Doctor Who: Colony in Space
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Doctor Who: Colony in Space
The Time Lords discover that the Master has stolen their secret file on the Doomsday Weapon and decide to send the Doctor and Jo on to retrieve it for them. The Doctor finds himself on an alien planet in the middle of a territorial dispute between peaceful colonists and the Interplanetary Mining Corporation. Watch out for Roy from Eastenders.]]>
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The Master, who escaped with his TARDIS fully operational at the close of the previous adventure, "The Claws of Axos," steals the Time Lords' secret file on the Doomsday Weapon, so the Time Lords shanghai the Doctor and Jo to the planet Uxarieus to stop the Master from seizing control of the device. So much time had passed since the Doctor last needed the TARDIS (almost two years) that the production crew had forgotten how it was supposed to work: when it takes off for Uxarieus with the Doctor and Jo inside, it simply blinks out of frame rather than making its usual slow dissolve.
On Uxarieus, colonists with a rightful claim to settle the planet struggle to eke out a meager existence while representatives of the Interplanetary Mining Corporation secretly sabotage their work in hopes of exploiting the planet's rich duralineum deposits. Meanwhile, the colonists' leader, Ashe (marking the return of John Ringham, a veteran character actor who had appeared previously on Doctor Who in "The Smugglers" and "The Aztecs"), is trying to keep peace with reptilelike humanoids that live in the "Primitive City" beneath the planet's surface.
Actually, the city isn't "primitive" at all but the remains of a once advanced civilization that slipped into decline after building the Doomsday Weapon. The Master soon arrives posing as the Adjudicator assigned by Earth to resolve the colonists and miners' dispute. Determined to find out what the Master is really up to, the Doctor has to play it cool: the Master has credentials (faked but credible) while he has none.
"Colony in Space" gave veteran script writer Malcolm Hulke ample room to explore weighty political issues of particular interest at the outset of the 1970s: people vs. corporations, and the corrupting effects of advanced weapons systems capable of destroying planets. For all its potential, though, the production never quite breaks out of the creative constraints placed on it by the BBC.
As usual, exterior shooting (which required explosives) took place in a quarry: this time, the china clay pits of St. Austell in Cornwall. Heavy rains and bitter cold turned fight scenes into mud wrestling matches, and the actors, often scantily clad, were miserable between takes. To help the miners get around the forbidding landscape, the production was able to borrow two Haflinger 4x4 flatbed trucks on condition that they be returned undamaged. In one scene, one of the trucks is overturned by a giant boulder rolling down a hillside. In the final shot, viewers never see the rock actually hit the truck (which means, with cutting, the effect could have been faked), but the styrofoam boulder (filled with stage weights) made an enormous dent in the truck's side requiring costly repairs.
Set designs for the interior shots inside the Primitive City, for example, are uniformly serviceable, but the costume designs for the Uxarieusans are execrable, seriously detracting from the story. (The mask for the Guardian is so bad I couldn't tell whether the part was played by an actor or a puppet.) The customary making-of documentary in the Special Features menu focuses on the work of first-time director Michael Briant, and therefore doesn't explain the reasons for the production's lackluster design.
First, by being the first Jon Pertwee Story where he actually uses the TARDIS to visit another planet and escape Earth where he has been stranded by the Timelords. As such, it gives such viewers a little background on the time machine vehicle and the somewhat adversarial and uneasy relationship between the Time Lords and the renegade Doctor.
Secondly, the story shows how the Doctor Who I believe built its core audience for a Science Fiction Series not based on special effects (which due to limited production budgets are sell known to be sub-standard) but by examining the interplay of relationships between groups with different motivations. In this case, a group of well-meaning colonists just struggling to survive on the planet versus a group of greedy miners representing a firm who are just trying to obtain the rich minerals beneath the surface to fatten their wallets. There are also a group of primitives and true residents of the planet to be dealt with who have their own struggles. These three groups are pitted against each other throughout the story as a power struggle for the planet ensures.
Third, the story also gives the newer viewer a very good look at the multi-faceted Doctor, who against a backdrop of double dealing and backstabbing that ensues throughout the story, showcases all his of his varied skills, from his physical combat preferences (Venusian Karate) to his scientific, investigative and even diplomatic skills, all of which are necessary to bring about a successful conclusion in favor of the good guys.
This story also introduces to such an audience a venerable Doctor Who Villain in the form of "The Master", an evil Time Lord who has a long history with the Doctor and has his own more far reaching interests on the planet in the form of controlling a "doomsday weapon" in which he can then subjugate the Universe for his own purposes.
Of interest to hard-core Doctor Who Fans may be the character of "Caldwell" as played by Brit Actor Bernard Kay, who popped up in several Doctor Who Stories under different, earlier doctors from both the William Hartnell and Patrick Troughton eras. Kay previously appeared as "Saladin" in "The Crusade" and also appeared as important characters in "The Faceless Ones" and p "The Dalek Invasion of Earth". In this story, he plays a Mining Engineer, who has a conscience which does not allow him to go along with the ambitions of the other miners which means killing off the Colonists, even though this would be in his own best financial interests. At key times, he assists the colonists which helps to turn the tide in their favor and he ultimately stays with them at the end, helping to repair their much dilapidated equipment which helps them build a fresh start on the planet.
Again, perhaps not the strongest story in the Doctor Who, John Pertwee Era but I think a valuable story for the right audience.