February 5: "The Final Phase" / "The Executioners"

(The Space Museum episode 4 & The Chase episode 1)

(Not two days after my DVD player died, the hard disk in my laptop decided to fail.  Apparently this is a bad week for me and technology...)

One does get the sense, watching "The Final Phase", that the production team has tried to tie the events of the past two episodes in with the travellers' attempt to change their future.  I particularly like how it seems like they're going to make it out intact, as Ian rescues the Doctor and Vicki rescues Barbara, before each group is captured and taken to the freezing room.   "Were all the things that happened planned out for us?" Barbara wonders.  "Four separate journeys.  Four choices, that led all the time closer to here."  It's quite a nice little introspective moment.  But the Doctor is a bit more optimistic: "My dear Barbara, you must try and remember, the short time we’ve been on this planet, we’ve met people, spoken to them and who knows, we might have even influenced them."  And of course he's right -- Vicki's actions with the Xerons, helping them gain access to the Moroks' weapons, have led to a revolution which defeats the Moroks, leading to an altered future with no more space museum, and therefore no more time travellers in exhibits.

The Space Museum is a bit of an odd beast.  It's been said that the initial scripts had more humor in them before it was edited out, to make a contrast from the following story.  It sort of shows: there are a number of witty moments, but there are also some dead serious moments, and anything involving the very earnest Xerons, that tend to jar a bit, and sometimes you don't know if what you're watching is the result of a joke that wasn't completely removed or just a particularly bad piece of writing/acting.  It's not a terrible story by any means, but I think you have to be in the right, undemanding frame of mind to really get the proper effect -- otherwise it's just a runaround in a museum with some interesting ideas floating around.  Great cliffhanger into the next story though.

"The Executioners" starts by recapping the cliffhanger from last time, which means this story starts with a Dalek!  But after that we're shown near-domesticity in the TARDIS: the Doctor is tinkering with his new toy, Ian's reading a trashy sci-fi book, Barbara's making a dress, and Vicki's feeling useless.  But soon the Doctor gets his gadget working, and the travellers can watch some time television: Abraham Lincoln delivers the Gettysburg Address (in an oddly desolate-looking Pennsylvania), Shakespeare gets the idea for Hamlet, and the Beatles play "Ticket to Ride" (this last bit, by the way, is missing from the Region 1 copies of The Chase as they couldn't clear the clip for foreign markets -- hence my purchase of the uncut Region 2 version).  It's all a bit larking about before the TARDIS lands, after which point they go larking about in a desert instead.  There are a couple good moments, like when the Time and Space Visualizer starts making a high-pitched noise while the Doctor and Barbara are relaxing.  "What's that awful noise?" Barbara asks.  "I beg your pardon?" the Doctor misunderstands her.  "Awful noise?  That's no way to talk about my singing!" To which Barbara replies, "No, Doctor, not that awful noise, the other one!"  That's when they learn that the Daleks have a time machine, which they're going to use to pursue the TARDIS and exterminate the Doctor and his friends.  This is when the real story begins, you'd think, except that nothing much happens after this: Ian and Vicki get trapped underground by a monster, while a sandstorm blows up and covers the Doctor and Barbara, changing the landscape and burying the TARDIS in the process.  It's a bit worrying, but then the episode reveals, in its final moments, that the Daleks have already arrived on the planet (and were buried by the sandstorm too, but it doesn't seem to bother them too much).  Which means that we have to wait until next time for things to really get going.