The Time Lords discover that the Master has stolen their file on the Doomsday Weapon, and so enlist the Doctor and Jo to help deal with the crisis. On arriving on the planet Uxarieus, they became involved in a struggle between human colonists and a powerful mining company determined to evict them.
Colony in Space marks the first time since Patrick Troughton’s regeneration story, The War Games, that the Third Doctor has left Earth. From a production standpoint, this was to prevent the monotony of what they saw as the two main Earth-bound stories, the evil scientist and the alien invasion. Whilst the production is undoubtedly filmed in a rain-sodden quarry somewhere in England, it is quite refreshing to see this Doctor and companion pairing given some time away from the Brigadier and UNIT. It has quite a clear political message – even in the future, the corporations are calling the shots – which isn’t exactly subtle!
One of the story’s biggest issues is that it does feel quite slow and repetitive in places, with the dispute between the Interplanetary Mining Corporation (IMC) and the colonists on Uxarieus feeling like some quite mature science fiction and I think that children would certainly struggle with this story. At six parts long, it feels as though it would be much more effective and memorable as a four-parter, as having the colonists attack the IMC twice and win twice does feel quite repetitive here. I really enjoyed the first two parts of this story but thought that it began to drag once Jo was captured by the Uxarieans and struggled to regain my interest until the Master showed up in Part 4. The native aliens are very much bog standard Doctor Who aliens, and their inclusion does feel like a bit of an afterthought, as does the whole Doomsday weapon subplot, which is built up to be important by the Time Lords at the start of the story, but seems to be largely forgotten.
The story does feature some really good direction and the general production standard is good. The titular colony and the Uxariean underground civilisation are excellent examples of set design, and whilst this might not be Michael Briant’s best story to judge his talents as director, he definitely has moments of visual flair and manages to make the robot look threatening at the end of part one despite the ridiculous ‘reptile’ hands. The show also deserves a lot of credit for finding the quarry of the week as it does appear to be completely inhospitable and so it is believable when the Doctor and Ashe discuss the failing crop yields at the beginning of the story. Briant also makes the colony feel claustrophobic and uncomfortable especially in the scenes when they are unaware that they have a traitor in their midst in the shape of Norton.
The main villains of the piece are Captain Dent and Morgan from IMC, alongside the Master when he eventually shows up. Dent and Morgan are good villains, shown to have no scruples about their attempts to convince Ashe and the colonists to leave Uraxeius and their actions and dialogue make it clear that they are unafraid of the leaders of the overcrowded planet Earth and any potential consequences that they may suffer. Hulke here is clearly warning about the dangers of unaccountable corporations acting in similar ways. Caldwell presents a more sympathetic character, expressing some concerns about the legality and morality of what they are doing in order to get their hands on the substantive amounts of Duralinium, but he is prevented from taking his concerns further by Dent’s threats that he will ensure that Caldwell never works again. These three actors all do good jobs, especially Morris Perry as Dent who is really sinister at times. The other antagonist is the Master, who continues his streak of appearing in every story in Season 8. I know some are critical of this, however, I rather enjoyed the fact that his appearance on screen was held back here and found that his presence elevated the latter half of the story which could have really dragged otherwise. Delgado is such an engaging presence on screen that it almost distracts from other deficiencies in the story, especially in his scenes with Pertwee, even if the Doomsday Weapon subplot is a bit rubbish.
Speaking of Jon Pertwee, this is another good performance from him as the Third Doctor and his delight at being able to travel off the Earth is palpable in part one, even if he is annoyed at the fact that this does not mean he can control his TARDIS again. The Doctor and Jo spend very little time together once they have travelled to the planet and as much as I like the character and Katy Manning’s performances generally, she is portrayed as a typical damsel in distress here. Amongst the colonists, there are also no real stand out performances and the characters largely feel bland and interchangeable.
Verdict: A good if not exceptional first adventure off Earth for the Third Doctor would have benefited greatly from being shorter. Michael Briant and the rest of the production team deserve praise for some lovely direction and set design though. 6/10
Cast: Jon Pertwee (The Doctor), Katy Manning (Jo Grant), Nicholas Courtney (Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart), Nicholas Pennell (Winton), John Ringham (Ashe), David Webb (Leeson), Sheila Grant (Jane Leeson), Roy Skelton (Norton), Helen Worth (Mary Ashe), John Line (Martin), Mitzi Webster (Mrs Martin), John Scott Martin (Robot), Pat Gorman (Primitive, Voice, Long and Colonist), Peter Forbes-Robertson (Time Lord), John Baker (Time Lord), Graham Leaman (Time Lord), Bernard Kay (Caldwell), Morris Perry (Dent), Tony Caunter (Morgan), John Herrington (Holden), Stanley McGeagh (Allen), Roger Delgado (The Master), John Tordoff (Alec Leeson), Norman Atkyns (Guardian) & Roy Heymann (Alien Priest),.
Writer: Malcolm Hulke
Director: Michael Briant
Behind the Scenes
- The first off-Earth story recorded in colour and Jo Grant is the first companion to travel with the Doctor in the TARDIS since The War Games.
- The story introduces a new model of the sonic screwdriver and also marks the start of it being used more often.
- The first directorial credit for Michael Briant, who had been with the show since the Innes Lloyd and Peter Bryant eras. He also provides the voice-over for the propaganda film in the second episode.
- The working title for this story was The Colony.
- Susan Jameson was originally cast as Morgan, however, after the BBC’s Head of Drama Serials made an intervention, the role was given to Tony Caunter as the role was deemed inappropriate for a woman to play in a show targeted at families as it could have been unintentally deemed to be sexual. As Jameson had signed a contract, she was paid in full.
- Tony Caunter had previously appeared in The Crusade and would go on to appear in Enlightenment.
- Sheila Grant previously voiced the Quarks in The Dominators.
- Roy Skelton makes his first on screen appearance here, and would later appear in The Green Death. He had done voice work for the show since The Ark and is probably best known as the voice of the Daleks from Evil of the Daleks until Remembrance of the Daleks. He also voiced the Monoids and Cybermen.
- John Line appeared in the stage play The Curse of the Daleks and the audio adaptation of the same produced by Big Finish.
- Mitzi McKenzie went on to appear in The Green Death.
- Peter Forbes-Robertson previously appeared as a guard in The Power of the Daleks and was the Chief Sea Devil in The Sea Devils.
- John Baker appeared in The Visitation.
- Graham Leaman makes his fourth of five appearances in Doctor Who here. His final appearance would be in The Three Doctors.
- Bernard Kay makes his final appearance in a Doctor Who story, having previously been in The Dalek Invasion of Earth, The Crusade and The Faceless Ones.
- John Herrington previously appeared in The Daleks’ Master Plan.
- Stanley McGeagh and Norman Atkyns would go on to appear in The Sea Devils.
- Roy Heymann would later appear in Death to the Daleks.
It’s not a traditionally great moment, but I do like the top and tail scenes with the Brigadier, especially when the Doctor and Jo decide not to tell the Brigadier that they have been on a trip away from Headquarters.
One must rule or serve. That is the basic law of life. Why do you hesitate? Surely it’s not loyalty to the Time Lords, who exiled you to one insignificant planet.
You’ll never understand. I want to see the universe, not rule it.The Master and the Third Doctor
Previous Third Doctor review: The Claws of Axos