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DVD Review: Doctor Who – The Space Museum / The Chase

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Doctor Who is a long-running British science fiction television series featuring The Doctor, a Time Lord from the planet Gallifrey whose adventures see him travel through time and space. Over the years, different actors have starred in the role, and to compensate for the realities of the television business Time Lords were given the ingenious ability to regenerate their bodies when they die.

The Space Museum is the 15th story of the Doctor, first broadcast in four weekly parts from April 24 to May 15, 1965, and The Chase is the 16th story, first broadcast in six weekly parts from May 22 to June 26, 1965. The First Doctor (William Hartnell) is accompanied in these adventures by schoolteachers Barbara Wright (Jacqueline Hill) and Ian Chesterton (William Russell) from 20th century Earth and Vicki (Maureen O’Brien), a young woman from 25th century Earth. This was my first encounter with Hartnell’s Doctor other than another actor playing the character in The Five Doctors. He plays the Doctor as a cranky, grandfatherly type.

In The Space Museum, the TARDIS lands on the planet Xeros inside a museum although something is amiss. They don’t leave footprints and can’t touch anything. While wandering the museum, they find themselves on display, which they presume are future versions themselves. After Moroks discover the TARDIS, the crew’s footprints appear. They then vanish from the display and begin work to keep from ending up there. At different times, they find themselves prisoners, but escape rather easily.

This is an odd story because writer Glyn Jones doesn’t seem to understand time travel. Something happens that allows the TARDIS crew to keep from becoming exhibits though it’s not clear why it hadn’t happened initially in the timeline to keep it from occurring in the first place. The series comes across more like a children’s program where no one bothered to care if the story made sense.

The Who DVD line continues the high standard of extras. The audio commentary features writer Jones, actors Russell and O’Brien, and is moderated by Peter Purves, who appears in the next story. “Defending the Museum” (9 min) features writer Robert Shearman who comments on the episode, pointing out it works as a parody of previous episodes. It’s an interesting theory but since this is my first encounter with a Hartnell, I can’t comment. “My Grandfather, the Doctor” (10 min) finds Jessica Carney, Hartnell’s granddaughter, speaking about her experiences growing up and getting to visit the set. “A Holiday for the Doctor” (14 min) is a bizarre extra with Christopher Green playing Ida Green in a comedy bit that’s not really worth the time. Also included are a Photo Gallery (4 min) and the always-enlightening Info Text.

The Chase finds the TARDIS crew pursued across time and space by The Daleks whose time machine gets closer with each landing. Stops on their journey include the desert planet Aridius; the top of the Empire State Building in 1966; aboard the Mary Celeste in December 1872, where the program explains the mystery of why the ship was found unmanned; to a haunted house filled with familiar faces that should delight the kids; and ending up on the planet Mechanus.

In their haste to escape from the haunted house, the TARDIS crew leaves Vicki behind who, unbeknownst to everyone, stows away in the Daleks’ time machine. Escape grows more difficult as the Daleks unleash a robotic duplicate of The Doctor and the Mechanoids put them on display in a zoo.

This is a fun children’s adventure filled with unexpected twists and turns during the journey. The concluding battle between the Daleks and Mechanoids must have been impressive in 1965. The only bit of implausibility was when the TARDIS crew had to descend 1,500 ft to the ground by climbing down a rope.

The Chase is notable because Barbara and Ian end their travels with the Doctor. They had been with him since the very first adventure An Unearthly Child. He is angry and then sad to see them go. An interesting stylistic choice is made to depict their return to London, two years after they left, through a series of still photographs.

The extras on Disc 1 include commentary with Russell, O’Brien, Purves (who played two roles: Morton Dill and Steven Taylor), and director Richard Martin. “Cusick in Cardiff” (13 min) shows Dalek designer Raymond Cusick visiting the new series studios in 2008.

A second set of extras is packed. “The Thrill of the Chase” (10 min) is a making-of with director Martin. “Last Stop White City” (13 min) is about characters Barbara and Ian and the actors who portrayed them. “Daleks Conquer and Destroy” (23 min) presents the history one of the Doctor’s greatest villains and oldest. “Daleks Beyond the Screen” (22 min) reveals the merchandising material related to the characters. “Shawcraft – The Original Monster Makers (17 min)” looks at prop house that worked on first three seasons of Doctor Who creating creatures. “Follow that Dalek” (12 min) is an extremely rare 8mm film shot around Shawcraft Models. There’s not only a Dalek shown inside and out but the car from Chitty Chitty Bang Bang also can be seen. “Give-a-Show Slides (12 min)” was a children’s product from the time that presents and this extras shows the images that would have appeared on the wall by way of a lighted projector. The standard “Photo Gallery” (5 min) and Info Text are also included.

Although grown-up Who fans may not enjoy these episodes because they are geared towards children, The Space Museum / The Chase are absolutely charming if the context can be appreciated.

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About Gordon S. Miller

Gordon S. Miller is the artist formerly known as El Bicho, the nom de plume he used when he first began reviewing movies online for The Masked Movie Snobs in 2003. Before the year was out, he became that site's publisher. Over the years, he has also contributed to a number of other sites as a writer and editor, such as FilmRadar, Film School Rejects, High Def Digest, and Blogcritics. He is the Publisher of Cinema Sentries. Some of his random thoughts can be found at twitter.com/ElBicho_CS
  • Ally916

    I remember watching Dr. Who many years ago on PBS, and I have to tell you that it’s an acquired taste. In the 60s and 70s there were no realistic special effects or animation in science fiction shows or movies, you had to suspend your disbelief and go with the flow. And Dr. Who had possibly the absolute worst special effects of any show made, but it was also a fun, campy show to watch, and it will hook you. What the author thinks are children’s episodes were actually not, it just always had wierd British writing, although the stories did improve some as the series progressed. It was always a show that was so bad that it was good. I recommend it to anyone who likes old science fiction shows. Great bad stuff.

  • http://www.maskedmoviesnobs.com El Bicho

    When it started it was much more of a family show and they dumbed it down so kids could keep up.

    “It was always a show that was so bad that it was good. I recommend it to anyone who likes old science fiction shows. Great bad stuff.”

    Plenty of fans would disagree with that assessment