Reviews

Who by Two in 'Doctor Who: The Ark'

There are bad stories, goofy aliens and lousy special effects littered throughout the Doctor Who series, but stories like this help us keep the faith.


Doctor Who: The Ark

Distributor: BBC Warner
Cast: William Hartnell, Peter Purves, Jackie Lane
Network: BBC
Release date: 2011-03-08
Amazon

When Noah brought the animals on his ark they came two by two. This fact makes for a fun bit of singing and wordplay for children first learning the story, but what’s missing is the why. The story isn’t told to children to explain animal husbandry, though, it’s told to extoll the virtues of faith, that listening to and obeying god is the only path to salvation. The image of the animals pairing off and boarding the ark along with Noah and his family also evokes another theme that runs deeper than faith: survival.

With or without Noah, the flood story persists around the world and across religious and cultural traditions. Aboard the TARDIS it transcends time and space. When the TARDIS materializes in a lush forest the Doctor (William Hartnell), Steven (Peter Purves) and their new companion Dodo (Jackie Lane) are sure they’ve landed on Earth. Despite the presence of lizards, birds, elephants and even people, they learn they’re actually aboard a spaceship, traveling along with refugees from a dying Earth, ten million years from the present.

The majority of people aboard the ship have been miniaturized and placed in stasis for their 700 year journey to the planet Refusis. Those remaining are called the Guardians, and they’re assisted in their duties by Monoids, refugees from another world.

Doctor Who: The Ark makes great use of the time travel conceit, moving the characters through the entire arc of the refugee’s journey to their new home. The story is split into halves, the first of which centers on the specter of disease, something the Guardians have eliminated over the centuries. It comes via Dodo, whose minor case of the sniffles turns deadly and quickly spreads throughout the ship. This gives Steven pause, and he utters a horrifying line: “Has this happened before?” Traveling to other eras and other planets, the Doctor and his companions could spread disease anywhere, wreaking havoc across the universe, an idea that could spawn a whole series of stories.

This idea of the Doctor’s legacy of disease is forgotten when a cure is found and order is restored, but for the Guardians traveling to Refusis, the legacy of their actions lingers long into the future. After the TARDIS leaves the ship it materializes again in the exact same spot as before, only seven hundred years later. The planet Refusis is in sight and the Monoids have taken control of the ship.

The second half of the story overshadows the first both in scale and excitement. The Doctor and his friends find a complete reversal of the world they’d only just left. It’s a wonderful bit of narrative sleight of hand that proves why the show has endured. Time travel doesn’t have to be about killing the dictator or righting some historical wrong. It allows us to peek ahead to see what comes next.

Doctor Who: The Ark marks the Monoids only appearance on the series. As goofy-looking villains go these guys are formidable. They look like stalks of broccoli wearing Beatle wigs and, when they gain the ability to speak, their voices are Dalek-lite. The transformation from servants to masters and their single, unblinking eyes give them enough depth and menace to make them convincing.

Among the brief but satisfying bonus features is the featurette “One Hit Wonder” which explores the Monoids’ status among other single appearance aliens, and the strange appeal of their ridiculous and scary look. “Riverside Story” details the making of the story and gives viewers a tour of the sound stage where it was filmed, and “All’s Wells” marks Doctor Who’s debt to the works of H.G. Wells.

Doctor Who: The Ark is a story of survival and endurance, something the creators of Doctor Who and its fans know a little about. There are bad stories, goofy aliens and lousy special effects littered throughout the series’ history, but stories like this help us keep the faith.

7

From genre-busting electronic music to new highs in the ever-evolving R&B scene, from hip-hop and Americana to rock and pop, 2017's music scenes bestowed an embarrassment of riches upon us.


60. White Hills - Stop Mute Defeat (Thrill Jockey)

White Hills epic '80s callback Stop Mute Defeat is a determined march against encroaching imperial darkness; their eyes boring into the shadows for danger but they're aware that blinding lights can kill and distort truth. From "Overlord's" dark stomp casting nets for totalitarian warnings to "Attack Mode", which roars in with the tribal certainty that we can survive the madness if we keep our wits, the record is a true and timely win for Dave W. and Ego Sensation. Martin Bisi and the poster band's mysterious but relevant cool make a great team and deliver one of their least psych yet most mind destroying records to date. Much like the first time you heard Joy Division or early Pigface, for example, you'll experience being startled at first before becoming addicted to the band's unique microcosm of dystopia that is simultaneously corrupting and seducing your ears. - Morgan Y. Evans

Keep reading... Show less

Under the lens of cultural and historical context, as well as understanding the reflective nature of popular culture, it's hard not to read this film as a cautionary tale about the limitations of isolationism.

I recently spoke to a class full of students about Plato's "Allegory of the Cave". Actually, I mentioned Plato's "Allegory of the Cave" by prefacing that I understood the likelihood that no one had read it. Fortunately, two students had, which brought mild temporary relief. In an effort to close the gap of understanding (perhaps more a canyon or uncanny valley) I made the popular quick comparison between Plato's often cited work and the Wachowski siblings' cinema spectacle, The Matrix. What I didn't anticipate in that moment was complete and utter dissociation observable in collective wide-eyed stares. Example by comparison lost. Not a single student in a class of undergraduates had partaken of The Matrix in all its Dystopic future shock and CGI kung fu technobabble philosophy. My muted response in that moment: Whoa!

Keep reading... Show less
9

The year in song reflected the state of the world around us. Here are the 70 songs that spoke to us this year.

70. The Horrors - "Machine"

On their fifth album V, the Horrors expand on the bright, psychedelic territory they explored with Luminous, anchoring the ten new tracks with retro synths and guitar fuzz freakouts. "Machine" is the delicious outlier and the most vitriolic cut on the record, with Faris Badwan belting out accusations to the song's subject, who may even be us. The concept of alienation is nothing new, but here the Brits incorporate a beautiful metaphor of an insect trapped in amber as an illustration of the human caught within modernity. Whether our trappings are technological, psychological, or something else entirely makes the statement all the more chilling. - Tristan Kneschke

Keep reading... Show less
Books

'The Art of Confession' Ties Together Threads of Performance

Allen Ginsberg and Robert Lowell at St. Mark's Church in New York City, 23 February 1977

Scholar Christopher Grobe crafts a series of individually satisfying case studies, then shows the strong threads between confessional poetry, performance art, and reality television, with stops along the way.

Tracing a thread from Robert Lowell to reality TV seems like an ominous task, and it is one that Christopher Grobe tackles by laying out several intertwining threads. The history of an idea, like confession, is only linear when we want to create a sensible structure, the "one damn thing after the next" that is the standing critique of creating historical accounts. The organization Grobe employs helps sensemaking.

Keep reading... Show less
9

Alt-rock heroes the Foo Fighters deliver a three-hour blast of rock power that defies modern norms.

It's a Saturday night in Sacramento and the downtown area around the swank new Golden 1 Center is buzzing as if people are waiting for a spaceship to appear because the alt-rock heroes known as the Foo Fighters are in town. Dave Grohl and his band of merry mates have carried the torch for 20th-century rock 'n' roll here in the next millennium like few others, consistently cranking out one great guitar-driven album after another while building a cross-generational appeal that enables them to keep selling out arenas across America.

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 Popmatters.com. All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.

rating-image