Colony in Space
Colony in Space was the fourth serial of season 8 of Doctor Who. It was narratively significant for being the first off-Earth story recorded in color. It was the first time any companion had traveled in the TARDIS with the Doctor since The War Games and therefore, Jo Grant’s first visit to another planet. It introduced the Interplanetary Mining Corporation (IMC), which would reappear in several stories in other media. The story also introduced a new model of the sonic screwdriver unique to the Third Doctor. He had mentioned having one in The Silurians, but this was its first physical appearance within a serial. Its debut here would preclude the more frequent, conventional use of the sonic screwdriver as the Doctor’s preferred gadget.
The Virgin Missing Adventures novel The Menagerie would retcon a link between The Space Pirates and Colony through the IMC. Subtextually, the script was Malcolm Hulke’s intentional science fictional comment on the struggle between European settlers and Native Americans. Colony was the first Doctor Who directorial assignment for Michael Briant, who had been a production assistant, amongst other roles, during the Innes Lloyd and Peter Bryant producerships. Briant would later direct some of the most iconic serials of the 1970s, including The Robots of Death and The Sea Devils.
The Time Lords find the Master has stolen their secret file on the Doomsday Weapon. They allow the Third Doctor temporary control of his TARDIS to deal with the situation. He is showing Jo around the TARDIS for the first time when it activates spontaneously and dematerializes. Jo is terrified at first, but the Doctor is excited at the prospect of being, temporarily at least, free from the bounds of imprisonment on Earth.
They arrive on the planet Uxarieus in the year 2472, where they find an agrarian colony from Earth, led by Ashe. Despite their uneasy truce with the mute Uxariean primitives, the colony struggles to survive; their crops are failing for no reason, the outer settlements are being attacked by a mysterious monster and they fear they will lose their charter in favor of the powerful and corrupt Interplanetary Mining Corporation (IMC). Some of the colonists wonder if they should return to Earth despite its horrible pollution, overpopulation, and repressive government.
A couple named Leeson is attacked and killed in their dome by the mysterious monster. When the colonists and the Doctor arrive at the dome, Ashe decides they will track the creatures in the morning.
Morale worsens when a disheveled man named Norton arrives, claiming to be the last survivor of another Earth colony beyond the mountains. He claims the monsters wiped out most of his fellows and the Uxarieans picked off the rest. The next morning the Doctor and Ashe arrive at the dome to investigate. After Ashe leaves, the Doctor is attacked by a huge robot.
An IMC foreman named Caldwell, holding a remote control, arrives and deactivates the robot. He apologises, claiming not to know the planet was inhabited. The Doctor accompanies Caldwell back to his ship. He meets the captain, Dent, who doesn’t seem to care that people have been killed, but only cares that Uxarieus is rich in duralinium, a much-needed mineral on Earth. He has Morgan accompany the Doctor back to the colony, but arranges for him to meet with “an accident.”
Winton shows Norton around the colony, and watch Jim, the chief engineer, repair the power generator with the help of a Uxarien primitive. Norton, actually an IMC operative, later returns and kills them both and sabotages the generator. He accuses the primitive of killing Jim and attacking himself before he killed it in self-defense.
Caldwell complains to Dent about his ruthless methods, but Dent politely reminds him of the vast sum of money he stands to make on this mission if he stays quiet and obedient.
Morgan and the Doctor investigate the Leeson dome. The Doctor announces that he knows that the monster attacks are fakes. Another IMC robot appears, now bearing a set of lizard-like claws. As it bears down on the Doctor, Morgan pulls a gun and remarks, “Purely business, you understand, nothing personal.”
When the robot attacks him, the Doctor lunges at Morgan, grabbing the remote control. Morgan runs off and the Doctor deactivates the robot.
Dent meets with Ashe and says he will send for an adjudicator to decide whose claim will be honored. The Doctor returns and explains that the ‘monster’ is actually an IMC robot with a holographic device to create the image of an enormous lizard. Dent returns to his ship and is warned by Norton that Jo and Winton are on their way to investigate his ship. When they arrive, they are captured.
The Doctor fixes the colony’s power supply and goes to the IMC ship to rescue Jo. Dent explains that Jo and Winton are attached to a bomb.
They manage to free themselves and escape with the assistance of Caldwell, who persuades the pursuing guards that he killed them. Caldwell helps Winton get back to the colony and advises the colonists to leave because it’s too dangerous to stay.
When Winton returns, the colonists want to attack the IMC ship. The Doctor urges them not to attack and goes to meet Caldwell. He tries to convince Caldwell to free Jo and tells Caldwell about the colonists’ attack plans. Caldwell thinks the colonists would be slaughtered if they attack.
Primitives attack the ship and take Jo away. The colonists reach the ship, with the Doctor and Winton sneaking in to find Jo. They succeed in taking the IMC guards prisoner. The Doctor learns Jo has been taken by the primitives to their underground city.
The Doctor plans to go to the Uxarieans to get Jo back. Winton, on the IMC ship, finds evidence that IMC are behind the monster attacks. The Adjudicator’s ship arrives and he wants both sides to prepare for him. Morgan overpowers Winton and releases the rest of the IMC guards.
Jo is taken to a room in the Uxarieans’ city that is filled with sophisticated equipment. The Doctor arrives at the Uxarieans’ city and offers them food if they will release Jo. They bring him into the city and lock him in with Jo. He speculates that there is more than one race of Uxarieans on the planet.
The Doctor and Jo learn they are to be sacrificed, and briefly escape from the nearly blind guards, but are recaptured. The Guardian, overseer of the city and the last of the ancient Uxarieans, meets with them and lets them go.
The Adjudicator has nearly finished his hearing when the Doctor and Jo arrive. They are shocked to discover that he is actually the Master. He meets with Jo and the Doctor privately, admitting he has forged credentials but they, on the other hand, have none. He returns to the hearing and rules in favour of IMC. Winton, against Ashe’s orders, wants to raid the IMC ship. He organizes his ambush but Norton warns the IMC men.
Ashe talks with the Adjudicator, who tells him an appeal will fail unless the planet has some historical value. Ashe tells him of the primitives and their city.
The IMC men arrive at the colony and the fighting begins. Caldwell sneaks away, refusing to fight. The Doctor and Jo try to stop the fighting but are threatened at gunpoint by the Master, who intends to make them the victim of “stray bullets.”
The Master hides his weapon when Ashe appears, trying to stop the fighting. The colonists gain the upper hand over the IMC men. They lock the IMC men up in their ship and force them to leave the planet.
The Doctor, seeing the Master’s interest in the Uxariean city, tells Ashe that he is not the real Adjudicator, but the Master then tells Ashe that the Doctor has no credentials. The Doctor decides to inspect the Adjudicator’s spaceship, which is the Master’s TARDIS. They find the real Adjudicator’s credentials and information on the planet, but as they leave the TARDIS they trip an alarm, alerting the Master, who releases a sleeping gas in the TARDIS that overpowers them.
Meanwhile, Dent has also learned that the Master is not the real Adjudicator. The Master gets a map of the city from Ashe, but learns that only the Doctor has been inside the city and returned. The Master revives the Doctor and uses Jo as a hostage so the Doctor will take him to the city.
The IMC ship, which has remained in orbit, lands, and the guards overpower Winton’s men. Another gunfight breaks out, and ultimately the colonists surrender. Dent holds a trial and finds them guilty. Instead of execution, he orders the colonists to depart in their decrepit spaceship, aware that it likely wouldn’t survive blastoff.
The Doctor and the Master arrive at the Uxariean city but don’t know how to open the door. Caldwell and Morgan try to search the Adjudicator’s ship, and find the key. When they go inside, they try to rescue Jo. This triggers an alarm, and the Master is ready to kill Jo.
The Doctor kicks the Master’s control device away, but they are both captured by the primitives and taken into the city. They are brought to the Guardian’s chamber, where the Master explains what he learned from the Time Lord files. The controls to the Doomsday Weapon, which can cause any star in the Universe to go supernova, are in the Guardian’s chamber. With this weapon, the Master would have absolute power over the Universe, and offers the Doctor a partnership. The Doctor, appalled, declines – he’d rather see the Universe than rule it. As the Master prepares to kill the Doctor, the Guardian once again appears.
Dent and his men make sure the colonists have boarded their ship. Caldwell has rescued Jo, but they both can only watch in horror as the colonists’ ship explodes shortly after takeoff. They attempt to rescue the Doctor in the underground city.
The Doctor successfully convinces the Guardian that the Doomsday Weapon is responsible for the decline and fall of the Uxariean civilization. The Guardian allows the Doctor and Master to leave and destroys himself, the Weapon, and the city. The Master escapes in his TARDIS, but the Doctor and Jo are overjoyed to learn that the colonists are safe; they escaped shortly before takeoff except for Ashe, who sacrificed himself to launch the ship. The colonists overpower Dent and his henchmen. With sufficient evidence of their illegal activity, thanks to Caldwell, they are confident the real Adjudicator will rule in their favor.
The radiation from the Doomsday Weapon was the cause of their crop failures, and the Doctor assures the colonists that their future is now secure. The TARDIS returns the Doctor and Jo to UNIT seconds after they left.