This is the first Tom Baker serial I remember seeing as a kid. I love this serial. I saw it again last year and remember loving it still. I’ve seen this probably more than any other Doctor Who serial, except for perhaps GENESIS OF THE DALEKS, which we’ll cover next week.

Episode 1:

A space station orbits a planet. Inside, something is moving along, we’re looking through its eyes (a similar device to the opening of ROBOT) as it opens a cryo-sleep casket and we see a sleeping man. We then return to the exterior shot of the space station moves along, then fade to black.

The TARDIS appears inside, in a tight space. The Doctor steps out, yelling at Harry for being “a clumsy, ham-fisted idiot”. Harry is surprised to discover they’re not in the UNIT HQ. The lights are out, but it’s obvious they’re in a technology advance construct. Seems Harry started fiddling with the TARDIS console while they were on “a trip to the Moon” to prove to Harry that the TARDIS did in fact travel.

The air is thin and Sarah Jane is starting to panic, but The Doctor gets the power back on, including air. Harry starts poking around some controls (gee, he’s rather dim, after doing so inside the TARDIS, eh?) and Sarah passes through a door that he opens. Once she’s in, it closes. She finds herself trapped and the air in there isn’t very good.

Harry is rather confused, especially after The Doctor tells him that they’re in the far future, well beyond the 30th century. They realise that Sarah isn’t there but quickly The Doctor deduces what happened and they open the door, but they, too, get trapped inside.

The Doctor finds that some cables have been severed; the oxygen controls in the room don’t respond to manual activation. As the oxygen gets low, Harry grows faint by Sarah, and even The Doctor struggles, but he manages to get things running and he and Harry recover; Sarah is still unconscious and they put her on a bench in the room.

Looking at the wires, The Doctor feels something bit the wires, not cut them. He effects some repairs and opens the door to the original chamber as Sarah Jane starts to recover.

The Doctor and Harry both leave Sarah Jane on the bench to go to the TARDIS to fetch her some brandy. Why does it take two to get brandy? However, when they walk into the room, a security device lowers from the ceiling, blast a bolt of electricity at them; The Doctor pulls Harry out of the way at the last moment, though Harry’s shoe, which fell off, is toast.

Sarah Jane, worried, calls out, but the bed she’s lying on starts pulsing and lights flash and she gets drowsy, laying down. A moment later, she disappears.

The Doctor and Harry call out to Sarah to warn her to keep away from the door. Sarah is elsewhere, on a “tranquilo-couch”, inside a booth in a wall. An automated voice speaks, very soothingly, as soft music plays. We learn they’re on a station called “Nerva”.

As The Doctor starts to loosen the bolts of the table they’re hiding beneath, Sarah Jane lays in the tranquilo-couch, and the voice of the “High Minister of the World Executive” speaks to her, a woman, though no name is given. The minister’s voice addresses her volunteering to make the “supreme sacrifice” to “pass beyond life” and “carrying the torch that has been handed down from generation to generation”. Each time Sarah tries to sit up, the effect of the couch keeps her tranquil.

The Doctor and Harry move around the circumference of the room under the table, getting close to the control for the security system. Harry says if they had a cricket ball, he might be able to knock the lever down. The Doctor just happens to have one in his pocket and gives it to him, but the ball is apparently organic and the security system pulverises it with a blast.

Harry takes off his other shoe and throws it; the machine blasts it, and at the same time, The Doctor jumps up and shuts the system off. They get up and call out to Sarah to come out.

In the tranquilo-couch, obviously another room in the station, a panel slides down and the cubicle Sarah is in begins to fill with some sort of gas.

Back in the other room, The Doctor takes off the cushion of the couch, revealing transmat technology. He determines that it’s short range, internal, so she’s still somewhere on the station. They exit to go look for her. When they reach one door, an automated voice (not a pleasant one like the automated voices talking to Sarah) barks out that “This is a sterile area! Keep out!”

They ignore it and enter, but Harry sees something moving in the corridor; we get a glimpse of something… bug like or slug like, perhaps. Green and… well, green. The Doctor didn’t see it and dismisses it as a trick of the light. They find a slime trail on the floor, like a slug or snail’s trail.

They choose a door and enter, first passing through a decontamination chamber, then into another console room. A nearby door is marked ANIMAL BOTANIC. The Doctor says that the station is a cryogenic repository. Excited at the prospect, The Doctor starts poking around. They find microfilm (yes, because in the post 30th century, microfilm would be the preferred method of storing data) with music, film, and other data recorded on it.

Harry quickly guesses that the station is a “survival kit” of sorts. The Doctor sits down at a console, in front of a tranquilo-couch (not sure if it’s the same one Sarah was on, or if she’s in another one still or what.) He fiddles (Doctors like to fiddle, yo) with the controls and opens another door, this one leading into a cryogenic chamber with people stacked up in cryochambers.

Harry doesn’t believe that they’re not corpses. The Doctor waxes philosophical about the ingenuity of mankind, putting themselves on ice, ready to wait out the great disaster. He praises their indominatable spirit.

Harry argues with The Doctor whether they’re dead or in suspended animation. As they talk, they find another trail of slime. The Doctor begins to feel concerned over the safety of the cryogenically preserved people. As he and Harry poke around, Harry finds Sarah Jane preserved in one of the pods… and the credits roll.

Now, THAT is a great cliffhanger. Wow, loved it!

Okay, I’m just digging this serial so far. Again, this is one of my top fave serials of all time, so it’s to be expected.


Episode 2:

Looking for a “resuscitation unit”, Harry starts opening closets. The second one has a giant insect-like creature, which falls out when the door is opened. But it’s dead. It’s easily half again as large as Harry. In the closet, they find what appears to be an emergency medical kit, but the tech is beyond both of them.

As they talk, one of the units begins to hum. They open it and the woman inside slowly begins to breathe visibly. She opens her eyes and holds out her hands. Harry presents the case they found to her and she pulls out a form of injection that seems to fully revive her.

She demands to know who they are. When Harry makes introductions, she takes them to be medtechs and introduces herself as First MedTech Vira. They show her Sarah Jane and ask for her help in reviving her.

There’s a great bit where Vira asks if Sarah Jane is “of value”. Harry gets offended, saying of course she is, she’s a human being. The Doctor merely replies, “The answer is yes.”

Vira remarks to The Doctor, “Your companion is a romantic.” The Doctor, a little gravely, says, “Perhaps we both are.”

Vira attends to Sarah Jane, saying it is iffy whether she will survive or not – she has done all she can. Vira moves over to another pod, talking about their prime unit, their leader, “Noah”. She explains they chose that name for him as an amusement.

The Doctor asks what happened in the last days of Earth, and she is startled that they don’t know their history. She says the solar flares destroyed all life on Earth and it would take 5000 years for life to be viable. The Doctor agrees, saying that’s a minimum time frame, but he has a shock for her – they’ve overslept by several thousand years. He explains that during their dormancy, there was a visitor that caused some damage that led them to oversleep.

We see a quick exterior shot of the station (the same cut as from the first episode) and then inside another part, we see a green worm/slug/larvae-like creature moving along a platform. (You can tell by the way its moving that there’s an actor inside.)

At a door/hatch, the creature, which can stand somewhat upright, spins the lock on the hatch. When Vira points out there’s a problem with the power supply, The Doctor goes off to fix it. The Doctor communicates with Harry (who stayed with Vira) to let him know that he’s going to investigate the main solar stack.

Vira brings Noah out of his sleep. Noah identifies Harry as a “regressive”. When Sarah Jane starts to recover, Noah and Vira talk about the danger to the plan by the genetics of “regressives” being introduced.

The Doctor is seen moving along the same platform as the larval creature was earlier.

Noah stops by the armory and gets a gun, seemingly going after The Doctor. Vira revives Sarah fully and warns Harry that if they are space travellers as they claim it would be best for them to leave now; Noah will not allow genetic contamination. She warns him that they could be destroyed.

Sarah Jane comes to, and is frightened by her change of location and clothing.

At the solar stack, The Doctor closes the hatch, seeing something alive is within the power cells.

Sarah Jane panicks when she sees the giant dead insect. As Harry tries to console her, Vira discovers one of the cryo-pods is empty. She demands to know what they did with the man who was supposed to be in there.

Noah confronts The Doctor in the control room; The Doctor is trying to shut down the solar stack, but Noah tells him to step away from the controls or he will atomise him. Then, in a slightly different voice, Noah says, “Earth is ours!”

The Doctor tries to reassure him that they are here to help, not claim Earth, but Noah shoots The Doctor as they talk.

We see the creature in the solar stack breaking out.

Noah contacts Vira, telling her that he had to neutralise The Doctor who was trying to sabotage the solar stacks. When she tells him about the missing technician, Noah says that the regressives have taken him. He orders her to proceed on schedule while he checks the power stacks. Worried about The Doctor, Harry and Sarah Jane head off to find The Doctor.

At the power stacks, the green creature brushes against Noah’s hand and he flails, clutching his hand as if burnt.

Harry and Sarah find The Doctor, who quickly recovers. They head off after Noah once Harry tells The Doctor that he went to check the solar stacks.

Noah encounters The Doctor and his companions in the corridors and takes them at gunpoint back to the cryogenic station. His left hand (the one struck by the creature) is in his pocket at all times. When they get back, Vira has just revived Libri, who reacts with horror at the sight of Noah, calling for him to get back. When Vira grabs him and asserts that it’s just Noah, he calms down, but says he saw a horrible shape standing there.

Noah gives Libri the gun and tells him to keep the prisoners under guard. Noah gives the order to stop the revivification process. Vira argues, and Noah becomes confused. She asks if it has to do with the missing man, Dune… and Noah smiles and says, “But I’m here, I’m Dune.”

As Vira backs away, Noah gives the order to stop the process and dashes off. The Doctor orders with Libri, trying to get him to understand that something is wrong with Noah, that his first reaction meant something. Vira agrees and Libri heads off.

In Dune’s empty pod, The Doctor finds some membrane. He quickly deduces that the dead insect must have laid eggs in Dune’s body. He guesses that Dune was a power technician, since the creature(s) went straight to the solar stacks. They have his knowledge, it seems.

Libri confronts Noah. Noah holds out his good hand, asking for the gun. Libri refuses, saying Noah is not well. Libri finds it impossible to fire on his commander, and Noah takes the gun from his hand. He has no such problem firing on his subordinate. Afterwards, he pulls out his left hand which is being transformed into something inhuman. He holds it up, grimaces… and the credits roll.

Again, another excellent cliffhanger. I like that the commander of the facility, instead of being paranoid or hostile for no real reason (as we saw in many of the Second and Third Doctor serials), is somewhat paranoid at first, believing them to be “regressives”, and then under the influence of a physiological assualt on his body, which is bound to affect his personality as well.

Episode 3:

As Noah holds up his hand, an automated message from the High Minister plays throughout the space station, giving them the tally ho speech/pep talk. Noah struggles with his hand, smashing it against the console.

After the message ends, as Harry playfully remarks that Sarah Jane must be happy to learn that the future of mankind is led by a woman, Noah contacts Vira over the communication system. He is struggling with his self, and orders her to expedite the revivification system, saying, “We… you.. are in great danger! Get our… your people to the Earth before the Wirrn… Vira… take command!” He goes on for a bit, but then changes, standing upright, speaking with a different voice.

We shall absorb the human race… the Earth shall be ours.”

Again, Noah gains control and gives Vira the order to save their people. He struggles with his arm as he moves out of the control room.

The Doctor and Vira leave to try to speak with Noah; The Doctor wants to learn more about the Wirrn. Harry and Sarah stay in the cryogenic station to keep working on revivification.

Noah is encounter, the changes spreading to half his head and left side of his torso. He threatens them with a gun. He tells The Doctor that they don’t have much time before the Wirrn reach adulthood.

Two men are revived and very unhappy about the news Harry and Sarah Jane have given. Vira and The Doctor return and Vira begins to fill them in.

A larval form inches its way down the corridor; I’m not sure if that’s Noah or not.

The Doctor and Harry begin to examine the giant insect, but The Doctor argues with expedition the main phase; he says that in a few hours, the Wirrn will be swarming the station. Finally, Vira is persuaded to call off the main phase of revivification.

As Harry cuts open the Wirrn, The Doctor says that the creatures exist in space, creating their own oxygen within. The Doctor removes part of the creature’s… brain? Skull? Not sure what it’s supposed to be, and hooking it up to a machine, he tries to pull images off it, but it doesn’t work. He decides to hook up his own brain to it, in hopes of finding what killed the Wirrn.

Vira, Harry and Sarah argue against this, saying it’s dangerous. He agrees but says it must be done, not just for their own survival, but that of the entire human race.

It may be irrational of me, but human beings are my favourite species.” – The Doctor.

With his brain hooked up, it works. We see the station on the view screen (the same scene from the opening of the serial) getting closer. There’s a noise in the other room and the two other men go to investigate. One of them, Liset, is attacked by the larval form, which broke through a ventillation grate to get in.

Harry and Rogan head to the armory to get weaponry. On the screen, we see the security system firing electricity at the creature. It accesses the power controls and takes a bite out of the wiring, then opens up Dune’s cabinet.

Harry and Rogan encounter Noah (so that wasn’t him as a larval form) and they fire their guns against him, having some effect. They return to the cryogenic station just in time to fire on the larval creature, forcing it back through the grill.

Reversing the transmat, The Doctor sends Rogan and Harry through to the chamber, but before he can send Sarah Jane through, the power drops. The Wirrn have turned off the power in an attempt to suffocate the humans. The Doctor says now that the Wirrn have entered their pupal stage, they’ll be dormant and he goes to the power station to see what he can do.

There, he finds several large cocoons. As he moves to the controls, an adult Wirrn appears, but it still has some features – it’s Noah… and the credits roll.

Episode 4:

As The Doctor watches, Noah fully completes his transformation to a Wirrn; his human features disappear. Vira and Sarah arrive just then, firing on him, allowing The Doctor to escape.

Noah tells Vira to flee the ark to escape before it is too late, but she says she must stay. Noah says that she will have to die then. He then tells them why the Wirrn are attacking, why they want Earth – long ago, humans came to Andromeda and destroyed the Wirrn colonies there, forcing them off the planet. Vira realises this means that some of the star colonies survived as well.

The Wirrn want the ark to use as a breeding colony, stealing the intellect of the humans for their own. As he talks, the cocoons begin to open and The Doctor, Sarah Jane and Vira quickly leave, and join up with Harry and Rogan.

While everyone brainstorms on how to set up an electrical barrier to keep the Wirrn from getting to the sleepers, Sarah tries to point out that there is an escape ship and sure that has its own, separate power source, an idea that pleases everyone immensely. (Hey, you mean companions can do more than just ask what’s going on? This is amazing!)

On top of that, when they discuss how to run the cable for the power, Sarah Jane volunteers to go through the conduit tunnels herself, as she’s the only one small enough to fit.

While everyone is at the ship, and Sarah is working her way through the conduits, The Doctor is back at the cryogenic station, working on setting things up. The Noah-Wirrn (I presume it’s him) enters and looks about. The Doctor hides in an empty cryogenic pod until it leaves.

The Doctor waits for her at the end of the tunnel. She’s almost there when she gets stuck. The Doctor snaps at her to stop whining, calling her useless, stupid and foolish, saying he knew she’d let them down. This of course has the desired effect of pissing her off so she gets unstuck and makes it the rest of the way.

The Wirrin is just outside and when they switch the power on, it gets harmed and runs off, to report to the others. Others return shortly thereafter, but they don’t stick around long. The Doctor says they’re up to something, and moments later, a Wirrn grabs Sarah through the ventilation grill that the larva broke through earlier. The Doctor grabs a spare cable and uses it to fry the buggy.

Noah-Wirrn turns the power back on and gets on the communications system, offering them safe passage from the ark. The Doctor tries to appeal to the human aspect of Noah, but he says he has no memory of the Earth.

Several Wirrn are trying to climb up into the escape ship, but they run the engines to burn them out. Next the Wirrn travel on the outisde of the ark and break into the cargo hold; Vira says they’ve only got minutes. They cut the power to the cyrogenic station and then set the ship on automatic takeoff. The Doctor and Rogan work on the locks, after closing the ship up. The Wirrn are on board the space craft, seemingly in their entirety, and Rogan punches out The Doctor and puts him away safely while he releases the last lock, but sacrifices his life in doing so.

The ship launches, taking the Wirrn away. The Doctor shows up as Sarah Jane begins to mourn him and explains what Rogan did to save the day. Noah contacts the space station to say good bye and the ship explodes; it seems that a large part of Noah’s humanity remained and he didn’t set the stablisers on the ship, allowing it to be destroyed.

Vira says she’ll have to continue the revivification process, but The Doctor points out that the long range transmat device seems a bit wonky; he offers to beam down to Earth to have a look at it. Sarah Jane, excited at the prospect, wants to go see Earth as it is now.

Sarah and Harry grab coats as well (Harry also gets shoes to replace the two he lost) and the three beam down to Earth to check on the equipment… and the final credits roll.

A most excellent serial, with little to complain about. Strange aliens, human physiology under attack, revenge, the human race at risk, a space station – all good stuff. Again, one of my all time faves and with good reason.  

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