109 – The Return (The Ark Part 3)

Written by Paul Erickson and Lesley Scott
Directed by Michael Imison

The Doctor, Steven, and Dodo return to The Ark 700 years after they had left, only to find the humans enslaved by The Monoids.

Chicken Wing Powder! Just Add Water

‘Take them away to the security kitchen!”

After discovering the statue with new modifications, The Doctor, Steven, and Dodo do a bit more exploring.  They discover the bridge, which is empty, the floor covered with dead leaves from the trees that decorate the ship.  They also learn that The Ark is about to arrive at its destination, the Planet Refusis.  The final revelation shocks the travelers.  It seems that some time in the 700 years which had passed, The Monoids rebelled against the humans and enslaved them.  The leader of The Monoids, imaginatively called “One”, claims there were two reasons for the rebellion.  First, the cold virus supposedly mutated, leaving the humans weak and sapped of energy.  Second, good ole fashioned xenophobia.  The innocence of the humans was exploited and they built weapons and translation devices for The Monoids.  I can’t help but wonder if the rebellion was being planned before the translation devices were created, or if this arose later.  Is there some sort of correlation between the development of technology that allowed The Monoids to more effectively communicate, to more accurately spread ideas, and the rebellion?  Seven hundred years earlier, The Monoids could only seem to communicate via sign language.  Now, they are more vocal.  Was this a contributing factor?  Or is this analysis reading too much into the story?

In the intervening years, The Doctor, Steven, and Dodo have become legends.  Their arrival gives hope to some of the more independent-minded humans.  Myth has come to life and the savior Doctor has arrived.  This is an idea that would not be out of place in the Russell T. Davies era.  Yes, that sentence was a massive understatement.  But it is still an interesting idea at this point in the show’s history because of how very subdued the exploration of this idea is.  It isn’t The Doctor that tries to instigate a human rebellion, it is Steven.  Once more, the male lead is the action hero.  The Doctor is the intelligence, he is the Merlin . . . another idea that will be explored much, much later in this original run of Doctor Who.

The Monoids send a landing party to Refusis, a party composed of The Doctor, Dodo, Monoid Two, and a human.  Here we learn that the Refusians are invisible.  Yet another money saving device, and the second time this has been used in the John Wiles era.  The Refusians, however, are give a bit more backstory and motivation.  A solar flare of some kind rendered their bodies formless, but they are still capable of thought and communication.  The Refusians have known The Ark was coming, and welcomed a race of peaceful, physical beings to replace them.  The Refusians even seem to have built new dwellings, or at least abandoned their own.  I came away from the story thinking The Refusians had built them, anyway.

The Monoids plan on colonizing the planet and destroying The Ark with the humans still on board.  The humans learn of this plan.  They know there is a bomb, but they do not know where (it’s in the statue).  The Refusians destroy the landing ship from which Monoid Two is attempting to make his report.  So, the situation as it now stands, has The Monoids about to land on a planet populated by invisible creatures.  The Monoids do not know The Refusians are there.  The humans are about to be left on The Ark with a bomb that could go off at any moment.  Last but not least, The Doctor and Dodo are stranded on Refusis should The Monoids decide to abandon their plan.  One episode left.

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