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Doctor Who: The Space Museum/The Chase

1/12/2010. Contributed by Geoff Willmetts

Buy Doctor Who: The Space Museum/The Chase DVD boxset in the USA - or Buy Doctor Who: The Space Museum/The Chase DVD boxset in the UK

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Doctor Who: The Space Museum/The Chase DVD boxset. pub: BBC BBCDVD 2809. Price: about GBP15.00 (UK) if you know where to look. 250 minutes 3 DVDs with extras. Details per volume below.

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The Space Museum – 1 DVD 100 minutes 4 episodes with extras

stars: William Hartnell, William Russell, Jacqueline Hill, Maureen O’Brien and Jeremy Bulloch

Memory plays funny things. I know the effect of watching ‘The Space Museum’ back in 1965 got me writing stories but I don’t think I cottoned on to the rebellion so much as the clever use of time manipulation.

The Doctor (William Harnell) with his companions, Ian (actor William Russell), Barbara (actress Jacqueline Hill) and Vicki (actress Maureen O’Brien) find something unusual when they arrive on the planet Xeros and discover themselves as frozen exhibits until time catches up with them and they attempt to ensure they don’t meet that fate. Oddly, it is Vicki who does the most towards this by inspiring the native Xerons to stop talking about rebellion against their world conquerors Moroks and getting them weapons from their arsenal to fight back with striking results. Ian, meanwhile, has to rescue the Doctor on his way to being permanently frozen and Barbara ends up rescuing one of the Xerons from a gas attack.

The story is a divide and conquer approach to ensure that everyone gets some scenes and William Harnell gets a week’s holiday without upsetting the balance of the story.

In the audio commentary, writer Glen Jones points out that his script was vastly re-written by script editor Dennis Spooner. Peter Purves points out that the two stories either side of it ate the budget which might explain why things might have been seen as too expensive to do. Considering that Jones’ story involved using a lot of soldiers, I can understand why Spooner might have felt he needed to pull things back somewhat and then combined with the low budget must have been to the despair of its director Mervyn Pinfield, who gets attacked by the commentators for his lacklustre direction. I think anyone’s heart wouldn’t have been in it finding things cut back so much. Glen Jones story had more to do with the time aspects than the rebellion but considering how some of the trick were done successfully on a low budget, it would be interesting one day to see his original script brought to life one day as a comparison.

Although all the commentators had a chance to watch the story the night before recording the commentary and do research, Peter Purves tends to dominate far too much. It isn’t as though the other actors William Russell and Maureen O’Brien haven’t got any experience doing them, although granted they both admit to not remembering too much of what went on, but they should have been encouraged to talk more. The commentary for episode three is very funny and it’s nice to know that the Xerons ate chocolate fudge cake and Guinness. One thing they were puzzled by was how Barbara recovered from the gas attack and didn’t spot the Moroks giving the instruction to feed in a revival gas. Had it been in colour, maybe they would have used a different colour. Considering how big the museum was, having them running out to escape would have made more sense than trying to find them.

Interestingly, one of the noise sound effects was later used in ‘The Champions’ a few years later for intense pain. From the audio commentary all episode music was stock so doesn’t answer where that particular noise was used first.

The extras are a mixed lot. Robert Shearman argues the case why ‘The Space Museum’ isn’t as bad as it is made out to citing episode one being better than the rest. What gives the best insight is Jessica Carney, talking about her grandfather, William Hartnell. The spoof explaining how the actors took holidays in the year long schedule could have been done straight with less window-dressing although it did show scenes from the various episodes where it happened as with ‘The Sensorites’.

Does ‘The Space Museum’ stand up despite the various criticisms given on this DVD? Watch the story before doing so with the audio commentary and you get hooked into the story. That way you can make up your own mind. It has some failings but as with a lot of ‘Doctor Who’ stories you buy into the reality and go along with the events.

The Chase - 2 DVDs 148 minutes 6 episodes with extras

stars: William Hartnell, William Russell, Jacqueline Hill, Maureen O’Brien and Peter Purves

How did they get that time/space visualiser inside the TARDIS? That puzzled me when young and still does today, especially as its rim is larger than the TARDIS’ doors. It becomes an essentially mcguffin to discover that the Daleks have their own time machine and a team of them are in pursuit of the Doctor and his companions with an exterminate order. As the title suggests, the story follows them being chased by the Daleks to various worlds, including Earth a couple times, before a final confrontation on Mechanus. Saying too much could ultimately end up as a bit of a spoiler although it has a unique situation in that actor Peter Purves plays two widely different parts with the latter becoming a companion.

‘The Chase’ was made on a very limited budget and as a replacement for a couple other stories and yet comes out reasonably effective despite director Derek Martin’s assertions otherwise. I often think production crew are far too close to the product when all the viewer has to go by is the end product. If they do their job properly, regardless of budget constraint, then the reader focuses on the screen. His part in the audio commentary was as much embarrassment of budget but as Maureen O’Brien points out, the cast were doing their job and focused the viewers on the performance and primarily aimed at children who would accept whatever was shown on television at the time. With a cleaned up digital recording, we are certainly seeing more than on the old 425 line tellies of the past. It still works for me on that level. Assuming you listen to the audio commentary second, keep your eye out for a television camera in the background of one shot and then ask yourself why you didn’t spot it the first time around. If you didn’t then it shows that what worked in 1965 is equally effective today.

The Doctor references that he built the TARDIS. This doesn’t actually go against his known history as it was acknowledged that he stole a TARDIS in for repair so he must have done something to make it work or keep it working considering it travelled at random. Interesting reference to the computers running the TARDIS and the time interval needed before leaving a destination which explains why they have to hang around whenever they appear on a planet. No doubt, this is probably part of the unfinished repair work as the current TARDIS doesn’t have this limitation. In many respects, despite the time/space intervals involved, the TARDIS appears to do short limited random jumps at the time.

The destruction of four Daleks along the way proved that they weren’t indestructible. Likewise, there is no explanation why they aren’t wearing the disks on their backs that allow them to work independently of a metal floor. Presumably, they advanced their technology so it could be incorporated inside their armoured chassis and less vulnerable to attack.

The departure of Ian and Barbara has a fierce display from the Doctor but the moment after they are gone parallels the Jon Pertwee regeneration when at the end of ‘The Green Death’ story, Jo Grant leaves. It is no wonder that the Doctor realises the companions aren’t forever.

Watching a trip to the Cardiff studio with original designer Ray Cusick talking to his modern day equivalents is insightful as to how some things differ but how there is never enough time to do everything. Interestingly, this in the first DVD not the second.

The second DVD is loaded with extras looking at the Daleks and their popularity during the 60s, centring on looking at the rise of the Daleks and their fame and the work of Shawcraft who did all the model work for about five years on the series. I had a little bit of confusion from ‘The Rescue’ where Ray Cusick pointed out that they were limited designers. Here, he clarifies that they were model model-makers than special effects designers. Saying that, seeing all their output here, including them making the scale model of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang for the film shows some extraordinary skill. As a lot of their later model work was for the car industry, one really ought to ask what happened to those expensive scale-size models and hope they are in an attic than thrown out in a skip.

The frames from the toy ‘Give A Show Projector’ was oddly interesting. I actually still have one but not the ‘Doctor Who’ one. Rather oddly, the frames that explains how the TARDIS’ trans-dimensional quality works which does make sense seems to be ignored in other stories. Add to this, stills from ‘The Chase’ itself they makes for a great extras DVD. A definite addiction to your ‘Doctor Who’ collection.

GF Willmetts

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