The Space Museum
First of all, let me say that I can't stand the title, which is, like the next season's Galaxy 4, yet more of Who's parochial nonsense. It isn't a museum in space, or about space per se, so why call it a space museum? To the people who own it it would be a Xeron museum, and everything else external. This may seem like infantile quibbling, and I can understand the companions saying it, but a traveller like the Doctor? Anyway, I've observed before that characterisation can be inconsistent in the Hartnell era, most notably in The Daleks' Masterplan. It's no real problem, and is no worse than other eras (and least they bothered to have characterisation in this era of the programme), but is notable all the same. Yet here we get the worst of it, as slack-wearing, easy-going Liberal science teacher Ian Chesterton is transformed into a bouffanted karate-chopping hard case in a strop.
Billy, meanwhile, has a fluff field day, giving us in the first episode alone: "I expect child that they're hanging up where they're sit-supposed to be" and "oh, I think that might be just some fluoreps… fluore… fluorescent substance in the, er, walls." Episode two gives us "It's a pity my dear boy, you didn't discover it was missing in the cases, when we standing there stan, er, staring at each other."
On a technical level then it fails to impress, then and now. Then, because the two-dimensional backdrops hinder Pinfield's above-standard direction, and now because the picture is so shitty there's a layer of grime between us and the images, increasing the sense of artificiality. The special effects are reasonably impressive though, even if the stock sound effects and music are both appalling.
Yet say what you like about The Space Museum, it's one of the most innovative uses of the format. I've hesitated over using the cliché of comparing it to The Twilight Zone, though as I've seen every single episode of said series I think that's qualification enough for being able to say it. That's praise for this story, though, not implication that it derived its inspiration from another source. The Tardis has jumped a time track, causing the crew to see themselves as they will become… lifeless, trapped exhibits in a museum. Absolutely chilling.
Richard Shaw gives his opening exposition with all the enthusiasm of following through in your own pants. My God, he's f***ing awful, an "actor" of Laird-like proportions. Did they really bother to contact Equity, or did they just pick a random bloke off the street outside Tesco's? To be honest, even though I'm an apologist for The Space Museum, I'm already bored shitless of it three minutes into episode two. The first part is great, but with a poor guest cast, poor technical achievement and dialogue that would only sound good on paper, it's dire. The central premise rocks like a daddy, but all the extraneous guff with collective aliens whose names are an anagram of Staid Rot Boloks* is a massive turn-off.
* Okay, so there's an "A" and an "O" left over from Lobos, Tor, Dako and Sita, but still…
Ian starts to get aggressive and manic from this episode on, and whips off Barbara's cardigan. Maybe he was just really dying for a shag. Meanwhile, while the episode is generally… well, crap… the scene where Billy conjures up daft images on Lobo's monitor is priceless.
Most of this one is just a dirge-like runaround, though we do have that small matter of the story's focal point to deal with. Just how will the travellers defy their destiny? Sadly it feels as if writer Glyn Jones has set himself a first-class conundrum and yet can't find a way out of it. So it turns out their future wasn't fixed and just didn't happen after all. Rarely has a cop-out disappointed so much. The Doctor's explanation of how it all happened, with Barbara's nod to the viewers of "Yes I have… I think most people have" is just too much to bear. Though Ian's sarcastic thanking of the Doctor for explaining it to them salvages some small credibility. Just as Galaxy 4 will later do, the end of the story is given over to a Dalek plug, with the final 50 seconds a direct lead-in to The Chase…
Quite an odd story in more ways than one, this is the worst season two tale despite having the potential to be the best. The premise is absolutely first rate, but the resolution and surrounding story are rock bottom for the series, and it really doesn't feel quite like Doctor Who at all. Following on from the ambitious The Crusade, this is a severe backwards step, a concoction of generic SF values and poor production that terminate any sense of adult integrity the series had ever built up and maintained. A wasted opportunity.