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DVD Review

DVD cover

Doctor Who
The Space Museum / The Chase


Starring: William Hartnell
RRP: £29.99
Certificate: PG
Available 01 March 2010

When the TARDIS jumps a time track and the Doctor, Ian, Barbara and Vicki arrive on the planet Xeros, they discover their own future selves displayed as exhibits in a museum built as a monument to the galactic conquests of the warlike Morok invaders who now rule the planet. When time shifts back to the present, they realise that they must do everything they can to try and avert this potential future...

Poor old Space Museum! Probably due to its reputation as a cheap and far from cheerful production, whose intriguing opening instalment gives way to three crushingly dull episodes, BBC Worldwide appears not to trust this four-part 1965 serial to go out on its own, and only ever releases it for public viewing when it is accompanied by a more respected serial. In 1999, it was issued on VHS alongside the surviving episodes of The Crusade. Now it is being released on DVD with the six-part Dalek story The Chase.

However, could it be that The Space Museum is not the complete load of old Moroks it’s been assumed to be for all these years?

Robert Shearman (author of the new series episode Dalek) certainly thinks so. In the special feature Defending the Museum (9 minutes 30 seconds), he argues convincingly that the serial was intended, by its writer Glyn Jones at least, as a spoof of Doctor Who itself, which had by that time been running for nearly two years and had already established plenty of clichés of its own. Thus we meet some supposedly evil but actually rather useless baddies, the Moroks, and some only slightly more effectual rebels, the Xerons, for the TARDIS crew (Maureen O’Brien’s Vicki in particular) to motivate and thus help them to escape from their own predicament. Ian (William Russell) arms himself for battle as usual, while Barbara (Jacqueline Hill) comments that all the corridors look the same. The Doctor (William Hartnell) agrees that it all looks very familiar. Even the Daleks are deconstructed, their menace undermined by the spectacle of an empty Dalek shell, which to Vicki looks rather friendly, languishing as a museum display like something out of a Doctor Who exhibition to come. If you’ve already seen The Space Museum or are already aware of this serial’s poor reputation, then I heartily recommend that you watch Shearman’s special feature first.

In the audio commentary featuring Maureen O’Brien, William Russell, Glyn Jones and moderator Peter Purves, Jones confirms that he did intend at least some of the satirical content that Shearman refers to, including the fact that the word Morok sounds rather like moron! Unfortunately, other ideas were allegedly diluted by story editor Dennis Spooner’s rewrites and by Mervyn Pinfield’s stagnant direction. Lazy performances by most of the actors playing Moroks (led by Richard Shaw as Lobos) don’t help either.

There are some overtly and undeniably funny moments, though, such as the Doctor pretending not to be lost; getting captured by the Xerons as if he’s being dragged off stage; his escape and subsequent reaction when he is almost immediately recaptured by the Moroks; Ian biting Barbara’s cardigan (another of her cardigans is sacrificed for the greater good in the next story); and the Doctor’s humorous manipulation of Lobos’s thought projector. There’s some fine dramatic irony as Ian assures Vicki that they won’t be meeting the Daleks again - or at least he hopes not...

In a way it’s good that this serial is being released with The Chase, because the segue from one story to the next is one of the most intricate in the classic show’s history. The Space Museum reminds us, through the museum exhibit, about the Daleks and establishes the fact that Vicki already knows what they are. The final episode introduces the Time-Space Visualiser that will feature so prominently in The Chase, and it ends with a cliffhanger that leads directly into that story.

In addition to the four episodes of The Space Museum and the aforementioned audio commentary, the first disc of this three-disc set also contains My Grandfather, the Doctor (10 minutes), in which William Hartnell’s granddaughter Jessica Carney (author of Who’s There?) discusses the actor’s career; A Holiday for the Doctor (14 minutes), a sideways look at how the show’s 1960s stars were often written out in order to facilitate holidays and sick leave, presented - in a decidedly Little Britain style - by Christopher Green as the ageing actress Ida Barr; plus the customary production note subtitles, photo gallery, Radio Times listings in PDF format, and Coming Soon trailer.

This DVD really does shed new light on this underrated story.


The travellers are forced to flee when they learn from a Time-Space Visualiser taken from the space museum that a squad of Daleks is on their trail with orders to exterminate them. Having created their own time machine, the Daleks pursue the TARDIS from the planet Aridius to the Empire State Building in 1966, the Mary Celeste in 1872, and even into a haunted house, before a final confrontation on Mechanus...

The second disc presents all six episodes of The Chase, the fourth Doctor Who serial to be penned by Terry Nation, and the third to feature his creations, the Daleks. There are signs, however, that both Nation and his concept are already growing tired. Whereas The Daleks and The Dalek Invasion of Earth both had strong storylines running through them, The Chase is a runaround romp.

Like Nation’s The Keys of Marinus before it, there’s practically a different setting for each episode. The first two take place on the desert planet Aridius (it’s arid, geddit?), though the emphasis is more on the Time-Space Visualiser in the first episode, while the second focuses on the life forms of Aridius (one of whom is played by a young Hywel Bennett). The third instalment features two Earth locations, the Empire State Building and the infamous Mary Celeste, while the fourth takes place in a bizarre haunted house. The final two episodes are set on the planet Mechanus, though, even more than the Aridius episodes, the emphasis of each episode is decidedly different: the fifth focuses on the jungle of Mechanus and its hostile Fungoid flora, while the sixth turns its attention to the city of the Mechanoids (or should that be Mechonoids - the spellings in the end credits differ) for the final showdown with the Daleks.

Despite having a substantially bigger budget than The Space Museum, the shortcomings of The Chase’s production values are more readily apparent. This is because the story and its director, Richard Martin, are rather over-ambitious. In the first episode, for example, we see a canvas under the sand when the airlock opens. A Mire Beast tentacle enters the frame too late and clearly makes no contribution to closing the airlock door. In the second instalment, we see the Aridians’ skullcaps peeling away at the sides and a badly timed shot of an Aridians’ hands on a detonator. There’s a Dalek in shot before it should be in episode four, and a BBC camera similarly in view during episode five, which also features a robot “double” of the Doctor (Edmund Warwick) who doesn’t look anything like him in close-up.

To be fair, though, Warwick looks OK in medium to long shots - better than I remembered from watching the VHS release. As Purves points out in the Space Museum commentary, these episodes were originally shown in 405 lines on tiny television screens, which would have covered a multitude of sins. In the commentary for The Chase, both Purves and Martin pour scorn on the realisation of the Fungoids in episode five, though I rather like them!

This is a generally light-hearted adventure, with plenty of genuinely funny moments, including a chilled-out Ian who dances badly to the Beatles; Barbara’s line about the Doctor’s singing, “No, Doctor, not that awful noise. The other one...”; a post-tussle quip from the Doctor (following his fight with the robot Doctor) that would have been worthy of James Bond; and the photo montage of Ian and Barbara at the end of the story. The parodying of the Daleks that began in The Space Museum continues unabated here, including a Dalek dunce who says “Er... er...” as he tries to decipher some instrument readings; a Dalek’s encounter with brash American tourist Morton Dill (Purves in a pre-Steven Taylor role), who is curiously spared from extermination; and Dudley Simpson’s jaunty opening music, which suggests fun rather than fear.

There’s a change of emphasis at the end of the serial, though, as we get a spectacular battle between the Daleks and the Mechanoids, and a fitting and poignant send-off for Ian and Barbara.

Each instalment is accompanied by on-screen production notes and an audio commentary featuring Maureen O’Brien, William Russell, Peter Purves and Richard Martin. The second disc also includes Cusick in Cardiff (12 minutes 45 seconds), in which Dalek designer Raymond Cusick visits the new series production studios in Cardiff, plus Radio Times PDFs.

The third and final disc contains oodles more Chase-related special features, including The Thrill of The Chase (10 minutes 25 seconds), in which the director looks back at the making of the story, and Last Stop White City (13 minutes 15 seconds), which spotlights the schoolteachers Ian and Barbara, the Doctor’s first human companions. The Daleks are the focus of Daleks Conquer and Destroy (22 minutes 35 seconds) and Daleks Beyond the Screen (22 minutes), which explore the monsters’ huge impact, both on the Doctor Who television series and in popular culture, including satirical cartoons and copious merchandise.

Shawcraft Models, the freelance company that built the original Daleks and numerous other models and props, is the subject of the next two features, Shawcraft - The Original Monster Makers (17 minutes) and Follow that Dalek (12 minutes). The latter is an amateur 8mm cine film from 1967 and is one of the highlights of the DVD. It comprises footage from two separate visits to the premises of Shawcraft Models, showing various models and props from Doctor Who and other productions, many of them seen in colour for the first time, including set elements from Zaroff’s laboratory in The Underwater Menace and the lunar base model from The Moonbase, some of them shown in stages of construction, including the Macra from The Macra Terror and a flying version of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. The Macra prop shows details not visible in surviving clips and stills from its television appearance, including eye and antenna movement and the illusion of breathing.

The other highlight is Give-a-Show Slides (12 minutes 15 seconds), sixteen comic-strip-style stories presented on seven slides each, as seen in the ultra-rare “Doctor Who Give-a-Show Projector” toy from 1965. Featuring the Doctor, Ian, Barbara, the Daleks, the Menoptra and the Zarbi, the slides also reprise other concepts from the television series, including miniaturisation and intelligent insects.


Both The Space Museum and The Chase are a good laugh, not always for reasons that the production team intended, but great fun nonetheless.

Richard McGinlay

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