When last we left the fascinating new realm of HD Re-classic-ation, the Tour alighted upon Revenge of the Cybermen, a slightly odd story not only within the overall canon of the Cybermen but also tonally for the Hinchliffe/Holmes era.
Now we ratchet back to the other end of the string which was Space Station Nerva with (by acclamation) an absolute classic in The Ark in Space. The Tour argues that Ark was the most successful second story for any Doctor ever. It’s certainly a stark shift away from the slightly frothy tone of Robot.
Here’s a fun fact which somehow had escaped the Tours attention, Robot was actually recorded as the last story of Season 11’s recording block immediately following Planet of the Spiders, which is why Barry Letts and Terrance Dicks were still credited. By the time Season 12 began, Hinchcliffe and Holmes, and their sensibilities, were firmly in charge, and The Ark in Space is the real exemplar of this.
At once both bleak and hopeful, this is where Tom Baker made his bones as the Doctor, and was given some memorable speechifying to make the point. He also does a lot of expressive eye-acting. There’s tension from the jump, from the airless episode 1 where Sarah Jane gets caught in the works to the Wirrn advance in episode 4, it’s just terrific throughout. Even Harry has a bunch to do and is important in setting the contrast between regular humanity and the technocratic Ark survivors.
The Tour Honchos can’t begin to be objective about The Ark in Space. It was the first story we saw (oh so many years ago) so to say it made quite an impression would and should be obvious. Not a bad way to start is it?