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Audio Drama Review


Doctor Who
The Space Museum


Starring: William Hartnell and Maureen O’Brien
BBC Audio
RRP: £13.70
ISBN: 978 1 40841 011 0
Available 07 May 2009

Following their adventures in the Crusades the Doctor and his companions, Ian, Barbara and Vicky, awake in the TARDIS, but something is wrong as they are in their normal clothes and not the costumes they remember wearing. Landing on yet another unfamiliar planet, Ian notices that they leave no tracks in the ashen earth and the few creatures which they encounter do not seem to see them. Eventually the Doctor realises that they have somehow jumped a time track and are experiencing their future, but a further discovery finds their future selves, apparently dead, exhibits in the Space Museum...

The Space Museum is a four part William Hartnell story which was originally transmitted between 24 April and 15 May 1965. The story was written by Glyn Jones and directed by Mervyn Pinfield. Here the story is presented as a two disc audio CD with linking narration by Maureen O’Brien, who played Vicki in the original story and this is arguably one of her strongest story since her introduction.

The basic premise is a strong one, initially at least, posing the question that if the Doctor and his companions could see their future, ending up as exhibits, could they do anything to change it? This was truly the Doctor's first adventure in the fourth dimension.

Although the story started well with the discovery of the Space Museum, which it turns out is oddly neither about or even in space, it declines fairly quickly. This is partly due to the weak performances of the guest actors and partly because the story moves to a pedestrian story about overthrowing tyrannies - a theme which was ever popular in Doctor Who - regardless of how many people had to die for the right to be free. The Doctor even disappears for a whole episode as William Hartnell was on holiday.

On the plus side the audio eliminates any faults the original may have had with a sparse set and some ludicrous eyebrowed aliens, leaving all of this to the audiences much more fertile imagination. The producers of the audio CD have, thankfully, left in all instances of Hartnell fluffing his lines; a habit which made him all the more endearing to me. The poor man wouldn’t have stood a chance against the technobabble of Star Trek.

The other members of the core cast of William Russell (Ian Chesterton), Jacqueline Hill (Barbara Wright) and Maureen O’Brien (Vicki) all put in strong performances and it is these that rescue the story. There are some that view the earlier stories with unwarranted criticism, sure acting styles have changed, but against the supporting cast these actors’ abilities to carry you along with the story shine through.

For a recording of this age the audio is surprisingly clear, with only a minimum of hiss evident. As an extra there are two (13 min, 23 sec and 16 min) interviews with Maureen who recollects her time on Doctor Who. Well worth a listen.

So it’s an older show, with faults with the story and the supporting cast but the main cast are on top form here.


Charles Packer

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