Horatio

Horatio
[Photo by Jacquelyn Griffin)

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

"I Fooled Them All! I am the Master!": The Space Museum/The Dimensions of Time/The Search/The Final Phase



For once, an episode of the the serial under review provides the epigraph. It's a nice moment, because it follows the Doctor being seized by three young men (boys, really, by the look of them) and, after shamming unconsciousness, the Doctor is left by two of the three (Tor and Sita) alone with the third, Dako. When they return, Dako is bound and gagged on the floor. When he is released, he describes what happened to him, "I didn't see anything. One minute was silence and the next minute a whirlwind hit me." The "old man" Doctor packs quite a punch, apparently. We then pan over to see a Dalek, which the TARDIS travelers have passed previously. This time the Dalek speaks, albeit with William Hartnell's mocking cadences, lacking the requisite grating.

The comic bit is immediately followed by the Doctor getting captured by the guards of the Space Museum.

***

The first two episodes are dominated by a neat little problem. The travelers in a flash go from their 13th Century crusader garb to normal streetwear for them. (Ian and Barbara, 1960s casual, Vicki in her a timeless dress, and Hartnell in full Victorian fig.) Vicki drops a glass of water, it reassembles (compete wit water) in her hand. They wander through dust, leaving no footprints. They are unheard and unseen both by armed uniformed men who are obviously the guards of this museum they have discovered and wandered into, and by young men in black (rather unconvincing guerrillas, but what would you?). Anything they touch passes right through them.

Then, they are confronted by the TARDIS--which they left outside only a little while before-and, in high quality glass cases--themselves. Themselves, not a picture, as P.G. Wodehouse might say, and Barbara in fact does.

The Doctor works out that the TARDIS has "jumped the time track" and is out of sync with its surroundings. They are looking at their own future, but not of it or in it, yet, so can do nothing to prevent it.

***

A nice little dilemma, no?

The is the best of the story, with the Doctor and his companions helpless and apprehensive, and even when they are pulled into sync with time, their own fear of acting in a way that will lead to the future they have glimpsed threatens to paralyze them. Ian, for once afraid either to act or to remain still, becomes snappish and irresolute. He snaps at Barbara and at Vicki too. And when the Doctor disappears (snatched by the three guerrillas), the three wander in confusion.

And now we get the first of a Doctor Who staple--the Doctor is interrogated, and resists his interrogator. And Hartnell laughs at Lobos, the Governor of Xeros (the planet on which the museum is situated), as he interrogates him, and outwits Lobos's efforts to read his thoughts, by projecting unhelpful images (walruses, a penny farthing bicycle (two years early), and men in victorian bathing suits. All the while he chuckles contemptuously, not unlike Tom Baker. It's a great scene, with Hartnell's laughter all the more cutting for how lightly the Doctor regards Lobos.

That this isn't entirely good judgment on the Doctor's part is demonstrated when Lobos kills him with the machine.

Um, yeah. Kills him. No regeneration, no special effects. Dead Doctor.

It's a reminder of how little mythology the show has at this point. No regeneration, no Gallifrey, no Time Lords. The Doctor is susceptible to death just like we are.

Except that he is successfully resurrected, so if you want to retroject 51 years of continuity, be my guest. But it's not there yet, and you're not actually watching the show on your screen.

***

As to the bog-standard help-the-rebels-gain-armaments-and-overthrow-their-oppressors plot, the paucity of rebels is a bit of a hindrance. Still, Maureen O'Brien as Vicki does the otherwise by the numbers plot beat with verve. Ian beats up some soldiers, and captures Lobos, and Barbara--well, sadly, this episode is the first where she isn't really pivotal.

And, as the Daleks spy on the departing Doctor and his friends, and as they leave Xeros, Barbara and Ian are beginning to leave too. They may not know it, but the next serial is the end of the road for Jacqueline Hill and William Russell.

The End of the Beginning is nigh...

No comments: