Release Date: March 1
Duration: 250 mins (approx)
The Space Museum
First up is the oddity that is The Space Museum. When I first saw this one back in the 90s, I was quite taken with it so it was a slight surprise to find that its name wasn't as popular in fan circles (actually, it's not that surprising). For me, any Doctor Who story that features the line, "Hey, that's my good cardigan!" (I shan't spoil it for you by revealing who said it) has got to be worthy of some appraisal. The opening episode is tremendous and a stark reminder of just how experimental Who could be in the 60s. Crikey - it's almost avant garde in the way that it plays with time and the perceptions of those caught within it. The viewer is left with that all too rare feeling of "What the eff is going on?" and as the credits role one wondered if this was to be a hidden classic. Well, you can tell where this is going...
Sadly, the story does not live up to the grandeur of the first installment as the gang find themselves back in their 'proper' time. What then follows could best be described as 'fun' (nothing wrong with that). Rob Shearman's reading of this story (see the excellent Extras) is spot on - the cast are having a terrific amount of fun and The Space Museum could be seen as a parody of previous Who adventures. It also feels immensely rushed as the cast regularly fluff their way through their lines throughout but the final episode ends on such a terrific cliffhanger that you'll perhaps forgive the cast and crew's "professionalism"...
'Cos the Daleks make quite an unexpected return! Though, having said that, I am no fan of the intergalactic pepper~pots and The Chase does nothing for the cause. Like The Space Museum, it has a very light feel to it no more so than in those infamous Haunted House scenes, Peter Purves' American "accent", Ian delivering the line, "Try and get out of that hole Fred" (to a Dalek), the lamentable Mechanoids and a Dalek who appears to be a few roundels short of a TARDIS console room.
Again, The Chase starts off quite unusually; displaying the 'family' life inside the time machine as Ian, Barabara, Vicki and The Doctor crowd round the telly (sorry, Time-Space Visualizer). Then we get some bizarre clips featuring Shakespeare, The Queen and The Beatles. As a side~note, it's interesting to note that the makers of Doctor Who realised that The Fab Four would themselves become part of history. And we get another excellent cliffhanger with a Dalek reveal. (Two weeks in a row!)
But things do take a turn for the worse as what we are presented with over the next five episodes is a bit of a mess though its name, The Chase, is accurate - that's purty much what happens as the Daleks follow our intrepid heroes. Like The Space Museum it's also filled with much humour and the cast play on this greatly with Vicki coming across as constantly pissed for the entirety of the tale (not necessarily a bad thing). Sticking with actors, as always, Ian and Barbara are solidly played and their farewell at the end of this story is superbly done with The Doctor's "I shall miss them" displaying a peculiar amount of emotion.
The production itself, like the 'plot', is a mess; the direction is notably poor in scenes like the Mary Celeste and in the 'action' scenes. And why anybody thought that a Dalek proclaiming "Am exterminated!" and "Totally immobilised!" would be appropriate is beyond me. Ultimately, the notion of the Daleks getting time~travel technology is solid in premise but it was rendered negatively here in The Chase. Yes, it's fun and memorable in parts but it is also lightweight and laughable (derisively so). One to watch with a group whilst having a drink methinks.
If the stories are lightweight and sometimes ineffectual, the extras certainly are not. Accompanying The Space Museum is a heartfelt 'defence' of the tale by writer Rob Shearman, who stoutly fights his corner addressing some very interesting issues. Hitting a more sensitive note is William Hartnell's granddaughter (who popped up in the excellent doc Thirty Years In The TARDIS back in the early 90s) in My Grandfather, the Doctor. Jessica Carney lovingly takes the viewer through his career and personal life with some exquisite insight and archival materials. An absolute joy.
Joy, however, is not the word I would use to describe the "humourous" extra, A Holiday for the Doctor. Now the idea is a welcome one - looking at episodes where cast members were absent for whatever reason - but the execution is woeful. Humour can be a real hit and miss affair when it comes to documentaries and this is a real missed opportunity for an excellent piece.
As you would expect, there are some tasty VAMs celebrating Skaro's finest to compliment The Chase and I feel even the most Dalek~hungry will be satiated. Refreshingly, those who remember working on the story do so with honesty and thankful frankness, citing money and time as Doctor Who's greatest enemy and not imagination. There are a number of fascinating docs here exploring the little guys and their appeal and Daleks Beyond the Screen is a terrific look at the merchandising over the years. Also worthy of a mention is the rather sweet collection from the Give-a-Show Projector slides (some pictured here) - accompanied by a top soundtrack.
If the stories aren't quite as good as they could be (and certainly of their time) they do display a great sense of fun and intense experimentation - two facets I heartily applaud. PLUS they've got William "The Guv'nor" Hartnell in them, another definite positive. The "extras" (though I feel it's slightly damning to call them such as they are usually the first thing I go to) are, barring one unfortunate foray into laughter~town, are never less than engrossing - a delightful box set.
BLOGTOR RATING 8/10
Thanks to 2|entertain
Thanks to 2|entertain