Since I had a rewatch (after nearly 50 years) of season 7 of Doctor Who for The Doctor Who Companion, I’ve had a few Pertwee stories on my pile of DVDs to watch at some point. I’ve just finished Colony in Space and here are a few thoughts. I would have done a review, but several have already, including The Radio Times who gave it a 3* rating. They also have a nice selection of archive material, which is where I got the comic strip picture from. If nothing else, I do feel this story is more than just nice farmers versus capitalist miners in a wild west in space scenario (and wasn’t another famous series once described as Wagon Train in space?)
On to the observations…
The Star Trek connection
I don’t tend to mention Star Trek very much but I do feel there are worthwhile parallels to be drawn here and there. I don’t at all suggest any ideas were copied, but I suspect most people in the show had watched Star Trek before Colony in Space was made and there are only a finite number of stories and settings.
My first thought was the similarity in a small way to Errand of Mercy, the first Klingon story. In this story Kirk is on a planet of primitives when Klingons arrive. They want to provoke the locals but can’t and in the end the locals are far more advanced than either the Federation or the Klingons. In Colony in Space we have two sides fighting for the planet Uxarieous and largely ignoring the passive Primitives (the name for the natives). Here to the Primitives have a deep history of advanced technology. I also note the Federation wouldn’t have gone to Uxarieous either for mining or colonisation due to the presence of natives!
By the time Jo and the Doctor get to the secret city of the Primitives and meet the remnants of the more advanced subset of natives, the look of the costumes is very much that of the inhabitants of Talos IV in Star Trek: The Menagerie. Here also is a powerful race hidden away underground. Beyond that the stories are very different.
Long stories don’t always work
While I felt in my season 7 piece we could have a place for longer stories, Colony in Space suggest otherwise. In 1971 with gaps of a week with no recording, the story probably didn’t feel as padded as it does when I watch it on DVD in a couple of sessions. We’ve changed, the show has moved on. Perhaps single long-episode stories are the 80% of Doctor Who we should expect.
Do have a look at the BBC’s own page as it has plenty of analysis and in its quote from the Discontinuity Guide pretty much nails it:
Well meaning, and much more interesting before the Master arrives, at which point it turns from a Hulke political parable into a typical runaround
That said I did think Roger Delgado was in superb form in this story, as was Pertwee and Katy Manning.
PS – if anyone from Big Finish is reading this, when can we have Helen Worth back in a sequel story? She was rather good in this!