Frontier in Space
Colony in Space
|Dates||Apr. 10, 1971 -
May 15, 1971
With Jon Pertwee, Katy Manning.
Written by Malcolm Hulke. Script-edited by Terrance Dicks.
Directed by Michael Briant. Produced by Barry Letts.
|Synopsis:The Doctor and Jo are flung into the future by the Time Lords to a colony planet about to be overrun by the Interplanetary Mining Corporation.|
A Review by Owen A. Stinger 22/12/98
Continuing with my Doctor Who revival, I blew the dust off my 13 year old recorded copy of Colony in Space and viewed it for the first time in ages. Although some of the props and sets have aged rather badly, this is still a rather good story, which stands up well to the other stories in the excellent season eight.
The story's writing is credited to Malcom Hulke, but I wouldn't be surprised if Robert Holmes had had a hand in it as well, as it contains features of both men's penmanship. The xenomorphic aliens in Colony are not stereotypical malevolent enemies, but rather an independent race with an agenda of their own, a hallmark of Hulke scripts. Instead the enemies of the human colonists are their fellow earthmen, in this case the Interplanetary Mining Corporation and their very Holmes-esque corporate greed.
The idea of the an ancient race all but destroyed by a super weapon of their own making and their attempts to see that no other race makes use of it again is an interesting story in and of itself, but throw into that the appearance of the Master, and makings of a classic Doctor Who saga are complete.
As the second to last story in the season, as the season in which the Master appeared in every story, his appearance in Colony as well cannot be truly said to be a surprise, but as he didn't show up until half way through, the story was given room to develop in it's own right.
The wonderfully atmospheric first episode is also a treat, with the howling wind outside the colonists' hut and the mysterious nighttime attacks.
Once you suspend your disbelief over the plasticy sets and quirky costumes, Colony in Space is a highly entertaining, early chapter in the great Doctor Who saga. 7/10
A Review by Stuart Gutteridge 7/7/99
Chiefly remembered as being the first non Earth-based adventure for Jon Pertwee's Third Doctor, Colony In Space has a lot going for it. Unfortunately, however it is not without its bad points.
Visually it isn't very interesting, the series may have been able to get away with making quarrys look like alien planets (notably in The Savages), but it is all too obvious that the location is just this a quarry. The tale also lacks any real dramatic incidents to give it a bit of life; and it subsequently comes across as being somewhat dull. Even the inclusion of The Master doesn`t come as any surprise, (despite him not appearing until the fourth episode) given that he was in the previous tales of the season.
On the plus side there are some interesting ideas and well drawn characters, typical from the pen of Malcolm Hulke, although they are certainly not up to the standards of those from Doctor Who And The Silurians. The conflict between the colonists and IMC is the main storyline and Jon Pertwee is well suited in the role of mediator, ably assisted by Katy Manning`s Jo Grant. This is probably just as well, as while the native Primitives pose some threat, particularly during the nightime scenes, the Guardian is less imposing due largely to his overall appearance. Roger Delgado is excellent in the somewhat unnecessary role of The Master, and makes up for any shortcomings.
Colony In Space may not have been the best story to see the Third Doctor away from Earth, it may not be a particularly exciting adventure, but it is certainly enjoyable, if not for all the right reasons.
Hulke should be a priest by Mike Jenkins 24/2/02
Like all of his other stories, with the exception of The War Games (which is really Dicks' story), there is too much moralizing. Like Dr. Who and the Silurians there is overacting and dialouge repetition. Once again, the central concept is the saving grace but there isn't just padding like his previous story, there are a number of plot holes. The Master just happened to know what was going on and be in the Adjudicator's vicinity? He just happened to know about the ancient civilization's doomsday weapon? All this aside, the IMC and the primitives history are all great concepts but the thing that keeps this story from plummeting into the below average is Roger Delgado himself and particularly the interplay with Pertwee. Unfortunately, Jo is mostly forgotten in this overlong story.
The doomsday weapon is a nice idea, but as I said many plot holes surround it. Perhaps the reason this story doesn't seem as strong as it might is because it's set after what is Pertwee's second greatest story of all time, The Claws of Axos. If you want to really enjoy this story for it's good aspects, I recommend the novelization.
The Master's back...again?!? (Now there's a shock!) by Michael Hickerson 27/2/02
Nestled in the between the lackluster Claws of Axos and the superlative The Daemons resides probably the most over-looked story of season eight Colony in Space. It's interesting to see that as time has gone on and the relative merits of Who stories from the Pertwee era are discussed and debated, that Colony rarely comes into the conversation. In a lot of ways, it feels like it should be more significant than it actually is.
It's the Doctor's first trip off Earth in a season and a half, it's got Roger Delgado playing the Master at his villainous best and it's Hulke's second offering to the Pertwee years, following on his superb Doctor Who and the Silurians.
However, the story never lives up to the pieces of the puzzle used to create the story.
Part of the problem with the story is that it's got an intriguing set-up. The Master steals the files for a Doomsday machine, forcing the Time Lords to send the Doctor in pursuit to stop him. This plotline is then summarily dropped until late in the game in episode six. That comes across as a bit of a problem because it removes a lot of the dramatic tension from the Master's arrival on the planet and his real intentions for being there. As the audience, we know too much about his quest and what he's really up to -- whereas in previous stories such as Terror of the Autons or Mind of Evil, the Master had plots within plots and was continually surprising the audience as the real scope of what he was up to was revealed.
Another part of the stories problems is the pacing is off. Colony in Space is extremely top-heavy in terms of the plotline. The first two episodes set up a lot of conflict and tension, only to see it all fall by the way-side mid-way through episode three. The final three episodes consist of little more than the colonists and IMC people battling for power, which each group holding the power for about ten screen minutes and then a great big gun battle erupted. It all feels too padded. In a lot of ways, this story might have been better suited for being a four or even a five-part story instead of six.
But, despite these negatives, there are some good things to the story.
First of all, any time that we get to see Pertwee and Delgado chew scenery together, it's a treat. It's clear that these two enjoyed working together and their enthusiasm is infectious in all the scenes together. We also get some hints of the Doctor and the Master's previous relationship, when we see the Master offer the Doctor a portion of the universe to rule with him.
Also in fine Hulke tradition, we see that the men in rubber suits become more than just the evil men in rubber suits to be feared cliche. Hulke makes the Primitives interesting and while not as well developed as the Silurians, they do work fairly well for what they they have to do on screen.
I think the biggest thing that works against the story for me, though, is the superb noveliation by Malcolm Hulke himself. Years ago when I first discovered Who, I found a copy of this story at my local library. I quickly consumed the story. For those of you who haven't read it, let me recommend it as one of the better early Who novelizations. Hulke takes the story and expands it far beyond anything that could be achieved on a BBC budget. Maybe this is good, maybe its bad. But I will say that once I did finally get to see the story on screen, it paled in comparison to what I had dreamed up in my head for it. It's a case of the novelization almost being too good for the material it was based on.
Overall, Colony in Space has its good points, it has its bad. It's certainly not Who's worst story, but it's not its best. Rather it's firmly holding its ground somewhere in the middle.
Few stories justify the Earth exile format better than this one by Tim Roll-Pickering 11/4/02
After nearly two years of stories set entirely on Earth, the Doctor finally gets to visit another planet in this story. And few stories better justify the decision to adopt the Earth exile format than this one.
The opening of the story gives some promise of an appearance by the Master, but despite the warning at the start he doesn't turn up until Episode Four. In the meantime the story painfully plods through a confusing set-up that's often difficult to follow at times due to the multiple positions adopted by the various characters. There's nothing visually exciting in this part of the story and whilst the background of the power of giant corporations over the independent pioneer may seem even more relevant today than it did back in 1971, it is not dwelt upon fully. None of the acting stands out in the entire story other than the usual excellent interplay between Jon Pertwee and Roger Delgado, and so this makes the early episodes even more tedious to watch.
The arrival of the Master, more than an hour after his presence in the story has been announced, should have recovered the story from total oblivion but unfortunately there's little hope by now. The Master comes across as almost transparent at times in his dealings with the colonists and the IMC men in his disguise as the Adjudicator, whilst the scenes aboard his TARDIS do little more than mark time. The primitives and Guardians are both hideously underwritten and the former are not even visually striking. The latter are more memorable though. The eventual discovery of the Doomsday Weapon should have generated a strong climax but instead the whole story ends rather weakly before being wrapped up in a poor joke of an epilogue in UNIT HQ.
It seems that both the direction and design in this story has taken its cue from the script and so opted for a weak and uninspiring effort. Consequently there's little to recommend in Colony in Space and at six parts it outstays its welcome even longer than normal. Its one significant feature is that it finally takes the Pertwee Doctor to an alien world (the visit to the alternate reality in Inferno aside) but all it succeeds in doing is showing just why Doctor Who works better on Earth than off it. 1/10
Kings of the Final Frontier by Andrew Wixon 30/9/02
Watched from a modern perspective, Colony in Space looks like it should be the first story of a new season - after all, it's a significant reformatting of the series (certainly as far as the Pertwee years go), a chance to apply the more sophisticated style it had developed to an old-fashioned space romp. It isn't, of course, this brave change of scene was snuck out late on in the season. Probably just as well, as things turned out.
As we know, CiS is a story with two main plot threads: there's the Master's attempt to gain control of the Doomsday Weapon, and then there's the struggle between the colonists and the miners. Looking at these individually, it seems pretty certain that the former was a lot less interesting to Malcolm Hulke than the latter, which is a pity as it's the main pretext for the story occurring. It barely gets going until the second half of the story and, let's face it, is not exactly premium stuff. There's no reason for the Master to involve himself in the colonial dispute, unless he really gets a thrill out of pissing the Doctor off, it's just a quick way of linking the two plot threads. The denouement with the puppet is risible - the 'super being' needs to be told by the Doctor that the Doomsday weapon is a bad thing, and having realised this promptly decides to blow up its entire city? It's horribly perfunctory and just doesn't ring true.
The colonists vs miners story, on the other hand, is pure wild west stuff - ranchers vs cattle barons, with the primitives cast as American Indians. But the script and direction don't really pick up on this cue and after an interesting opening episode or two, things just degenerate into one very long gun battle after another, intercut with the two sides taking turns to hold each other captive. Hulke's contempt for big business is understandable given his political beliefs, but it might have been interesting had the IMC crew not been as wholly despicable as they're (mostly) presented here: a genuine mix-up over the planet's status, with the moral high ground not so clearly cut.
Colony in Space is at its best near the beginning, before the situation becomes clear (and stagnant). Its greatest success is in its depiction of the Doctor's wanderlust, his excitement at returning to his travels - the best line in the whole second half of the story is his 'I want to see the universe, not rule it'. The rest is drab, repetitive stuff - not actually bad as such, just very uninvolving.
A Review by Ryan Thompson 28/6/04
Oh no. I remember right before I started watching this story I was thinking "A Colony in trouble. The Doctor arrives to help, at the unbeknowst summoning of the mysterious timelords. Of course, the Master intervenes. What a great idea". I hadn't seen any of the other stories in season 8 for quite a while, so I knew I wasn't going to be one of those people criticizing the story for involving the Master "yet again". I was also excited because it was Pertwee's first tried and true space adventure. When you begin watching a story with this sort of mindset, even an above average story can seem like a disappointment. That is not the case here.
The story has more then a few moments of redemption in it. You get that feel of desolate frontier/colony life from the shots of the planet. So grey, so bleak. Hard to believe anyone could make it here. You can't forget that humans are indomitable. Michael Briant's flawless direction is the absolute highlight of the story. The way he works a camera, he could make eating cereal an adventure. Tim Gleeson also deserves special marks. Some of the fantastic sets he created include the natives' shrine and the cave-like structures the colonists live in. They seem so genuine, earthy; realistic dwellings for intergalatic homesteaders.
The interaction between Jo and the colonists was endearing. I got the sense of Jo connecting with her future. She has a nurse-like quality about her and seems to offer a voice of reassurance to the space-weary colonists. It's when we get to the natives that the trouble starts.
The idea of natives who are a telepathic species with an ancient religon and a lost culture is intriguing. When the IMC mining corporation (after the planet's minerals etc.) fought with the colonists, an interesting three way battle comenced; the colonists, the natives, and IMC. Because this 3 way battle goes on so long (most of the action's here), not enough screen time is given to the background of the natives. Consequently, they never amount to much, other then as a plot device to include the Master.
The Master is a big problem with this story. It's not that I'm sick of him cropping up, it's just that he doesn't have much to do in this story. He seems out of place, like the beards on the colonists. When you have this much to work with in a story, it can be a fatal mistake to overemphasize one part of the story over the other. Then the story won't be able to work on all the different levels that you wanted it to. I think that's the problem here. It's a shame because as with most of Malcolm Hulke's other material for Doctor Who, there are some great moral messages tucked away in this muddled story. We must respect other cultures, treat one another fairly, not be seduced by power.
There are also some plot holes the size of Texas (we could've used you in the editing room, Terrance!), but most of them result from the arbitrary inclusion of the Master. Obviously The War Games or The Silurians is a better example of Hulke's work. Not an altogether sound story but I'm going to give it a marginal thumbs up. 5/10
A Review by Michael Lennard 27/10/04
It's fair to say that this is the most obvious change in tone and content in the era so far, given that this is the first Pertwee story to be mostly set away from Earth. Unfortunately once the initial anticipation of the Doctor's enthusiasm about being able to travel again, if only temporarily (as expressed to Jo) has dissipated, we are left with what is often a rather drab and tired escapade.
There seems to be little enthusiasm in the proceedings, nor can the story really be said to offer much of interest visually - basically lots of china clay pits and dull and parochial studio sets, mostly populated by actors giving rather listless performances. Even Delgado seems a little subdued, although he does get a couple of good lines ("It's always innocent bystanders who suffer" and "The point is, one must either rule or serve, Doctor, that's a basic law of life") later on.
It is a shame really, as there are several good ideas in the script. The colonists are an obvious analogy with early European expansionism in the 17th and 18th Centuries, with Ashe's doing deals with the "Primitives" (itself a highly loaded term with imperialistic overtones), providing food and goods in order to stay on good terms recalling the activities of the likes of Captain Cook and his crews in New Zealand, Australia or the Americas. At the same time there are clearly intended parallels with the hippy movement of the late 60s/early 70s, made explicit by Dent and IMC's dismissal of them as "cranks" to the point of barely treating them as human, murdering them with impunity in trying to scare them off. It's also clearly indicated by the costumes and long hair and beards the men wear, and they are shown to be pursuing a self-sufficient pastoral life, similar in some ways to the hippy communes of the time.
IMC are also interesting conceptually. Clearly the villains - although Malcolm Hulke makes clear that by their own terms they do have a moral case, in the sense that Earth does need the mineral resources they are mining for (this is a good example of the moral maturity of Hulke's work - people can often do terrible things in the belief that they are working in a good cause) - they hint at how dehumanising it can be to be part of a huge top-down organisation, with the IMC men sacrificing part of their humanity to further its own agenda (similar to Global Chemicals in The Green Death). I do wonder, actually, if their uniforms are based on those of the Firemen from Fahrenheit 451, as they're very similar. Morgan in particular comes over as little more than a thug, although Dent is actually quite a calculating and ruthless figure, and one gets the impression of genuine intelligence there.
I think the best actors - and most sympathetic characters too - are John Ringham as Ashe, and Bernard Kay as Caldwell. The former, although well-meaning, does come over as severely ineffectual and it's difficult not to sympathise with Winton's impatience at his trying to buy off the "Primitives" with food they really cannot afford to spare. The latter seems a genuinely caring man who has not allowed his membership of IMC to lead him to moral blindness. He's in a false position at the start, hypocritically shrinking from IMC-committed atrocities in a squeamish out-of-sight-out-of-mind way, but gradually does little favours for "the enemy" (getting the men off Winton's track, taking him in and healing him and appealing for the colonists to leave before anyone else gets hurt). In joining the colonists at the end, he has made a genuine moral journey.
Less interesting, although still worthy of comment, is the subplot about the actual Doomsday Weapon and the dead civilisation. I think there's a strong Star Trek influence here, with the theme of advanced civilisations having gone to ruin via overreaching themselves, and the clear moral lesson put across that (in the Doctor's words) "Absolute power is evil", whatever the good intentions of whoever welds it.
Production quibbles abound. The fake claw on the IMC robot is laughable, the TARDIS snapping in and out of vision rather than fading, as it does in every other story, the slight oddness of the Master's interior door frames being seen on the outside of his Adjudicator's ship exterior disguise for his own TARDIS. I'm not too sure about the studio mock-ups of scenes used on location (ie the entrance to the city) either - you can easily see the difference.
Some of the outside action is directed quite well though. I like the fight between Winton and the IMC man at the end, with the two of them slipping and splashing into thick china clay until they end up two white-caked figures thumping wearily at each other.
The Master's introduction is rather ingenious too, adding an extra layer to proceedings, where we and the Doctor and Jo know he's not to be trusted, but the colonists and IMC don't, and the Master is able to call the Doctor's bluff effectively by asking about his credentials and papers.
Overall, I think there are a lot of interesting ideas under the surface but you have to be very forebearing perhaps as the story is frequently rather slow, leaden and repetitive. I think the book brought out the best of its potential.
Colony in a quarry by Joe Briggs-Ritchie 28/3/07
About Time 3 describes this story as the ultimate tale of Doctor Who in a quarry. That's not an unfair comment although it would probably have to share that pleasure with Death to the Daleks. Yes, it's unbelievably quarried but at the same time it seems to work, evoking the planet Uxarieus quite nicely. It certainly has the feeling of being barren and dead which tends to be the case in sci-fi when dealing with ancient super-races now long dead. The only real problem with the quarry setting is that it lends everything an air of greyness. Season Eight is very much a live action comic-strip. It's bright, colourful and on the whole, fairly unsubtle in its themes and influences. Ok, so The Mind of Evil is now in black and white but you know what I mean. Not that that's a problem. It's a very enjoyable season. It's also the point where it really starts to feel like the 70's. Season Seven was very gritty. Season Eight is slightly more carefree.
Colony in Space is at variance with the rest of the season. It's much less colourful, especially after the psychadelia of The Claws of Axos. While this greyness suits Uxarieus, it dogs the rest of the production. With the exception of the Primitives' City, the sets are dull. Quite grey. Bland. And with the porridge fight in episode six between Winton and the IMC guard, the greyness even starts to physically spread to the characters. Ok, so they've just gotten a bit muddy but there you go. Grey is the new black? Who can tell?
Unfortunately, dull is a word that I have always felt able to apply to Colony in Space a little too easily. Even now when I actually quite like it. When this was released on video in 2001, it was part of the Master Tin along with The Time Monster. Colony in Space bored me and The Time Monster irritated me. At the time I couldn't decide which was worse. Five years later and I can now see the positive aspects of Colony in Space. The Time Monster is definitely the worst of the two. All I can say is that I'm thankful that they didn't package it with The Mutants. Imagine that if you dare. I still don't dare watch the The Mutants and The Time Monster back to back. Six episodes of being bored to death, followed by six episodes of being irrtitated to the point where I want to render myself unconscious.
Anyway back to Colony in Space. It took several viewings for it to grow on me as did The Ambassadors of Death although it's nowhere as good as that. Season Eight is a comic strip of demons, organic spaceships and killer telephones. Here, however, we have moral wrangling, the politics of oppression, corporate greed, the necessity for environmental awareness, the irrelevance of such issues in the eyes of big business, evolution, the lengths people will go to for money and the rise and fall of civilisations. Yes, this is serious. It's an intelligent morality play. In fact the only thing which comes close to it this season in terms of tone and mood is The Mind of Evil. The ecological themes which are very much a part of this story would later go on to become a staple of the Jon Pertwee era.
Speaking of Jon Pertwee, I think he's wonderful. He always was. He's the height of elegance, dasing about in a velvet jacket and cloak and bringing with him the right amount of arrogance and authority. It's strange in a way; the Third Doctor was frequently short-tempered, smarmy and arrogant with many people but I revel in watching it and his manners are impeccable. Particularly appealing is his greeting to Morgan, "Who the blazes are you?", followed by yet more patronising of the man. Morgan is an unpleasant bastard who is just crying out for a gruesome death. Unfortunately he's shot which isn't terribly imaginative and even this we have to wait until the end for. He later went on to sell second hand cars in Walford. Captain Dent isn't much better. Slightly more cultured, less of an oaf but thoroughly unpleasant nonetheless. And they both manage to stay just the right side of annoying.
The colonists are boring. Simple as that. I really couldn't care less when their ship blew up in episode six and we're supposed to think that they've all died. In fact it was something of a letdown when they all reappeared, safe and well. Yes, I know I have a cruel streak. They're all saddled with silly hairstyles as well and I can't imagine their costumes being the height of fashion even in the 25th century. But, they again, they are supposed to be the futuristic version of hippies living out an alternative lifestyle. They all seem to have facial hair for some reason. How very frontiersmen of them. This is a very 1970's view of the future and, as such, it has dated quite badly.
Our first glimpse of the surface of Uxarieus is of the IMC robot trundling merrily through the quarry. The robot is so retro. On the one hand it is quite cute. As I say, trundling. But at the same time it's also pathetic and vaguely irritating. Nor is it remotely practical. Trundling. All those rocks. Trundling. The buggy isn't much better either, although slightly more manoeuvreble. And for some reason which I find quite irritating, all the spaceships look like rockets. Rockets? In 2472? I certainly hope not. In fact they don't just look like rockets, they look like something out of Thunderbirds. And by that, not only do I mean that they look like terrible examples of sixties retro design, they also look like what they are: models on strings. I have absolutely no problems with models on strings, I mean, this is Doctor Who after all. But this time around it seems like they just aren't trying. And quite why do the IMC men appear to be armed with German MP40's?
The music is very repetitive by this point in the season. It was all performed on the EMS Synthi-100. This means that you could probably swap one story's score for another and not notice the difference. I still like it in a way. It suits all of these stories. But a little bit more variety wouldn't have hurt surely? The Master's musical theme is a nice touch, a proper musical theme for a character which establishes a sense of continuity throughout the whole season. But it would also have been nice to hear it done with some different instruments just to vary it's character slightly. Roger Delgado is lots of fun as usual and despite his rather unimaginative scheme, he still comes across as an interesting villain. Though I have to say that I dont like the silly high collar on his Adjudicator robes. Those of you who wish learn more about the Adjudicators should check out Lucifer Rising and Original Sin. I love his line about "stray bullets" at the end of episode five. His scheme to hold the universe to ransom was later repeated in Logopolis via different means. And it was from there that his penchant for over-complicated schemes began to get him into trouble. Oh and the filing cabinets in his console room... Well as with the IMC robot, it's somewhere between quaint and silly.
Jo comes across perfectly servicably though she's never between my favourite companion. I much preferred Liz Shaw. And why is she bemused by the idea of the TARDIS travelling through space and time after everything she's seen? This doesn't exactly advance the cause of character consistency. Oh and how could I forget little Helen Worth aka Gail Platt/Tillsley/Hillman from the godawful Coronation Street. Well, in 36 years her appearance hasn't changed very much. Neither has her acting method.
The Uxariens are quite good as a concept, although the execution is not always brilliant. The masks are a little too rigid and constantly look as if they're about to fall off. The Guardian of the weapon is also a little too doll-like for my taste. And for some bizarre reason which I am yet to fathom, he sounds as though he was educated at Eton. Hey ho, the vagueries of alien super-races. He also seems quite weak-minded. A few charming words from the Doctor and he lets him and Jo go free despite his City's law that intruders must die. And later on, he pops out of his hatch and decides, almost on a whim it seems, to blow up his City and destroy the remnants of his entire civilisation. Oh well.
Stick with it. Give it a chance and try not to judge it too harshly. It's a story that needs to be allowed to grow on you. Believe me, it's not without its merits.
A Review by Brian May 25/7/08
Colony in Space is a difficult story to review. It's often criticised as too long, too slow and too boring - and these are all valid points. When I first saw it twenty-five years ago, at the age of ten, I hated it. I thought it was tedious. But as with Joe Briggs-Ritchie above, it's grown on me. The scripts are intelligent, the story progression logical, evolving from colonists' crop failures to the Doomsday Weapon and incorporating the IMC situation in a well thought out way. The Master, while on one of his usual quests to rule the universe, at least works out his plan methodically and pragmatically, which is a nice change.
Most of the acting is good: Katy Manning is an exception, but only because Jo is written so awfully. She's made to scream badly and do dumb things for plot convenience, and nothing else. Nicholas Pennell is also very awkward, especially for such a key player as Winton. The rest of the colonists are generally well performed, but a problem lies in the characters themselves. Simply put, they're boring. While not as unsympathetic or annoying as The Dominators' Dulcians, it's nevertheless difficult to care about a bunch of middle class, BBC-English speaking, space hippies. The only one with any personality is Jim Holden, who appears for almost a whole minute.
Most actors say it's always better to play villains, and that's true to apply here. Morris Perry is excellent as Captain Dent. The stony faced, emotionless and almost repressed exterior is a good measure of a man who's come so far in an organisation like IMC. His determination, ambition, avarice - and sometimes anger - are all communicated by a mere stare or the fractional raising of an eyebrow. Morgan is more a generic thug, but Tony Caunter captures him well. An even better role to play than a baddie is the divided soul, and that's Bernard Kay as Caldwell, a decent man who occasionally questions Dent but never really steps out of line until the end. Kay's performance is fantastic, my favourite of the whole story. He's actually one of my favourite Doctor Who guest actors overall, as brilliant here as he was in his previous three outings - The Dalek Invasion of Earth, The Crusade and The Faceless Ones.
The IMC characters carry the story, but unfortunately they're not around the whole time - and that's quite a lot! I must confess the story meanders considerably. As I mentioned, it's well thought out, but it's certainly very slow. The scenes in the Primitive City are the worst, and while the Doomsday Weapon is the climax of the plot, it's not a particularly interesting one. Episode two gives us another chance to see Jon Pertwee's ever-so-amazing stunt work as he fights the Primitives for what seems like an eternity. The opening scene with the Time Lords is unnecessary as it kills all sense of mystery. After the first minute viewers know about the Weapon and of the Master's interest, thus making the identity of the Adjudicator in episode four less a surprise than it could have been. The only other purpose of the Time Lords' discussion is to let us know they're controlling the TARDIS, so the production team can finally take the Doctor away from Earth - but the Doctor realises and acknowledges their interference soon enough anyway.
The adventure is visually unexciting. In fact, it's quite ugly. The direction and camera work are very poor. So too the editing: the TARDIS appears and re-appears with amateur looking jump-cuts rather than the usual elegant fade-ins and outs. The cliffhangers are all pretty dull: episode one's is another Pertwee gurn; episode two's would have been fantastic had the last shot been a close-up of the robot's claw; the rest are similarly unengaging. It's not very pleasant on the ear either, this being when Dudley Simpson was obsessed with atonal synthesiser noise, and such sonic crimes litter the story. However I must congratulate the stunt players on the fight between Winton and the IMC guard in the final episode. It's extremely good; the punches look very realistic.
So, by all accounts I shouldn't find this story endearing, yet there's a compelling factor to it. Good use of the Master (in only half the episodes, very restrained for season 8!); the IMC guys; the maturity of the scripts. It's very grown up, the slower pace not likely to appeal to kids, as was the case with myself all those years back. Malcolm Hulke gives us a convincing backdrop and future history and it's a good reflection of Doctor Who in an era in which the programme wore its socially aware heart on its sleeve. But if the Doctor's comment on the atmosphere of Uexarius being the same as the Earth "before the invention of the motor car" is meant as an environmental statement, then it's a bit rich coming from a man who drives all around the English countryside!
So my conclusion is therefore not a logical one. Colony in Space is not exciting; it's slow; it looks less than ordinary. The overall plot is good, yet its episode by episode execution is often very mundane. Yet I still like watching it. It's smart. It's thoughtful. It's grown-up drama. There's a lot riding against it, but I can never hate it and it's become one of my most viewed stories in recent years. 6.5/10
A Haiku by Finn Clark 20/9/20
Hulke's social conscience
Instead of a story. Zzzzz.
Thoughtful, but dreary.