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TDP 297: The Ark in Space - Special Edition DVD
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076 – The Ark in Space
Doctor Who serial
Ark in Space.jpg
Noah is steadily being transformed into a Wirrn
Writer Robert Holmes
John Lucarotti (uncredited)
Director Rodney Bennett
Script editor Robert Holmes
Producer Philip Hinchcliffe
Executive producer(s) None
Production code 4C
Series Season 12
Length 4 episodes, 25 minutes each
Originally broadcast 25 January–15 February 1975
← Preceded by Followed by →
Robot The Sontaran Experiment

The Ark in Space is the second serial of the 12th season of the British science fiction television series Doctor Who, which was first broadcast in four weekly parts from 25 January to 15 February 1975.




The TARDIS materialises on an aged space station. Sarah is overcome by lack of oxygen. While Harry and the Doctor explore, Sarah is transported away and placed into cryonic suspension by the station computer. Harry and the Doctor explore and realize the station is a kind of ark. Discovering Sarah, Harry searches for a resuscitation unit but discovers a mummified alien insect instead.

A woman (Vira) revives from suspended animation. Vira revives both Sarah and the Ark's leader, Lazar, nicknamed "Noah". The Doctor tells Vira that the Ark's (Space Station Nerva) inhabitants have overslept by several millennia, thanks to the insect visitor that sabotaged the control systems. Noah and the visitors clash, and Noah accuses them of murdering a missing crewmate.

Noah investigates the power room and is infected by an alien creature. The Doctor realizes the alien insect laid eggs inside the missing crewman, who became an alien now inhabiting the Ark. Noah kills a crewmate, but recovers enough to order Vira to revive the remaining crew and evacuate, but the Doctor realizes the alien pupae will mature too quickly for this. He proposes that they destroy the Wirrn while they are in their dormant, pupal stage.

Dissection of the Wirrn corpse reveals the Wirrn are vulnerable to electricity. As he tries to reactivate the station power, the fully transformed Noah attacks him. Noah reveals that the Wirrn were driven from their home by human settlers and now intend to absorb all human knowledge.

To electrify the cryogenic chamber and overcome the Wirrn, Sarah crawls through service conduits to reach the Doctor and succeeds in electrifying the Ark. Set back, Noah, as the Swarm Leader, offers the others safe passage from the Ark if they leave the sleeping crew for the Wirrn, but the crew decline.

The Wiirn escape in a transport ship. Noah, realizing his altered nature, sabotages the engines. He transmits one final good-bye to Vira before the transport ship explodes with the entire Wiirn swarm on board.

In the closing sequence, the TARDIS party transmats down to Earth to repair the receiver terminal and allow the Ark colonists to repopulate the Earth.


This serial forms part of a continuous series of adventures for the TARDIS crew, beginning from the end of Robot and continuing through to Terror of the Zygons. The Doctor, Sarah, and Harry return to Nerva at the end of the season in Revenge of the Cybermen. The Fourth Doctor also returns to Nerva in the Big Finish audio Destination Nerva, by Nicholas Briggs.

In the script, Wirrn is spelled with only two 'r's. In Ian Marter's (the actor who portrayed Harry Sullivan) novelisation of The Ark in Space, Wirrrn is spelled with three 'r's.The Wirrn also appear in the BBV audio play Wirrn: Race Memory. The Eighth Doctor encounters the Wirrn in the Eighth Doctor Adventures novel Placebo Effect, by Gary Russell and the Big Finish audio story Wirrn Dawn by Nicholas Briggs.


Serial details by episode
EpisodeBroadcast dateRun timeViewership
(in millions)
"Part One" 25 January 1975 24:58 9.4
"Part Two" 1 February 1975 24:49 13.6
"Part Three" 8 February 1975 24:05 11.2
"Part Four" 15 February 1975 24:37 10.2

The script, written by Robert Holmes, is from a story by John Lucarotti, which was rewritten because it was considered unusable. Holmes rewrote The Ark in Space as a four part serial as a lead in to the two part The Sontaran Experiment. Lucarotti does not receive any on-screen credit.[4][5] Producer Philip Hinchcliffe believed that in order to expand the show's core audience, it was necessary to broaden the show's appeal to adults, and Ark in Space demonstrates this with its use of horror, particularly the inexorable transformation of Noah into an alien creature. A scene in which the half-transformed Noah begs Vira to kill him was deemed too scary for children and had to be cut.[6] The sets for this story were re-used for Revenge of the Cybermen, partially set on Space Station Nerva at an earlier time.[7]

The title sequence for Part One was tinted green as an experiment, but was not repeated for subsequent episodes. The title sequence would stay constant for the next six years.[8]

[edit]Broadcast and reception

Part Two of this story charted at number five for the most-watched television programmes across the week on all channels. This was the highest chart placing ever attained by a single episode of Doctor Who until 2007's Voyage of the Damned placed second for both that week and the entire year. The highest rated episode (in terms of viewing audience) is Part Four of City of Death.

At Inside the World of Doctor Who, a live event hosted by the British Academy of Film and Television Arts on 29 November 2008,Russell T Davies, producer of the 21st century revival of Doctor Who, said that The Ark in Space was his favourite story from the original run of Doctor Who[9] as did Steven Moffat.[10]

[edit]In print

Doctor Who book
Book cover
Doctor Who and the Ark in Space
Series Target novelisations
Release number 4
Writer Ian Marter
Publisher Target Books
Cover artist Chris Achilleos
ISBN 0-426-11631-3
Release date 10 May 1977

A novelisation of this serial, written by Ian Marter, was published by Target Books in 1977. This was Marter's first novelisation for Target (he would write several more before his death in 1986). Marter alters the ending so that the travellers leave in the TARDIS.

[edit]VHS, Laserdisc and DVD releases

The Ark in Space was first released on VHS in 1989 in an omnibus format. It was then re-released in 1994 in its original episodic format. It was released on Laserdisc in 1996 in its original episodic format. It was released on DVD in the United Kingdom on 8 April 2002. It was released for sale on iTunes on 11 August 2008. The Ark in Space has been announced for a special edition DVD release on 18 February 2013.[11]


  1. ^ Shaun Lyon et al. (31 March 2007). "The Ark in Space". Outpost Gallifrey. Archived fromthe original on 31 July 2008. Retrieved 30 August 2008.
  2. ^ "The Ark in Space". Doctor Who Reference Guide. Retrieved 30 August 2008.
  3. ^ Sullivan, Shannon (7 August 2007). "The Ark in Space". A Brief History of Time Travel. Retrieved 30 August 2008.
  4. ^ Howe, David J.; Stammers, Mark; Walker, Stephen James (1992). Doctor Who The Handbook - The Fourth Doctor. London: Doctor Who Books. p. 57. ISBN 0-426-20369-0.
  5. ^ Cornell, PaulDay, MartinTopping, Keith (1995). "76 'The Ark in Space'". Doctor Who: The Discontinuity Guide. London: Doctor Who Books. p. 168. ISBN 0-426-20442-5. "from an uncredited plot by John Lucarotti"
  6. ^ Howe, Stammers & Walker 1992, p. 58
  7. ^ Howe, Stammers & Walker 1992, pp. 58, 63, 64
  8. ^ Richards, Justin (2005) [2003]. Doctor Who: The Legend Continues - 5 decades of time travel (revised ed.). London: BBC Books. p. 199. ISBN 0-563-48640-6.
  9. ^ Russell T Davies (Interviewee), Kirsten O'Brien (Host) (29 November 2008) (Flash Video).Inside the World of Doctor WhoBarbican Centre, London: British Academy of Film and Television Arts. Event occurs at -05:32. Retrieved 19 December 2008.
  10. ^
  11. ^ Foster, Chuck (8 December 2012). "DVD Update: 2013 updates and expectations"Doctor Who News. Retrieved 16 December 2012.

[edit]External links

Target novelisation
Direct download: TDP_297_Ark_in_Space_SE.mp3
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