Will Brooks’ 50 Year Diary - watching Doctor Who one episode a day from the very start...
Day Seventy-Seven: The Final Phase (The Space Museum, Episode Four)
I think it's pretty fair to say that The Space Museum has left me more than a little cold since the start of the second episode. In an attempt to rectify this, and give the story a chance at redemption before it draws to a close, I've not dived straight into this episode.
Instead, I spent a few minutes watching a special feature on the DVD in which Rob Shearman defends the story. If there's anyone I'm willing to listen to on the subject then it's most certainly Rob - writer of the excellent The Chimes of Midnight, one of my favourite of the Big Finish plays. The first episode of Chimes shares several similarities with the opening of The Space Museum (the Doctor and his companion Charley cannot be seen or - properly - heard by the inhabitants of a large house they;ve landed in… Charley is unable to write her name in the dust on a table without it vanishing again), but then the story continues to be strong throughout.
Rob brings up a number of points about things he loves in this story, often referring to the fact that it's got a thick vein of comedy, and that it often lampoons earlier ideas in Doctor Who. Looking back, I think he's right, but it did little to improve my opinion on the earlier episodes. In fact, I think the only thing that it did do for me was to highlight how often Tor puts his hands on his hips. That was fun, and surely a good example of a Doctor Who drinking game?
For all my complaints about The Space Museum, though, I do have to confess that the ending is rather clever. The Doctor and his companions have spent so much time trying to alter their own destiny in this story, that they're completely unaware of the effects they're having on those around them - and ultimately it's the effect they've had on others which saves the day.
This should be an interesting concept throughout the tale - another vital step in the arc of not changing history - but it ends up just feeling a bit lacking. It doesn't help that the characters remind us every five minutes that they're trying to change their future; it all gets a bit monotonous by the end.
It is nice to watch Vicki's relationship with Tor developing in this episode, though. Coming so soon after The Dalek Invasion of Earth, you could be forgiven for thinking it might be setting up for her departure, staying behind to help build this new world. She certainly shares more chemistry with the boy than many later companions will with the people they depart for!
(Oh, and while I'm - tangentially - on the subject of Daleks, I'm disappointed by how cheap the cliffhanger looks. Still, I'm quite excited to have the pepper pots back again, and that's not something I ever expected to say!)
Next Episode: The Executioners