Doctor Who: The Space Museum (UK - DVD R2)
The Wilson Bros' house is a Space Museum when people come to see 'em
NOTE: THIS IS PART TWO OF A TWO-PART REVIEW
After leaving 12th century Palestine, the Doctor, Ian, Barbara and Vicki find themselves caught up in a unique temporal anomaly—the Doctor describes it as the TARDIS ‘jumping a time-track’—and they materialise on the planet Xeros. Mysterious events occur within the TARDIS—Vicki drops and breaks a glass, only for it to almost magically reform and jump back into her hand; the clothes they were all wearing have been instantly changed and when they venture out onto the planet surface, they leave no footprints in the dusty environment.
They eventually find their way into a museum, filled with exhibits that chart the bloodthirsty conquests of the Moroks, who have invaded Xeros and claimed it as their own. Amongst the exhibits, which include a Dalek, the TARDIS crew discover the most horrifying ones of all—themselves.
The race is now on to avoid the future that the temporal anomaly has shown them and this is further complicated when a band of young revolutionaries, who were enslaved by the Moroks when their planet was overrun, decide to overthrow the occupying Moroks once and for all.
The Space Museum has a fascinating premise—that the Doctor and his companions have a glimpse of their own destinies and must do whatever they can to avoid this bleak future. Interesting questions and possibilities are brought up during the story, such as Barbara musing on whether trying to alter the future would actually lead them to the future that they have seen. There are many people who write The Space Museum off as being just another duff Hartnell-era futuristic story, but there are also others who love the premise and even think that the first episode is great, but dislike the rest of the story. It is certainly true that The Space Museum features one of the strongest episodes of a story in Doctor Who history (the holder of that particular crown is An Unearthly Child) and it establishes a sense of mystery that borders on the surreal at times.
Though Ian and Barbara were to leave at the end of the next story, both William Russell and Jacqueline Hill both show no signs of fatigue or boredom, turning in their usual strong and interesting performances. As mentioned earlier, Barbara is the logical voice of reason amongst our protagonists, with Hill relishing the chance to be taking the lead in this story, constantly questioning whether the actions they take will change their foreseen future, or if they will merely accelerate what will happen to them. This story would arguably be the last time that Hill would be able to get her teeth into such interesting material, as the next story, The Chase, would be a light and frothy adventure that would see her (and Russell’s) departure from the show.
William Russell himself gets to be fairly dashing in this story, with plenty of action and scrapes to get himself in and out of, plus the odd moment of humour is found in such a bleak situation. At one point, Russell is seen physically carrying William Hartnell—there are doubtless those who thought that at times, Russell and the other main members of the cast had been doing that for quite a while.
The prospect of effectively being embalmed and put on display for all eternity in a museum is a pretty creepy one and this grim premise hangs over the heads of the main characters throughout the story and serves as a strong motivational device for the quartet. At the end of the second episode, the Doctor is interrogated by the iron-fisted Morok Governor Lobos (Richard Shaw) and whisked away to the ‘Preparation Room’, which serves as both and effective cliff-hanger and also another reason…
As with many sixties Doctor Who stories, at least one episode sees one member of the cast disappear for an episode (or two in some cases) so the actor can take a holiday. William Hartnell is the cast member in question, dematerialising at the start of episode three, appearing briefly during the recap from the previous instalment. When call-sheets for episode three said ‘Billy—Holiday’, there were probably those who thought that an American jazz singer was guesting for the episode.
William Hartnell is in his element here—Verity Lambert once described the Doctor as being very much an antiestablishment figure and it is in The Space Museum that he really gets to go nose-to-nose with an authoritarian—Lobos—and you see both his impish side and his sense of moral outrage working to great effect. Hartnell may wrestle with his lines now and again during this story (in episode one, he doesn’t so much wrestle with the word ‘fluorescent’, more has it in a headlock with greased-up arms), but he’s still magnificent when on top form, as he is during the interrogation scene. If there is one criticism about Hartnell’s performance in The Space Museum, it’s that he seems to rely far too much on his usual ‘hmm?’ and his mischievous chuckle, which seems to signal that he is having trouble remembering his lines.
Maureen O’Brien is better than usual as Vicki, being given a stronger role than usual, being the prime motivator in the long-brewing revolution of the Xerons. O’Brien seems to sink her teeth into this role, exhibiting a sense of glee when she encourages the repressed Xerons to finally do something about their Morok oppressors. Vicki also takes on a hostile computer in a manner that would make future companion Zoe proud. Oh, and Vicki looks very cute in those knee-socks…
Actor Jeremy Bulloch appears here as Tor—this was many years before he was to take on a role that he would be linked with for the rest of his career, a part that many young people would identify with and even go so far as to having him tattooed upon their torsos—that role was Gil Masters in Can You Keep it up for a Week? Just kidding! We are, of course, speaking of Boba Fett in The Empire Strikes Back. Bulloch would later go on to appear in the Jon Pertwee story, The Time Warrior. It is interesting that Bulloch does not appear on any of the extras for this DVD release of The Space Museum, which is odd because the guys behind the extras try and contact anyone still alive connected with each particular story; Mr Bulloch is certainly not one to shy away from talking about his past work—possibly he was too busy doing selling signed photos at autograph conventions, or maybe he was just on a summer holiday at the time.
Speaking of Doctor Whoconnections, The Space Museum features Peter Craze as Dako another of the eager young revolutionaries; Craze would later appear in Patrick Troughton’s swansong, The War Games and also in Tom Baker’s The Nightmare of Eden. Craze was also the brother of Michael Craze, who would later go on to play regular companion Ben Jackson.
The subject of revolution and freedom-fighters can be very dubious if not handled correctly, as one man’s freedom-fighter and another man’s terrorist, but it is handled here in a way that makes it difficult to view the subjugated Xerons in anything less than a favourable manner. It is easy to see the Xerons as the young generation trying to overthrow the harsh and austere older generation—which was what was essentially happening at the time the show was made with the permissive era. The Moroks are young, dressed in black and have fancy haircuts and footwear (almost coming across as Beatniks) whereas the Moroks are military-like and wear formal clothing—this interesting reversal of the traditional ‘good guys wear white, bad guys where black’ was popularised by the Italian Westerns that were emerging around this time. It is also possible to see the Moroks as the British Empire and the planet Xeros as a British colony, with unrest growing among the repressed natives and eventually bringing about revolution—this is typified by the destruction of the main authority building at the end of the story.
As the TARDIS dematerialises, their presence is detected and an order is given to follow them across time and space, leading to the final adventure for schoolteachers Ian Chesterton and Barbara Wright…
This is something of a mixed-bag - episode two looks pretty poor, with wobbly borderlines and a generally out-of-focus look to it. This is where the problem lies with the film copies made by the BBC in the sixties—they were transferred by comparatively crude means that amounted to little more than putting a camera up against a screen and filming it. The individual episodes posed all manner of problems, but the Restoration Team have cleaned them up as much as humanly possible and the results are infinitely better than the old VHS release, with episode one looking rather nice, which is great because it’s a wonderful instalment. There are certain problems that as yet cannot be corrected, but these are comparatively minor and don’t detract from the story—this is another great effort from the RT.
It’s as good as can be expected, but the restoration work has made it sound as good as humanly possible, with dialogue clear and distinct.
Audio commentary: Actors William Russell and Maureen O’Brien are joined by writer Glyn Jones to talk about the story. What makes this commentary more interesting is that it is moderated by the one and only Peter Purves, who helps to keeps things moving briskly. O’Brien had largely stayed out of the Doctor Who limelight for decades after leaving the show and she exhibits a decidedly blunt attitude here and is highly critical of many aspects of the story here—straight out of the gate, O’Brien criticises the hair and wardrobe of the characters, saying that it looked dated even then. Writer Glyn Jones is even more critical of the story than O'Brien, complaining about the alterations made to his script. Speaking of Purves—at one point, he mischievously turns his attention to the subject of Hartnell’s trouble at remembering lines; though it’s very amusing to listen to, one can’t help thinking that maybe Purves should have kept this particular peek up Doctor Who’s production skirt to himself. This is fabulously entertaining stuff and the Purvis/O'Brien teaming is the 60s Who commentary equivalent of Davison and Fielding.
Defending the Museum: This little featurette clocks in at just under ten minutes and has New-Who writer Rob Shearman mounting a defence for this particular Doctor Who story, which he feels has been unfairly maligned over the years. It really should have been called Half-heartedly Defending the Museum, as good ol’ Rob dislikes episodes two, three and four, along with the Moroks and the Xerons, and one or two other things for good measure. Shearman is as witty as always and makes helps makes this fun viewing.
My Grandfather, The Doctor: Jessica Carney takes centre stage for this collection of memories about her real-life grandfather, William Hartnell. Carney touches upon her grandfather’s love of the role, how he would take great pride in doing personal appearances in character (something that his successor was very reluctant to do). There are numerous pictures of Hartnell, showing him at home and on-set - this is a lovely little featurette and Carney’s sense of pride for her grandfather is very much evident.
A Holiday for the Doctor: Veteran actress and luvvie Ida Barr (played by Christopher Green) recalls her encounters with the Doctor Who cast during the 1960s and eventually gets to explain how members of the cast would be written out of the show in order for them to take holidays.
Comedy skits for a show with a huge devoted following are always tricky to get right and when our review of The Masque of Mandragora was posted here on DVDActive, we found out that our reasonable criticism of the comedy featurette Beneath the Masque had irritated one of the guys responsible for the content on Doctor Who discs. We personally felt that Beneath the Masque managed to get a hit-to-miss ratio of about 50/50, but there are others who love it—it’s all matter of personal taste.
For Holiday for the Doctor we have decided to step aside as far as critiquing this comedy skit is concerned; instead, we asked a friend of ours (who is a hardened sixties Who fan) to watch a Holiday for the Doctor and what follows are some of his thoughts as the featurette unfolded before his very eyes…
Quote: ’…this is horrible – why have a guy dressed up in drag? It’s crass—it’s absolute pants… they’re trying to make something that kids today might find funny, but if they’re looking at this, even they’d find it crap. Comedy can either go two way—like this, which is crap, or it can be funny, and this isn’t funny. This is dire. This is like watching a Little Britain sketch that hasn’t been thought through properly… I want to thump this bloke, seriously, or he’s a very good actor and he’s meant to be irritating and he’s pulling it off so well that people just want to... beat the crap out of him. This isn’t funny…’
For those of you who are still unsure as to whether or not he enjoyed it—he wasn’t that great a fan, but he reluctantly conceded that the final gag was amusing.
Photo gallery: As always, a series of images from this particular story are presented, but this time, the images are moving, slowly zooming in, which makes for a more interesting visual style.
Production Subtitles: As with the photo gallery, the production subtitles are a staple of all Doctor Who releases, providing you with a vast amount of information about the production of the show and various other fascinating bits and pieces.
PDF Materials: Pop this disc into your PC and you will be able to view not only the individual episode listings in the Radio Times, but you also get a mini article previewing the story.
Coming Soon: A trailer for the forthcoming Myths and Legends set, which is a novel idea of cramming three almost universally reviled Doctor Who stories into one handy box-set.
The Space Museum may be looked upon by some fans as something that could have been better if more focused after its’ initial premise (in the Peter Cook mould), but it’s a wonderful premise and even though the subsequent episodes—emphasising the revolutionary romp aspect—couldn’t possibly live up to the first one, it’s still fun to watch as the TARDIS crew try to avoid getting stuffed—oh, and the final scene, which is a cliff-hanger in itself is fabulous. Recommended.
Review by Wilson Bros
General viewing, but some scenes may be unsuitable for young children
Release Date: 1st March 2010
Disc Type: Single side, dual layer
Audio: Dolby Digital Mono English
Extras: Defending the Muesum Featurette, Audio Commentary, A Holiday for the Doctor Featurette, Photo Gallery, Production Subtitles, PDF Materials, Coming Soon Trailer
Easter Egg: No
Director: Mervyn Pinfield
Cast: William Hartnell, William Russell, Jacqueline Hill, Maureen O'Brien
Length: 96 minutes
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