The Space Museum ★★

The travellers jump a time track and see themselves as exhibits in a Morok museum


Season 2 – Story 15


“We really are in those cases but we’re also standing here looking at ourselves from this dimension” – Vicki

When the Tardis lands among an assortment of spaceships on the planet Xeros, the Doctor, Ian, Barbara and Vicki discover a gigantic museum. They see inert versions of themselves among the exhibits and the Doctor realises they have jumped a time track. The planet has been taken over by the warlike Moroks, who have created the museum as a record of their military achievements. The travellers are anxious to avert the possible future they have been shown, and Vicki inspires the Xerons to rise up against their invaders …

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

Filming: March 1965 at Ealing Studios
Studio recording: April 1965 at TC4

Doctor Who – William Hartnell
Barbara Wright – Jacqueline Hill
Ian Chesterton – William Russell
Vicki – Maureen O’Brien
Lobos – Richard Shaw
Tor – Jeremy Bulloch
Sita – Peter Sanders
Dako – Peter Craze
Morok messenger – Salvin Stewart
Morok technician/guard – Peter Diamond
Morok commander – Ivor Salter
Morok guards – Salvin Stewart, Billy Cornelius
Dalek operator – Murphy Grumbar
Dalek voice – Peter Hawkins

Writer – Glyn Jones
Incidental music – various library tracks
Story editor – Dennis Spooner
Designer – Spencer Chapman
Producer – Verity Lambert
Director – Mervyn Pinfield

RT Review by Mark Braxton

The temporal trekkers become trapped in a huge collection of alien objects, including a Dalek. But why is it there and will the Doctor become a permanent exhibit himself? No, this isn’t Robert Shearman’s 2005 tale, Dalek, but its predecessor by four decades. But while the Skaro scarecrow was integral to that particular plot, The Space Museum uses it as (a) a joke and (b) a tidy payoff. In other words, it’s an opportunity for William Hartnell to monkey about in an empty Dalek shell (“I fooled them all!”) and a twist in the tale that would lead straight into the ensuing story (rather like Frontier in Space into Planet of the Daleks in 1973).

I mention the Daleks early, as they are one of the few elements that make this rather tedious traipse memorable. And it all kicks off so well: the set-up is enticing and imaginatively handled by director Mervyn Pinfield (the quartet walk on dust without leaving footprints, clothes change magically, a breaking glass reverses into solidity). And our heroes’ anxiety at their potential incarceration is nicely conveyed. Sadly, neither the time-twister, nor the idea of predestination, is explored much further.

Both are flung aside by that hoary old sci-fi staple of appearances being deceptive. This is represented on the one hand by the officious, widow’s peak-favouring Moroks, who are all dressed in pristine, high-shouldered whites, and on the other by the rebellious, black-polonecked, scary eyebrowed Xerons. It’s obvious from the outset who are the good guys. It’s also a poorly acted power struggle, featuring a heroically wooden Richard Shaw as Lobos and Ivor Salter as the commander apparently believing he’s in Shakespeare.

Apart from flouting the “show, don’t tell” rule of drama (even Barbara says, “All we do is stand around saying this whole thing is a nightmare. Why don’t we do something?”), there are just too many implausibles. Among them: the introduction of outsiders to change the Xerons’ mindset; the swift reprogramming of the armaments computer; the way the museum is decommissioned in a trice; and Barbara being overcome by smoke, and then reviving moments later, despite the conditions presumably having worsened rather than improved!

So let’s return to the story’s other saving grace – the character of Vicki, and her vibrant portrayal by Maureen O’Brien. All the best scenes involve her, especially the way she fires up the Xerons to rebel, and her sweet and chaste farewell scene with Tor (Jeremy Bulloch). While others merely pontificate, Vicki just gets on with it and saves the day. Rather like Sarah Jane Smith in later years, Vicki is prim and sensible, but gutsy and go-getting.

Writer Glyn Jones went on five years later to become a mainstay of Here Come the Double Deckers!, a fun and lively kids show. But here he becomes trapped by the confines of a setting that – let’s be honest – always has the power to bore.

Let’s pass over the dull sets and circumlocution, however, and remember The Space Museum for the ground-breaking way it tinkers with time, for the valour of Vicki, and for the way William Hartnell is lit in his interrogation scene in episode two, managing to look both impressive and sinister. As he so often did.

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Radio Times archive material

Space Museum feature
Space Museum billings
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[Available on BBC DVD]