Next up in the run through is Colony In Space, which means that after a run of thirty-nine consecutive episodes set on modern-day Earth, the Doctor is back on his travels.
But is he not supposed to be exiled to Earth? Well the production team have decided to let that slide by having him go on occasional ‘missions for the Time Lords’.
So what’s the mission? Well it won’t be a surprise to you that involves that old rogue, The Master.
Doctor Who – Colony in Space Review: What’s This One About?
Well what it’s supposed to be about and what it is about are two separate things. The reason the Doctor is sent to the Earth colony planet Uxarieus in the year 2472 is to stop the Master from getting hold of ‘The Doomsday Weapon’ held within the ruins of an ancient civilisation that live beneath the planet.
But what it’s really about is the feud between the colonists who are on the planet, and the mining company who want to take advantage of the rich mineral deposits there. The mining company want to bully the colonists off the planet and try everything from using a comedy robot with giant claws to kill them, sending in Roy Skelton to infiltrate the colony and then just saying ‘Piss off or we’ll kill you’.
Thoughts – An Obvious Political Statement
I was born in 1982 so the era this was broadcast in was well before my time, but I’d be very surprised if this isn’t meant to be a political statement based around what was happening in the UK around 1971 regarding big business and the effects of pollution. Later on in 1971 there was of course the Pollution episode of The Goodies, so that would tie in.
Here the ‘Back To Nature’ types are portrayed as the innocent good guys, while – with the exception of Bernard Kay’s Caldwell – the members of the IMC are portrayed as ruthless, money-hungry bastards. So it’s quite clear who Barry Letts & Co side with in reality.
Thankfully, this obvious statement doesn’t really get in the way of a good story. My issue with it though is that – as I say above – what it’s meant to be about (i.e. the reason for why the Doctor is there) is largely ignored, but for two quick and inconsequential visits to the primitive
Should The Master Be In This One?
Related to the issue I raise above, there doesn’t seem to be any point in the Master being in this one, and how they handle him being there is a bit odd too.
In my previous review of the Claws of Axos, I talked about how they had the Master leaving Earth only for him to be back a week later. That was bad enough, but here what they do is have some Time Lord characters basically say ‘The Master is in this one’, thus ruining the surprise of him being the adjudicator when he turns up half way through, which is even worse in my opinion.
This is one story where the Master could have been rested, just like UNIT were. Yes, he’s good in it – Roger Delgado is always fantastic – but he’s additional to the plot rather than crucial to it. In this story, the real villains are Captain Dent (with his wonderful head of hair) and Tony ‘Roy Evans’ Caunter’s Morgan; the Master just isn’t needed.
And I know you might say that he was needed for the Doctor to be able to get to Uxarieus in the first place, but there are obviously ways around it.
- “Don’t worry, Jim’ll Fix It”says Helen Worth with a broad knowing grin on her face as if she’s telling a joke, in reference to getting a guy called Jim to fix something. And yet this was four years before Jim’ll Fix It started on
TV. It’s weird, isn’t it?
- One thing that annoys me about the designers in Doctor Who sometimes is that they take leaps with certain technologies and in other cases assume that current technology will exist in the future. So while two-way video-phones and robots exist in 2472, cassette tapes and type-writer printers are also still kicking about. Fair enough, you can’t expect people to accurately predict all advancements in technology, but type-writer printers? Come on.
- Once again, the cliffhangers aren’t all that good and are used more as a way to suddenly end a 23 minute episode with a life-threatening scenario. We have episode one & two finishing with the Doctor being confronted by the same robot and episodes four & five finishing with the Master threatening to kill the Doctor or Jo. We know that neither is really in any danger of being killed off so it’s not something that I find to be a good cliffhanger at all.
- But I have to give credit to Episode 3’s cliffhanger where Jo is away to be taken down to the primitive city. Had I watched it at the time I would have thought ‘Wow, I look forward to seeing what happens next week’, because it actually advances the plot.
- In this story Jo continually gets referred to as ‘Jo Grant’. Yes, that’s her full name, but it just seems forced and incongruous. I don’t know why, but it’s always bothered me when watching this one.
- In general, the primitives are rubbish. The exception is the wonderfully well spoken Guardian. He has this oddness about him in that he’s clearly a rather sloppily put together Papier-mâché puppet slumped into a chair, and yet despite that, is oddly convincing. Work that one out.
- Sadly there aren’t any budding Columbos living within the Colony considering they don’t work out that there was just something not quite right about Norton (Roy Skelton)
- Why is Jo so surprised about the TARDIS? She’s seen it de-materialise in the Claws of Axos and therefore must know that it is what it’s always been purported to be. Could this be another sign that it makes more sense for this story to have taken place before Claws of Axos? Or am I reading too much into it?
- Watch the scenes with the primitives and tell me you don’t think of the Sand Creatures from Star Wars?
- What I love about Jon Pertwee’s Doctor is how much of a grumpy and rude bastard he can be at times. One of the best examples of that is in Episode 2 of this story where he meets Morgan for the first time. “Who the blazes are you, and why was this door locked” he shouts at a man he’s meeting for the first time. Classic Pertwee.
- There are plenty of actors who have appeared on the show before. Bernard Kaye (Daleks Invasion of Earth, The Crusade & The Faceless Ones), John Ringham (The Aztecs & The Smugglers) and John Herrington (Daleks Master Plan) make their final Doctor Who appearances. Meanwhile I *think* this is legendary extra Pat Gorman’s first ever speaking role in the show.
Doctor Who – Colony in Space Review: Final Thoughts
Colony in Space is an enjoyable story and one that holds its own in a strong season of the show.
But it didn’t need the Master and it could probably have worked better as a four-parter. What they probably should have done was expanded more on the storyline with the primitive city and how it affected the colonists ability to grow crops (a storyline which was pretty much dropped the moment the IMC turned up) in place of the stuff with the Master.
But that’s not a huge issue, and I’m still satisfied with what Colony in Space turned out to be.