Colony in Space

Colony in Space is the fourth serial of the eighth season of the British science fiction television series Doctor Who, which was first broadcast in six weekly parts on BBC1 from 10 April to 15 May 1971.

058 – Colony in Space
Doctor Who serial
Directed byMichael E. Briant
Written byMalcolm Hulke
Script editorTerrance Dicks
Produced byBarry Letts
Executive producer(s)None
Incidental music composerDudley Simpson
Production codeHHH
SeriesSeason 8
Running time6 episodes, 25 minutes each
First broadcast10 April–15 May 1971
← Preceded by
The Claws of Axos
Followed by →
The Dæmons
List of Doctor Who episodes (1963–1989)

The serial is set on the mineral-rich human colony world of Uxarieus in 2472. In the serial, the alien time traveller the Third Doctor (Jon Pertwee) and his travelling companion Jo Grant (Katy Manning) are sent by the Time Lords to Uxarieus, where they discover a mining corporation has been faking monster attacks on the colonists. Later, the Master (Roger Delgado), one of the Doctor's people, arrives in search of an ancient doomsday weapon created by the natives of the planet.


Three Time Lords meet at an observatory and discuss the theft of confidential files relating to "the Doomsday Weapon." They begrudgingly realise that only one man can help them so the Third Doctor, accidentally accompanied by Jo Grant, is temporarily released from his exile and sent in the TARDIS to the desert planet of Uxarieus in the year 2472. There he finds an outpost of human colonists living as farmers. The colony is not a success – the land seems unusually poor and recently they are being besieged by representatives of rapacious mining corporations, and more recently, ferocious reptiles. The colony's governor, Robert Ashe, makes them welcome, and explains the colonists fled a year ago to the planet to escape the overcrowding and pollution on Earth.

Two colonists die in a reptile attack that night, and the next morning a man named Norton arrives at the settlement, claiming that he is from another colony that was wiped out by the reptiles. While the Doctor is investigating the dome of the dead colonists he is surprised by a mining robot controlled by Caldwell, a mineralogist for the IMC (Interplanetary Mining Corporation). Caldwell invites the Doctor to talk to his bosses and hear their side of the story. His superior, Dent, is a ruthless mining engineer, who has been using the mining robot to scare and now kill the colonists – something which Caldwell finds repellent. Dent knows the planet is rich in rare minerals and wants it for IMC and his greedy troops agree that this should be done at any cost.

The original inhabitants of the planet, known to the colonists as "primitives", have a truce with the colonists – but this is tested when Norton kills the colony's scientist and blames it on a primitive, whom he insists are hostile. Later, Norton is seen communicating with Captain Dent, implying that he is in fact a spy sent from IMC to further disrupt the colonists and not the sole survivor of a similar colony as he claimed. The Doctor meanwhile returns to the central dome of the colonists, having evaded an IMC attempt to kill him, and explains to Ashe that the miners are behind the deaths, and not a reptile. An Adjudicator from Earth is sent for to deal with the complex claims over the planet but when he arrives it turns out to be the Master. Impersonating the Adjudicator, he rules that the mining company's claim to the planet is stronger.

The Doctor and Jo have meanwhile ventured to the primitive city. From images on cave walls they interpret it was once home to an advanced civilisation that degraded over time. In the heart of the city, in a room filled with massive machines and a glowing hatch, they encounter a diminutive alien known as the Guardian. It warns them that intruding into the city is punishable by death, and lets them go, but warns them not to return.

The Master's adjudication is heard by a returning Doctor and Jo. Still in the Adjudicator's guise he tells Ashe that an appeal will fail unless there are special circumstances, such as historical interest and is intrigued when Ashe tells him about the primitive city. By this ploy he finds out more about the planet and the primitive city while Ashe is drawn away from the Doctor, who begins to lose his credibility with the colonists. The Master then manipulates the Doctor into accompanying him to the primitive city.

The situation between colonists and miners has meanwhile reached flashpoint with a pitched battle between them. Dent and his forces triumph and he stages a false trial of Ashe and Winton, the most rebellious of the colonists, sentencing them to death but commuting the sentence if all the colonists agree to leave the planet in their damaged old colony ship which first brought them to Uxarieus.

Inside the city, the Master tells the Doctor that the primitives were once an advanced civilisation. Before declining, they built a super-weapon that was never used and he wants to claim this weapon for himself. The room with the machinery in the city is the heart of a weapon; so powerful that the Crab Nebula was created during a test firing. The Doctor rejects the Master's overture to help him rule the galaxy using the weapon, stating that absolute power is evil and corrupting. The Guardian appears, demanding an explanation for the intrusion. The Master explains that he's come to restore their civilisation to its former glory. The Doctor argues against him, and the Guardian recalls that the weapon led his race to decay, and its radiation is ruining the planet. It instructs the Doctor to activate the self-destruct, which he does. The city begins to crumble, and the Guardian tells them they must leave before it is too late. While the Doctor and the Master flee they find Caldwell and Jo, and the four get out in time.

The colonists' ship has meanwhile exploded on take-off as Ashe predicted it would. However, the colony leader was the only one to die. He piloted the ship alone to save his people. Winton and the colonists now emerge from hiding and kill or overpower the IMC men, with Caldwell having switched sides to support the colonists. Amid the confusion, the Master escapes.

With the battle over, the Doctor explains that the radiation from the weapon was what was killing their crops but this limiting factor has now been removed. Earth has agreed to send a real Adjudicator to Uxarieus, and Caldwell has decided to join the colonists. He tells them that he can help them with their power supply. The Doctor and Jo return to the TARDIS, which returns to UNIT Headquarters mere seconds after it left. Having accomplished what the Time Lords intended, the Doctor is once again trapped on Earth.


Script editor Terrance Dicks has frequently stated that he disliked the original premise of the Doctor being trapped on Earth, and had meant to subvert this plan as soon as he felt he could get away with it. He recalls in a DVD documentary interview (on the Inferno release) having had it pointed out to him by Malcolm Hulke that the format limited the stories to merely two types: alien invasion and mad scientist.

Susan Jameson was originally cast as Morgan by Michael E. Briant. However, she was replaced by Tony Caunter when the BBC's Head of Drama Serials made an intervention and decided the role was inappropriate for a woman to perform. Jameson was nevertheless paid in full.[citation needed]

Themes and analysisEdit

The story functions as social commentary – in this instance, the dangers of colonialism.[1] The story, by former Communist Party of Great Britain member Malcolm Hulke, has been described as "unashamedly left wing", with the pioneering colonists and the greedy IMC.[2] As with The Space Pirates (1969), the story can be seen as a Western in space, with the colonists using rifles like cowboys and the Primitives wielding spears in a similar role to Indians.[3]

Broadcast and receptionEdit

EpisodeTitleRun timeOriginal air dateUK viewers
(millions) [4]
Archive [5]
1"Episode One"24:1910 April 1971 (1971-04-10)7.6RSC converted (NTSC-to-PAL)
2"Episode Two"22:4317 April 1971 (1971-04-17)8.5RSC converted (NTSC-to-PAL)
3"Episode Three"23:4724 April 1971 (1971-04-24)9.5RSC converted (NTSC-to-PAL)
4"Episode Four"24:201 May 1971 (1971-05-01)8.1RSC converted (NTSC-to-PAL)
5"Episode Five"25:228 May 1971 (1971-05-08)8.8RSC converted (NTSC-to-PAL)
6"Episode Six"25:2215 May 1971 (1971-05-15)8.7RSC converted (NTSC-to-PAL)

16mm colour film trims of location sequences for the story still exist and short clips from this material was used in the BBC TV special Doctor Who: Thirty Years in the TARDIS (1993).

Paul Cornell, Martin Day, and Keith Topping gave the serial a mixed review in The Discontinuity Guide (1995), writing, "Well meaning, and much more interesting before the Master arrives, at which point it turns from a Hulke political parable into a typical runaround. Rather like watching socially-aware paint dry."[6] In The Television Companion (1998), David J. Howe and Stephen James Walker reprinted some positive reviews from fanzines, but commented that "although the story is indeed refreshing in its setting and contains some interesting ideas and well-drawn characters, it is distinctly short on visual interest and dramatic incident and consequently comes across as being rather dull and lifeless". They felt that the Uxarieus civilisation was flawed and the most exciting moment was the reveal of the Master, though that had already been telegraphed at the beginning of the first episode.[3]

In 2009, Radio Times reviewer Patrick Mulkern described the story as "richly detailed, fast-moving drama that rolls out eventfully over a six-week period", which made it "indigestible" to watch all at once. He praised the structure, which allowed it to not tire in the middle, as well as the supporting cast and the conversation between the Doctor and the Master in the last episode.[2] Dave Golder of SFX, reviewing the DVD release, gave the story three out of five stars. He noted that it had ambition, but was "slow" and "visually uninspired".[7] DVD Talk's John Sinnott rated Colony in Space three out of five stars, describing it as "a decent adventure" with minuses that outweighed the pluses. He noted that the six-episode structure allowed for padding and repeated scenes, but it had "a lot of interesting aspects", such as the Time Lords sending the Doctor, the way the story was constructed, and Pertwee and Delgado's chemistry.[8] In 2010, Charlie Jane Anders of io9 named the cliffhanger to the fourth episode – in which the Master decides to shoot the Doctor – as one of the greatest cliffhangers in Doctor Who.[9]

Commercial releasesEdit

In printEdit

Doctor Who and the Doomsday Weapon
AuthorMalcolm Hulke
Cover artistChris Achilleos
SeriesDoctor Who book:
Target novelisations
Release number
PublisherTarget Books
Publication date
April 1974

A novelisation of this serial, written by Malcolm Hulke, was published by Target Books in April 1974 as Doctor Who and the Doomsday Weapon. This was the first serial of the 1971 series to be so adapted; as a result, Hulke breaks continuity by having Jo Grant introduced to the Doctor for the first time, even though on television her introduction was in Terror of the Autons (and this would be reflected in the later novelisation of that serial). There is another extensive Malcolm Hulke prologue as an elderly Time Lord describes the Doctor-Master rivalry to his assistant and learns of the theft of the Doomsday Weapon files. There have been Dutch, Turkish, Japanese and Portuguese language editions. An unabridged reading of the novelisation by actor Geoffrey Beevers was released on CD in September 2007 by BBC Audiobooks.[10]

Home mediaEdit

Although the PAL mastertapes had been wiped, NTSC copies were returned to the BBC in 1983 from TV Ontario in Canada. In November 2001, this story was released together with The Time Monster, in a VHS tin box set, entitled The Master. A new transfer was made from the converted NTSC to PAL videotapes but no restoration work was carried out for this release.

The story was released on DVD in the UK on 3 October 2011. The single disc release has restored picture quality (unrestored clips, cropped and scanned into 16:9 ratio, can be seen in the "making of" featurette, giving some indication of the amount of work that was done), and contains four seconds which were missing from VHS and US masters of the story, restoring two lines of dialogue.[11] The DVD's special features included an audio commentary, text commentary, out-takes and a retrospective documentary entitled "IMC Needs You" in which cast and crew looked back at the making of the serial.[12]


  1. ^ Butler, David (2007). Time and Relative Dissertations in Space: Critical Perspectives on Doctor Who. Manchester University Press. ISBN 978-0-7190-7682-4.
  2. ^ a b Mulkern, Patrick (1 November 2009). "Doctor Who: Colony in Space". Radio Times. Retrieved 26 February 2013.
  3. ^ a b Howe, David J & Walker, Stephen James (1998). Doctor Who: The Television Companion (1st ed.). London: BBC Books. ISBN 978-0-563-40588-7.CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  4. ^ "Ratings Guide". Doctor Who News. Retrieved 28 May 2017.
  5. ^ Shaun Lyon; et al. (31 March 2007). "Colony in Space". Outpost Gallifrey. Archived from the original on 24 March 2006. Retrieved 31 August 2008.
  6. ^ Cornell, Paul; Day, Martin; Topping, Keith (1995). "Colony in Space". The Discontinuity Guide. London: Virgin Books. ISBN 0-426-20442-5.
  7. ^ Golder, Dave (30 September 2013). "Doctor Who: Colony in Space – DVD Review". SFX. Retrieved 26 February 2013.
  8. ^ Sinnott, John (9 December 2011). "Doctor Who: Colony in Space". DVD Talk. Retrieved 26 February 2013.
  9. ^ Anders, Charlie Jane (31 August 2010). "Greatest Doctor Who cliffhangers of all time!". io9. Retrieved 26 February 2013.
  10. ^ "Doctor Who and the Doomsday Weapon". Big Finish Productions. Retrieved 23 November 2012.
  11. ^ Marcus (21 July 2011). "Colony in Space DVD release for October". The Doctor Who News Page. Retrieved 22 July 2011.
  12. ^ "IMC Needs You! (Video 2011)".

External linksEdit

Target novelisationEdit