Who Review – Colony in Space

Posted by Richo On January 15, 2013 ADD COMMENTS

Welcome to the thirty-second instalment of Who Review, my ongoing quest to review all available episodes of TV’s longest running SF series, Doctor Who. This week, the Doctor’s exile on Earth is temporarily lifted as the Time Lords send him to the travels to explore the mystery of the Colony in Space.


Colony in Space


10 April – 15 May 1971


Jon Pertwee


Jo Grant


Three Time Lords gather at an observatory to discuss the theft of their secret files on the ‘Doomsday Weapon’. They reluctantly agree that only the Doctor can assist them in this matter and that they must temporarily end his exile on Earth.

Meanwhile, the Doctor is showing Jo around the TARDIS for the first time when the time machine spontaneously activates. Although Jo is terrified, the Doctor cannot contain his excitement over the (albeit temporary) release from exile.

The TARDIS arrives on the planet Uxarieus in the year 2472, where the Doctor and Jo find an agrarian colony of humans. Their leader, Ashe, explains that the colonists fled Earth due to overpopulation and pollution. They maintain an uneasy truce with the native Uxarieans, a race of primitive mutes. Unfortunately, the colony is struggling, their crops failing for no reason, and the outer settlements are under attack by a mysterious lizard monster. The colonists are also fearful of losing their colonial charter to the powerful but corrupt Interplanetary Mining Corporation (IMC), who seek to exploit the planet’s rich mineral reserves.

When the monster strikes again, killing a colonist couple in their outer settlement dome, Ashe makes plans to track the monster down the following morning. Morale is steadily worsening in the colony, with many of the settlers questioning whether they should return to Earth. Matters are made worse by the arrival of a disheveled man named Norton, who claims to be the sole survivor of a second Earth colony beyond the mountains. He claims that the monster wiped out most of his fellow colonists and the Uxarieans killed the survivors.

The next morning, Ashe and the Doctor make their way to the site of the previous day’s attack to investigate. Ashe leaves, and the Doctor is suddenly set upon by a huge robot. Fortunately, he is saved by Caldwell, an IMC scientist who is controlling the robot by remote control. Caldwell takes him to meet Captain Dent, the ruthless IMC commander whose only concern is for the planet’s minerals. Caldwell is clearly at odds with Dent’s approach. Dent has a soldier named Morgan return the Doctor to the colony, but the captain also programs the robot to attack the Doctor.

Meanwhile, a Colonist named Wintongive Norton a tour of their facility. Afterwards, Norton uses the knowledge he has gained to sabotage the colony generator, killing a colonist and the Uxariean working alongside him. He then accuses the primitive of killing the colonist and attacking him, before he killed the Uxariean in self-defence.

The Doctor and Morgan arrive at the colony, only for Morgan to pull a gun on him. The robot attacks, but the Doctor manages to get the remote control from Morgan and stop the assault. Morgan flees.

Ashe and Captain Dent meet at the colony, and the Captain explains that he has sent for an independent adjudicator to resolve the matter of who has rightful claim to the planet. The Doctor arrives and reveals that the so-called lizard monster is actually an IMC robot with a holographic device. Dent returns to his ship.

Meanwhile, Jo and Winton make their way to Dent’s ship to investigate, but they are captured and left in a cave with a bomb. With the aid of Caldwell, Winton manages to escape. He makes his way back to the colony and explains what has happened. The colonists prepare to attack the IMC ship.

Hoping to avoid violence, the Doctor pleads with them not to attack. Unfortunately, he buys only enough time to visit Caldwell, and he attempts to convince the scientist to free Jo. The colonists arrive and join the Doctor. Together they sneak into the IMC ship and take some IMC guards prisoner. Winton finds evidence of IMC complacency in the giant lizard attacks on the colonists.

Unfortunately, the primitive Uxarieans also attack the ship and take Jo prisoner. They carry her down into their underground city, a city filled with sophisticated but unused technology. The Doctor pursues them down into the catacombs and bargains for Jo’s release. He too is taken prisoner. They are taken before The Guardian, overseer of the city and the last of the ancient Uxarieans, who allows them to go free.

Above, the adjudicator finally arrives at the colony dome. It is The Master! He begins proceedings and is close to reaching a verdict when the Doctor and Jo return. He meets with them briefly and confirms the Doctor’s suspicions that he has forged identification and is not the true adjudicator. He then returns to the hearing, ruling in favour of IMC.

Later, he meets with Ashe and tells him that any attempt to appeal the decision will fail unless the planet has some historical value. Ashe tells him of the Uxariean city.

The IMC soldiers arrive at the colony and fighting breaks out between them and the colonists. The colonists defeat and imprison them. However, reinforcements from an IMC ship in orbit overwhelm the colonists and they are forced to surrender. Dent puts them on trial and. After finding them guilty, orders them to leave the planet.

Meanwhile, the Doctor and Jo sneak onto the Adjudicator’s ship, which is actually the Master’s disguised TARDIS. Unfortunately, they trip off an alarm, activating gas that knocks them unconscious.

The Master manages to get a map of the ancient city from Ashe, but when Ashe reveals that only the Doctor has actually been to the city, the Master reluctantly wakes him. He uses Jo as a hostage to force the Doctor to take him to the city. They arrive but are taken captive by the native Uxarieans.

Taken to a waiting room, the Master reveals that he has learned from the stolen Time Lord files of the existence of a Doomsday Weapon hidden within the city. He has manipulated the entire IMC/colonist situation to gain access to this weapon.

Back above, Dent forces the colonists to board their ship and leave the planet. As the ship takes off, it explodes, seemingly killing the colonists.

Caldwell, meanwhile, manages to rescue the captive Jo from the Master’s TARDIS. They make their way down into the Uxarieans city to rescue the Doctor.

In the Guardian’s chamber below, the Doctor and the Master discover the Doomsday Weapon, a device that can cause any sun to go supernova. The Master plans to use the weapon to conquer the universe. To stop him, the Doctor convinces the Guardian that the Weapon is responsible for the downfall of the Uxariean civilization. The Guardian allows them to go free before destroying himself, the Weapon and the Uxariean city.

Returning to the surface, the Master manages to escape. However, the Doctor and Jo discover that the colonists have survived the destruction of their ship, having escaped before the explosion. Only Ashe has died, sacrificing himself to save his people.

The colonists overpower Dent and his soldiers, reclaiming the colony. With the evidence they have gathered against Dent and IMC, the colonists are confident that the real adjudicator will rule in their favour. The Doctor informs them that the radiation from the Doomsday Weapon was the cause of their crop failure, and with the Weapon destroyed the colony should now thrive.

With the matter resolved, the TARDIS returns the Doctor and Jo to Earth, mere seconds after their departure.


Sometimes you don’t realize how much you miss something until it returns. Colony in Space is the Doctor’s first trip into space since his exile in The War Games. While I’ve thoroughly enjoyed The Doctor’s time on Earth and his service with UNIT, I’ve missed seeing him explore new planets and cultures. Colony is Space is a reminder of just how wondrous and imaginative the Who universe can be.

There’s a sense that this episode is the first attempt to test the waters, so to speak, to see whether a return to space stories is a viable option. If so, the test is a resounding success creatively and commercially, with significantly higher ratings than the previous storylines.

However, it isn’t just the space journey that makes this story stand out. Colony in Space is a strong return to form after the somewhat lackluster efforts of The Claws of Axos. The story is complex and compelling, with a strong supporting cast, a tight plot and a powerful social message. The story of the battle between the struggling colonists and the greedy corporate mining moguls is as relevant today as it was in 1971, as is the manipulation of these tensions by a third party seeking personal gain at the expense of others.

Unlike The Claws of Axos, the presence of The Master in Colony is beautifully handled. Here, he is back to being the master manipulator, and the buildup to his entry into the story – the revelation that he is the much-anticipated adjudicator – is beautifully executed.

Notwithstanding The Claws of Axos, the Pertwee era has generally been one of solid to excellent storytelling. However, I’ve been waiting for a genuinely classic storyline to come along, one defining tale that would fully realize the full potential of this era. Colony in Space is that story.


It’s refreshing to see the Doctor once again in his element, exploring a strange new world and unlocking the mysteries that world represents. It’s a reminder of what makes the character, and the show, so great. Jon Pertwee perfectly captures the joy and exuberance the Doctor has at finally being freed from his exile; gone is the slightly more cynical, sometimes bitter, version of the Doctor we’ve seen in the past, replaced with a man who is completely in his element and reveling in it.

His interactions with the Master and their continuing battle, both physical and psychological, are fast becoming a highlight of the series.


This is Jo Grant’s first journey into space and her first look at the TARDIS itself. Her adjustment to the nature and experience of time travel is very well handled and very natural. Her trepidation during the initial jaunt, her revelation that she never truly believed the Doctor’s claim to be an alien time traveller and her subsequent wonder at being on another planet all help to endear the viewer to the character in a way that previous episodes have failed to do. While Jo has slowly been growing on me, it’s not until Colony that she finally comes into her own as a companion.


After an awkward and somewhat lacklustre showing in The Claws of Axos, The Master is once again back to his manipulative best, exploiting the tensions between the colonists and IMC to his own ends with no regard for the damage he is causing others. He preys on the fear, mistrust and insecurities of his victims, exploiting every weakness. This is easily his finest showing to date and it’s a joy to watch his development as a villain. With Colony, he has truly been elevated to the status of the Doctor’s second greatest nemesis after the Daleks.

Unlike some of his previous efforts, his plan to obtain the Doomsday Weapon is not only ingenious but also logical; a weapon of such power and magnitude would indeed allow him to conquer the universe.


Colony is Space is, in essence, a near-perfect Doctor Who story, combining all of the best elements of a classic Who story.

5 Lukes


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