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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)

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.

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), who featured as the Doctor's enemy throughout that season, arrives in search of an ancient doomsday weapon created by the natives of the planet.


Three Time Lords discuss the theft of confidential files relating to "the Doomsday Weapon." They realise that only the Third Doctor can help them, so he is sent to the desert planet of Uxarieus in the year 2472. There he finds an outpost of human colonists struggling to make a living as farmers. The colony's governor, Robert Ashe, welcomes them.

Two colonists die in a reptile attack that night. The Doctor investigates and discovers the deaths are in fact the work of operatives from the Interplanetary Mining Corporation, attempting to scare off the colonists so it can mine the planet for rare minerals. An Adjudicator from Earth is sent for to deal with the complex claims over the planet. The Adjudicator, actually The Master in disguise, rules that the mining company's claim to the planet is stronger. IMC takes over the colony and demands all the colonists leave the planet.

The Master tells the Doctor that the native people of Uxarieus, known as the "primitives," were once an advanced civilisation. Before declining, they built a super-weapon that was never used and The Master wants this weapon for himself. The Doctor rejects the Master's overture to help him rule the galaxy using the weapon. One of the elder primitives instructs the Doctor to activate the self-destruct, which he does, and the city begins to crumble.

The colonists now emerge from hiding and kill or overpower the IMC men. 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. Earth has agreed to send a real Adjudicator to Uxarieus. The Doctor and Jo return to the TARDIS, returning to UNIT Headquarters mere seconds after it left.


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.[1] 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 analysis

The story functions as social commentary – in this instance, the dangers of colonialism.[2] 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.[3] 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.[4]

Broadcast and reception

EpisodeTitleRun timeOriginal air dateUK viewers
(millions) [5]
Archive [6]
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."[7] 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.[4]

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.[3] 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".[8] 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.[9] 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.[10]

Commercial releases

In print

Doctor Who and the Doomsday Weapon
Doctor Who and the Doomsday Weapon.jpg
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.[11]

Home media

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.[12] 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.[13]

This story, along with the rest of Season 8 was released on Blu-ray on 23 February 2021, to coincide with the 50th Anniversary of The Master. It features a brand new restoration of the available film and video material. The 2011 DVD-release episodes were included as extras.


  1. ^ "Doctor Who: Colony in Space Review". Retrieved 20 December 2021.
  2. ^ Butler, David (2007). Time and Relative Dissertations in Space: Critical Perspectives on Doctor Who. Manchester University Press. ISBN 978-0-7190-7682-4.
  3. ^ a b Mulkern, Patrick (1 November 2009). "Doctor Who: Colony in Space". Radio Times. Retrieved 26 February 2013.
  4. ^ 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.((cite book)): CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  5. ^ "Ratings Guide". Retrieved 28 May 2017.
  6. ^ Shaun Lyon; et al. (31 March 2007). "Colony in Space". Outpost Gallifrey. Archived from the original on 24 March 2006. Retrieved 31 August 2008.
  7. ^ Cornell, Paul; Day, Martin; Topping, Keith (1995). "Colony in Space". The Discontinuity Guide. London: Virgin Books. ISBN 0-426-20442-5.
  8. ^ Golder, Dave (30 September 2013). "Doctor Who: Colony in Space – DVD Review". SFX. Retrieved 26 February 2013.
  9. ^ Sinnott, John (9 December 2011). "Doctor Who: Colony in Space". DVD Talk. Retrieved 26 February 2013.
  10. ^ Anders, Charlie Jane (31 August 2010). "Greatest Doctor Who cliffhangers of all time!". io9. Retrieved 26 February 2013.
  11. ^ "Doctor Who and the Doomsday Weapon". Big Finish Productions. Retrieved 23 November 2012.
  12. ^ Marcus (21 July 2011). "Colony in Space DVD release for October". The Doctor Who News Page. Retrieved 22 July 2011.
  13. ^ "IMC Needs You! (Video 2011)".

Target novelisation