Doctor Who: The Ark and Doctor Who: The Mutants DVD Reviews
“The Ark” is one of the best Hartnell era episodes.
While thematically intriguing, “The Mutants” is a forgettable episode.
Doctor Who: The Mutants
The plot: The Doctor and Jo Grant are sent to a space station called Skybase One to deliver a box to someone (they don’t know who at first). Upon arrival, they become caught up in a political and racial crisis involving Earth’s rule of the planet Solos. You see, Earth was trying to colonize the already occupied planet Solos. The planet is made up of tribal people as well as mutated people. Under the rule of the insane Marshal, the humans were ordered to murderthe mutated Solonians. The agenda has changed, however, as Earth has sent orders to decolonize the planet Solos. One would think the crisis would be over, but the Marshal is ignoring his orders for his own evil plan. Can the Doctor stop the Marshal? What is the real cause of the mutations? Can Solos be saved?
Despite some intriguing and meaty themes and messages about government, race, politics, independence, rebellion, and power, “The Mutants” doesn’t quite work as a whole. For one thing, the episode is entirely too long. Had the episode been 90 minutes this might have been a more memorable adventure. As is, there’s simply too much dialogue and too running around in corridors and caves. It doesn’t help that there’s some truly bad acting and production values here. I’m not one too harp on the production values of classic ‘Who’ much, but these sets were beyond cheap. It doesn’t even look like they were trying to make something visually appealing. As for the acting, there’s some cringe worthy performances here by guest actors Paul Whitsun-Jones and Rick James. Paul seems to be acting like Francis Buxton from “Pee-wee’s Big Adventure” while Rick James simply cannot act at all. He overreacts to every situation to the point where it becomes laughable. Thankfully, Jon Pertwee manages to class up the joint with a winning performance.
Summary: “The Mutants” has its moments, but it’s a deeply flawed episode.
The fullscreen picture quality isn’t up to the usual ‘Who’ DVD standards. I noticed a good amount of grain, wavy lines, and blurry image quality at certain spots.
The Dolby Digital Mono audio track is decent. The dialogue and sound f/x sound fairly clean, but the track isn’t exactly brimming with life.
“The Mutants” Extras:
* “Doctor Who” series 5 and “The Ark” trailers, photo gallery, info text, and Radio Times Listings.
* Commentary by Katy Manning, Garrick Hagon, Christopher Barry, Terrance Dicks, Nicholas Pegg, Brian Hodgson, Bob Baker, and Jeremy Bear. The folks joining the commentary pop in and out of various parts of the episode. Overall, it’s a fairly informative commentary and probably more interesting than the episode itself.
* “Blue Peter”- A quick 2 minute look at various alien statues from “Doctor Who”.
* “Dressing Doctor Who”- Famed costume designer James Acheson talks about his work on “Doctor Who”.
* “Race Against Time”- Noel Clarke (who played Mickey Smith) narrates this interesting documentary about race issues, minority/ethnic actors in classic ‘Who, themes in “The Mutants,” and black actors in “Doctor Who”.
* “Mutt Mad”- The making of episode that contains the usual cast/crew interviews, discussions about the script, etc.
Doctor Who: The Ark
The plot: The Doctor, Dodo and Steven arrive on spaceship that contains the last human, animal, and plant life remains of Earth as well as members of an alien species (the Monoids). After meeting several of the humans, they learn the ship is en route to a planet called Refusis because Earth (and the Monoid’s planet) are uninhabitable. Refusis is the planet that will eventually become both the humans and Monoids new home. Things soon become complicated, however, when a sick Dodo winds up spreading her cold to the crew members who do not have an immunity to the virus. Thankfully, the Doctor manages to create a cure to save the day. You’d think the story would be over there, but just as the TARDIS departs, it arrives back on the ship many years into the future where things have dramatically changed.
Many classic ‘Who’ era episodes suffer from being overlong or overwritten, but that is not the case with “The Ark”. This is one of the best William Hartnell/First Doctor era episodes because it doesn’t follow the same storytelling structure as most other episodes. In fact, it feels like two different episodes. I for one liked seeing two different eras aboard the spaceship as well as seeing the effects that Doctor had on the people aboard the ship in both eras. To me, it was a very well written story that doesn’t get the credit it deserves.
Other random aspects of the story I liked were the shrunken people and uprising storylines and Hartnell’s insults directed at Dodo. Really, the only things I didn’t care for were the annoying Dodo (who manages to become more tolerable later on) and the goofy moppy haired alien design of the Monoids.
Summary: If you’re looking for a good William Hartnell “Doctor Who” episode, I recommend checking out “The Ark” first.
I was pleased with the 4:3 fullscreen picture quality. The print was in better shape than many Hartnell era episodes (even with the usual grain).
The Dolby Digital Mono audio track is as good as a Mono track can get.
“The Ark” Extras:
* “Doctor Who” series 5, “Doctor Who: Kinda,” and “Doctor Who: Snakedance,” trailers, photo gallery, Radio Times Listings, and info text.
* “Riverside Story”- A 20 minute featurette/sit down interview with Peter Purves about Riverside studios (the location where several Hartnell and Troughton episodes were shot).
* “One Hit Wonder”- A brief little piece about the Monoids.
* “All’s Wells That Ends Wells”- A 13 minute featurette about H.G. Wells and how his works influenced episodes of “Doctor Who”. There’s also some mention of Wells appearing in “Timelash”.
* An informative commentary by Peter Purves, Michael Imison, and Toby Hadoke.
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