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Recap / Doctor Who S8 E4 "Colony in Space"

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Colony in Space
Marvel as the Third Doctor fights ED-209's weird cousin!
Written by Malcolm Hulke
Directed by Michael Briant
Production code: HHHnote 
Air dates: 10 April - 15 May 1971
Number of episodes: 6

"All colonists are eccentric. That's why they're colonists."
Captain Dent

The One With… the funky foetus.

The Master is at it again — this time he's stolen the Time Lords' files on the Doomsday Weapon, and they decide to let the Doctor off his leash a bit so that he can go and retrieve the files for them. The Doctor ends up on the desolate planet of Uxaerius, in the year 2472, where a small colony and an orbiting ship from the Intergalactic Mining Corporation are arguing about who owns the planet. Meanwhile the primitive natives are worshipping a strange machine guarded by a fearsome creature.

The Master shows up, posing as an Earth Adjudicator there to decide the fate of the planet. He forces the Doctor to take him to the Primitives' underground city, and it transpires that the strange machine is, inevitably, the Doomsday Weapon itself. Capable of destroying whole planets when activated, even when dormant its radiation has killed most of the race of the machine's guardian, as well as causing the colonists' crops to fail.

The Doctor persuades the last Guardian to destroy the machine rather than let the Master get his hands on it, and the Doctor and Master get away just as it explodes. The Master escapes in his TARDIS while the Doctor is sent back to Earth in his literally one second after the Brigadier demanded that he'd return.

This was the first time the Doctor went to an alien planet since "The Krotons", three whole years earlier.


  • Absurdly Huge Population: Earth's population in this time period is said to be one hundred thousand million (or one hundred billion).
  • Actor Allusion: The Brigadier tells the Doctor he'd nearly arrested the Spanish ambassador, mistaking him for the Master. The actor who played the Master, Roger Delgado, had previously played Mendoza, the Spanish envoy to the court of Elizabeth I in Sir Francis Drake.
  • Affectionate Gesture to the Head: The Doctor gives Jo a kiss (something he rarely gives a companion, let alone anyone else) on the forehead after finding her safe and sound inside the Uxariean city. Both Jon Pertwee and Katy Manning seem to fumble awkwardly in the lead-up to it.
  • Alternate Landmark History: On a cosmic scale. The Crab Nebula was created during the testing of the Doomsday Weapon.
  • Artistic Licence - Space: The Sun is way too small to go supernova. Maybe not if it's blown up by some superweapon, but the Doctor and the Master talk about it eventually exploding in 10 billion years even without the weapon.
  • Artistic Licence – Biology: How do you found a colony with the portrayed 22 men and three women?
  • BBC Quarry: Justified, as the setting actually is a quarry on an alien world — the colonists are suspicious of the Doctor as they believe he was trying to steal their rocks.
  • Big Bad Ensemble: Dent is the main villain of the story though the Master is naturally plotting to take over the universe as usual. Although they help each other out in the trial they have conflicting agendas, with the Master even offering to help the colonists.
  • Bigger on the Inside: This is Jo's first time in the TARDIS, so she says this.
  • Brick Joke: One of the best in the series.
    Brigadier: Doctor, come back at once.
  • Circuit Judge: The Adjudicator is a Circuit Judge IN SPACE! Or he would be, if he wasn't the Master.
  • Corrupt Corporate Executive: Captain Dent murders colonists to clear the planet for mining operations and thus higher profits for the corporation he represents.
  • Crapsack World: Why do the colonists cling to a barren desert planet with barely enough food to support them? Because Earth has degenerated into an overcrowded, war ravaged nightmare while corrupt corporations strip every planet in their path and have complete power over most of the galaxy's citizens. Hard to blame the Doctor for looking so tempted by the Master's offer.
  • Crystal Spires and Togas: The Time Lord council are shown wearing the latest Roman fashions.
  • Does This Remind You of Anything?: The conflict between the colonists and the IMC is set up as a direct allegory for Communism's emphasis on the need of the proletariat to rise up against an oppressive and exploitative bourgeoise. Writer Malcolm Hulke was a former member of Britain's Communist Party, and his time with them had a lasting impact on his own political beliefs.
  • Doomsday Device: The plot is kicked off when the Master steals one — the rather obviously named "Doomsday Weapon" — from the Time Lords, forcing them to allow the Doctor to temporarily leave exile in order to stop him.
  • Evil Cannot Comprehend Good: The Master can't seem to grasp the fact that the Doctor is perfectly content with just visiting planets, rather than wanting to rule them.
  • Exactly What It Says on the Tin: The story is set in... a colony in space.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: Ashe pilots the doomed spacecraft alone, thereby tricking the mining corporation into believing all of the colonists have died. This allows the group to mount a successful surprise raid against the corporation later, and to regain control of the planet.
  • Hive Caste System: the Uxarian warriors, priests and leader.
  • I Choose to Stay: Caldwell decides to join the colony.
  • Impersonation Gambit: The Master, yet again.
  • Kangaroo Court: The dispute proceedings between the colonists and the mining corporation. Being presided over by the Master impersonating an Earth adjudicator, the case is decided by which result best suits his private aims, and then the result is later overturned when such a reversal would prove fortuitous for his plans. Played much more straight when Dent has a 'trial' for the colonists, claiming that as the Adjudicator decided in their favour (even though he has worked out they are an impostor) he is now in charge of the planet, ordering the colonists to leave even if their ship isn't capable to taking them back to Earth.
  • Knockout Gas: The Master is able to remotely release some in his TARDIS when the Doctor and Jo enter.
  • Mugged for Disguise: During the colonists' first attempt to capture the mining company's ship, the first step is to capture the two guards at the entrance and steal their uniforms for disguises.
  • No Ontological Inertia: The ending implies that without the radiation created by the Doomsday Weapon the planet will instantly become fertile.
  • Omnidisciplinary Scientist: When asked if he's "some kind of scientist", the Doctor replies that "I'm every kind of scientist."
  • Omniscient Council of Vagueness: The Time Lords.
  • Planet Looters: The IMC, who come to the planet in search of a valuable mineral and are willing to obtain it at any cost.
  • Pointless Doomsday Device: It is not entirely clear why the natives of Uxarieus constructed the Doomsday Weapon in the first place, but it was never used, and the radiation from it ultimately destroyed their civilisation.
  • "Scooby-Doo" Hoax: See Slurpasaur below.
  • Settling the Frontier: The Time Lords takes control of the TARDIS and the Doctor and Jo arrive on a Earth Colony in the 25th Century, where a ruthless mining company are using a dinosaur-like creature to force the colonists to leave the planet.
  • Slurpasaur: Subverted. The giant lizard that just looks like a blown up image of an iguana turns out to be...a blown up image of an iguana projected over a robot with claws, to simulate a giant lizard attack.
  • Space Police: 25th century Earth's Adjudication Bureau gets mentioned (although the supposed Adjudicator in this story is actually the Master).
  • Space Western: You've got the Determined Homesteaders trying to make a go of it in an inhospitable environment (the colonists), the greedy mining company who wants to take their land (IMC), the Circuit Judge who's the only law in the area (the Adjudicator), and the Magical Native Uxaerians. The Doctor himself is of course The Drifter.
  • The Speechless: The Primitives and their priests. Their leader is the only one that can talk.
  • Star Killing: The Doomsday Weapon is capable of this, though it's not used during this story.
  • Token Good Teammate: Caldwell, who is all for driving the colonists off of the planet, but stops short at murder. He tries to persuade them to leave and objects to Dent's more outrageous actions. At the end, knowing his career with IMC is finished, he agrees to join the colony.
  • Villain: Exit, Stage Left: While everyone else is distracted by the final confrontation of IMC and the colonists, the Master steals a car and returns to his TARDIS.
  • We Can Rule Together: The Master offers the Doctor a chance to rule the Universe together. The Doctor refuses.
    The Doctor: I want to see the universe, not rule it!
  • Weapon of Mass Destruction: The Doomsday Weapon, a city-sized weapon capable of sending stars nova. It turned out to be more damaging to its own planet, though; even on standby, its power system emitted enough radiation to poison the planet's soil and atmosphere.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: One of the biggest in Doctor Who history: Captain Dent, the Big Bad of at least half the story, disappears completely midway through the last episode and it's never revealed what happened to him after his troops are defeated. That said, shortly before the Doctor leaves, there is mention of an actual Adjudicator coming to Uxaerius to judge between the Colonists and the IMC survey team. With the local balance of power no longer in Dent's favor and Caldwell willing to testify about Dent's crimes, Dent's offscreen future isn't looking good.
  • You Can't Go Home Again: Its mentioned several times that the colonist's spaceship was near the end of its service life when they bought it, so even if they wanted to go back to Earth or to search for another planet to colonize, there's a good chance that the ship wouldn't survive the journey.
  • Zeerust: The colonists still use typewriters. The IMC ship uses analogue tape recorders.