Review: Doctor Who: BBC Audio Classic Novels: The Space Museum

Space MuseumBy Glyn Jones

Read by Maureen O’Brien

BBC Physical Audio, out now

The First Doctor and his travelling companions find a deserted museum – and themselves as exhibits…

For those who have got their Target books in broadcast order, there’s a good chance that the copy of the story immediately before this is likely to be well-thumbed – David Whitakers’ Doctor Who and the Crusaders is rightly regarded as one of the true classics of the range. The Space Museum doesn’t have that reputation as a broadcast story, nor as a novelisation – and at least in the case of the latter (pace Robert Shearman who mounts a spirited defence of the serial on the DVD) it’s not totally fair.

The novel was released in 1987, when the Target range was filling in the gaps of the earlier Doctor tales; with only four new stories a year, and twelve slots to fill, it meant we got a lot of nostalgia. Original writers, or those connected with the early years, were contracted to return to scripts they’d written over twenty years previously, and, unsurprisingly, many of them found a need to “rectify” some of the problems.

Although The Space Museum doesn’t get quite as drastic a rewrite as The Massacre, Glyn Jones does take the chance to return some of the humour to the script that was removed at the time, as well as making both the threat of the Moroks and the rebellion of the Xerons a bit more credible. Lobos, for example, no longer info-dumps in his dialogue to the same extent, and has acquired a chess-playing robot companion (Matt) as well as a habit of using old Earth phrases and not remembering where he heard them before.

Maureen O’Brien returns to the story a mere half-century after broadcast for this recording, and gives us a spirited rendition of the book, her Doctor querulous, her Vicki eager. Producer Neil Gardner ensures that the energy levels don’t slip, while Simon Power’s music and sound design is appropriately eerie.

By chance having rewatched the original story only a couple of weeks ago (working my way through one less well-known story per season this year in the absence of new Who on screen), it’s fascinating to hear an alternate take on the concepts of this season 2 tale. If you’ve dismissed The Space Museum previously, then perhaps it’s worth further consideration?

Verdict: An enjoyable revision of an often-maligned tale. 8/10

Paul Simpson

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