In "Smile", the Doctor lands at the site of a United Earth Colony, brought to the planet by the USS Erewhon. He describes this as one of the ships used to evacuate the Earth at the start of the Third Industrial Revolution.

BILL: I've got to know. The people who came here, were they the last people? Were they our last hope?

DOCTOR: Earth was evacuated. But there were a number of ships. I've bumped into a few of them over the years.

Presumably the Starship UK (seen in The Beast Below) was another of these ships, but I'm at a loss to think of any others that's he visited. Where and when has he encountered them and which nations did they represent?

  • 1
    The 1st Doctor story The Ark and the 5th Doctor story Frontios both involved human colonists that left Earth for some reason. I doubt we have enough information to prove whether or not those are part of the evacuation fleet referred to here (I'm guessing The Ark isn't because of the aliens fleeing with the humans, but who knows), but they seem worth mentioning. I think there are more I'm forgetting about. For all we know the Doctor is referring to episodes like that and isn't entirely sure himself if they're technically the same fleet.
    – Ixrec
    Commented May 1, 2017 at 15:19
  • @Ixrec "The Ark" is established to take place millions of years in Earth's future, which doesn't seem to mesh with the Erewhon's timeframe (though you're right that we can't be certain) Commented May 1, 2017 at 15:25

2 Answers 2


One possibility would be "The Ark in Space", from season 12 of the classic series (emphasis mine):

PA System: Hello, Space Station Nerva. This is the Earth High Minister. The fact that you are hearing my voice in a message recorded thousands of years before the day in which you are now living, is a sure sign that our great undertaking, the salvation of the human race, has been rewarded with success. You have slept longer than the recorded history of mankind, and you stand now at the dawn of a new age. You will return to an Earth purified by flame, a world that we cannot guess at. If it be arid, you must make it flourish. If it be stony, you must make it fertile.

Doctor Who Season 12 Episode 2: "The Ark in Space"

In fairness, it's not immediately clear that the Nerva is fleeing the same cataclysm as the Erewhon:

  • It's never made exactly clear what the Erewhon is fleeing from (though the book Bill finds suggests that war was a contributing factor), while the Nerva is explicitly fleeing intense solar flares
  • The Nerva was launched with the intent of eventually repopulating the Earth, while the Erewhon was sent to establish a new colony

While boring as an answer, it also bears mentioning that the Doctor is fond of Noodle Incidents1, 2; it's entirely possible (even likely) that he's run into dozens of colony ships in off-screen adventures.

1 Which is actually kind of appropriate, when you think about it

2 And yes, okay, that tired old meme: link to TVTropes, insert humorous acknowledgment here


The Doctor has encountered ships with residents of Earth who were sent away to avoid/survive some sort of disaster on a number of occasions. I haven't seen the episode in question yet, so it's possible that he's explicitly referring to other ships escaping from the same situation, or to ships of Earth evacuees in general.

I think the earliest recorded encounter with a similar ship (residents of Earth evacuated to avoid/survive some sort of disaster), was The Ark (Original series 3, story 6; the First Doctor, Steve, and Dodo).

The next similar example is the already-mentioned The Ark In Space (Original series 12, story 2; the Fourth Doctor, Sarah Jane, and Harry). However, the Nerva space station was actually still in our solar system (I want to say it was in orbit around Earth, but I can't recall for certain, or find a comment to back that up; however, they're using transmit technology to get to Earth at the end of the story, and every time we've seen that technology in the past (like The Seeds of Death) it's being used for in-system transportation, not interstellar).

Then there's Frontios (Original series 21, story 3; Fifth Doctor, Tegan, Turlough); that's not a ship, but a "distant planet where some of the last vestiges of humanity are struggling to survive" (from the Wikipedia entry.

In the revived series, along similar lines, we have:

  • New Earth (New series 2, story 1; Tenth Doctor and Rose; planet where humanity resettled after the Earth was destroyed in the distant future);
  • Utopia (New series 3, story 11; Tenth Doctor, Martha, and Captain Jack; last remnants of humanity are trying to get to a place called Utopia; no spaceship involved);
  • The Beast Below (New series 5, story 2; Eleventh Doctor and Amy; spaceship holding UK evacuees avoiding the death of Earth's sun [presumably from the same event as New Earth]);
  • Dinosaurs on a Spaceship (New Series 7, story 2; Eleventh Doctor, Amy and Rory; spaceship used as a space ark by Earth's older "ruling" species, the Silurians; form the Doctor's perspective, it might fit perfectly in with these others).

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