I was not a big fan of The Ark in Space when I was 14. It just seemed...boring to me, particularly episode one. I liked listening to the banter between the Doctor, Sarah and Harry, but that was about it. Clearly the strength of Robert Holmes script was lost on me.
What did stand out was the horrific transformation that Noah went through, turning from taciturn head cheese to bubble-wrapped beastie. Body horror was something that always fascinated me as an adolescent. Whether it was drawing pictures and then subjecting them to aging, warts and animal features or my weekly insistence on breaking out the 8-milimetre projector to watch the abridged (and silent) Abbot and Costello Meet Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, watching the human body being mutilated or changed tapped into something deep in my psyche. At 14 I also suffered from chronic and embarrassing acne.
When I think of those early Tom Baker viewings, I always lumped The Ark in Space, Planet of Evil and The Seeds of Doom. Each had striking body horror imagery.
Of course as an adult The Ark in Space is a fantastic story and probably the best of season 12 (although Genesis will always be my emotional favourite). The script is brilliant and while the production is quite chilling in its own right, imagine if they hadn't been restricted by budget or censors. I think in particular of the scene of the Wirrin falling out of the cupboard onto poor Harry.
Also, in a post-Russell-T-Davies Doctor Who world, it's curious to note the characterization of the far-future humans. Vira and Noah are played very much in a classic sci-fi way, quite humourless with no understanding of 20th century vernacular. Curiously, Holmes decides to introduce Rogin in episode 3 as a much more familiar type, employing a bit more contemporary attitude/speak. Rogin is much more in tune with an RTD representation of future humans--someone the average viewer can identify with.
Other things I enjoyed: the use of shadows in episode 1; the almost biblical feel of the minister's pre-recorded speech to humanity, almost as if she is talking to Abraham; and the great scene with the Doctor berating Sarah to make her climb through the access tunnel--it's such a portent of their developing relationship.
And then there is the intriguing question: will Vira now have to switch to a swinging lesbian lifestyle now that Noah and 4 other of the males (in the carefully balanced Ark ecosystem) are dead?
Original viewing date: September 16, 1983 (I should note at this point in case it isn't obvious, I watching "movie versions" of the stories (thus my recollections will never include cliffhangers, sadly. I have also decided not to watch updated versions of stories with new special effects).
Wine: "Girls Night Out", a serviceable chardonnay from the Niagara region. I don't generally drink whites, but I needed it for a carrot soup.
Music listened to: "Karma Kameleon", by Culture Club. The song was unavoidable at the time.