Will Brooks’ 50 Year Diary - watching Doctor Who one episode a day from the very start...
Day Seventy-Four: The Space Museum (The Space Museum, Episode One)
According to fan 'wisdom', The Space Museum is similar to An Unearthly Child - a great first episode, followed by three not-very-good ones. I'll admit that I've never actually watched this one properly, so I can't really give comment on that theory for a few days, but they've got one thing right at least: this first episode is brilliant.
I've always thought of this one as being the Edge of Destruction Season Two style. There's strange things happening in the TARDIS, and our heroes don't know what's causing them. Then they venture outside, where they don't leave footprints, can't be seen, and can't hear the people they meet.
If anything, though, I think I prefer this to The Edge of Destruction. It's certainly very effective right from the off (and in answer to my musing yesterday as to how good the cliffhanger might have looked when moving: the brief clip here looks very unsettling. Great stuff!), and it builds up a certain amour of tension as the piece goes on.
When the reveal comes that our regulars can't interact with anything on the planet, and Vicki manages to put her hand right through one of the exhibits, it's very well done. Looking back, I realise that there are a few instances earlier on where the Doctor has stopped her before she can touch anything. It's a great effect, too.
It's a little sees effective when the Doctor demonstrates the same thing with the TARDIS they find. Due to the angle of the police-box and where Hartnell's stood, he seems to be both behind and inside the box all at the same time - and at moments when he's not supposed to be.
And then there's that cliffhanger! Except… it's not. I've always thought that the cliffhanger to this episode was the TARDIS crew turning around to find themselves on display in a series of glass cases. I had no idea that there's a couple of full scenes after that point, where they muse on how it might have happened, and how they might be able to escape that fate.
All the same, it's a compelling moment, and really helps to build into the spookiness of the whole episode. When the actual cliffhanger comes, it's only effective because the Doctor has just spelt it out in great detail - 'When those glass cases disappear, then we've arrived and we're in great danger!' 'Oh, look! The glass cases have gone!'.
The most effective part of the cliffhanger has to be the way that the time travellers freeze in place and the 'men-in-white-outfits' approach the TARDIS, and watch as the footprints appear in the sand.
As for the idea of the Museum itself… I like it. It's great that there's a Dalek in there, and it's fun to see the Doctor, Ian and Barbara all taken aback by it. I have to ask, though, did Vicki's history books not have pictures of the Daleks? If I were to Wiki 'Dalek' right now, there'd be plenty of images to look at alongside the descriptions!
It's a bit of a shame that we don't get more things from past adventures in the museum - it could be a fun trip down memory lane while they explore, and fitting for Ian and Barbara's penultimate story. I'd have liked to see a Key of Marinus, Perhaps, or one of the Sensorite guns. Maybe even just as a background prop?
On the whole, though, even if the next three episodes aren't all that… this one is fantastic.
Next Episode: The Dimensions of Time
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