Shows - Review
Doctor Who (1963-1989)
Episode: Colony in Space (Part 1)
Review by: Michael Hickerson
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.
Last Updated: 10/25/2006
Other Reviews by Michael Hickerson
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