I’d buy it.
The landing pods give no end of fascination for Sue, especially when they can be seen landing in the jungle’s background (“It looks like someone has dropped a pair of buckets from a ladder”).
Sue: He is really trying, this director. It’s almost heroic at times.
The bomb is finally neutralised when a Refusian picks up the statue and chucks it out the airlock. This implies that the Refusians are MASSIVE.
Sue: This is a bit too religious for me. First of all, you’ve got the whole Noah’s Ark business going on, but then this lot arrive on Eden and they have to agree to live with these omnipotent beings hovering around. These Gods will be looking over their shoulders the whole time. Breeding is going to be a big problem.
Me: Matt Smith should return to this planet a few generations later to find a really paranoid, half-mad civilization who can’t get a moment’s peace from this benevolent race of incredibly creepy aliens who can’t stop building them furniture.
Sue: I’d like some builders like them.
Back on the TARDIS, Steven and Dodo have changed into some fab and groovy gear (“That’s a big improvement”), but the Doctor has started to fade in and out of existence.
Sue: Is this it? Is he regenerating?
The Final Score
Sue: That wasn’t too bad. I liked the story. I liked the direction. Hartnell was on good form as well. But the Monoids let it down. They’re too silly for words.
The experiment continues…top
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