Doctor Who #68: The Space Museum

"Time... like space... although a dimension in itself... also has dimensions of its own."
TECHNICAL SPECS: Part 1 of The Space Museum, available on DVD, packaged with The Chase. First aired Apr.24 1965.

IN THIS ONE... The TARDIS arrives at the Space Museum, but its crew has jumped a time track and now one can see them, until they find themselves in museum cases and sync up.

REVIEW: Today, so-called "timey-whimey" stories are Doctor Who's bread and butter. And they uses to big good for Star Trek too, until Voyager and Enterprise started using them too much. But early Doctor Who? I wish they didn't. Now, I'm all for seeing The Space Museum through the positive lens introduced by Rob Shearman in the DVD documentary (and in his book, Running Through Corridors), but those elements don't really kick in until the next episode. This is the exploration of a new environment episode, the "what the hell is going on?" episode. And even if I accept Rob's vision of the story as a sort of parody of such stories (and I do), the direction really lets it down. That's why we need to be convinced of the merits of Glyn Jones' script. No wonder, the director is Mervyn Pinfield who also gave us The Sensorites and Planet of Giants. Expect blank, empty, cardboard-looking sets, some measure of technical achievement (in-camera phasing effects), and little focus on performance or making sense of the science involved.

We get a LOT of temporal shenanigans, so many in fact, that you'd reasonably think the TARDIS is leaking time-stuff. The actually explanation is that it jumped a time track (something name dropped recently in Amy's Choice), but that's pretty meaningless, and don't examine the logic of that idea too closely. Or even form a short distance. Basically, it means the characters are out of phase with the rest of the universe. The way it's STAGED, they're frozen around the console for a time, and suddenly find themselves in different clothes. The old clothes are in the closet so they're missing a bit of time. Then there's craziness with time going backwards around a broken glass, and then the characters are invisible (though they can see) and can't be heard (but also can't hear others). They don't leave footprints. They can't touch objects. And then they find themselves frozen in glass cases, as exhibits. An intangible TARDIS is in this same room. ARGHHHH!!! I just erased swathes of text because my attempted explanation fell apart before my eyes. No explanation is coherent with everything seen on screen, INCLUDING the characters' own reasoning at the end of the episode, calling it a preview of the future, and then syncing up with the universe. The doubles in the cases disappear, the natives find the TARDIS, their footprints appear, the glass breaks again. None of it makes sense, and I'm already getting flashbacks to The Edge of Forever, and we all know how frustrating I found THAT story. So we'll just take it as presented that the TARDISeers are walking around in TIME rather than SPACE, so sometimes they're in front of themselves, sometimes behind, sometimes at the same point. That's as good as it gets folks.

Rob Shearman's contention that Glyn Jones is screwing with our expectations - much as Hergé did with the non-plot of the Tintin book The Castafiore Emerald - such as when he presents us with a Dalek who turns out to be just an exhibit, one Vicki finds friendly-looking at that. Of course, Vicki's well known for adopting monsters so... There's also the use of cliché, like our heroes hiding in plain sight and not being seen - Vicki even has an inconvenient sneeze - but for once, there's a plot reason for it. Or is cliché just that, cliché? I think that maybe the writer is trying to have fun with the format, but the director doesn't realize or acknowledge it, removing the commentary on SF clichés from the presentation. Maybe.

REWATCHABILITY: Medium-Low - There's enough mystery to keep your interest, but any answer given is less satisfying than what you might come up with yourself. So it's just four people walking around a museum that only accidentally seems bigger on the inside, with strange happenings thrown in and pseudo temporal mechanics thrown in. At least this one won't go for 6 episodes.



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