kK

[email protected] (Kevin P.)

09/11/2003 5:11 PM

Review: "The Space Museum" [*** out of four]

2x07. The Space Museum
Writer: Glyn Jones
Director: Mervyn Pinfield
Script Editor: Dennis Spooner
Producer: Verity Lambert

Synopsis: A spacetime distortion on the TARDIS results in the Doctor and his
companions journeying briefly into the future, where they are unable to
interact with their surroundings but discover their future selves frozen as
sculptures in an alien museum run by the Moroks. Restored to normal time, they
aid the native Xerons in their revolution against the Moroks while trying to
change their own futures.

Review: "The Space Museum" seems to take a lot of criticism for reasons I don't
quite understand. While it's not going to make my list of all-time favorite
Doctor Who serials, I think it shows the second season continuing to find its
footing after the success of "The Crusade," and it boasts a creative sci-fi
twist that keeps the story from getting too formulaic.

I am referring, of course, to the fact that the TARDIS crew spend the first
episode walking around in their own future, at first confused by the numerous
anomalies (especially when they find that they can't hear anyone speak or touch
anything), then finally making the horrific discovery of their future selves as
museum exhibits. Granted, the Doctor's pseudoscience doesn't really make any
sense (what the hell is a "time track"?), and there are obvious logical
problems like the fact that somehow they can't hear or touch anything but can
see perfectly well and don't just sink into the ground. Still, this is the
first Doctor Who serial to make the very concept of time travel essential to
the plot, and the setup adds an extra element of suspense to what follows. The
protagonists, instead of just taking their roles in a straightforward "help the
oppressed alien rebels" story (as they did in "The Web Planet"), are forced to
ask themselves at every turn, "Is this the decision that could lead to our
being captured and turned into museum pieces? Or is this the very choice we
must make to *avoid* that outcome?"

It also helps that the Morok oppressors are not presented as a powerful and
efficient juggernaut (like the Daleks or the Animus, for example), but rather
as a bored occupation force doing the bidding of a declining, decadent
civilization. The Morok governor Lobos, even though he eventually orders lethal
force to stop the Xeron uprising, initially seems to see the Doctor's presence
and his scientific knowledge as a respite from the monotony of his job, and
it's correctly observed that at least one of his soldiers doesn't really seem
to care about the outcome of the rebellion. The initial kidnapping of the
Doctor by the Xerons in order to get the companions' attention also shows how
people with good intentions can be pushed into aggression by desperate
circumstances: they only kidnapped him because they didn't know whether they
could trust the TARDIS crew and feared that the time travelers might otherwise
kill them at sight. The Doctor himself references the fall of the Roman Empire
at one point, and like "The Aztecs," this serial seems heavily informed by the
harsh lessons that Britain and other European countries had recently learned
about imperialism.

Writer Glyn Jones also gives Maureen O'Brien the most engaging material she's
had to work with thus far. In previous episodes, Vicki has been a rather bland
presence with no particularly distinctive characteristics other than a tendency
to give pet names to large alien creatures. Here, she's actually instrumental
in aiding the Xeron revolution, winning their trust and helping them to break
into the Morok armory by reprogramming the computer-controlled locking
mechanism (though the way she accomplishes this does seem a little too easy).
Jones also generally does a nice job of keeping the story moving at a good
pace, even in the moments when it does fall back on "alien rebellion" formula.
While I can't say that I found every single minute of "The Space Museum"
grippingly original, I was never particularly bored or impatient either.

If there's one area in which "The Space Museum" falls short, it's that the idea
of knowing one's own future demise is never quite utilized to full effect. This
is a concept that turns up from time to time in sci-fi, and when done really
well (as in, for example, Star Trek: TNG's "Time Squared"), it creates not only
suspense but a sort of existential dread at the possibility that the future is
already written and that nothing we do can change it. When Ian discovers that
the Doctor has indeed been captured and frozen at the end of Episode 3, I'd
have expected him to react with horror at the notion that the inevitable really
is closing in on them all, but instead he just launches into his action-hero
insistence that the process be reversed. The script comes closest to touching
upon this theme when Ian smashes one of the machines needed to freeze them
despite the fact that there are plenty of others just like it, as if clinging
to even the most inconsequential exercise of his free will, but at that point
it's too little and too late.

Still, this is an enjoyable and entertaining serial that benefits from some
clever plotting and solid characterization. I'd been feeling a little less
optimistic about the Hartnell era after the second season's largely mediocre
first half ("Dalek Invasion" excepted), but after "The Crusade" and now "The
Space Museum," I'd say things are back on track.

Other notes:

- The serial's funniest moment has to be the Doctor squaring off against Lobos'
mind-reading apparatus: when asked how he got to Xeros and where he's from, he
projects the images of a bicycle and then of an island inhabited by seals.

- Speaking of which, this is the first serial in a while to reference the
mystery of the Doctor's origins. Although he's initially cooperative in his
interrogation, that's the one question he refuses to answer even before Lobos
starts asking about his companions.


Rating: *** (out of four)

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This topic has 5 replies

mM

[email protected] (Matthew Fitch)

in reply to [email protected] (Kevin P.) on 09/11/2003 5:11 PM

14/11/2003 10:49 AM

Much as I enjoy the story and find it nowhere near as bad as its reputation, I
am still at a loss as to why the Moroks are so concerned with museum visitors
and why a revolution takes place there. Or am I missing the point?
-Matt

"Whatever I've done for you in the past I've more than made up for!"-Tom Baker

kK

in reply to [email protected] (Matthew Fitch) on 14/11/2003 10:49 AM

17/11/2003 6:04 AM

<< Much as I enjoy the story and find it nowhere near as bad as its reputation,
I
am still at a loss as to why the Moroks are so concerned with museum visitors
and why a revolution takes place there. Or am I missing the point? >>

I guess they weren't really doing much on Xeros besides running the museum,
which was to commemorate their empire. So I suppose the revolution took place
at the museum simply because that's where the Morok governor and his soldiers
were stationed.

-Kevin

- - - - - - -
Visit my DOCTOR WHO reviews page:
http://drwho-reviews.tripod.com

mM

[email protected] (Matthew Fitch)

in reply to [email protected] (KTP) on 17/11/2003 6:04 AM

18/11/2003 8:50 AM

><< Much as I enjoy the story and find it nowhere near as bad as its
>reputation,
>I
>am still at a loss as to why the Moroks are so concerned with museum visitors
>and why a revolution takes place there. Or am I missing the point? >>
>
>I guess they weren't really doing much on Xeros besides running the museum,
>which was to commemorate their empire. So I suppose the revolution took place
>at the museum simply because that's where the Morok governor and his soldiers
>were stationed.
>
Fair enough I suppose. It just seems like even more small potatoes than "King's
Demons" in this case.


-Matt

"Whatever I've done for you in the past I've more than made up for!"-Tom Baker

En

"Emmemm"

in reply to [email protected] (KTP) on 17/11/2003 6:04 AM

19/11/2003 1:01 PM

"Matthew Fitch" <[email protected]> wrote in message
news:[email protected]
> >
> Fair enough I suppose. It just seems like even more small potatoes than
"King's
> Demons" in this case.

King's Demons "small potatoes"? You haven't fallen for the myth that the Master
only wants to disrupt Magna Carta (and hence all second millenium history and by
extension human control of the galaxy in the future) have you? He quite clearly
says on screen that he intends Kamelion to impersonate rulers of numerous
civilizations, presumably until chaos is universal -- Earth in 1215 is just the
first one he's disrupting.
By the way there were no potatoes, small or otherwise, in KD just as despite
rumours to the contrary there were none in "Time Warrior" -- they hadn't been
brought back from America yet ;o) Perhaps they were small turnips?

--
Frankymole

mM

[email protected] (Matthew Fitch)

in reply to "Emmemm" on 19/11/2003 1:01 PM

20/11/2003 5:48 PM

Heh. Very true.
-Matt

"Whatever I've done for you in the past I've more than made up for!"-Tom Baker


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