The Cut

On ‘The Space Museum’

Recently, while tracking some hits this blog received, I discovered a new Doctor Who podcast called Pex Lives.  It’s great stuff, well worth listening to… and I’m not just saying that because the guys who make it – Kevin Burns and James Murphy – kindly linked to me and mentioned me in one of the episodes.  Their third and latest podcast is just out, and centres upon ‘The Krotons’.  Their second podcast is about ‘The Space Museum’ and they delve into the piece with lots of wit (in both senses of the word) alongside anarchism, Tolstoy, progress and political change.  Not many Who podcasts touch on stuff like this.  My favourite quote: “we’re both ambivalent about violent revolution”.  (For the record, so am I.)   It also helps that they both have likeable voices.  Kevin sounds like Terry Gilliam (i.e. he has one of those American voices that sounds as though it is filtered through a permanent grin of enthusiasm) and James sounds like a gigantic, sentient, wryly raised eyebrow that has somehow gained the ability to talk with the voice of a hip-hop DJ.  Even so, I kept on wanting to interrupt them… which I mean as a compliment.  So I made some notes instead, and they turned into this:

1. Freeze Frame

The Doctor, Vicki, Barbara and Ian spend episode one wandering around the museum unseen and unheard, unable to interact with events and apparently seeing glimpses of their own future, culminating in their encountering themselves as exhibits. The explanation for this is that they’ve “jumped a time track” and arrived before their arrival, so to speak. Vicki ponders what this means in a speech that, as the Pexcasters remark, is as poetic as it is scientifically meaningless:

Time, like space, although a dimension in itself, also has dimensions of its own.

However, I think that “time”, as used here, really refers to narrative, particularly TV narrative. One of those inner dimensions of narrative is, of course, metaphor. So when Vicki uses the word “time” metaphorically to refer to TV narrative (hereafter TVN), and thus says that narrative has dimensions of its own, she identifies one of those dimensions by using it.

But let’s look at the moment when the ‘time track’ is ‘jumped’. This happens at the very beginning of part one, which is also a reprise of the cliffhanger at the end of ‘The Crusade’.  This cliffhanger was a sudden and uncanny ‘freezing’ of the characters.  The Doctor & Co. are still frozen in their medieval duds at the beginning of ‘Space Museum’.  They then unfreeze in their regular clothes (Ian in suave catalogue menswear, Vicki in teenybopper pop-socks, Barbara in her oh-so-practical cardigan, and the Doctor in his usual quasi-Edwardian proto-Adam Adamant gear). The Doctor, upon being questioned about this by the baffled Ian, says that the answer is “time and relativity, dear boy”.

This ‘jump’ occurs at the junction of two stories, one ending and the other starting.  At the start of the new TVN, the characters are still, so to speak, stuck at the end of the last TVN. …

Continue Reading