Written by Glyn Jones
Directed by Mervyn Pinfield
The Doctor, Ian, Barbara, and Vicki materialize on a planet with a museum devoted to exploits in space. However, they soon find that they don’t exist in the same plane of reality.
Ian: Doctor! We’ve got our clothes on!
Doctor: I should hope so, dear boy!
On the DVD of The Space Museum there is a special feature with Rob Shearman, who says that this story isn’t a straightforward adventure. It is, in fact, a parody of Doctor Who that is staged like a normal episode. It will be hard to not look for the evidence supporting Shearman’s assertion. The first time I saw the story, I didn’t make this particular observation, but now that it has been pointed out to me, I can see it. However, this first part of the story is primarily set-up for the parody that will soon follow.
In part one, we have the TARDIS once more jump a time track (it seems notoriously bad about doing this), and our characters arrive on the planet in a different dimension of time. What this means is that they have arrived out of time on the planet and must wait for time to catch up to them, whereupon they will be able to interact with the physical world around them. As it stands, they are little more than ghosts and are unable to talk to people or touch anything. It is all strange, but fun, until they come across The TARDIS and cages with their bodies on display in the museum. From this point on, the main plot is to prevent the outcome, their capture and deaths. We are definitely in Star Trek territory here, but Star Trek hasn’t done this yet, so maybe Star Trek was in Doctor Who territory. Shortly after discovering themselves in the museum, time catches up to them, and they physically manifest on the planet. The danger is now very real, and who knows what actions could be taken to increase or prevent the likelihood of their imprisonment. Honestly, this is quite creative and, for the time, original.
One of my favorite moments of the episode is a very small, inconsequential detail. There is a moment, after The Doctor opens The TARDIS doors, where Ian begins a nervous fidget with his hands. The shot switches to the exterior of The TARDIS, which would have been filmed on a different set at a different time, and Ian is making the same gesture as he exits the TARDIS. This is a small bit of unnecessary continuity, yet it is so obviously deliberate as to provide coherence to a visual. This attention to details is quite thrilling, I think.
General fan opinion is that this episode is the jewel of the serial, and that everything falls apart quite quickly afterward. However, with Rob Shearman’s suggestion for analysis, I’m looking forward to approaching this story, not as a typical episode of Doctor Who, but as a comedy.