The Ark

Posted in Audio by - June 12, 2023
The Ark

Released June 2023


As The Lost Stories range continues its foray into bringing to life earlier drafts of what would go on to become some of the earliest televised stories to feature Tom Baker’s Fourth Doctor, the focus now turns to ‘The Ark’ by John Lucarotti that formed a foundation of sorts for Robert Holmes’s classic ‘The Ark in Space.’

Presented more or less as originally written with only a few modifications from adaptor Jonathan Morris to enhance the audio experience and clarify any visually reliant segments written with television in mind, ‘The Ark’ notably is not written for the Doctor that Tom Baker created and has not been edited to better fit that typical characterization. Indeed, written without knowing what kind of lead would take over for Jon Pertwee, this is a story that features an amalgamation of sorts of each of the earlier Doctors, a somewhat detached professorial type who finds glee in his own ingenuity. This gives Baker the unique opportunity to portray a similar yet wholly distinct iteration of his famed character that, though possibly offputting to some given this range’s heavy advertising of and reliance on nostalgia, provides a fascinating insight into just what may have been in other circumstances.  

Fittingly, ‘The Ark’ opens in a similar fashion to what ultimately made it to television as the Doctor, Harry, and Sarah Jane arrive on a space station housing the cryogenically suspended survivors of humanity waiting to return to a Earth once it is again deemed hospitable. The Doctor has taken it upon himself to be a caretaker of sorts for this station that has lain dormant for over 8,000 years, but he now finds the systems clogged with dust and the humans still asleep far beyond their intended time of awakening as shown by the flourishing buttercups on board in a segment of the structure designed to mimic the environment currently on Earth. However, as the three arrive to awake the frozen denizens, they discover a small object akin to a golf ball that shocks Harry and has a far more nefarious impact on the crew, a threat that extends to the future of the entire planet below them.

While there are few who would argue that Holmes did not make the right decision in reworking the ideas here to better suit Tom Baker and the bold new vision for the franchise, ‘The Ark’ is nonetheless filled with some strong and very visual science fiction elements that more than warrant this full-cast realization. In particular, Lucarotti has presented a highly intriguing alien menace with a fairly well-developed backstory, and Terry Molloy does well both as Noah and as the villainous Narib to bring the two sides of the burgeoning conflict to life exceedingly well. It does seem as though more could have been done with the alien vocals to make them a bit more dynamic and discernible, but this decision as well as the sound design as a whole are perfectly fitting of the early 1970s aesthetic. Of course, with buttercups and fungi featuring quite prominently, this is a story that quite heavily leans into its odder elements as well to balance the science and physics it attempts to incorporate, allowing Harry to take on more of an action-oriented role that a less physically adept actor in the role of the Doctor would have allowed him to assume while also allowing the Doctor to highlight his own truly alien nature and scientific enthusiasm.  

Naturally, the interactions and chemistry between the Doctor and his companions are quite distinct from how the Fourth Doctor’s came to be written and portrayed, but it is notable that Harry and Sarah Jane are more or less characterized as they were on screen. Accordingly, the chemistry between Harry and Sarah Jane is wonderful, and Christopher Naylor and Sadie Miller expertly evoke the spirit and mannerisms of these famed roles even if Sarah is afforded somewhat less of a proactive role comparatively. Still, with claustrophobic duct sequences and grand spacewalking sequences alike in support of a unique alien threat and a crew under threat of possession with the future of humanity at stake, ‘The Ark’ has a little bit of everything to create a wholly engaging- if fairly uneven and quickly-resolved- experience that presents an interesting what-if scenario as this diversion for The Lost Stories continues.

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