Hello everyone, the Historian here with our latest wrapup post. It's been said (well, I've read it, anyway) that "The Space Museum" has only one real problem: episodes two, three and four.
No, in all seriousness, this story is not generally well thought of by fans, and it's not hard to see why. Although it has some interesting ideas, they are trapped within a dull, lifeless mess, with leaden dialogue and mostly uninspired acting. Richard Shaw as Lobos, a cockney actor trying desperately to sound posh, is a particularly egregious example of the latter, that's for sure, though the whiny delivery from future Star Wars icon Jeremy Bulloch (in a very early role) isn't much better. The script doesn't do that actors any favors; the plot has numerous nonsensical moments (the supposed paralyzing gas, for example!) and spends much of its time going in incredibly uninteresting circles, and I can't envy the actors who tried (or, in some cases, didn't bother to try) to make something of Glyn Jones' dialogue. (The number of times we got one of the regulars saying a variant of "We must have changed our future!" only to be answered by another saying, "But what if we didn't...") The design, too, is dull. Sure, we have an alien planet and a gigantic museum, but it all looks so incredibly drab, with the exception of the cool and varied old space ships we see in a few very brief moments in episode one and the armory and freezing computers, which looked kinda cool with the blinking lights and all that. Even the "ray guns" (can you believe that's what the Moloks and Xerons actually referred to them as?) look a bit shoddy. And the costume/make-up design...well, the less said about that, the better, I think.
It's not all bad, of course; there are some very interesting ideas buried deeply in there. The question of destiny is one that all time travel stories need to deal with eventually; if you find out what your future is, can you change it? Or are you trapped? Is this a determinist universe, or does every decision change our destiny? After all, this is the Doctor who told his companions that history cannot be changed, and what is "history" to a time traveller? And, being Doctor Who, the story tries to bring the subject up in a potentially interesting way with the whole "skipped time track/here before we've arrived" thing. Indeed, it's that idea that's made the first episode...not quite a favorite among fans, but at least not as disliked as the rest of the story. Interestingly, the Project members (with the exception of yours truly) didn't like the first episode or the "skipping a time track" thing at all, finding it unnecessarily confusing--a lot of which was due to the script and some really bad fluffs from the actors, I think. (After all, most of the Project members hadn't seen this story before!) Still, the idea of destiny is an interesting one...but it gets buried in dullness and hammered in without subtlety in conversations between the regulars that go round and round, ending up nowhere.
There were fun moments, of course. Hartnell overpowering his Xeron guard and peeping out of the Dalek was the absolute highlight of episode two, with the Doctor's manipulation of Lobos' mind machine being a secondary one. And then Hartnell's line about having a conscience in episode four...in fact, it's really mainly when the Doctor is front and center that we get interesting things happening on screen--though Maureen O'Brien's Vicki has a few decent moments as well. And, of course, there's that fantastic cliffhanger at the end...the Daleks have a time machine??? Must have been absolutely mind-blowingly scary to kids in 1965!
Regardless of a few fun moments and some interesting ideas, there's no question that "The Space Museum" is not an exciting story, or (I hate to say this) even a very good one. And, looking back at the past few stories, it's one in a series of stories that don't quite work. The regular characters are still all wonderful, but it's possible that the chemistry between them, the familiarity of them, isn't working to make exciting stories as much as it used to. It could almost be time for some sort of shake up or change.....
Here are the individual episode posts, for your edification (or something):
"The Space Museum"
"The Dimensions of Time"
"The Final Phase"
And, if you're interested in more information about this story, here's backstage info from Shannon Sullivan's site and here's the official BBC episode guide entry.
This weekend, we leave the planet Xeros behind as the Doctor and company lead the time travel-enabled Daleks on a merry Chase, starting in the timestream and ending...? Until then, I remain