Have you ever turned up at a party to find yourself surrounded by people you didn’t know who all seemed to be united by an in-joke you didn’t get? That was my Space Doctor experience.
The problem with Space Doctor being a parody of everything terrible about science fiction programmes is just that - it comes over as being not very good.
The stage was full of people who all appeared to shout a lot. There were flashing lights, loud noises, a rickety portaloo time-machine and an unnecessarily complicated plot. So let me try and explain. There’s a demented fan/robot/alien who despite her unwavering enthusiasm in every part she plays, never manages to convey the irony of being in a production that’s obviously meant to be rubbish. There’s a man with a beard and an American accent, possibly the agent of the actor playing Space Doctor whose default setting of exasperation is demonstrated by sucking on a large cigar. There’s Space Doctor himself, who essentially did get the irony and did a decent job of conveying total confusion by the action taking place around him, while throwing pots of jam into the wings. It did make me feel a bit sorry for him, as sometimes it’s better not to know. Other characters who add to the complicated plot include someone called D.J Vortex and King Henry VIII. They fall in love due to a time/space/gender crumple. I think.
So everyone is gathered in a convention to celebrate the Space Doctor phenomenon, which is meant to be a parody of all that is equally dreadful and wonderful about Doctor Who. The Doctor’s young assistant becomes possessed by the spirit of an evil alien, but this possession manifests itself in a high, whiney voice. The Doctor’s old assistant of forty years ago materialises from Bolton, explains her youthful looks on Botox and walks with a stoop. Are you with me so far? No? I’m not surprised. Space Doctor’s most celebrated scenes are recreated; cue flashing lights, loud noises, everyone shouting and some grainy film footage. The evil alien is eventually defeated, the assistant’s voice returns to normal and the fan makes a fortune by stealing the portaloo and the idea for a sci-fi series about a Doctor. I’m not giving anything away, honestly. I’m just trying to help.
The problem with Space Doctor being a parody of everything terrible about science fiction programmes is just that – it comes over as being not very good. Have I missed the point? Probably. Was there a real Space Doctor TV programme? Could it have been one of the myriad of sci-fi cult series from the 1970’s? Does this mean there’s more scope for parodies of Blake’s 7, Logan’s Run or Space:1999? The mind boggles.
Discerning Doctor Who fans know that most of the early episodes of the cult sci-fi series featured terrible rubber monsters, over-acted scenes and problematic plots but they love it anyway. Fans of Straight-Up Productions' spoof obviously feel the same judging by the chuckles from the audience. The predominant positive element of the whole confusing experience was the sheer enthusiasm and total commitment the large cast of seven had for the production.
Despite attempting to join the revelry and understand the in-jokes, I’m left with the feeling that I’m at the wrong party. Beam me up Scottie.