Doctor Who: The Space Museum and The Chase Review
The truly damning thing about The Space Museum is that it’s not only the poorest First Doctor story – and it is, by quite some margin – but that it doesn’t even have the good grace to be an entertainingly bad story. Many of Who’s most infamous stinkers are inadvertently saved by the very thing which condemns them, such as the over-the-top performances of Paul Darrow in Timelash and Joseph Furst in The Underwater Menace, putting them in the so-bad-they’re-good category which when one is in a suitably indulgent mood can be great fun. For this reviewer, what makes a genuine dud is not some silly performance or over-ripe dialogue but rather a story that’s simply deathly dull, content just to fill up a gap in the schedules without making the slightest effort to be new or imaginative or surprising. Alongside the Space Pirates and Monster of Peladon’s of this world, The Space Museum falls squarely into this category, and indeed is a bit of a trailblazer for those future yawnfests, being the first story in the show's history to risk boring its audiences into a self-induced coma. Everything about the Season Two story is just so half-hearted - the performances are sloppy, the script banal and poorly written and the sets as featureless and blank as the faces of the youthful revolutionaries whom Vicki desperately tries to pep up. No one is trying – worse than that, you can see that no really cares. It’s all very, very tired.
Convention dictates that any review should make the observation that the first episode is pretty good and things only fall apart in the second but that’s not entirely true. While the central idea in Glyn Jones’s script is certainly intriguing the execution is incredibly flat, as though all involved knew what was coming up in later instalments and so decided it wasn’t worth the bother. Mervyn Pinfield’s direction, which even at the best times is rather static, is here positively lethargic, which is a shame because on another day and under better control it really could have been a fantastic bit of early Who. The story follows our heroes – the First Doctor, at this point in last Season Two, is still travelling with original companions Ian and Barbara (William Russell and Jacqueline Hill) and Susan Mark Two Vicki (Maureen O’Brien) – unknowingly entering some kind of time warp and landing on the planet Xeros. Here they chance upon the titular museum which is full of artefacts from around the cosmos (including a Dalek casing) but at first strangely devoid of visitors (although frankly, given the quality of its exhibits, it’s not that strange). Nothing is tangible, and when they do finally meet some of the museum's staff they appear oblivious to the travellers' presence, walking by them without so much as acknowledging them. It's all very unnerving, but worse is to come: as the episode nears its end the quartet discover themselves frozen in a display case, the sight of which makes the Doctor realise that they are seeing their own future. As they are thrown from the time distortion which has been protecting them back into the recent past, can they somehow manage to avoid their fate or are they destined to end up as the museum’s prize exhibits?
One’s initial reaction is that according to the show's own rules they really shouldn't be able to stop it from happening - after all, it’s been barely a year since this very issue was first raised in The Aztecs, and that story’s most famous line, “You can’t rewrite history! Not one line!” appeared fairly definite on the subject. However, the Doctor is curiously less keen on preserving the stability of the time line when it’s his own neck on the line, and the few times the story threatens to become moderately interesting is when the four stand round debating the philosophy of whether what they’re trying to do is even possible or not. Unfortunately, Jones doesn’t have the wit to do anything with this, the debate never amounting to anything more insightful than “If we do this... maybe that’s how we ended up here! But if we don’t... maybe that’s how we ended up here!” Arguably 5:40 on a Saturday afternoon is never the best time to explore the mechanics of time travel, but the Hartnell era – and its early days in particular – were marked by a fierce intelligence that didn’t dumb down for its viewers (usually) and it’s nice to think that in other hands something more substantial could have been made with this premise.
But no. Instead we get a bog standard run around, as insipid as it is stupid. It turns out that the museum is run by the Moroks, off-worlders who have arrived on the planet and elbowed aside its indigenous population in order to set up their rotten attraction. The Xenons were mostly wiped out, leaving behind only a group of youths who would fail a Louis Walsh band audition for being too wet and who count among their numbers, somewhat unbelievably, Boba Fett himself, Jeremy Bulloch not excelling himself in an early role. Luckless Vicki falls in with these nonentities and, as is observed in one of the extras, rallies them to fight back simply because she doesn’t have anything better to do, urging them to take on the museum’s curator Lobos, played with almost impressive ineptitude by Richard Shaw. In fairness to Shaw, the fact that his character speaks purely in expositional paragraphs is a bit of a hindrance, but he stills gives the TARDIS prop a run for its money as the most wooden thing in the story. It’s almost a blessed relief when one of his minions begins talking in a Brummie accent (many planets have a Birmingham) just to get some spark into the thing.
While Vicki is busy rallying the troops the Doctor is captured by the Moroks. Quite apart from the usual idiosyncrasies of Hartnell’s performance, the Doctor comes across here as positively senile. Anyone familiar to Who but new to this episode will lose all sympathy with him early on when he states, completely out of character, that a weird time distortion in the TARDIS is not remotely worth investigating, and one only fears for his sanity further when in the second episode he falls over himself in excitement at the fact that Ian is missing a button (a fact that turns out to bear no relevance to anything.) There are a couple of amusing moments – to evade his captors he hides in the Dalek casing which seems to delight him no end, while when his mind is probed he blocks the machine by projecting an image of himself in a bathing suit (now there is the stuff of nightmares!) – but in the end the fact Hartnell was off for a week’s holiday and so disappears during episode three is a bit of a relief – for once the character, rather than the man playing him, looks bonkers.
There is nothing positive about the story whatsoever. Slapdash scripting abounds – in addition to the instances mentioned above there’s an absurd moment when Barbara demonstrates previously unheralded abilities to survive the effects of a paralysing gas – while one can only put down the blank design work by Spencer Chapman and unremarkable costumes by Daphne Dare and Tony Pearce as a result of their collectively reading the script, thinking “To hell with this,” and bunking off early. (It would be nice to put the sparseness down to the fact the show was shortchanged but apparently that wasn’t the case.) It's a shame the rest of those involved didn't have the same idea. In the end all is resolved by the wets beating the planks in a flurry of "Rarrs!" the consequences of our heroes bending the laws of time to get themselves out of a jam all but ignored. It's a typically rushed, thoughtless ending to a story which no one ever looks remotely convinced by and which ranks amongst the truly poorest offerings the show ever came up with. In a series as long running as Who was (even at that time it had gone on for far longer than anyone could have expected) you’re bound to get the odd out-and-out dud, but when you have a story that not even Boba Fett himself can redeem you know you’re on a hiding to nothing.
Although 2|Entertain are not adverse to releasing some of the dreariest stories on their own (we're only a few short months away from Time and the Rani's digital debut, after all) they were probably quite glad that the presence of the Dalek, and the mentioned but not seen Time-Space Visualiser provided sufficient links to The Chase to justify bunging these two sub-standard stories together (although again, sometimes, as this very month's second release Myths and Legends shows, sometimes any old excuse will do). As with all their box sets, the overriding box holds individual cases for the two stories (complete with the now obligatory reversible sleeve art for those who like their cases to match up), The Space Museum coming on a single DVD9.
The Video transfer comes from the 16mm print of the story made at the time for overseas sales, rather than the original 405 video recordings transmitted in this country, and as usual for episodes of this vintage has been treated to the VidFIRE process. The article on the Restoration Team's homepage reports several technical difficulties they had to contend with when preparing the release, but to their credit you wouldn't know it from the final product, the image as clear and clean as you could possibly hope for. As with The Keys of Marinus a few months back there are lengths of time when small black artefacts are visible on the print, but they don't distract in the slightest. There's also an odd couple of times when actors appear mildly squashed - I don't know if this is the "non-linear horizontal geometric distortion" mentioned in the article, but I've not noticed the phenomenon before; fortunately it only happens a couple of times and lasts mere seconds until they move in the picture again. The Audio is nice and clear, and in contrast to the video doesn't appear to have caused any great problems. The story and all extras bar the Commentary are subtitled.
Just imagine what a depressing prospect it must have been to try and come up with interesting Extras though. There are just some stories that are immune to having anything remotely interesting to say about them, and as a result it’s unsurprising that this disc has the sparsest selection for quite some time. Sensibly no money is wasted on a Making Of – what would be the point? – so instead the most substantial extra is Robert Shearman’s Defending the Museum (9:29). While never sounding entirely convinced by his own arguments, the writer at least presents a perspective to the story I’d certainly never considered before, namely that the whole thing is a giant parody of the Hartnell series up to this point. I don’t for a minute buy the premise – writer Glyn Jones had reportedly never seen Doctor Who before writing the story, and even if he had the story still fails because the satire isn’t funny – but it’s a good go at an impossible task, offered with Shearman’s customary wit.
Unfortunately, one’s good will is at once lost by A Holiday for the Doctor (14:02) which is quite unforgiveable. Last month’s comedy short Beneath the Masque drew some opprobrium but was ultimately harmless, whereas this atrocity commits two felonies, being both horribly unfunny and simultaneously a waste of what is actually an interesting topic for a featurette, namely the various excuses used by the regulars to disappear from the series for a couple of weeks while they went off on holiday. The character Ida Barr, an ostensible music hall actress looking back at the early days, links a series of clips with spiel that would have Hinge and Brackett turning in their graves and the rest of us hiding behind the sofa in sheer embarrassment. Awful.
Thankfully, things are then redeemed somewhat with My Grandfather, the Doctor (14:02), a delightful piece in which William Hartnell’s granddaughter Jessica Carney remembers what it was like to have Doctor Who for a relative. It makes a nice change to hear a different side of the actor to the usual “he was difficult/forgetful” stuff and she obviously remains very proud of him and his work. An extra that deserves to be on something far better than The Space Museum.
The Commentary features the excellent Peter Purves on MC duties, demonstrating far more knowledge about the story than his fellow commentators who were actually involved in it. Purves has been a real asset over the last few years, his presenting experience never failing to enliven a yak track, and once again here he does yeoman service – one suspects that had he not been there to marshal things along, asking questions and drawing out reminiscences from his companions in the booth, it would have been a very dull affair. Unexpectedly, the most vocal of his fellows is writer Glyn Jones, who grumpily asserts early on that Dennis Spooner ruined his scripts (an assertion not helped only moments later by both Purves and Maureen O’Brien praising one of the best scenes in Episode One, the glass of water breaking, which was Spooner’s) and noting differences throughout between his original script and the final product. Purves and O’Brien, who spends a lot of time laughing, rip apart the story with enthusiasm untempered by Jones’s presence (“Really, this is awful” says Purves at one point), making for an enjoyably amusing listen, although William Russell, obviously tired after having already recorded the track for The Chase is an almost invisible presence. As ever, there’s also an Info Text option too, which is as diligently researched and interesting as for any story.
Rounding things off, we get the usual Photo Gallery (4:27) and original Radio Times listings for the story in PDF format, as well as the same Coming Soon trailer (1:35) for the upcoming Myths and Legends boxset which is being released at the end of this month.
If The Space Museum is half-hearted, The Chase is out-and-out lazy, at least on the part of its writer. By early 1965 Terry Nation was plainly bored of Doctor Who, preferring to devote his energies in trying to break his creations free of the series to become a more commercially independent property. The first feature film was on the verge of being released, the publicity for which gave equal billing to the Daleks as well as the Doctor, and the writer was looking towards America in the hope of launching a Dalek-only series over there. Rather petulantly in an interview the previous December he had said that he didn’t think the Daleks should make a third appearance on the show (after The Daleks and The Dalek Invasion of Earth) saying that it would be inevitably a disappointment, but that despite his warnings the BBC were insisting that he write a further story for them. The resulting six episodes are plainly the work of an author who has bashed them out as quickly as possible before returning to something, anything, far more interesting.
Nicking his own story structure from the previous season’s The Keys of Marinus he came up with the idea of the Daleks vengefully pursuing the TARDIS through all time and space in retribution for the Doctor’s defeat of them on Earth. This meant that each episode would be essentially a new story, as the TARDIS lands somewhere, the Doctor and co wander about a bit for twenty minutes having an adventure, and then leave just as the Daleks catch up with them. Harking back to the classic cinema serials of his youth, the Buck Rogers and Flash Gordons, Keys had worked pretty well as long as you ignore some occasionally unfortunate production problems – it’s a bit hard to sit through all in one go these days, but as a series of largely self-contained romps viewed week by week the stories were sufficiently intriguing and thrilling to keep its audience happy and viewed today is rather better than its mildly dubious reputation in fandom suggests.
The settings of The Chase, on the other hand, do not work nearly as well, for two different reasons. Both the desert planet Aridius of episodes one and two, and the jungle world of Mechanus of the serial’s final two suffer from Nation’s habitual overambition and failure to appreciate that such expansive landscapes just could not be done remotely convincingly on Who’s tuppence-halfpenny budget squeezed into the ridiculously small studio space at Riverside. However, this is a complaint hardly unique to this story: the bigger crime, writing-wise, comes in the two middle episodes, Flight Through Eternity and Journey Into Terror, which while making far more modest (comparatively) demands on the set designers show a complete paucity of imagination. Flight Through Eternity in particular, is horrible; the first ten minutes are taken up with poor Peter Purves, making his series debut, dying on his arse as he attempts to do a comedy yokel from Alabama oblivious to the fact he’s first meeting the TARDIS crew and then the Daleks at the top of the Empire State Building. Not for the last time it turns out that New York and the Daleks do not mix well – if one wished to go all Pseud’s Corner about it, it could be suggested that the discordant clash between the uniquely English monsters and your quintessential American city are illustrative of why the series has never managed to cross the Atlantic particularly successfully, but that would be silly so I won’t. Indeed, the setting is largely irrelevant - no matter where it was set, the scene would still rank amongst the most tiresome ten minutes of Sixties Who. The second part of the episode is equally slapdash, in that it dumps the Daleks on a sailing vessel whose panicked crew promptly abandon ship, the joke being the ship is revealed to be the Mary Celeste. It’s incredibly weak stuff from a writer simply filling out the requisite number of episodes.
Which leads us to the serial’s other great failing: it has its tongue firmly in its cheek, a fact signposted early on by Dudley Simpson’s strangely unsuitable light jazz score as the TARDIS hurtles through space. Sounding as though it’s wandered in from one of the Cushing film scenes where Roy Castle or Bernard Cribbins are pratting about, it just doesn’t fit with the visuals, even if you allow that we’re meant to be laughing. Now, let’s be clear: the idea of making the Daleks funny is not necessarily a bad one. There are those who could argue that turning the Most Evil Creatures in the Universe into figures of fun would be damaging to the brand, especially at that early stage, but as events proved this wasn't the case at all - virtually from their debut satirists have used the old pepperpots as figures of absurd authority, in newspaper cartoons especially, where they’ve worked well. This was, lest we forget, a children’s show – why not have a laugh with the Daleks? No, the problem is not that, but rather in the execution. For whatever reason, the joke of having incompetent Daleks doesn’t quite come across as strongly as it should on screen – when a Dalek dithers we don’t laugh but wonder what the hell it’s doing. At the same time Nation’s punchlines aren’t nearly punchy enough – the Mary Celeste revelation, mentioned above, is a case in point but also nearly the entirety of episode four, Journey Into Terror, which pitches the Daleks against the combined might of mechanized versions of Dracula, Frankenstein and a mad screaming woman (I’ve no idea), the stricken pepperpots finding themselves utterly unable to cope and ending up scarpering back to their time machine as quickly as possible. It’s a strange episode at times – early on all involved seem to be attempting to evoke an air of real fear, but any atmosphere is lost the moment a Boris Karloff Monster lumbers into view, the undecided air apparently mirroring Nation's own uncertainty as to whether the setting was real or, as the Doctor suggests, the workings of a human psyche. This perhaps is symptomatic of the fact that the dictum that the series should be funny didn't originate with Nation at all but rather Script Editor Dennis Spooner - as John Peel's superlative Target adaption of the story, based on Nation's original scripts, proved the story would have worked far better without the jokes. In fact, the only good bit of humour comes from the infamous Time-Space Visualiser of the opening scenes. For years the only thing anyone ever asked about the serial was whether the Beatles footage the TSV picks up would be included in the DVD release (it is) but actually beyond that it’s an amusing device, lending a relaxed, fun atmosphere to the early part of the first episode (perhaps slightly too relaxed), as well as proving a very effective way of our heroes learning that the Daleks are after them. There are many things wrong with The Chase but the TSV is not one of them.
The four episodes surrounding the two rotten middle instalments, which have a far more serious tone, are stronger. However, Sod's Law being what it is, when Nation's writing is at its best in this adventure the production values are at their worst. The middle two episodes look decent (the haunted house is particularly good) but are poorly written, whereas the four surrounding it are not without merit but suffer from the perennial limitations of Sixties television. Aridius in particular is pretty awful – never have the constraints of the tiny studio been so blatant, the poor actors having to squeeze in in what looks to have been a particularly small space, all-in-all a far cry indeed from the immense, Sahara-like landscape Nation’s scripts demands. What actually makes it worse is the occasional jump from studio to location shoot as Vicki and Ian doubles run up and down sand dunes, which helps to underline rather than annul the effects of the cramped set. Once you get past the TSV stuff of the first ten minutes – which does on a bit – the adventures on the planet are not undramatic, just very, very hackneyed, while exposing poor, innocent Vicki to the skin-tight leotards of the Aridians seems a bit much – had she still been Susan, I have no doubt there would have been much screaming and “Grandfathering!” all over the place. It's inoffensive stuff, mildly diverting, but as dry and featureless as the desert planet Riverside so blatantly isn't.
Mechanus’s shortcomings, meanwhile, are far more cruelly exposed in this age of big screen TVs and cleaned-up DVD prints than they would have been back in the day, when I imagine the limitations of the city model and lumbering Fungoids which wander around the forest would have been far less noticeable. The latter didn’t bother me that much; my main fascination with the last two episodes is how unlike William Hartnell Edmund Warwick is. The Daleks’ plan to infiltrate the TARDIS with a robotic duplicate of the Doctor is a good wheeze, even if at this late stage it appears to have wandered in from another story, but the result is so useless I can only presume the light in Mechanus’s dense foliage is so dreadful that the others can’t tell the difference. Short of casting Richard Hurndall it’s difficult to conceive of anyone looking less like him. See if you can spot the real one from the fake:
However, despite this, and the odd presence of what on first glance appears to be a BBC camera but surely can’t be hiding in the background of one of the shots, the last two episodes are the most dramatic. The Mechanoids themselves are among the more visually striking “Dalek replacements” the series was trying out at this point, even if their design is wholly useless to their ostensible function of city builders. The Planet of Decision, the last of the six episodes, is particularly good (at least, compared to what’s gone before it): the battle between the Daleks and the Mechanoids is suitably thrilling and explosive, and the traveller’s escape off the roof more convincing than it really should be.
And then, suddenly, unexpectedly, in the last ten minutes The Chase becomes genuinely, properly brilliant, not just in the context of the serial but the series full stop. For all his dithering and fluffing, Hartnell had a gratifying habit of being able to pull himself together for the big moments and give performances of power and majesty entirely at odds with much of the rest of the time, and his anger and then intense sadness when Ian and Barbara ask to be taken home rank among his very finest moments. There can have been few watching who wouldn’t have wiped away a tear when, after sending them safely back to London, he turns away and confesses “I shall miss them.... yes, I shall miss them. Silly old fusspots.” It’s a beautiful moment, entirely at odds with the pantomime of the preceding two and a half hours, and one of Who’s most memorable companion departures – we’d have to wait another eight years and The Green Death before we’d see the Doctor so upset at the loss of a friend again, or for us viewers to be so moved.
That side, there’s a reasonable argument to be made that not only is The Chase the weakest Dalek story of the Sixties – which it unquestionably is – but of the entirety of Doctor Who. Even among its most successful moments, there’s all an air of automatic pilot about the whole thing, a story wholly devoid of anything new to add to the genre, and it doesn’t really care. The very next season the Daleks would set off in pursuit of the TARDIS once again in the far superior The Daleks’ Masterplan, which is sadly largely missing from the archives. Made by a different production team and only half-written by Nation it’s a very different proposition from this story which is ultimately just cheap, in all senses of the word.
Befitting both its status as main attraction for this set and its six-episode length The Chase gets far more love and affection in its treatment. Coming on a two-disc set, the first of which holds the six episodes and a couple of extras, and the second all the rest, this could easily have been released on its own.
Once again the Video transfer caused some headaches for the RT and once again it's pleasant to be able to report that even after reading their article on the subject it's fairly impossible to tell they had any problems at all, the image looking very clear and strong. However, the disc's Production Subtitles inadvertently highlight two changes made by the RT which have caused some consternation since the set's release.
First of all, check out this screenshot from The Death of Time, with the subtitle:
As you can see, there's a bit of a disparity. The original, as-transmitted shot obviously was in bright daylight, which, as the subtitle points out, doesn't fit with the shots surrounding it, all of which are in the dark. For this release, the image has been regraded so that this goof is corrected, to the alarm of purists (and confusion of anyone who doesn't have a clue what the subtitle is going on about.) Something similar happens with the Audio. In Journey Into Terror O'Brien reportedly comes in too early in one scene and has to repeat a line of dialogue, a flub which has gone AWOL on this new version. I can't doublecheck whether this was audible on the VHS version as my Dalek tin is goodness-knows-where now, but if it was I'm not sure, if it was omitted for purely editorial as opposed to technical reasons, I approve of these changes. The argument made is that the Dalek shot is now as it was originally intended to be, which is fair enough as far as it goes, but the point still stands that it's not how it was transmitted. At what point does restoration work end and editorialising begin? Of course it's a very minor point, but as the Doctor once nearly said, "For some people it's the small things in life that matter!" and in the case of the Dalek shot a bit of joyful goofery has now been edited out, George Lucas-style, making the story a little less jolly.
Peter Purves is on duty again throughout all six episodes of the Commentary and never flags once – given that both this and The Space Museum’s tracks sound as though they were recorded in the same day his commitment and energy can’t help fail to impress. Looking round on some fan forums there have been complaints that he’s a bit too critical of these two stories, but I don’t think that’s fair. His assessments are usually spot on, and rather dispassionate, not taking the same kind of almost malicious glee that other legendarily scathing duo Peter Davison and Janet Fielding do on their commentaries. He’s also excellent at drawing out his co-commentators – Russell, while still sounding a bit lost at times, is far more vocal here than he is on The Space Museum as is O’Brien (although she admits she hasn’t seen The Chase in years), while Purves forms a good rapport with Martin. For my money, another superb track, and once again I would recommend watching it with the Production Subtitles - also as informative and interesting as ever – turned on, even if they do occasionally contradict what’s being said or is seen on screen! (In addition to the above examples, there's another one early on - “This is the one day of filming I remember,” says O’Brien at the exact same moment as the info text informs us that we’re watching her double, and that O’Brien was actually filming in studio that day.)
Also on Disc One is Cusick in Cardiff (12:46) in which the real-life Davros comes face to face with his great-great grandchildren as New Series Designer Ed Thomas shows him round Cardiff and introduces him to the new generation of Dalek. Cusick and Thomas compare notes on designing then and now in a featurette both charming and informative. There are also the usual Radio Times listings for the story in PDF format and, just in case you missed it on The Space Museum, the Coming Soon trailer for Myths and Legends.
Moving onto Disc Two, the special features open with the genial Martin recounting some of the difficulties involved in the making of the serial in The Thrill of The Chase (10:27). “Making Doctor Who was battling with blood, but I enjoyed the blood,” he says with the sort of good humour one can offer only when there’s a safe distance of forty plus years from the events.
There then follows what amount to a series of featurettes which form a trilogy of tributes to various aspects of the era. There would have been a minor outcry had there not been something about Ian and Barbara on this release and the happy Last Stop White City (13:16) pays two of the series’s finest ever companions suitable homage. Novelist Simon Guerrier offers some insight into the characters before Martin notes how important Russell and Hill were to Who’s early success – as he says, accompanied by suitably illustrative clips, if the pair had not been so expert in covering up Hartnell’s fluffs things could fallen apart very quickly. I could have done with this being twice as long, with more contributors, but it still makes for a pleasing send off for them.
Attention is then turned to the serial’s baddies. Daleks Conquer and Destroy! (22:39) is not really a Dalek documentary per se rather than a song of praise from various Who luminaries (including Nick “The Voice of the Daleks” Briggs) in which they talk about what it is about Nation’s creations that make them so popular. There’s no real need for it to be separate from Daleks Beyond the Screen (21:56), which features the same contributors, other than for convenience: the first looks at the Daleks’s TV appearances, the latter their extra-curricular activities on stage, merchandising and so on. Both are good fun. Completing this “trilogy” is the well-made featurette Shawcraft – The Original Monster Makers (17:01). As the title suggests the company were responsible for the look of many of the show’s earliest and most memorable monsters and props, most notably the TARDIS console itself and, of course the Daleks. As a gorgeous accompaniment to that, there’s Follow That Dalek (12:01). This is an amateur cinefilm made around 1967 for a magazine competition that tours the Shawcraft studio, its value to Doctor Who being that it spends most of its time looking at models from the show. There’s the moonscape and bits of the Graviton from The Moonbase, a plane from The Faceless Ones, a map of Zaroff’s underground world from The Underwater Menace and, most wonderfully of all, a full scale Macra which was apparently being built when the film was being made. A wonderful clip from Who’s past, accompanied by an optional but pretty essential subtitle track explaining what we’re looking at.
As a fun aside, there’s also a gallery of Give-a-Show Slides (12:16) included. Sixteen stories from the Give-a-Show Slide Projector toy from the period, which star the First Doctor with John and Gillian, are included, now accompanied by new sound effects which are fun - watch out for that cat! Prepare for such thrillers as “The Daleks Destroy the Zomites!” and “Doctor Who and the Nerve Machine” which, despite each being only seven slides long, are all considerably better than The Space Museum. Finally there’s a Photo Gallery for the story (5:10).
The overriding impression one gets from these two stories is immense weariness from all involved. The series looks incredibly tired, running on empty, and it would have been no surprise, watching at the time, had it been announced that it was shortly coming to an end. In many ways the duo mark the end of Who's first era, not only with the departure of the last original companions Ian and Barbara but also behind the scenes, with original Producer Verity Lambert heading out the door to be replaced by John Wiles and a new Script Editor in the form of Donald Tosh due to make his "debut" in the very next story. Viewed in that way, The Chase is the original The End of Time, both showing a team it's time to be on their way. Fortunately for viewers, the very next story, The Time Meddler was a vast improvement, leading to a third season which found its mojo again and produced a series of stories that quite refreshed what is, at this stage, a very old-looking series. This DVD set, on the other hand, has some great extras (as well as one awful one) and a hugely enjoyable commentary, but has absolutely nothing that comes close to compensating for the stories themselves. As a result, sadly, this is a set for the committed fan but not the casual purchaser.
4 out of 10
8 out of 10
8 out of 10
8 out of 10