I have such mixed feelings for this story. It makes me feel like such a hypocrite. I criticized The Web Planet for being a poor version of The Daleks; but this story is even more so. And I enjoyed it more than The Web Planet. How does that work?
It may be because of how it tried to be different and exciting with the time travel elements; even if those elements don’t quite work.
At the beginning of the story, the team are in the Tardis and suddenly change from their Crusade costumes to their normal outfits. The Doctor blames this on ‘jumping a time track’, something that he has used to explain things since. Vicki then drops a glass of water, smashing it, before it returns to her hands with the water inside. This perplexes the Doctor and he suggests they go for a look around.
So the Tardis team find themselves on the planet Xeros, containing a large space museum, as the title might suggest. The planet and the museum are run by people known as the Moroks, and the original inhabitants of the planet; the Xerons, are being pushed into submission. The design of the costumes for the two forces are neither particularly inventive or memorable unfortunately. The Xerons come across as being even weaker than the Thals, and look even more feeble.
I would have loved to be at that design meeting:
When the Doctor and friends explore the museum, they find a Dalek on display, which would be a great touch if they weren’t up to return in the very next story anyway. They also stumble across a display of themselves, frozen in time. Ian realises that they have been ignored by guards and haven’t left any footprints in the dust so must be invisible at the moment. The Doctor then spouts something about them not having arrived yet, and once they have arrived properly, the display case will disappear and the guards will be able to see them.
No this make exactly no sense at all. But I do think that it is brave of them to try. It just would have worked better if they had arrived in the Tardis, seen themselves on display and gone back in time to try and fix it. Instead, time somehow moves around them. At the end of the story the Doctor explains that they hadn’t properly landed and so were sort of time ghosts until the lever on the Tardis fell into place and they landed properly. I’d be happy to go with that idea if it just made them invisible or out of sync with real time; it just makes no sense for them to see themselves in the future and them be brought an hour back into the past.
Of course I understand why this was done; it means that the rest of the episodes can be spent trying to avoid the fate in the future. They obviously manage to do this, which means that they couldn’t have seen themselves in the first place. It also doesn’t explain the smashed glass reversing or their clothing changing.
The fight against the future does add a new dynamic that we haven’t really seen before, so kudos to the writer for that.
Barbara gets nothing to do in this story. Again. She basically gets stuck in a room full of smoke for an episode and a half while Vicki kicks the Xerons up the arse to start a revolution. I feel that Barbara would have been better suited to do this, since she has actually been through the French revolution, and the Thal revolution, and the human revolution against the Daleks, and the Menoptera revolution, right? No? Okay, well she can just choke in a steamy room for 40 minutes while other characters can help to progress the story. Unlucky Barbara.
Ian on the other hand gets quite a lot of cool stuff to do. He gets to have an Indiana Jones style fight against two of the Moroks and say some pretty James Bond lines too.
Morok – You’ll be a fool if you kill me. You’ll achieve nothing.
Ian – Possibly, but it might be enjoyable.
This is an Ian that I’m very fond of. He has clearly been through a lot on these adventures, and he has had enough of your shit.
Overall I think that the idea of a massive space museum is one that hasn’t been visited often enough in Doctor Who; and I might even welcome the Doctor returning to a similar planet, if only without the irritating inhabitants. I enjoyed this story greatly, which I am not proud of. I can see how much it is a more camp version of The Daleks, but I did enjoy watching the might Xeron revolution, which lasted about 4 minutes and consisted of some men in white coats falling over. Even with all that, it was a story that didn’t seem to drag very much, and did include some interesting ideas and time travel themes which had not yet been attempted in Doctor Who. Quite ambitious, but ultimately it didn’t quite hit the spot. I’m going to award The Space Museum with six Doctors hilariously-hidden-in-Daleks out of ten.