It’s possible to feel the goodwill of the opening episode ebbing away during the first scene of part two. Lobos (Richard Shaw) is the Morok commander responsible for administering the Space Museum (on what we quickly learn is the planet Xeros). He’s given a remarkable opening speech.
I’ve got two more millums before I can go home. Yes, I say it often enough, but it’s still two thousand Xeron days and it sounds more in days. Yeah, I know, I volunteered, you were ordered. If the truth were known, I was just as bored on Morok. Still it was home and youth never appreciates what it has. Oh, I don’t know what I’m going to do now. Still, let’s get on with it, shall we? I have to make these reports. I don’t know.
Are the Xerons one of the most boring alien races we’ve seen so far, or are they just one of the most bored? There’s a train of thought which suggests they’re deliberately written in a tongue-in-cheek manner, and in some ways Lobos’ first speech does support this view.
The mighty Morok empire seems to be not quite as mighty as it once was and he’s clearly chafing at being stuck on the backwater of Xeros, running a museum that nobody ever visits. Of course, one of the reasons why the museum doesn’t seem to be very popular could be down to Lobos’ apparent desire to turn any newcomers into exhibits – that’s the sort of thing which would discourage passing trade!
Richard Shaw was a very decent actor (his turn as Sladden in Quatermass and the Pit is an excellent one) but he rather struggles here. He’s hardly alone in that though as the dialogue doesn’t do any of the guest cast any favours.
If the Moroks, with their funny hairdos, look a little strange, then the earnest young Xerons are even stranger. With a very limited budget how do you show that they’re aliens? Give them pronounced eyebrows of course! But this does become rather distracting, as your eye does tend to be drawn to their eyebrows all the time.
Tor (Jeremy Bulloch), Sita (Peter Sanders) and Dako (Peter Craze) are three Xerons with a burning desire to overthrow their Morok overlords. All of them are so impossibly wet that once again it’s possible to wonder if they’ve been deliberately written this way. Or am I being too generous and the end result is simply a combination of ineffectual scripting and acting?
One of the highlights of the episode is the meeting between the Doctor and Lobos. The Doctor is characteristically superior and isn’t keen to submit to Lobos’ interrogation. When he’s asked where he comes from, the Doctor projects an image of some walruses onto Lobos’ screen. He then displays an image of himself in a bathing costume. I’d like to think that this wasn’t just a primitive example of photoshopping and Hartnell really did dress up.
The other highlight is the moment when the Doctor decides to climb inside the Dalek exhibit. Naturally he can’t resist doing the voice as well! (“I fooled them all! I am the master!”) It’s a lovely moment and helps to make up for some of the less successful scenes elsewhere in the episode.