Doctor Who and the Ark cover art crop

Doctor Who and the Ark – The Lost Stories 7.1 audio review

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Big Finish adapt an earlier draft of the tale which eventually became ‘The Ark in Space’. 

You’d be hard pressed to find a Doctor Who fan who doesn’t hold ‘The Ark in Space’ in high esteem. However, Tom Baker’s second story came to the screen via a rather tortured path.

Initially penned by another writer, the initial scripts were deemed unsuitable, and the project passed to John Lucarotti. However, the Hartnell-era writer’s tale didn’t fit the bill either and extensive re-writes fell to script editor Robert Holmes. It was so much of a retooling in fact, that Holmes became the credited writer.

Doctor Who and the Ark cover art

Now, Lucarotti’s version enjoys Big Finish audio drama treatment, and it offers a fascinating view askew on that familiar tale.

To distinguish it from the on-screen story, this release is called ‘Doctor Who and the Ark’, or possibly ‘Doctor Who: The Ark’ – depending on whether you believe the cover or the listing. Of course, it’s not to be confused with the Hartnell-era tale ‘The Ark’ – also about humanity’s survival on an ark. In space.

Doctor Who and the Ark

The story opens in the familiar way, with the Doctor, Sarah and Harry arriving on the space station for the latter’s first trip in the TARDIS. There, they find that the human race has overslept, and an alien threat has penetrated the station. As humanity trashed the Earth’s environment, the invaders have designs on taking over the planet.

What follows it markedly different from the televised story, with an unusual alien threat. There’s also a goodly amount of alien possession, with some catch and release and a bit of crawling through air-ducts too. What’s interesting is the level of biology and space physics in the mix; the episode three cliffhanger is an absolute cracker in that regard!

Tom Baker gives a markedly different performance than the one we are used to. Quite unlike the slightly detached alien, his Doctor has the air of a whimsical. absent-minded professor. There are obvious parallels to William Hartnell, and maybe a dash of Jon Pertwee’s ingenuity, as this Doctor is a scientific problem solver – his gleeful personality redolent of Tom Baker’s Christmas morning Scrooge in his fabulous reading of A Christmas Carol.

Doctor Who: The Ark - Christopher Naylor, Tom Baker & Sadie Miller

Meanwhile, there’s space for Harry Sullivan (Christopher Naylor) to play the action man role the character was designed for. He participates in a lengthy spacewalk sequence and there’s plenty of spirited banter between him and Sarah (Sadie Miller), who is also well-used too.

The story’s primary guest is Terry Molloy, in the dual roles of Noah and the villainous Narib. As the latter, while it’s a wonderfully alien performance, we did struggle to catch all the dialogue at times. There’s a lot of phlegm involved! In the wider cast, Yasmin Mwanza impresses as Viva too.


In the extras, there’s an explanation from the story’s adaptor Jonathan Morris for changes he made while bringing it to audio. It’s something that works well during the spacewalk sequences in the final half of tale. Earlier on, however, we did feel that Sarah was doing rather a lot of talking to herself.

There are a couple of inconsistences though; Tom Baker introduces each episode, including its individual name. Except on part one, where he simply announces the story title in a gruff tone (for no discernible reason.) Plus, at the end, there are alternate cuts for elements of the credits which have been oddly left intact.

In Summary

This release is another fascinating look at what might have been. It makes a pair with last year’s dramatization of Gerry Davis’s original plans for the ‘Return of the Cybermen’. Indeed, Ryan Aplin’s gorgeous covers even mirror, as producer Simon Guerrier points out on Instagram.


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‘Doctor Who and the Ark’ is an unusual tale, with plenty that is surprising, and it’s different enough from the televised story to make this adaptation worthwhile. It makes you wonder what other alternate takes on familiar stories might be luring out there in dusty archives, waiting to be discovered!

Four Stars

Doctor Who – The Lost Stories: Doctor Who and the Ark is available on Collector’s Edition CD (+download) or download only from Big Finish.