The Time Lords discover that the Master has stolen their secret file on the Doomsday Weapon and decide to send the Doctor to retrieve it for them.
The TARDIS takes the Doctor and Jo to the desolate planet Uxarieus in the year 2472. There they become involved in a dispute between some beleaguered colonists and the crew of an Interplanetary Mining Corporation (IMC) spaceship over the ownership rights to the planet. The Doctor learns that the indigenous Primitives and their High Priests worship a large machine tended by a creature called the Guardian.
With theatrical sock puppets a distant memory – hopefully – the DOCTOR WHO CLASSIC DVD SERIES continue to use the less cringe-worthy Weenicon individual graphics in a less patronising manner. IMC NEEDS YOU! THE MAKING OF COLONY IN SPACE is an inquisitive beast that delves beneath the winter-soaked surface of the ubiquitous (clay) quarry across which the story was originally filmed in 1971. As ever, it is fascinating to accept and understand the extreme conditions and technical difficulties for which the production team had to endure to create a six-part teatime drama.
Even through the distant clouds of memory, revelations are as fresh and clear as if it was filmed just yesterday. Describing its director (Michael Briant) as “boy wonder”, Terrance Dicks commends the first-time DOCTOR WHO helmsman for delivering a challenging story as the series went through a fundamental change to its storytelling format (the Doctor allowed by the Time Lords to venture from planet Earth but only under their own volition). Initially, Briant recalls that his invitation (by Barry Letts, Series Producer) was thoroughly exciting however he admitted that later he later “I had a nervous break down in fear!” The director concludes that it was “challenging... but we did it on time and on budget” and finally reveals why the TARDIS “dissolve” materialisation effect was not used.
Value-for-money Katy Manning explores the environmental conditions of location filming describing it as “the clay pit from hell” but you will have to watch this DVD EXTRA is you want to find out why she said; “It was like we had terrible flatulence”.
The original Assistant Floor Manager on COLONY ON SPACE was the now legendary CLASSIC and NEW SERIES director, Graeme Harper, who validates Letts’ trust in the first-time director in stating that the story was “an extraordinary piece of work”
FROM THE CUTTING ROOM FLOOR is the polished gem amid seemingly un-cut, mud-caked stones, and could the DVD’s unique selling point. While revisiting the original Bernard Wilkie & Ian Scoones (with the nattiest seventies haircut from hell) special effects it is the location filming “takes” that are gloriously magnificent. Unedited fight sequence between with the planet’s natives (shown for the first time in “restored” colour) and the Doctor has a magical quality to it as sees Pertwee struggling to take things seriously. Overall, you are left with the impression that both the cast and production crew worked in horrendous mid-winter conditions with astute professionalism and dedication in brining DOCTOR WHO to the screen. We salute you.
The ever-present PHOTO GALLERY, RADIO TIMES listings and ON-SCREEN INFORMATION TEXT are there for the loyal fan-base, providing a consistency throughout the DVD releases.
However, when the COMING SOON trailer is more exciting than the main DVD EXTRAS you start thinking “was it worth it?” In an exhilarating promotion for THE UNIT BOX (containing INVASION OF THE DINOSAURS – no CGI dinosaurs. Sorry, we were wrong! – and THE ANDROID INVASION) fans will be replaying this on a daily basis until its release (January 2012?).
For the ever-compelling DVD studio commentary the balance of cast and crew is creatively superb under the swan-like effortless guidance of actor, Toby Hadoke, and is, probably, the only commentary to be overly “bleeped” due to an enthusiastic conversation between Terrance Dicks and Katy Manning. Wonderfully garrulous and intellectually mature, if you have previously avoided the commentary in the past then COLONY IN SPACE’s presentation is the one to start your aural journey with.
Katy Manning is joined with guest actors Bernard Kay (IMC’s Caldwell) and Morris Perry (IMC’s coordinator, Dent), and the story’s production team; Terrance Dicks (Script Editor), Michael Briant (Director) and Graeme Harper (Assistant Floor Manager, and NEW SERIES Director).
The DVD Studio Commentary highlights:
While Michael Briant attempts to describe the opening scenes of the story, Terrance Dicks leaps in: The “Time Lords” are the words we are grasping for.
On seeing the dirty TARDIS prop, Graeme Harper: It was my fault.
Michael Briant: Look at the state it’s in!
This leads to a heated debate between Briant and Harper, casting aspersions at each other on who had responsibility for the cleanliness of the TARDIS prop. Katy Manning breached it.
Katy Manning: Forty years for the two of you to have this out. I’m so glad that you’ve finally cleared it up. We can move on with our lives now!
In recalling the smallest but most personal of memories, Graeme Harper: Looking at that prop that Jon’s holding (the TARDIS dematerialisation circuit). I remember holding it and giving it to him.
On the story plotting, Terrance Dicks: The exile on Earth… We didn’t like it. I love the UNIT stories. I spent the first years on the show trying to get rid of them.
On the disappearance of the TARDIS, Michael Briant: The TARDIS plops in-and-out.
On the location filming in a Devon clay pit in the middle of winter, Michael Briant: The coldest location in the history of television.
Graeme Harper: In the history of DOCTOR WHO, this (pit) is the finest.
On the Uxarieus natives, eagle-eyed Katy Manning: And those little loincloths keep moving!
On the assembled non-speaking background artists, Toby Hadoke: Everyone has the same beard on.
Katy Manning: And the same wig.
In probably a first for DOCTOR WHO CLASSIC SERIES DVD commentaries, there is a lengthy conversational sequence during which Terrance Dicks and Katy Manning are “bleeped-out” due to non-family friendly expletives.
On his engagement of actors within COLONY IN SPACE, Michael Briant: I think I cast this show really well.
On the filming of COLONY IN SPACE, Graeme Harper: This was one of the great fun moments in my life.
In a slip of the tongue that promoted uncontrolled laughter, Michael Briant: Jon & Liz…
Surprised, Katy Manning: Everyone out! I think you said too much now!
On seeing the IMC mining machine, Graeme Harper: looks like a forerunner of K9.
Michael Briant: A forerunner to a nightmare.
On the eventual appearance of The Master, Terrance Dicks: You have to wait for a long time for Roger to turn up.
Commenting on the virtually all-male cast, Katy Manning: There are only three women on this planet!
On the story content, Katy Manning: It dragged here and there. Too much for six episodes.
Note: Whilst he voiced the Uxarieus natives, Michael Briant was not credited (it went to Pat Gorman) as his Equity “card” had expired.
On the programme’s budget restraint, Katy Manning: Working for less money you become more creative.
On commenting on the IMC personnel, Toby Hadoke: He must have gave you “Good Guard”.
On the rest of the story’s crew, Michael Briant: They never called me “Sirs!” just “Yes, mate!”
Again, focussing on the Uxarieus natives costume, Katy Manning: I’m obsessed with loincloths.
On Roger Delgado’s creation, Katy Manning: Never there’s been a greater Master.
On seeing Jo Grant struggling to wiggle into the Master’s TARDIS, Michael Briant: Katy on her back again!
On discussing the rehearsal time that was scheduled into the CLASSIC SERIES recording process (when compared with the NEW SERIES format), Michael Briant: I think the acting performances is much better in this old fashioned way.
Concurring, Graeme Harper: I miss the rehearsal period.
On the ultimate fight sequence ever filmed for DOCTOR WHO (within episode six), Michael Briant: “Health & Safety” wouldn’t let you do that to an actor now.
On the “Godfather of DOCTOR WHO”, Graeme Harper: I have the respect for Barry Letts that Michael Briant has. He is quintessentially DOCTOR WHO.
Michael Briant: There wouldn’t be NEW WHO if it wasn’t for Barry Letts.
Whilst at times DOCTOR WHO – COLONY IN SPACE is tough going as a six-parter it is drama that resonates for a modern audience. However, it is far from the modern mould of the NEW SERIES and fans may avoid it like the plague, and this would be a mistake. Produced in the 21 st century, the sanitised version of DOCTOR WHO is clinical and safe but with COLONY IN SPACE we see a linear storytelling structure that broadly satisfies viewers, a moral undercurrent and honesty within its performances.
Undoubtedly, it may not be “classic” CLASSIC SERIES (we have yet to have released both THE DAEMONS and TERROR OF THE ZYGONS) but is stands as a testament to the skills and ambition for those involved.
And, in episode six, it has the ultimate fight sequence ever filmed in DOCTOR WHO.
Additionally, may we point you to AUDIOGO’s unabridged novelisation of Malcolm Hulke’s DOCTOR WHO AND THE DOOMSDAY WEAPON read masterfully by Geoffrey Beevers.