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YMMV / Doctor Who S12 E2 "The Ark in Space"

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  • Accidental Aesop: The Doctor manipulates Sarah Jane out of a situation in which she's panicking and screaming by giving her a very hurtful and rather sexist "The Reason You Suck" Speech until she pulls herself together out of pure rage. It's an awesome moment and one of both Sarah Jane's and the Doctor's best, but does give the impression that bullying your best friend and crushing her self-esteem is a good idea to do to someone in a panic.
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  • Growing the Beard: Tom Baker's first story, "Robot", is a well-constructed and charming little story that shows thematic attention to detail. But, because it's a Breather Episode to ease us into the new Doctor, it's based in the same old UNIT plot template that even the Pertwee era had got long sick of, and the tone is frothy and lighthearted. Then came this; children bolted behind the sofa, watching a different show with a genuinely chilling 'Gothic Horror' atmosphere and a Creepy Good, brooding Doctor who loved humanity but did not identify with it. Most fans will say that, although "Robot" is the first Tom Baker story, "The Ark in Space" is where the Tom Baker era starts.
  • Hilarious in Hindsight: More than four decades later, the Doctor would become involved in a conspiracy with a shipping factory where the menace turns out to quite literally be killer bubble wrap.
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  • Narm: The scare factor is somewhat muted by the bubble wrap.
  • Special Effects Failure: Everything, but especially the green bubble wrap. At the time, bubble wrap was too new an invention to be instantly recognizable, so they didn't really make an effort to disguise it.
  • Took the Bad Film Seriously: Faced with glaringly bright sets, a new Doctor who, while good, hadn't quite found his feet in the role yet, a very plasticy alien and a Body Horror Virus made out of packaging material, Kenton Moore as Noah plays his role so passionately and convincingly that he turns a cliffhanger of him taking his hand out of his pocket to reveal it's wrapped in green bubble wrap from Narm to the sofa-chewing Nightmare Fuel of a man enduring a slow and excruciating transformation into a creeping wasp monster. Tom Baker's performance of a Patrick Stewart Speech in the first episode is also very strong and does a lot to show what the then-new Doctor can do.
  • Values Dissonance:
    • The scene where the Doctor bellows sexist insults at Sarah in order to snap her out of a panic is particularly difficult to watch - Tom Baker has often expressed discomfort and embarrassment about playing the scene, and even that was heavily toned down from the scripted version, which was longer and meaner.
    • There's a pretty uncomfortable part where the Doctor explains his plan to see the dead Wirrn's memories through connecting psychically to a part of its eye. He relates it to something that "Gypsies" used to believe. Compare and contrast to a scene referencing this in "The Crimson Horror", where the Eleventh Doctor points out that the belief is rubbish without linking it to a specific racial epithet.
  • Visual Effects of Awesome: The Wirrn larva taking over people. At the time, it was this bizarre quasiorganic substance nobody had seen before, and it very much looked like it really was growing over them. Even today, when we recognise bubble wrap painted green more readily than the 1975 audience, it still works because the actors sell it so well. (This is why El Sandifer calls actors managing to convince us that the most absurd Doctor Who monsters are real and visceral and dangerous "believing in your bubblewrap".)
  • What Do You Mean, It's Not Symbolic?: The story has continual references to the Bible: an Ark led by a man referred to as "Noah", the Doctor talking about how the Human Popsicle passengers are 'the entire human race awaiting the trumpet blast' and obliquely referencing Doomsday prophet Nostradamus, lots of white outfits and coffins, the Doctor subtly namechecking the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse in his Patrick Stewart Speech, and a dash of Messianic Archetype symbolism in that the Doctor is bringing chosen people back to life. It may mean something, or may also just be a story about parasitic space wasps.


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