In my quest to watch all of the episodes of Doctor Who, I am approaching the end of the second season. I just finished “The Space Museum,” which is the seventh story of the second season (15th overall). It still stars William Hartnell as the Doctor, with Barbara, Ian, and Vicki as his companions.
The TARDIS materializes on another mysterious planet, but this time the mysterious occurrences begin before the travelers even leave the TARDIS. They had departed in the TARDIS from their previous adventure, “The Crusades,” still wearing the clothing of that time, but suddenly they are in different clothes and don’t remember changing into them. Vicki goes to get a glass of water and accidentally drops the glass and breaks it, only to have the glass reassemble itself and jump back into her hand.The Doctor claims that all of this will be explained when they investigate the planet.
They exit the TARDIS to discover a building that the Doctor deduces must be a museum. They see two men coming and try to hide from them. However, Vicki sneezes just as the men pass. Strangely, the men, who were close enough that they should have heard the sneeze, simply walk on, as if they heard nothing. Soon the travelers realize that the men do not seem to see or hear them. They explore the museum looking for answers (finding a Dalek on display along the way). Soon they come to a room with a familiar site: the TARDIS. Before they can wonder too much about how the TARDIS ended up in the museum, the travelers make a more chilling discovery. Next to the TARDIS are the four of them, frozen like dummies in display cases. The Doctor theorizes that they must have jumped a time track and are seeing the future. Soon, the TARDIS and the display cases disappear and the travelers realize that they are now back to the present. They have to figure out how to prevent themselves from ending up as museum displays.
The planet is run by the Moroks. They are a race that had a great empire. The museum was built to celebrate their conquests and victories, but no one ever comes to visit it anymore. Even the planet itself, Xeros, is an example of their conquests. They killed the native Xerons, but let the children survive. When they are old enough to work, they are shipped off to be enslaved. However, a few of the Xerons have avoided being shipped of and are planing a rebellion.
The Doctor and his companions are caught in the middle of this conflict, as the rebels try to help save the travelers from the Moroks, hoping they will help them regain their planet. This seems to be the main theme of many Hartnell era stories. The travelers are consistently ending up on planets where rebels are trying to regain control of a conquered planet.
One of the special features on the DVD proposes that this story is a parody of the typical Hartnell era story, and I can see support for that. The Moroks are not a particularly fearsome enemy, and their name even sounds like “morons” (plus the Xerons sound a bit like “zeros”).
The first episode of the story, however, is great. It really creates an era of mystery and the reveal of the travelers seeing themselves as part of a museum display is genuinely creepy. The remaining three episodes, unfortunately, don’t live up to the potential of the first one, but I still found the story interesting.
Eventually, each of the travelers ends up going his or her separate way, trying to figure out how to avoid ending up as part of a museum display. The Doctor is captured early on (and is absent for part 3). Barbara meets a rebel in the museum, but they are trapped and barely escape the paralyzing gas released into the museum to capture them. Vicki joins up with the rebels and initiates the revolution (and shows remarkable technological skill), by disabling the computer that controls the lock to the armory. Ian really kicks ass in this one, often fighting off multiple armed guards, and forces a guard to take him to where the Doctor is being held.
Ultimately, the four travelers end up exactly where they didn’t want to be, about to be turned into the museum display, suggesting that it is impossible to change your actions. The only thing that saves them is that the rebels come and free them, because the actions that they took, while leading them to the same place, affected others, who prevented the future the travelers saw earlier from happening.
Overall, I enjoyed this episode. It’s not one of the best episodes, but I found that it held my interest. I enjoy the way that the dynamic between Barbara, Ian, and the Doctor has developed. I have to admit that I will be sad to see them leave in the next episode.