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This is a four-part serial, first broadcast between 23rd January - 15 February 1975. A brief and somewhat spoiler-ish summary of the plot: the Doctor and his companions Harry and Sarah Jane find themselves aboard a space station, among humans who are in deep, cryogenic sleep and giant alien insects who are very much awake. Though in this adventure Harry loses his shoe, the Doctor loses part of his scarf and Sarah Jane almost gets stuck in an air duct, the true heroes are the two crew members who lay down their lives in order to give the remainder of the human race a chance of a new life on earth.
Because of the serial's flaws (more of which later) it is easy to overlook how good the story actually is. On one side we have the alien bug queen setting out into space and breaking into the space station in order to give her brood a chance to live, sacrificing herself in the process. On the other side we have a couple of rousing canned speeches from the British queen… excuse me… Prime Minister, commending the crew for their willingness to set out into space and risk their lives in order to save the human race as it is about to become extinct. The serial makes it quite clear that both sides are willing to both die and kill in order for their race to survive, and that there's no real moral high-ground to be found.
The main flaw - or maybe we shouldn't even call it that - is that the visual effects in 'The ark in space' haven't aged well. The designers' decision to use bubble-wrap for the alien larvae and for the human-to-alien transitions has something to do with that, as even though bubble-wrap may have been virtually unknown at the time, it is instantly recognisable today. The main problem, however, is something else that nobody could have foreseen in 1975. Four years later a movie called 'Alien' would come out - another story about humans trapped on a space vessel invaded by bug-like aliens, though this time made on a big-movie budget. Its visual effects, even if they were achieved without the help of CGI, set a standard that made everything that came before it look quaint in comparison. Even without the bubble-wrap, the poor bugs from Doctor Who never had a chance.
Tough call. There's a lot to enjoy about this serial, but suspension of disbelief is required.
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