Tuesday, 26 June 2012

'Doctor Who and The Ark In Space' - Ian Marter (BBC Books)

Is this going to be a review or me waxing nostalgic about Saturday evening cheese on toast, reading a Doctor Who book while waiting for it to appear on the TV? I'm aiming for the former but please excuse me if it turns into the latter from time to time; childhood memories of cheese on toast will do that to me every time... ;o)
'Doctor Who' was an absolutely massive part of my childhood though, not least because of the novelisations that enabled me to catch up on adventures, of previous Doctors, that I had never seen before. It's just under thirty years since I last read 'The Ark in Space' and remember being really freaked out by the descriptions of the giant insect Wirrrn. The re-release of 'The Ark in Space', by BBC Books, gave me the chance to take a little trip back in time and see if the magic was still there. In a slightly unexpected turn of events, I had exactly the same problems with 'The Ark in Space' that I had when I was eight or nine. Not sure quite what to think about that...

Blurb copied and pasted because I need to save all the time I can today!

The survivors of a devastated future Earth lie in suspended animation on a great satellite. When Earth is safe again, they will awaken. But when the Doctor, Sarah and Harry arrive on the Terra Nova, they find the systems have failed and the humans never woke.

The Wirrrn Queen has infiltrated the satellite, and laid her eggs inside one of the sleepers. As the first of the humans wake, they face an attack by the emerging Wirrrn.

But not everyone is what they seem, and the only way the Doctor can discover the truth is by joining with the dead mind of the Wirrrn Queen. The price of failure is the Doctor's death, and the end of humanity.


I ought to start off by saying that I have never seen the 'Ark in Space' TV episodes so this review won't be about how the two formats measure up to one another. I'm all about the book here although not for long as 'The Ark in Space' is only a hundred and forty eight pages long, it made for a nice couple of hours reading but not without those issues I mentioned...

If the afterword, mention is made that Marter's book differs in a number of small ways from the TV episodes but I'd say that the detail he puts into setting the scene shows a faithfulness to what was on the screen. It's a shame that he doesn't do a particularly good job of it then; I didn't think he did when I was nine and I don't think so now. You know the story takes place on a space station but it's all too easy to get lost as the descriptive passages don't leave you with a lot of clues as what it looks like or where stuff is in relation to other stuff. It's pretty confusing to be honest although Marter does capture the claustrophobia of the narrow tunnels that must be crawled through...

The best thing to do then is stick with the actual plot and that is where Marter comes into his own with a taut and gripping tale of alien insects intent on assimilating the human crew. You get to see the whole process with one crewmember and I couldn't help but wince in sympathy. Marter doesn't pull any punches here with a rather visceral account of alien transformation.

It's also interesting to see that, while the Doctor has plenty of ideas (and takes centre stage the whole way through), it's the human crew who eventually save the day. I liked the way this showcases the Doctors faith in humanity and why he will do anything to protect the Earth. His energy inspires the other characters to come up with solutions of their own and this approach makes the plot sizzle when it really counts.

'The Ark in Space' is a story of two halves then. The plot is nothing less than gripping but if it wasn't for the words 'space' and 'station' the background would be a complete letdown. Luckily the plot makes up for this, to a great extent, and I loved the read. I won't leave it another thirty years before picking up 'The Ark in Space' again; now I just need to watch it on DVD...

Eight out of Ten

2 comments:

Liesel K Hill said...

Interesting Post! Thanks for sharing it! :D

Kashifattari Attari said...

It's also interesting to see that, while the Doctor has plenty of ideas (and takes centre stage the whole way through), it's the human crew who eventually save the day. I liked the way this showcases the Doctors faith in humanity and why he will do anything to protect the Earth. His energy inspires the other characters to come up with solutions of their own and this approach makes the plot sizzle when it really counts try it out