Before this: The Crusade
Season 2, Episode 7: The Space Museum
The Space Museum is the seventh serial of the second season of Doctor Who, and comes in four parts.
If you watch classic Doctor Who or have been following Doctor Who Sundays, you’ll notice that while new Who, and particularly Moffat’s Doctor Who, is often heavy on the time travel (including parallel timelines, split timelines and the like), classic Who tends to be less concerned about the nitty gritty of time and more interested in the way the TARDIS lends itself to participating in adventures at different points in time and space.
The Space Museum is an episode that does feature a bit of time travel trickery – the time travellers experience some strange events as they land on the planet of Xeros, primarily the experience of seeing everything around them but not being seen. It turns out that they’ve jumped time tracks – not quite the brain-bendingly paradoxical twists and turns of the Moffat era, but an interesting thing to think about. They find themselves in a museum exhibit, and realise that unless they change the future, they will ultimately find themselves frozen forever. Unfortunately, while the time track spookiness is the coolest part of this story, it’s also more or less resolved by the first episode. However, the museum exhibits still worry them the rest of the story, and they have to figure out which lines of action will take them away from their frozen future.
I’ve found that classic Doctor Who tends to explore more political issues than new Who, and this episode is a good example. While there is some creepy museum-y stuff (chief among them being their doubles frozen in a museum case), which I wish this episode could have explored more, the overarching plot is that of revolution. The reigning powers, the Moroks, are the older generation who guard over a crumbling empire’s stagnant museum and are intent on keeping the younger generation, the Xerons, down. The Xerons are the native people of Xeros, which has been taken over by the Moroks, and while there’s a decent sized native population, they don’t have the weaponry or audacity to take on the despots.
It’s a pretty overdone story, but the best part of it all is Vicki, who is gloriously vibrant in this story: she more or less incites the Xerons to revolution. Don’t mess with Vicki.
Now, this was a cracker of an episode. It started eerily, and it then evolved into a revolutionary tale. I feel that the first episode, which was radically different to the other episodes, was the best part of the story, but the other parts are equally awesome. It seems to be a common trait amongst these early stories that the stories are engaging, interesting and well written (with one or two dishonourable mentions), even when the graphics (and sometimes the acting – there are some pretty wooden minor characters) aren’t fully up to par. However, in regards to most First Doctor stories, this would be one of the ones you have to watch – certainly amongst the top 5.
The beginning of the story is quite odd, and at times quite artistic. The companions land on a strange planet after the TARDIS malfunctions (this seems to be a trend in First Doctor stories), but things appear to be unusual. They eventually run into themselves ñ an alternative future verison of themselves, in which they have become exhibits in a gigantic space museum. Eventually, their past catches up with them, and they find themselves entangled in a revolution in an almost Roman Empire style system. It is intriguing, and the tension is kept up throughout the entire story with a race against the clock, and every step the companions take could take them closer to the bleak future as exhibits. However, all is not doom and gloom, and humour manages to make its way into the story ñ the clearest example being when the Doctor hides inside a Dalek shell to escape his captors.
One problem that the episode has was the villains (and indeed, some of the good guys) looked very similar – they all had the same uniforms the same hairstyles and even similar voices. This wasn’t helped by the fact that the grainy black and white footage wasn’t the highest of quality (at least compared with today’s movies). But that being said, that was the only real flaw in the story. The pace was fantastic ñ it started eerie and then managed to pick up speed, while not sacrificing any of the storyline. The characters were all developed, and had aims and goals (Vicki was super adorable, befriending revolutionaries and inspiring a revolution – who says the Classic Who women are useless?), and they were all enjoyable to watch interact. Some of the acting was a little dubious (a few wooden actors), but other than that, it was very well produced.
In summary, a very good episode, with a splendid combination of humour and pathos. Excellently paced, it managed to keep a high level of tension, and also explored (admittedly in a light fashion) some philosophical notions, such as fate (were the companions always destined to end up as exhibits, even when their actions were designed to stop that eventuality?). Definitely worth watching for any Whovian, and probably should be watched by New Whovians as an example of how strong 1st Doctor stories can be.