Doctor Doctor Who Guide

It's odd that I enjoy Malcolme Hulke's work as much I do. "The Silurians" and "War Games" are great stories. Whereas "The Sea Devils" is not a story I'm all that fond of and "Invasion of the Dinosaurs" is, pretty-well, one of the worst stories of the Pertwee era. So, even though he's written two pretty bad stories - he's probably my second favourite writer in the whole series (Robert Holmes being my, and probably your, all-time favourite).

So, with all these "peaks and valleys" in Malcolme's submissions to the show, where does "Colony In Space" fit in? Very nicely in the middle of things. 

It is a painfully pedestrian story. It's not so much full of padding as it is just moving very slowly in places. Which isn't an entirely bad thing. We get a lot of nice characterisation in these slower moments. Particularly with Jo's first few moments in the TARDIS and the Doctor's excitement at being able to travel again. A very rich scene and probably one of the best "companion enters the TARDIS for the first time" moments that the show has ever created. This carries on throughout the story as we meet various colonists and IMC men. All the characters are given nice chances to develop and we become connected to them because of those moments. As slow as they may sometimes be. Even the cantankerous old engineer who's always fixing up the generator is someone we feel close to - even though he's barely around for an episode. And his tragic death affects us all the more because of well Hulke writes his characters. 

Quite naturally enough, the actors that were cast in these roles latch on to the rich characterisations quite well and give us some great interpretations because of it. Although I feel the leader of the colonists and IMC turn in the best performances in this one. Especially Captain Dent. In the wrong hands, he could have been a totally over-the-top mustache-twirling villain. Instead, there's some gorgeous subtlety to his villainy. He has a very cool exterior that makes him seem all the more menacing. He's manipulative and mean-spiritted, but this is all kept very much below the surface and only displayed ever-so-slightly in the delivery of his dialogue. Even in his moment of triumph in the final episode, he tears down the map on the wall with one quick snatch and then returns to his calm state. Very well-portrayed. 

It's also interesting to note that this is one of the few Hulke stories were the lines between "good" and "evil" are very clearly drawn. With most of his scripts, we saw a lot of humanity on both sides and the bad guys aren't so much bad as they are "misguided". Not so here. Things are even a bit "stilted". Particularly in the way Hulke has the Doctor take the colonist's side so quickly. It's interesting note that his villains are, of course, very indicative of "big corporation mentality" and it makes me think that Hulke obviously has some issues with big business since these are the only "true villains" he's ever written into a story. Still, even in this characterisation of evil, he gives us Caldwell - an IMC man who eventually finds his conscience and does the right thing in the end.

Now, we get to the Master. 

Okay, yeah, the Time Lords give away in the opening scene that he's involved in this whole thing, but I like that it was done that way. Especially since we've almost completely forgotten about the scene by the time he makes his appearance. And the way his appearance is set up makes it a very nice surprise. Probably one of his better surprise appearances in the history of the show. And given how often the Master does this, that's saying something! 

Here's where I diverge alot on popular fan opinion: I don't generally like the Delgado Master much. Yes, Ainley's Master does some wildly inconsistent things now and again but so does this incarnation. And, at least in the case of Ainley's Master, we can see that extending his life artificially has made him a bit nutty and we can justify some of this behaviour. In the case of the Delgado Master, we don't have that excuse. Still, even though his recurring appearances are getting a bit tiresome this far into the season, Hulke does one of the best jobs of crafting the Doctor's arch rival. It seems a little of out of place for him to suddenly offer a partnership to the Doctor for universal domination but, otherwise, I find the portrayal very smooth and consistent. Very much the way this particular incarnation of the Master should be conveyed even though that's not what we always got in the Delgado Master stories. I particularly like the way Hulke gives us a genuine look into the Master's philosophy of life during the final episode as he speaks of "either leading or serving". Very much the sort of thing Hulke does with his characters. He allows us into their heads. So that, even if we don't agree with them, we, at least, understand them. 

So, apart from the story moving just a bit too slowly in places, I have very little complaints. Some of the props are a bit too silly like having a tear-away calendar in the far-flung future or an entertainment screen aboard the IMC vessel that has curtains that draw back. Or the way all the guns are old-fashioned rifles or machine guns. But, really, this sort of thing is far too commonplace in the classic series for it to really merit much objection. It's one of those things a fan learns to "look past" in their overall evaluation of a story. Cause if a few silly props are going to mar your enjoyment of a Doctor Who story then you're watching the wrong T.V. show! 

So, in the final evaluation, I find myself agreeing very much with the other reviewer of this story. "Colony" is very much a gem in this season whereas I too, think "the Daemons" is a huge load of manure. Maybe I should get in touch with this guy - we'd probably have some very interesting chats!

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