Toward the end of its original run, Doctor Who was
getting a bit formulaic. The stories were
generally 4 or 6 episodes
long, and followed a basic pattern:
Doctor arrives, discovers something odd, investigates, rescues
companion, fights the APE (All Pervading Evil) and then leaves. There's nothing really wrong with that, it
made for some entertaining adventures, but back in the early days of
things weren't as settled. Stories could
stretch over 12 episodes (Daleks' Master
Plan) or only two (The Edge of
Destruction), and there was more latitude in the stories. Case in point the BBC's latest R1 release of
William Hartnell stories The Space Museum
and The Chase. These two
adventures mix things up a bit
story wise, and include some unexpected story twists that are both fun
surprising. These also include the first
appearance of a new companion and the fate of two others.
It's a great set that fans of early Who will
certainly want in their
Museum: The Doctor,
Ian, Barbara, and Vicki land on
a planet that turns out to be a giant museum dedicated to the conquests
victories of a ruthless space-faring race.
While that's quite interesting, they have a more immediate
problem: Because of a glitch in the
TARDIS, they can't
be seen or heard. It's a minor problem
that's fixed automatically but not before the group gets a glimpse of
future, one that involves all four of them frozen and set up in display
It's obvious that they have to change the future, but
how? Every action they take could lead
them closer to being a museum display or could save them.
How do they know what events need to
transpire for them to avoid their fate?
While the group is on the run from the museum guards they also
a group of lads who are the rightful inhabitants of the planet. These young men have banded together and
formed a small resistance group, but they aren't nearly ready to take
guards. So how can they help The Doctor
and his friends?
I really, really like this story. In one
of the extras it's mentioned that this
particular adventure isn't very popular with fans and I'm still
astonished. Maybe it's because I look at
things from a
writer's point of view, but there were a lot of great plot points that
to keep viewers guessing, and some subtle comedy that really added a
lot to the
When the travelers first land they find themselves in an
incredibly interesting setting right in the middle of a bizarre mystery. That really starts the series rolling, but
then there's a spanner thrown in the works.
Like Hitchcock did in Psycho,
the story takes an abrupt turn. By the
end of the first episode it's not longer about why they can't be seen,
whether they're able to change the future even given the fact that they
what's going to happen. It seems like an
easy task, but it turns out to be quite difficult.
Things don't work the way viewers think they will either,
and I find that adds a nice light touch to the proceedings. At one point Ian notices that a button is
missing from his coat, and the Doctor really finds that to be a very
clue, asking Ian exactly when he noticed it was missing.
It's obvious that the button will play an
important roll later on in the story except... that it's never mentioned
again. Likewise, it's assumed from the
beginning that the Doctor will be the one to concoct a plan that will
them to survive, but that's not really what happens.
There's a lot of humor in the story too, but it's not
over-the-top and broad like The Horns of Nimon.
Yes, the Doctor does climb into a Dalek casing at one point, but
brief and fun. The best parts are the
inhabitants of the planet. The guards,
members of a fierce military race are horribly inept.
You'd expect crack troops to be guarding
something so special, but they're incompetent bunglers right on up to
in charge. The rebels are no
better. They're like the People's Front
of Judea in Monty Python's Life of Brian,
sitting around holding meetings and making plans, but never actually
This was the first time I've seen this adventure, and I
thought it was great from beginning to end.
With a lot of unexpected twists on the typical Who
story, it'll keep viewers guessing, and smiling to themselves,
the whole way through.
another atypical Doctor Who
story. Immediately after leaving the Space Museum
the group plays with a device that they were given, a Time-Space
that lets them see a TV-like image from anywhere in space and time. After playing with that a bit and watching Lincoln give the Gettysburg
address (I was a bit surprised that it was well known in England)
and peaking in on
Shakespeare (the clip of The Beatles playing Ticket to Ride
is not included unfortunately! I believe
it was in the UK
though I could be mistaken) the party arrives on the desert planet
While Ian and Vicki go exploring, Barbra and the Doctor stay
behind and relax. The Time-Space
Visualiser was left on however and it pulls in a signal from the Daleks. The mechanical monsters are planning on
attacking the Doctor. They have a lock
on the TARDIS and are willing to follow him wherever he goes.
The first thing the Doctor does is try to find the missing
members of his party, and promptly gets captured by the inhabitants of
a group of fish-like creatures, who are planning on turning over the
and his friends (now reunited) to the Daleks in exchange for them
planet in peace. The Doctor escapes,
naturally, tricks the Daleks away from the TARDIS, and the group is off
through time and space with the Daleks close behind.
This was a great series too.
At first it plays out like a typical adventure with the party
split up and a threat being discovered.
There is also a problem that needs to be solved:
the native Aridius inhabitants are being
attacked by monsters and have walled off parts of their underground
protect themselves. Most viewers
watching for the first time probably assumed that the entire adventure
take place on Aridius with The Doctor ultimately protecting the fishmen
both the Daleks and the invading squid-creatures. Not
As soon as he can the Doctor and company jump in the TARDIS and
the duplicitous Aridians to their fate.
The next chunck of the story has the group landing anywhere and
everywhere. On a old wooden ocean
vessel, the top of the Empire
and even a strange place inhabited by Frankenstein's monster and ghosts. It's a fun ride that ends up introducing
new mechanical race, the Mechanoids.
(With the Dalek's being so popular at the time it's obvious that
was trying to capture lightning in a bottle for the second time in a
row.) It's an unusual adventure (is this
time that the Doctor has run from a threat?) that works well. They through in everything including the
kitchen sink into this script, and surprisingly it worked.
The story even ends with a great sequence that was touching. I won't ruin the surprise, but it was icing
on the cake.
These two adventures arrive on three DVDs housed in a
single-width keepcase. The first two
discs contain the TV episodes with the third disc reserved for extras
with The Chase.
This show comes with the original mono soundtrack that fits the show
fine. The dynamic range is nothing to write home about, but the
generally crisp and clear and there is no background noise, tape hiss,
distortion or dropouts. There are optional subtitles in English.
The full frame B&W image is very good, impressive even. The Restoration Team did their usual fine job
and these stories, really making the most of what they had to work with
wasn't a lot.) The image is nicely
balanced and the definition and level of detail is very good. The contrast has been adjusted too to create a
very pleasing image.
This disc has some great extras included, as is the standard for Doctor
releases. There is a commentary track for all episodes of both
with William Russell (Ian), Maureen O'Brien (Vicki), and writer Glyn
weighing in on The Space Museum
and Maureen O'Brien (Vicki), William Russell
(Ian), Peter Purves (Steven), and director Richard Martin commenting on
Chase. These are just about always
enjoyable to listen to, and these commentary tracks are no exception.
Other featurettes include Defending the Museum:
Re-evaluation by Robert Shearman (9 minutes)
where the story is defended (though I don't think it needs to be), My Grandfather, the Doctor has William
Hartnell's granddaughter reminisce about what she remembers of her
and A Holiday for the Doctor
is a horrible, horrible, spoof hosted by a guy in
drag. Watching this is something akin to
slamming your hand in a car door, only more painful.
On the second disc devoted to The Chase there's also Cusik
in Cardiff where the original designer of the Daleks visits the
where the new series Daleks are being made, a making-of short, The Thrill of the Chase, Last Stop White
City, a look at
companions Barbara and Ian, and a retrospective on the Daleks, Daleks Conquer and Destroy. One
of the bonus items I really enjoyed was a
look at all of the Dalek merchandise that had been created over the
Beyond the Screen. That's followed
by another great documentary, Shawcraft-The
Original Monster Makers, a look at the company who made props for Doctor
Who (and many other productions.) A
tour of the classic Shawcraft studios is given in Follow That Dalek, a 8mm
amateur film that looks at many of the props (most of them Who related)
inhabited the studio in the 1960's. It's
a very cool look at many great devices and models.
And if that wasn't enough, there's a set of Give a
Show Slides a kid's slide
projector set that included 16 Doctor
In addition there is a pop-up informational text option
which is very informative as always. It does give some dry
statistics, like how many people viewed each episode, but there are
interesting notes such as script changes that were made and background
information on the supporting characters. The extras are rounded
with, a couple of photo galleries, and the listings from the Radio
Times in .pdf
I really enjoyed both of these stories.
It's obvious that the writers were trying to think outside the
both of these and shake up the format a bit.
The result is a pair of fun and interesting stories that are
unexpected twists and turns. The set
filled with a lot of high quality bonus features too and the image
looks better than it has since these were first broadcast decades ago. Highly