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The Space Museum

Thanks to the wonderful world of Amazon gift vouchers, I've been catching up on some new (to me) Doctor Who. Therefore, today I'm going to bore the world with talk of "The Space Museum".

I knew this one fairly well anyway, as I have the Target novelisation. Whilst the Targets were hardly known for their literary magnificence, they were a great way to uncover the mysterious history of previous Doctors, in those long ago pre-BBC Video days. They're the reason that Ian and Barbara have been my favourite Who companions since I was a little kid, many years before I ever actually got to see them. No matter how much fun they are, when you're a miniature Who fan frustrated with the lack of repeats, they can't compare to actually watching the episodes though. This one is definitely a case in point.

"The Space Museum" has a reputation for being one of the duller adventures, and it's certainly true that there's a lot more talk than action. In one scene, for instance, Ian, Barbara and Vicki are captured by a museum guard, and proceed to chat amongst themselves for five minutes, whilst he stands patiently by. The conversation is unnecessarily long-winded, and quite ridiculous given the circumstances. The first two episodes feature a lot of talk in order to set up a slightly awkward time-hopping premise that should probably have been done differently. But! Do not believe the talk of boredom. There is so much in this adventure to enjoy. "The Space Museum". Let me show you it.

The first thing to recommend in this adventure is Ian's outfit. Gone are the suits and cardigans of previous outings. Ian has gone up in the world, and is now sporting a rollneck-and-blazer affair that makes him look like a secret agent, especially when he's dashing about being heroic with a raygun.

Exhibit #a: Special Agent Chesterton, licensed to slightly wound.

The second thing, strictly from a fandom point of view, is Jeremy Bulloch in the guest cast list. Jeremy Bulloch played Edward, the headman of the village of Wickham in Robin Of Sherwood, and has always been extremely popular with fans of that show. (He was also Boba Fett in Star Wars, which is good too).

Exhibit #b: Jeremy Bulloch. With impressive alien eyebrows.

The third thing is Barbara, which really goes without saying. She's great here though. As the museum floods with gas, she battles on, refusing to be overcome, and practically carrying a young revolutionary to safety as well. It does seem to be a particularly rubbish gas, I'll admit, but even so it's a good scene. Note to bad guys: when counting on a gas to paralyse your victims, make sure it's strong enough to work in less time than it takes them to stagger through a labyrinth of endless, identical corridors in search of the front door.

Exhibit #c. Barbara escaping the deadly smoke of doom.

Not the best ever photo of Barbara, I'll grant you, but she's being damned dynamic for all that. Although admittedly you pretty much just have to take my word for it.

Here's a bonus team photo, with very-much-not-smoke-obscured Barbara, in order to make up for it:

The young fellow she's helping through the gas is Dako, played by Peter Craze. He's the brother of Michael Craze, who was later to play Ben, one of the First Doctor's final companions. Poor Ben was rather forgettable, and lacked the dynamism of both Ian and Steven, but nonetheless, hurrah for his younger brother.

Exhibit #d. Dako. A rubbish revolutionary, and younger brother of Ben Jackson.

Then there's Vicki. Like Susan before her, Vicki often suffered from being the slightly pathetic teenaged girl that nobody quite knew what to do with. She seemed to mature when Ian and Barbara cruelly abandoned me left, and was perhaps rather better when partnered with Steven, but here she's really very good. She helps the hopeless revolutionaries take over the planet, breaking into the armoury for them, and stealing countless ray guns. I'm not really sure that arming children and encouraging them to go to war is entirely to be recommended as a plotline in a family TV show, but what the hell. Anyway, she's the same age as them, so that makes it okay. Also, it's great to see her get to reprogram a computer, showing a brain and a problem-solving capacity that poor old Susan rarely got the chance to display. With the right writer, Vicki can be pretty damned awesome.

As an aside, her exchange at one point with Jeremy Bulloch: "I won't let you go!" ; "I won't let you stop me!" is pretty much punch-the-air spectacular. Go Vicki.

Exhibit #e. Vicki the revolutionary leader.

The Doctor doesn't actually get a great deal to do in this adventure, but there is a chance for him to show his general amazingness. Shut up, yes that is a word. Taken away to be prepped as a museum exhibit, his body temperature is lowered to several thousand degrees below zero. He bounces back from that with nothing but a slight case of rheumatism. This display of fortitude helps to counteract the fact that at times here William Hartnell is relying more on established quirks than on actual acting. Never did a man say "Hmm?" more often, to say nothing of the chuckling and pointing.

Exhibit #f. The Doctor in the freezer, very much not being dead.

One of the main drawbacks of this adventure is that the bad guys don't seem terribly bad. We're told that they've taken over the planet Xeros, murdered all the adults, and kept the children as slave workers, however for the most part they're just rather officious types, blustering about in their museum. One exception is Lobos, the governor. He's a brilliantly smug, self-satisfied sadist, and I love the way he smirks to himself when Ian is trying to make him revive the Doctor.

Exhibit #g. Lobos, a not very nice person to meet.

And then we're back to Ian. Whilst this adventure might deserve some of the criticism thrown at it for its slow pace and over-reliance on talking, what that criticism fails to address is Ian. In episode three he goes into fisticuffs mode, and has the most awesome throwdown with the museum guards. First up he battles a whole army of them sent to capture him, and then he captures a guard, forcing him - at gunpoint! Take that Ten, and your hypocritical attitude to weaponry - to help him rescue the Doctor. It's fabulous, particularly since most of the guards are played by legendary stuntman Peter Diamond, who always was a dab hand in a fist fight. Episode three is basically William Russell having a ball. Not that he didn't usually anyway of course. It's just that I like celebrating the fact.

Exhibit #h. Ian Ian Ian, crash, bang, pow. In by-now-traditional action screencap blur-o-rama.

My favourite bit of the whole story might just be the closing moments though; and I don't mean that in a nasty way. It's not that I'm happy it's over. In those days, one adventure often led into another, and this is no exception. As our heroes head away from the museum, we see a Dalek reporting in to Headquarters about the position of the TARDIS. And it refers to the TARDIS crew as "Our greatest enemies". Enemies plural. Not just the Doctor, but Ian and Barbara as well (Vicki hasn't met the Daleks yet). One of my greatest objections to the modern vision of the show is that it's always all about the Doctor. He's been raised up from wandering meddler to some supreme being, revered by friend and foe alike. His companions are just along for the ride, and pretty much have been ever since the UNIT family was disbanded. No more do they get themselves into and out of trouble without the Doctor's assistance. No more do they rescue him, solve puzzles themselves, and battle the bad guys without his help. It's all about the Doctor; and no amount of waffle from Russell T Davies about how his companions are better than the old ones can change that. Here, the Daleks consider Ian and Barbara to be their enemies too. I love that. It's really no more than they deserve.

Exhibit #i: A Dalek making me happy. Note to modern Who-makers: You can throw all the backstory, family and friends at your companions that you like. It won't make them more fully-rounded characters, or better than their predecessors, when all they're allowed to do is hang onto the coat-tails of an all-powerful Doctor. Jack and Rose were a good start back in 2005, and then suddenly it all went wrong.

So anyway, there you have "The Space Museum". It's not perfect, it's definitely a bit too slow and chatty, and it gets unnecessarily bogged down in a clunky explanation of time mechanics, just so that the TARDIS crew can see a glimpse of their own possible future. It's also a bit too jokey for my liking, at least in the first two episodes. That was probably intentional though, given that it follows directly on from the very uncompromising (and glorious) "The Crusade". I could also argue that a band of officious museum guards are not the most enthralling of enemies. But it's fun, it has Ian and Barbara - who can raise any story to greater heights just by their presence - and it has marvellous fisticuffs. Call me easily pleased, but I don't ask for much more out of life than that.


( 15 fierce growls — Growl fiercely )
Jan. 5th, 2014 12:43 pm (UTC)
I remember when I saw 'The Space Museum' I thought it started off well and got duller, but not as dull as people say.

I don't like the Doctor as the only person who can save the world argument today. He can't be everywhere and I think it's more important people can learn from him and sort it out themselves afterwards given the Dr pops off never to be seen again in most adventures.

Cute 1960's daleks have taste:)
Jan. 5th, 2014 03:00 pm (UTC)
1960s Daleks (cute or otherwise!) are best. They're another thing that are too powerful in the new series. I miss people wrestling with Daleks, and Barbara mowing them down in a big truck, and the TARDIS team slapping mud on their eyes, and then subduing them with a big cloak. Too powerful basically = boring.
Jan. 6th, 2014 12:15 pm (UTC)
I think they like making flying dalek graphics too much;)
Jan. 5th, 2014 07:38 pm (UTC)
I miss the old daleks so much. What am I saying, I miss everything that the new series is sadly lacking in these days and the old series had.
Jan. 5th, 2014 10:36 pm (UTC)
Yes. I mean, I don't completely dislike New Who obviously, or I wouldn't watch it, but there's so much that I would like to change! I can't complain that the old series was devoid of mistakes, because of course it wasn't, and even my favourite eras of the show's history sometimes make me cringe (terrible attempts at comedy in the Pertwee era, questionable directorial/stylistic choices in the Davison era, etc). The new series just seems endlessly over the top though. It certainly seems popular, so I'm quite prepared to admit that I'm in the minority! I just wish that some things would change.
Jan. 5th, 2014 10:41 pm (UTC)
I enjoyed the new series before Moffat took over. I absolutely hated what he did with all the misogyny and annoying hitting of the reset button on absolutely everything. Now I basically never watch it unless there's a special like the 50th or a new Doctor..I do kind of want to see twelve properly so I plan to watch an episode or two. But, old!who is what I really love.
Jan. 6th, 2014 04:15 am (UTC)
I much prefer Moffat to RTD. You're not the first person I've seen accuse him of misogyny, but I can't say as I've noticed any sign of that myself. Different perspectives, I suppose. I've become very fond of Eleven, too, whilst Ten frequently made me want to throw things at the television! But even when I'm enjoying it, there's a sense of something missing, and it's not usually hard to figure out what that is. I did love the anniversary episode, though.

As for the Moff hitting a reset button, in terms of the Time War I couldn't be happier. I loathe the destroyed Gallifrey plot! Is it really a reset button though? He was very careful to see that nothing was changed.
Jan. 6th, 2014 04:22 am (UTC)
Ah, I see. Yeah, I've noticed there seems to be a split where RTD and Ten fans seems to go together whereas Eleven fans tend to like Moffat. Personally I was a huge fan of both Nine and Ten and despite several tries I never took to Eleven. But, yeah, I agree that there's something missing.

Well, in all fairness RTD sort of did the same thing with the daleks..saying they were gone at least twice and then bringing them back, and I didn't like that either. Idk, I always found Gallifrey a little..odd? so I didn't mind so much it being gone. I just think it's sort of strange to have Nine and Ten's eras be so much about it and now change everything. I'm looking forward to Twelve, though, regardless.
Jan. 6th, 2014 03:51 pm (UTC)
Nine's and Ten's eras did revolve around the loss of Gallifrey a lot yes, which is a good reason to bring it back. :p I hated all that Lonely God nonsense. Enough angst, let's get to the adventuring. You're far from the only person I've seen objecting to the Gallifrey plot being changed though. Seems to have struck a chord with a lot of people.
Jan. 6th, 2014 05:29 am (UTC)
The main things I remember from this story are that a) the weird eyebrows on the alien revolutionary boys made them look like they had dead caterpillars glued to their foreheads-

-and b) that the writer missed a golden opportunity for a great one-liner when Ian is going to get the Doctor out of that carbonite stuff they're putting him in, and he's prodded the baddie at gun point into reversing it and says 'no funny stuff' or something, and the baddie sneers 'you can't rush science' or such like. But after the perfect set up, they failed to put in the obvious comeback for a science teacher, where Ian should have coolly retorted: "DON'T LECTURE ME ABOUT SCIENCE." C'mon, lookin' all sexy in his secret agent outfit with his ray-gun and pissed-off action hero scowl? It would have made the whole episode!! LOL

And I definitely hear you on the whole issue of the Doctor being made into lone-wolf superhero in New Who. I actually remember thinking the exact same thing when the Daleks said 'our enemies' in this story, rather than 'our greatest enemy, the Doctor' like it always is now! I loved that it was an ensemble show in the old days, where all the characters were equally well developed, and all had their chance to take the lead in one episode or another. I don't understand the Doctor-worship that seems to be pervasive these days. The companions are just as important as the Doctor is! They're characters on the show too, and if we have to spend time with them, we should care about them as much as him. I don't get how people don't see that diminishing the companions diminishes the Doctor too. I mean, if a guy as ancient and smart as him wants to hang around with stupid, ineffectual sycophants who worship the ground he walks on and need him to do everything for them, doesn't that make the Doctor a real jerk? It's like Holmes and Watson; making Watson stupid does NOT make Holmes smarter! I like the team atmosphere of the early years, and I hoped it was going to go that way with Ninth Doctor, Rose and Jack too, but then we dump Jack, and Tenth Doctor comes along all snotty and self-important, Rose loses all her brains and independence, and we're pretty much where we are today. :(

Still, it was good once, and hopefully somebody who appreciates the old stuff will be the next showrunner and make it good again. *fingers crossed*
Jan. 6th, 2014 03:55 pm (UTC)
They are not the best false eyebrows ever, are they. :)

Yes, that's a good point about Watson. I enjoy the old Hollywood movies (watch Holmes fight the Nazis!), but I do wish they'd portrayed Watson differently. A blustering old fool just doesn't fit. Why would Holmes even be hanging out with him?! It's one of the things that I like about the Downey Jr movies. Jude Law's Watson is tough and smart, and very capable of doing things without Holmes's assistance; and it makes the story better.

And look at "The Parting Of The Ways", when Jack runs off to fight the entire Dalek army on his own, to give the Doctor a chance to save the day. So much promise. *sulk*
Jan. 6th, 2014 02:02 pm (UTC)
I saw it for the first time a month or two ago myself and I liked it, too - especially Vicki the Revolutionary, because I love Vicki.

I also liked the Doctor getting to confound a mind probe for the first time - I had no idea that particular DW trope had happened so early in the show and was muchly entertained.

(I must say, I like Ben and Polly a lot, probably more than anyone else other than Ian and Barbara and Zoe and Vicki in the 60s (all right, I like 60s DW a lot basically), so I don't agree that Michael Craze was forgettable. It must depend on what kind of memory you have. Mine works fine on him. ;-p)

Ian and Barbara are always the awesomest, though, of course. This is why Daleks have never said it since. Other companions just aren't such a threat. Although those from Remembrance probably put Ace on their list...
Jan. 6th, 2014 03:59 pm (UTC)
Poor Daleks. They refuse to mention the day that they were defeated by a teenaged girl with a baseball bat! And they thought that the mud on the eyeball trick was embarrassing...

I really should give Ben and Polly a proper go sometimes. I've seen so very little of them, so I only really know them from the Targets. They don't come across at all well in those. Ian and Barbara were clearly the darlings of the writers, and Steven was a bit of action hero, which helped. Ben and Polly just didn't stand out on the page quite so well. Mind you, at least some of that might be my prejudice, since they're not Ian and Barbara! Or Steven or Jamie.
Jan. 6th, 2014 04:30 pm (UTC)
No, the Targets are a bit variable as to who actually comes across as a character and who doesn't, aren't they? I instantly took a liking to Tegan and Nyssa (I started my retrospective reading with Five, because I knew who he was, which seemed like a reasonable starting point into the vast unknown of 1963-1987), and then Ian and Barbara came across very well, and Jamie and Zoe, but nearly everyone else seemed to be lacking in actual character, except some books when they magically had one, but it depended a lot on...er... stuff?

Trouble with Ben and Polly is, there's not a lot of their stuff left to try. The BBC need to get on that, really, with this whole new finding lost episodes business. The War Machines is one of my favourites, really, that's what it is. :-)

Jan. 7th, 2014 04:22 am (UTC)
Yes, the Targets are definitely a bit hit and miss, depending on author. I'm very fond of Terrance Dicks, but he did tend to be a bit limited in that area to say the least. Especially the way he'd use exactly the same description for each character in each book! Victor Pemberton did a pretty splendid job with "Fear Of The Deep", and Ian Marter was always good value. Otherwise, a bit like with the Hardy Boys, you could never really be sure what you were going to get. It's great that we have them though, obviously.
( 15 fierce growls — Growl fiercely )

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