Colony in Space

Region 1

Region 2
VHS Video
(Doctor Who Story No. 58, starring Jon Pertwee)
  • written by Malcolm Hulke
  • directed by Michael Briant
  • produced by Barry Letts
  • music by Dudley Simpson
  • 6 episodes @ 25 minutes each, colour
Story: Has the Doctor got the TARDIS working again, or are the Time Lords manipulating it to put him on the trail of the Master and the stolen Doomsday Weapon file? The Doctor and Jo soon find themselves aiding a fledgling human colony on the planet Exxarius. What strange force is causing the colonists' crops to wither and die, threatening them with starvation? Can they defend against the strange animal life that has suddenly begun to attack them? Or will they have to give up on this planet and let the mining companies take over and destroy its ecology?

DVD Extras include:

  • Audio commentary by actors Katy Manning (Jo Grant), Bernard Kay (Caldwell), and Morris Perry (Dent),
    director Michael Briant, script editor Terrance Dicks, and assistant floor manager Graeme Harper, moderated by Toby Hadoke.
  • "IMC Needs You!" making-of featurette (25 min.), with Manning, Kay, Briant, Dicks, Harper, and the late producer Barry Letts.
  • "From the Cutting Room Floor" - location and model film trims (13 min.)
  • Pop-up Production Note Subtitles
  • Photo Gallery

Buyers' Guide Review

by Martin Izsak

(A more in-depth analysis, containing "SPOILERS" and intended for those who have already seen the program, can be accessed here.)

Having recently dubbed himself a "Galactic Yo-yo", the Doctor makes his first trip back into futuristic outer space, and sinks his teeth into a fairly good and solid adventure from writer Malcolm Hulke. This time around it seems he's only gone far enough to find out where the hippies from the sixties went and how they are getting on..... facing the challenges of pursuing their ideals - good stuff.

Hulke seems to be very conscientious in giving all of his characters and concepts excellent introductions, from the Doctor and the regulars, to the TARDIS, to each and every guest character. The TARDIS gets probably the best introduction in the entire Jon Pertwee era here in this story, the mood for exploring its new alien landing spot is most wonderfully built up with just the right hint of fear of the unknown, and even the sound effect is finally perfect too. But alas, some bright thinker came up with the idea of going on the cheap with the usual trick dissolve. All the right footage was in the can, but we are left with disappointing sudden jump cuts. As these cuts are synchronized with the final thud, they are coming too late to appear fluent in visual literacy.

The quality of Hulke's work as a whole on Doctor Who appears to be sitting on a tipped see-saw to me - half excellent and half sub-standard. In that analogy "Colony in Space" sits on the fulcrum, with the excellent stuff having come previously ("The Faceless Ones" (story no. 35), "The War Games" (story no. 50), and "The Silurians" (story no. 52)), and the sub-standard stuff not quite on the drawing board yet ("The Sea Devils" (story no. 62), "Frontier in Space" (story no. 67) and "Invasion of the Dinosaurs" (story no. 71)). I find this tale to be the most typical example of a Malcolm Hulke story.

Each episode wisely gives us something new to explore, with the first one starting off with TARDIS travel and the daily struggles of colonists, plus a bit of recent mystery thrown in for colour.

Episode Six still manages to deliver one of Hulke's best written conclusions, particularly for those he wrote all on his own. The big confrontation between the Doctor and the Master in this story is one of the best that the Pertwee era has, very successful in really coming to grips with both characters believably, and making sense in terms of all that the Master has done throughout the story. There is more to be said about this, but of course we'll save such spoilers for the in-depth analysis version of this review. Lots of twists keep the events of the ending surprising and exciting; even where some of the action sequences had become repetitive, interest is rekindled as the direct moral argument at the heart of it is highlighted, and more money, care, and effort is spent on the final sequence than similar ones leading up to it.

The few minus marks for the conclusion include a loose-end or two, which I will not reveal here. Add to this the sheer number of occurrences throughout the story of another typical Malcolm Hulke trait, where no matter how solid our heroes' plans are, bad luck and circumstance always seem to allow the villains to knock them back to square one, and I think it begins to rather subtly betray an instinct of global martyrdom in Hulke's own belief system. He shows a passion for knowing what's wrong with society and the world (or universe as the case may be), but when solutions are called for, Hulke still doggedly slugs away at stepping on the good and sympathetic characters, while villains tend to prove capable of getting away with just about anything no matter how unbelievable it is for them to do so. Personally, I suspect that this habitual pattern of thinking contributed to Hulke's loss of health, and perhaps a metaphysical reason why he did not follow along with the rest of us on this planet along a timeline of non-destructive global integration. He seems to need to wait around for the world to blow up, to say "I told you so!" and feel righteous. Anyway.....

There is a sense of realism about Hulke's viewpoint in this story, as, true to real life, most characters in conflict become too obsessed with their own way of thinking to develop. This is not without exception this time; however, most of the characters largely get excellent revealing exposition, without really changing themselves at all - typical Malcolm Hulke.

Musically, Dudley Simpson manages some new and interesting themes for travel on the planet surface, and for exploration of the native city, and of course most of the season's signature Master tracks are back as well, but perhaps unfortunately these are not as memorable as the few awful moments when collections of odd silly notes or stings crash upon us from harsh, ill-chosen synthetic instruments. When this is endured during the first few appearances of the spear-toting Primitives, it falsely raises the fear that we will have to put up with more and more of the same as the Primitives gradually get more screen time throughout the story. The wash of sound during the opening scene with the Time Lords is dangerously delicate as well - after dropping a generation from an old, mono, low-fidelity North American broadcast, it blots over the dialogue like a heavy smothering blanket. Anticipation of a good score is thus quickly dampened, even though a decent score is later delivered. It's not as interesting as that of the three previous stories this season though.

I enjoy this story a lot. The characters are rich, and the plot is solid, even if the actors and production team filled in a few holes as they went along. The production has a few minor rough edges, typically where optical effects are concerned, but director Michael Briant does solid work and gets the most important things right. Acting is of a generally high calibre by all participants - I particularly enjoy Bernard Kay in this one, in perhaps his most memorable role on the program. "Colony in Space" is a winner in my books, along with pretty much the rest of season eight.

This story is available on DVD and VHS video, in colour.
Click on the Amazon symbol for the location nearest you for pricing and availability:
DVD NTSC Region 1
for the North American market:
in the U.S.
in Canada
DVD PAL Region 2
for the U.K.
VHS Video
NTSC for North America
PAL for the U.K.
(bundled with
The Time Monster [story no. 64] in
The Master Tin set,
only in the U.K.)

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Read the Buyers' Guide Review for the next story: "The Daemons"

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