I don’t know how much more of this I can take. Forget my “poor wife” – what about me? This isn’t my first trip to Xeros and I can’t say I’m thrilled at the prospect of a return visit to the godforsaken shit hole.
The Space Museum
As I slip the appropriate DVD into the player, I sigh. Loudly.
Sue: That doesn’t sound very promising.
Me: Just ignore me. I don’t want to prejudice you in any way.
Sue: You already have. Just give it to me straight. How long and how bad?
Me: It’s short. Four parts. The first part is pretty good, actually. As for the other three episodes, well, it’s incredibly tedious. And that’s hardly a spoiler. You’d have to be clinically insane to make a case for this story. I wouldn’t really care but I watched this very recently; if I knew we were going to embark on this mad experiment, I would have waited. The thought of putting myself through this again so soon…
I shudder and then I ask to Sue to imagine watching The Sensorites again – right now – and she nods sympathetically.
Me: Perhaps I could leave you to watch this one on your own and you could take notes? I don’t have to be present for all of them, do I?
Sue: That’s not the deal! It’s called Aventures with the Wife in Space not Adventures With the Wife in Space, Except When I Can’t Be Bothered. Come on, Neil!
As I hit Play, I let out an even bigger sigh. There was a time when I would have regarded this as dream come true. Here I am, sitting with my wife, watching classic Doctor Who. Yeah, just think about that for a moment. And she’s really watching it. She isn’t just glancing up to tut or pour scorn on it. No, she is doing her level best to engage with the programme and I’m the one finding excuses not to watch it.
There are stories, whole eras even, that I simply can not wait to experience with Sue (Sea Devils! Scorby! Paris in ’79! Giant pink snakes! The Kandyman!), but these Hartnells are driving me nuts. And we haven’t even got to the difficult ‘holes’ yet.
Having said all that, the opening episode bamboozles Sue nicely. There’s a great bit were she describes the Morok guards as having worse peripheral vision than the Daleks, and she’s impressed when it turns out that our heroes are actually invisible. The reveal of the Dalek exhibit itself genuinely shocks her and she isn’t surprised that Vicki doesn’t know what an infamous invading alien race would looks like; we are both teachers and we’ve encountered plenty of students who don’t know who Hitler was, so it’s not impossible, just tremendously sad.
Sue: I still can’t get over how you can go from a story that looks sumptuous and realistic one week to something that looks cheap and tacky the next. But at least I know there’s always a good one around the corner.
Me: Yeah, it’d be a nightmare if they stopped doing the historicals.
The cliffhanger sneaks up on her as effectively as it does our heroes. They must be blind not to notice the exhibits of themselves as soon as they enter the room.
Sue: Oh, I like that. That’s really clever. I don’t understand why you are complaining so much.top
The Dimensions of Time
Me: The good news is that this is the second worst story to contain the words ‘Dimensions’ and ‘Time’ in its title.
Sue: Is it really a good idea to have a character bored out of his skull as the bad guy? Is this trying to be funny, or is it just stupid?
When the Doctor takes refuge in a Dalek exhibit, Sue is appalled.
Sue: That’s ridiculous!
Me: How is it more ridiculous than Ian clambering into a Dalek in the second story? Remember that?
Sue: Yes, but in that instance they scooped the slimy thing out of it first.
Me: It’s a museum exhibit! I’m sure they didn’t leave a Kaled mutant in there to rot! The smell would have been unbearable. Although that might explain why attendances at the museum are so low.
Sue: But this Dalek has foam rubber inside; it was clearly designed to have someone sitting in it. It cheapens the Daleks, if you ask me.
Me: Well, a) you ain’t seen nothing yet, love and b) maybe it’s just a replica that’s been designed by a fan of marauding alien monsters and this lot bought it and stuck it in a museum?
Sue: Sorry, I’m picking holes, aren’t I?
Me: Don’t worry about it. We’re simply mirroring what’s happening on-screen – our heroes standing around bickering with each other to cover up the fact that ABSOLUTELY NOTHING IS HAPPENING!
Sue: At least they are cutting up Barbara’s cardigan – it was horrible. It made Barbara look like a stern midwife. It was not a good look for her.
At one point, Barbara makes a reference to how all the corridors look the same and Sue approves, regarding it as a rather clever in-joke. She assumes they threw it in during rehearsals.
Unsurprisingly, the Moroks don’t impress Sue much (“It’s a badger crossed with Londo from Babylon 5, even his name sounds similar”), but it’s the rebel Xerons that ultimately test her patience.
Sue: What’s the deal with the eyebrows?
Me: They’re aliens.
Sue: **** off!
Me: They are! One week you are complaining that the characters look too alien and now you are complaining that they don’t look alien enough. This show can’t win.
Sue: Yes, but eyebrows? Is that really the best they could come up with? At least Star Trek added some funny ears.
Me: What can I say? They blew the budget on the Zarbi.
Sue: The lead rebel looks familiar.
Me: He should – it’s Jeremy Bulloch.
Sue: Is that supposed to mean something?
Me: If you can successfully guess which iconic role he is known for, I will watch Ally McBeal with you from the beginning; I’ll even start a blog called Adventures With My Wife in a Mixed-Sex Toilet. Although, on second thoughts, that would probably get us both sacked. Anyway, go ahead, guess.
I’ll spare you the rest, you all know the drill by now, but I’ll reserve a special mention for “John Boy from The Waltons“. She’s unimpressed when I reveal the truth to her and she’s practically punching me in the face when I tell her that they overdubbed Bulloch’s voice in the films, too. But at least this relieved the monotony a bit.
And then – completely out of nowhere – we get an eyeful of Hartnell in an Edwardian swim suit. I still can’t quite believe I just typed that.
Sue: Whoah! What the **** was THAT? Forget the Daleks, THAT was the scariest thing in Doctor Who so far. No contest. Good grief.top
Sue: I can’t tell who’s worse – is it the bad guys or the rebels? There’s only one way to find out – FIGHT! Or in the rebels case – RUN AROUND A BIT!
There’s a bizarre scene where a Morok guard does his level best never to show his face to the camera. And his whimpering voice is very odd indeed. Even when he fights with Ian he does everything he can to keep his back to the camera. It’s very odd.
Sue: He’s not an actor! No wonder he doesn’t want to show his face – he’s too ashamed! No, hang on, I’m sure the actor changed when the camera cut and they went through those doors. I think they had to replace someone at the last-minute and they tried to cover it up. Badly.
Bloody hell, is she right? I honestly don’t know whether she’s channeling Andrew Pixely or she’s just gone mad, seeing patterns in things that aren’t there. Answers on a postcard, please.
Sue: I’m really warming to Vicki. She’s a massive improvement on Susan. She’s having a good story and she is articulating many of the emotions I have when I watch this. She’s criticising the rebels for being ineffectual idiots for a start. You know, I’m sure they’re taking the piss.top
The Final Phase
We decide to “knock this one out” and we head straight for the last episode before episode three’s credits have even finished rolling. As I’m about to hit play, I send a tweet along the lines of “The Space Museum is even worse than Vortis” when Stuart Ian Burns tweets back with the suggestion that we switch on the production notes for some light relief.
Sue: Production notes? What the hell are production notes when they’re at home?
Me: They are basically subtitles for geeks. They give lots of fascinating background information on the episode you are watching. And if you’re really lucky, they may even make you laugh.
We stick the notes on and Sue immediately becomes engrossed in them. I can tell this because she’s stopped sighing.
Sue: This is brilliant – everything suddenly makes sense now. I always thought it was just Hartnell who took liberties with the script but everyone is at it! The only problem is, I can’t read these and follow the episode at the same time. Perhaps we should watch the episodes twice – once with the subtitles off, and again with the subtitles on.
She. Is. Not. Joking.
Sue: Do they have notes like this on every DVD or is this the exception to relieve the boredom of The Space Museum? You know, like the Spanish Zarbi?
Me: Every DVD has them, I believe. Some of them are excellent. But we can’t watch them all the time – it’s too distracting – we’ll save them for tedious six-parters when we hit part five and nothing happens. Deal?
Sue: Bloody hell – the vision mixer on this story helped Sylvester McCoy get cast as the Doctor! This is insane!
Still. Not. Joking.
Sue: They made a feature film with Peter Cushing!?
Me: Damn, that was going to be a surprise.
Sue: We should have done this ages ago. They might have explained what was going on with that guard who wouldn’t show his face.
Sue is far too engrossed in the notes to allow me to switch them off. And who can blame her when the ‘revolution’ happening on screen is so cack-handed, it practically begs the viewer to ignore it.
However, as if to prove that she really shouldn’t be reading these notes – not as a novice anyway – they blow the gaff on the Daleks long before they turn up.
Sue: Ohhhhh. Daleks!top
The Final Score
Sue: Well, that just didn’t work. The opening episode was excellent and the idea behind it was very clever but they just didn’t do anything interesting with it. And it’s really, really slow. I bet it would be fantastic if they remade it now, though.
Just for a laugh, I suggest we watch Defending the Museum, the notorious DVD extra where Robert Shearman tries to convince us that it’s a work of postmodern genius. When we’ve finished with it, Sue turns to me and sighs.
Sue: I’ll have to mark it up.
Sue: He’s right. And I suspected it all along – remember how I picked up on the corridors all looking the same? They were taking the piss! It was too ahead of its time and I was laughing at it for the right reasons instead of the wrong reasons.
Sue: So the Daleks are back and they’ve been redesigned, eh? Can’t wait.
The experiment continues…top
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