The Ark

Doctor Who Big Finish Ark Monoids
The Ark Radio TimesThere are some stories that are classics and some that are complete clunkers, and when it comes to fan editing, there are some you can’t wait to tackle and others you put off for as long as possible. This is one of the latter sort, the storytelling equivalent of a trip to the dentist that you know is going to end up being painful and unpleasant but you just can’t put it off any longer. With clunkers like these you really have to be in the mood to tackle them, and if you get an idea of how to make them tolerable, that can sometimes be the kickstarter you need to bite the bullet and tackle the wretched thing.

For this, it was a combination of knowing that this was the last, full video, Hartnell edit I would ever do, unless some more eps turn up to complete a missing story, that is. That, combined with the fact that I had a bit of inspiration when it came to how to edit it, was what had my Inner Fan Editor telling me that now was the right time to get it over with.

I cannot imagine for one minute that The Ark is anyone’s favourite story, unless of course you enjoy watching television that’s so bad it should be in the pages of TV Comic. I can just re-imagine this story as Menace of the Monoids with John & Gillian instead of Steven & Dodo [what is it with her accent anyway? I wish she’d make her mind up whether she’s from “oop nurth” or “dine sythe”]. I can see the Monoids fitting right in with the Trods, Quarks, Mk1 Cybermen, mechanical housemaids and faithful rocket packs.

But, to be fair to the production team, seen only the once as intended and on a small 405-line screen, many of the story’s more obvious flaws would likely have passed by unnoticed as you were busy trying to follow the plot and resist the urge to punch the annoying humans in the face. Smug Commander Grandad and Bloodthirsty Sidekick Zentos are like an intergalactic Steptoe & Son and the Monoids are just ridiculous, though if you think back to the hybrid Dalek Sec, you can see how they could have been made to work.

dalek sec monoid

But making them not just mute but mouthless, meaning we have to resort to sign language to involve them at all in the first two eps is a monumental mistake. Where was the “Beep The Meep” style deception? Where was all the plotting and scheming to take over the unsuspecting humans’ ship? Where was all the inter-Monoid conflict between those who want to overthrow the humans and those who want peaceful co-existence? Where was the stuff that, in the hands of better writers, could have predated The Silurians? Nowhere to be bloody seen is the short answer!

dr who 3.5 ark monoids covers

Aside from the statue reveal, which is quite a good twist, the other notable thing about the story, aside from the sheer number of on-screen bloopers it contains [see the story’s “bloopers” post over at Whopix for the evidence], is that it leads straight into The Celestial Toymaker, only part four of which exists. Quite apart from cutting The Ark back as much as I could to tell it as quickly as possible I was quite keen on using what footage I could from The Final Test to give a little teaser for the missing story. I managed to put together just enough to make up a tiny little trail – just 15 seconds long – for the story before the Next Time caption kicks in, using a little bit of audio from The Celestial Toyroom with the visuals from The Final Test. I was very pleased with the end result of my little Toymaker Trailer but now it was time to face the endurance test that was editing The Ark.

One of the first things that strikes you when you watch this story is just how Sixties it feels. Perhaps it’s the big open studio spaces or the use of inlay effects, whatever the reason this, to me at any rate, comes across as the first Hartnell story that really looks and feels Sixties & Modern instead of Fag End Fifties for the first time so far in the show’s, at that time, short history.

And that was what provided me with the key to getting through the edit, if it feels Sixties then let’s Sixties the thing to the max and smother it in as many fab and groovy mid-Sixties music tracks as possible. It would either turn out to be a failed yet valiant attempt to distract from the awfulness on screen or it could turn out to be the one thing that made this clunker worth watching in a “so bad it’s good” way. It was while I was hunting around on my Hard Drive for suitably Sixties music that I came across the soundtrack for the one other show where the Monoids would fit right in – Lost in Space!

pathfinders in spaceI used to love all those Irwin Allen shows when I was a kid back in the Seventies, as well as Lost In Space I remember watching The Time Tunnel, which didn’t really make that much of an impression on me, and Land of the Giants, which did. There are plenty of parallels between Irwin Allen’s Lost In Space and Sydney Newman’s Pathfinders In Space serials, the predecessors to Doctor Who.  Of the four serials – Target Luna, Pathfinders In Space, Pathfinders To Mars and Pathfinders To Venus, it’s the third that’s the most significant as that’s the one that introduces the character of Harcourt Brown, played by George “Arbitan” Coulouris, a character not entirely dissimilar to either the early Hartnell Doctor or Jonathan Harris’ Zachary Smith on the other side of the Atlantic.

Given that Target Luna [featuring a certain Michael Craze in its cast] predated Doctor Who by three years, transmitting in 1960, and Lost In Space didn’t TX in the States until 1965 it’s tempting to wonder if maybe that’s where Irwin Allen got the idea for Dr Smith from. The Jupiter 2 is lost in space due to anti-hero Dr Smith’s sabotage and the Tardis is lost in time and space due to anti-hero Dr Who’s selfishness… you have to admit, it’s a lovely notion, but I think it’s just a case of great minds thinking alike.

lost in space
Lost In Space, starring Jonathan Harris, the American William Hartnell
DR WHO LOST IN SPACE
Doctor Who, starring William Hartnell, the British Jonathan Harris

The edit would still be bookended by fab & groovy Sixties tunes but the bulk of the story would use Lost In Space music, and having had that idea it was the work of a moment to have the idea of redoing the title sequence in a version of Doctor Who Meets Lost In Space that I think works really, really, well and gives you an idea of what might have happened had Sydney stayed at ATV…

ark 1 steel sky

The first thing to do was to make some obvious cuts to part one and remove all the early non-Tardis crew scenes to get Billy, Steven & Dodo caught and interacting with Smug & Bloodthirsty as quickly as possible. This first ep also loses the dreadful roll-back-&-mix for the Tardis arriving and most of the cuts are to the jungle sequences, with the scenes with the Guardians getting tightened up. There are eleven minutes of this first ep in the finished edit.

spiderman kpm syd daleAs far as music goes, the first track you hear is “sixth sense” by David Lindup and it fits in really well with the existing Tristram Carey “myooseek konkrette” stuff which they’ve re-used from the first Dalek story. Most of the non-L.I.S. music you can hear in this edit came from the KPM “Spider-man” album, but there are a couple of tracks in the edit from “Batman” [the Adam West/Burt Ward incarnation] for you to spot!

ark 2 plague

The first footage from this ep is Dodo saying how it’s all her fault, a nice cut from the Doctor saying it’s all his fault. The Doctor finds a cure for the cold virus during a short montage sequence that tells us what we need to know without any of that tedious shouty courtroom stuff that would still be just as dull in 1986. As a result we can cover all of part two in just five minutes!

ark 3 return

The nice pan up the statue that ends The Plague and starts The Return gets cut back to just the zoom in on the statue’s head at the end of part two, due to the credits getting in the way in both versions. This was where we started to use the Lost In Space music, giving a nice contrast to the start and finish of the edit, covering the middle 20m or so. This ep also does rather better in terms of footage, with 15m in the final cut.

The Ark by Ben Willsher DWM432

ark 4 bomb

This ep lost the giant, invisible Refusian lifting the statue. He must be a King Kong sized giant, invisible Refusian to lift it, which makes you wonder how the hell he got to the Ark from the planet in that tiny little launcher! So now when we return to the ship, the statue is already in the airlock, ready to be tipped out. The music used for the “Battle of the Monoids” will sound familiar to those of you of a certain age who remember Roy Hudd encouraging us to Keep Britain Tidy! Around 14m of footage from this ep made it into the edit.

Ultimately The Ark is, like its successor The Underwater Menace, little more than a live-action TV Comic story on the telly. No doubt some left-wing yawn-inducing yank will witter on about The Ark being racist but it’s not drama, it’s melodrama, and bad melodrama at that. A show like Dark Shadows [1966-1971], when watched in 2015, can actually gain something simply through being so dated and so obviously Sixties in feel and tone that it can end up transcending its limitations and make a virtue of them. Hopefully by maxing out the story’s “Sixties-ness” via its new soundtrack, The Ark will benefit in the same way and be a much easier watch.

This fan edit completes the Hartnell Era, on video anyway.

ARK CD REAR

download ark monoids

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