Doctor Who #69: The Dimensions of Time

"The Doctor’s curious - that means we stay."
TECHNICAL SPECS: Part 2 of The Space Museum. First aired May 1 1965.

IN THIS ONE... Lots of wandering the maze of the Space Museum until the Doctor is captured and interrogated by Governor Lobos. Oh, and the guy who played Boba Fett makes his first Doctor Who appearance (as the rebel Tor).

REVIEW: That title was originally meant for episode 1 and doesn't seem to fit the second. Not a good start. In fact, right after the last episode's reprise, we get the clumsiest piece of exposition ever written. In fact, exposition of facts everyone in the conversation must already know is Governor Lobos' only means of communication. It's worth quoting:

"Well, I’ve got two more mimmians before I can go home. Yes, I say it often enough, but it’s still two thousand Xeron days... and it sounds more in days. Yeah, I know, I volunteered, you were ordered. If the truth were known, I was just as bored on Morok. Still it was home, and youth never appreciates what it has. Oh, I don’t know what I’m going to do now. Still... let’s get on with it, shall we? [...] I’m the governor of this planet. You’re supposed to show some respect and knock."

The fact that only Lobos speaks this way lends credence to Rob Shearman's theory that it's all meant to be a spoof, with Lobos as the butt of the joke. But if it's at all funny, it feels like it's accidentally so. We can laugh at these Moroks and their fright wigs and ugly monochrome costumes (white to the Xeron rebels' black, how original), but it's the same laughter elicited by, say, the Sensorites. Of the premise - a bog standard overseers vs. rebels set-up - all I can say is that I'm glad the temporal anomalies are well behind us. The other joke is that the characters make comments about all the room and corridors looking the same because they most certainly are (the 80s will make this a recurring gag).

If there's a saving grace then, it's the cast. Ian and Barbara's patience is finally starting to wear thin, and not coincidentally, they're on their penultimate story. Ian's particularly argumentative in this episode, and Barbara just wants to get on with it and bristles at the loss of a sensible cardigan threaded to leave a trail in the maze of the museum. Once the cardigan is destroyed, the characters should realize the future they saw (their being placed on exhibit in their full costumes) can no longer come to pass, but there's not mention of it despite the Doctor discussing the importance of the loss of a button earlier. No problem, as that kind of pseudo-scientific, semi-existential conversation goes a long way. If the "parents" are a bit irritable, Vicki is rather cheery and takes the lead.

But it's Hartnell's Doctor that shines best, bringing intelligence and humor to a story that sorely needs them. His ego refuses to let him admit he doesn't know what's going on, but he good-naturedly lets Vicki feed him some answers. When he's grabbed from behind, he plays dead where in the past he might have been out the whole episode. He hides in the Dalek exhibit and even indulges in an impression of the tin despots before coming out. And once captured by an interrogation chair, he spins circles around Lobos and there's no doubt who's actually in control. Lobos' obsession with exposition makes him reveal his one ace in the hole, a memory scanner, and from then on, the Doctor makes a point of screwing with its images. It's your one-stop shop for a picture of the first Doctor in a bathing suit (now THERE'S an action figure that needs to be made). The Doctor (and Hartnell) has a lot of fun, and that's enough to save the insipid plot.

REWATCHABILITY: Medium - Whenever the Moroks and Xerons are onscreen, the story just STOPS. Thankfully, the cast is in good form, the Doctor especially. As long as THEY'RE watchable, the episode is watchable.

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