The Space Museum

Region 1
Box Set

Region 2
Box Set
VHS Video & CD
(Doctor Who Story No. 15, starring William Hartnell)
  • written by Glyn Jones
  • directed by Mervyn Pinfield
  • produced by Verity Lambert
  • featuring library music tracks
  • 4 episodes @ 25 minutes each:
    1. The Space Museum
    2. The Dimensions of Time
    3. The Search
    4. The Final Phase
Story: When a host of space/time anomalies prevents the four time travelers from interacting normally with the environment and inhabitants of a museum on an alien planet, the Doctor suspects something must have gone wrong with the TARDIS's materialization. After witnessing a glimpse of their disastrous personal future, the travelers must try and find a way of changing it, or they will remain in the museum forever....

DVD Extras include:

  • Audio commentary by William Russell (Ian Chesterton), Maureen O'Brien (Vicki), and writer Glyn Jones. Moderated by Peter Purves.
  • "Defending the Museum" featurette (9 min.) with future writer Robert Shearman
  • "My Grandfather the Doctor" featurette (10 min.) with Hartnell's grandaughter Jessica Carney.
  • Pop-up Production Note Subtitles
  • Photo Gallery
  • "A Holiday for the Doctor" spoof featurette (14 min.)
  • DVD bundled with the next story: "The Chase" and all its extras....
(VHS video bundled with material from the incomplete previous story: "The Crusade".)

Buyers' Guide Review

by Martin Izsak

(A more in-depth analysis, containing "SPOILERS" and intended for those who have already seen the program, can be accessed here.)

This story is a textbook case for season two's strengths and flaws. It starts out with fascinating ideas and an outstanding execution, building anticipation of a truly excellent story. By the end though, the journey has lost its focus, and it feels a bit disappointing.

Episode One - The Space Museum

This half-hour episode is truly exceptional. An intriguing sci-fi mystery is presented for our four main characters, and Mervyn Pinfield does his best work as a director here, with a nearly flawless execution of a very well-written script. Many complicated effects are achieved with no sacrifice to the drama and no tell-tale signs of "okay, we're setting something up, viewers at home, so please be patient and bear with our shoddiness." As with other Pinfield productions, a bit of silence creeps in, yet this time it is all part of the story, yet another clue for the four travellers to investigate. The premise explored here is unique for any Doctor Who story. The music is good and interesting once more, lending both alienness and grandness to the proceedings where appropriate. The acting by everyone is on par, perhaps even a little above. One begins to hope that we will finally get a really outstanding season two Hartnell sci-fi story.

Episode Two - The Dimensions of Time

The guest characters are developed significantly in this episode, and they are fairly interesting. Ever wondered what Star Wars' Boba Fett looked like under his mask? Here he is, unmasked, young, and green. Jeremy Bulloch plays a key role in this adventure. In terms of both acting and appearance, he stands out and a bit above the rest of his group in this adventure.

Our main characters' grappling with the paradox that faces them remains interesting for a while, but soon begins to get old real fast - becoming more story padding than conflict, as it causes our characters to constantly pause and try to second guess themselves, and as a result they end up doing very little. Star Trek The Next Generation would later commit the same mistake in its season two episode "Time Squared". The Doctor is the only regular character with something truly interesting to do in this episode.

Episode Three - The Search

Here we go again with another sinful Doctor-less episode. Okay, so William Hartnell deserves a holiday or two this year. But why can't the main character of the series appear on a few good pre-filmed inserts in the meantime, like Susan did in "The Aztecs" (story no. 6)? Sir Ian Chesterton always gets a pre-filmed insert when William Russell needs a holiday. The Doctor is the title character, for crying out loud. Well, at least the absence has a good story excuse, and a sense of horror creeps into the proceedings as one wonders exactly what would keep his obviously bright spirit from view for a whole episode.

The remaining three regulars waste a bit more time second guessing themselves, while the villains get good and organized. Things improve at last as action and pandemonium ensues, and the plot offers some much needed complexities. It is worth noting that this Doctor-less half-hour undoubtedly has the most believable and exciting hand-to-hand combat scenes in all of season two - quite a few of them to boot. Excellently directed, Mervyn Pinfield! Sir Ian Chesterton delivers plenty of action and cunning, and makes the episode interesting.

But ultimately, it is Vicki who is served best by the story, and by this episode in particular, getting a journey that is a true credit to her character. Nice.

Yet another great cliffhanger builds mounting suspense. The episode endings have been pretty good all through this story, relying more on unanswered questions than straight menace. Refreshingly unusual.

Episode Four - The Final Phase

Our four main characters don't really get much of anything worthwhile to do in what should be their ultimate confrontation with their paradox. As a result, the episode is a bit of a let-down. The Doctor is still not on form, and before long all four main characters seem to be suffering deflation. They are all too easily reduced once more to second-guessing themselves and philosophizing. The philosophizing works, the second-guessing does not. But there is some action to conclude things, although it's not as riveting as that of the previous episode. Although the effect for the guns is not altogether satisfying, it is better than anything we have been dealt with on Doctor Who before in terms of laser beams, and that includes the silly old Dalek negative picture effect. Only the Dalek extermination gas in the Peter Cushing movies rates better.

At least the farewell scene is decent, interesting, and satisfying. But that's not really the end....

Although this story is about other things, we get some intriguing minor cameos. If you've only seen this story on television in syndication, you might not have seen it all, as someone between Australia, New Zealand, and Lionheart (the BBC in America) must have decided to cut the final scene for their own inscrutable purposes on the first version I ever saw. I felt gipped once again.

Beginning with its official BBC VHS release, the proper cliffhanger ending to episode four of "The Space Museum" has been restored, and features the best ever view of..... Well, I won't reveal everything here. If you're reading this version of my review instead of the in-depth analysis, you don't want the major spoilers, do you?

The Season Two Formula

A recurring problematic theme for late season two Doctor Who seems to be developing here. The last three stories have all been ripe with possibilities, and mounting excellence as well, yet all have been disappointing in their concluding episode, sometimes marginally, sometimes becoming complete wash-outs. Don't people know how to finish a script anymore? This one in particular has a crucial element missing from its story structure. I'll say no more here.

But at least "The Space Museum" gives us a healthy appetite for the next story. Anticipation remains a key ingredient to season two's ratings success - whether a story turns out to be good or not, viewers are at least given plenty of incentive well in advance to tune in and find out for themselves. Even if you didn't like the conclusion of "The Space Museum", it does leave you wondering what will occur on the show in the next couple of weeks, so you tell your friends and you all tune in again next week. For TV networks, this is the most important element of the show. For us die-hard fans, something that holds up a bit stronger under repeat viewing would be preferable.

This story has become available on DVD (bundled with the next story) and VHS video (bundled with material from the previous story).
Click on the Amazon symbol for the location nearest you for pricing and availability:

DVD NTSC Region 1
Box Set
for the North American market:
in the U.S.
in Canada
DVD PAL Region 2
Box Set
for the U.K.
VHS Video & CD
NTSC in North America
PAL for the U.K.

Comments on this article are welcome. You may contact the author from this page:

Contact page


Read the Buyers' Guide Review for the next story: "The Chase"

Home Page Site Map Star Trek Sliders Doctor Who William Hartnell Era Episode Guide Catalogue