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Doctor Who: The Space Museum

Still in the original boxes!
Worth thousands, I tell you, thousands!
Season Two, Story Q

Starring William Hartnell as the Doctor

With William Russell (Ian), Jacqueline Hill (Barbara) and Maureen O'Brien (Vicki)

Written by Glyn Jones
Directed by Mervyn Pinfield
Produced by Verity Lambert

Episode Titles and Broadcast Dates

1. The Space Museum - 24 April 1965
2. The Dimensions of Time - 1 May 1965
3. The Search - 8 May 1965
4. The Final Phase - 15 May 1965

How To Watch: Available for on-demand streaming on Britbox (subscription required). Also available on DVD (search eBay)

Plot Synopsis

The TARDIS lands on Xeros, at the site of an enormous museum dedicated to space travel and alien cultures, but mostly looted objects from across the galaxy taken by the Moroks, invaders who occupy the planet. Our heroes find themselves in their everyday clothes, though they don't remember changing out of their Crusade-era garb from their previous adventure. Barbara drops a glass of water which then un-shatters and zips back into her hand. Once they arrive, they leave no footprints, can hear no sounds except each other, pass unseen by everyone, and eventually discover, to their horror, their bodies on display in the museum as relics. The Doctor realizes they've jumped a track in time and they are witnessing their future. Eventually time catches up with them, they become tangible, and the display disappears. They now are left to wonder how to avoid becoming museum artifacts.

They are observed secretly by a band of Xeron rebels, hoping to gain their assistance in overthrowing the Moroks, who have also been alerted to their presence. Our heroes second-guess every decision or action they take; they have no way of knowing how their destiny will be impacted by their choices. Eventually the Xeron rebels win over our heroes to their cause, but the Doctor is abducted and interrogated by the Morok leader Lobos. He orders the Doctor to be prepared for display. Vicki and a band of Xerons manage to unlock the Morok arsenal when Vicki reprograms the computer controlling the doors. With these weapons the Xerons ultimately overpower and defeat the Moroks. The Doctor is rescued, and happily, Team TARDIS has avoided their fate. They take a souvenir with them from the museum, a Time-Space Visualizer, and depart... unaware that their progress is being monitored by Daleks, who are already in pursuit.

Analysis and Stuff

There's two things to talk about (three, actually, but I moved that to its own section). One is the over-arching concept of being able to steer your destiny away from a tragic end. Is free will an illusion? Pertwee's eventually concludes "no" some five years later. Team TARDIS glimpses their future selves seemingly dead in display cases. So can they avoid this fate, or is their destiny locked in? Is every step they take, or any step for that matter, one step closer to doom? This is actually a fascinating concept, one that Star Trek TNG also addressed in the Season 5 story "Cause and Effect."

The other thing is the plot that plays out outside of the predestiny plot. The Moroks have built a museum as a monument to their imperialist civilization on one of their conquered planets, and a ragtag group of indigenous rebels wants them off. With our heroes' help, they win. It's an early iteration of the liberation trope that Doctor Who would regularly revisit. What's intriguing here is that the Moroks' museum is essentially abandoned. Nobody visits. No student groups, no Navarino bus tours, nothing. The Moroks can't be bothered to even patronize their own museum.

So imagine you were Lobos, and had a completely pointless and meaningless existence as museum curator slash local governor. You want to be where the action is, but instead you have a desk job, and your museum staff are probably the soldiers not intelligent or competent enough to be stationed anywhere near the front line. You're probably bored out of your mind, and picking off stray Xerons, or any non-Moroks unfortunate enough to pop in, is the only amusement available.

Foreshadowing!!
The challenge is, then, that this plotline is about as boring as the Moroks are bored. And the clash of the two plotlines means that the regulars agonize over their actions while a lackluster revolution takes place. Even though ultimately the Xerons win - and may I just add, they appear to slaughter all the Moroks including Lobos – there's very little excitement about it all. Some intentional humor (the Doctor hiding inside a display Dalek), some unintentional ("Have any arms fallen into Xeron hands?"), and one fun scene of Vicki using her smarts to reprogram a computer, but meeeehhhhhhh.

A Soapbox Detour – Science Fiction Sausage Fests

There's an oddity here that merits mentioning. There's nothing intrinsically masculine about this episode, but apart from Barbara and Vicki, this is a complete 100% sausage-fest. Not one female guest actor, not even an uncredited female extra. And that's something worth discussing here. I doubt that Glyn Jones purposefully designed the show this way, it's not like he hung a "NO GURLZ ALOWD" sign written in crayon on his office door, and yes, I'm applying contemporary standards to a nearly 60-year old story, but... when a white male is doing the writing, unless they are intentional and conscientious about avoiding it, it's perfectly easy to slip into the habit of unconsciously assuming this show is written not for children, but for boys (and white boys at that); and any female (or non-white or older) audience is irrelevant garnish. He's, in effect, writing a show for his younger self. And if it's a boys-only audience, it's just as easy to slip into the habit of writing boys-only stories.

Bit of trivia here: in the entire history of classic era Doctor Who, there are only two stories where the credited guest cast was majority female*. The Menoptera had male and female performers. There were female freedom fighters battling the Daleks. Would it have killed Glyn Jones to have one female Xeron rebel? To have a single female Morok functionary? Did Verity Lambert express an opinion on this, or was she already angling for a new job at this point?

And no, this isn't the only such sausage-fest, by a long shot.

(* – If you were wondering, "The Brain of Morbius" and "Paradise Towers")

Taking a Break

William Hartnell was absent from episode three – as the show was constantly in production, the regulars frequently got breaks written into the story. That's why it takes nearly two full episodes for the Doctor to be processed.

Haven't I Already Seen You Somewhere in the Future?

Jeremy Bullock (Tor) returned as Hal the archer in Jon Pertwee's "The Time Warrior." But you never saw his face in his most famous work – he was Boba Fett in The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi.

Peter Craze (Dako) returned in the "War Games" and "Nightmare of Eden." He's also the younger brother of Michael Craze, aka Able Seaman Ben Jackson.

Richard Shaw (Lobos) also played the treacherous prisoner Cross in "Frontier in Space", and one of the Seers in "Underworld." He also appeared in Nigel Kneale's iconic series Quatermass and the Pit.

Glyn Jones is part of a very short list of Doctor Who writers who also appeared on screen, he was one of the captured humans in "The Sontaran Experiment."

Rating: Two Looted Dalek Casings out of Four
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John Geoffrion is a semi-retired semi-professional thespian, a professional data guy, and a Dad. He usually falls asleep to the Classic Doctor Who channel on Pluto.tv

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