Doctor Who: Colony in Space (part one)

Back to 1971 – or forward to 2472, as it were – for “Colony in Space,” a six-part serial written by Malcolm Hulke and directed by Michael E. Briant. It is nobody’s favorite Doctor Who adventure, but, weirdly, Hulke’s novelization, called Doctor Who and the Doomsday Weapon, is among everybody’s favorite novelizations. It’s a great story to chew on and consider, but as a piece of television, it’s a little rough going.

Famously, it’s the first story to let the Doctor leave Earth since being stuck there. The Time Lords hijack him and dump him on the barren planet Uxarieus without telling him why. There, he meets a group of self-sufficiency enthusiasts who’ve left the polluted, overcrowded, and corrupt Earth, but their crops bizarrely disobey all known thought about agriculture and refuse to grow. After a year, they’re becoming anxious and desperate, and then some giant lizards are said to turn up.

My favorite part in the first episode is Jo’s very real fear and worry about exploring this planet. I really appreciate how believable her reaction to being dumped on another world is. All the previous months she’d been working for UNIT, she thought she’d been indulging an eccentric genius with his stories of time travel. She didn’t even look inside his TARDIS. Just the sight of Uxarieus frightens her.

Her fear was contagious. Our son was alternately bored by all the farmers talking about crops and frightened by everything else. The green-and-brown-skinned primitives made him jump, the giant iguanas that are strangely too large to fit through the doors of the small domes sent him out of the room entirely, and while the first robot that we saw on this planet – a small “rover” with a crane – was amusing, the great big clawed thing that traps the Doctor against a wall was another thing entirely. I wonder what those letters “IMC” on the robot might mean?

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