The Doctor (Tom Baker) gets off-planet right away, though he may not have travelled very far in space… Time however…
He, Sarah-Jane (Elisabeth Sladen) and Harry (Ian Marter) find themselves aboard a space station that is orbiting Earth some time in the far-flung future in this four-part story that was written by Robert Holmes and aired from 25 January to 15 February 1975. And while the space station, at first glance, seems deserted, the travellers quickly discover thousands of humans, deep in a cryogenic sleep, along with countless specimens of plants and animals.
The Doctor quickly deduces they are aboard an ark of sorts, but it seems that the sleepers have slumbered longer than they planned, and they are also not alone on this ship. There is an alien parasitical race, known as the Wrnn aboard, and they plan to take control of the station, its frozen inhabitants and then Earth itself.
And, of course, this being Harry’s first trip in the TARDIS, he reacts accordingly, much to some Sarah-Jane’s bemusement, all of this happens while the Doctor works on restoring the station’s power and getting it up and running again, while also disconnecting the onboard security system. In typical companion fashion, Sarah-Jane wanders off to do some exploring, and ends up initiating the process that each of the humans went through, and shortly ends up in suspended animation.
Some of the crew are woken, including the expedition leader, Noah (Kenton Moore) and Vira (Wendy Williams), neither of whom are happy to see the Doctor, and pretty much suspect him and Harry of all manner of things right off the bat. While Harry helps Vira help resuscitate Sarah-Jane, Noah goes off to investigate his station, and check on this ‘thing’ that the Doctor claims to have seen. Unfortunately, that means Noah encounters the Wrnn, and begins a slow, and what looks like a disgusting transformation into a man-sized insect-like form.
The Doctor tries to negotiate a peaceful resolution, even co-existence with the Wrnn, but they seem pretty set in their ways, and instead, seize control of the station, while the Time Lord and company hole up in the cryogenics chamber, keeping the humans in stasis safe from the invaders. A final plan is hatched, and Noah, even though he is controlled by his Wrnn, is able to make a noble sacrifice to shave his ship and crew.
I like these tighter stories, 4 parts makes for a rapidly paced story, suited perfectly to Baker’s Doctor. There are a lot of fun moments, his using a yo-yo to test the gravity of the station, his out-thinking of practically everyone, and still having a grand ole time doing it. He is a master of banter right away, and he’s just so damned fun!
Next time he takes on The Sontaran Experiment!