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The Moonbase

Production Code: HH

First Transmitted

1 - 11/02/1967 17:50

2 - 18/02/1967 17:50

3 - 25/02/1967 17:50

4 - 04/03/1967 17:50

Plot

The TARDIS arrives in 2070 AD on the Moon, where a weather control station under the command of a man named Hobson is in the grip of a plague epidemic - in reality the result of an alien poison planted by the Cybermen.

Polly realises that as the Cybermen's chest units are made of plastic they must be vulnerable to attack by solvents. She and her friends manage to destroy all the Cybermen on the base with a 'cocktail' of such chemicals shot at them through fire extinguishers.

A second wave of Cybermen advances across the lunar surface but, prompted by the Doctor, Hobson uses the base's gravity-generating weather control device, the Gravitron, to send them flying off into space.

Episode Endings

Polly is looking after the injured Jamie in the base's medical section. He asks for some water and she leaves to get it. When she has gone, a Cyberman enters the medical unit from the store-room and heads for Jamie - who, in his delirium, thinks that it is 'the Phantom Piper' come to claim him...

The Doctor and Hobson try to work out how the Cybermen got into the base and where they have been hiding. They start to make a search of the medical unit and notice a pair of Cyberman shoes protruding from under a sheet on one of the beds. The Cyberman suddenly throws back the sheet and draws its weapon, advancing on the humans.

The Cybermen advance in force across the lunar surface toward the moonbase.

The travellers return quietly to the TARDIS, where the Doctor decides to consult the time scanner - a device capable of giving them a glimpse of their future. It shows a picture of a huge crustacean's claw.

Roots

Conquest of Space.

Dialogue Triumphs

The Doctor : "There are some corners of the universe which have bred the most terrible things. Things that act against everything we believe in. They must be fought."

Polly : "Are you a medical doctor?"

The Doctor : "Yes I think I was once, Polly, I think I took a degree in Glasgow... 1888, I think... Lister."

The Doctor : [Thinking and talking to himself.] "Funny... 'Funny'... Go to all that trouble to make the men do the work... why?... 'Do it themselves, easy'... They're using the men as tools... why?... 'Don't know'... Yes, I do, though... 'There must be something in here they don't like'... Pressure?... 'No'... Electricity?... 'No'... Radiation?... 'Maybe'... Grav... Gravity... now, there's a thought... Gravity!... 'Oh yes... Gravity."

The Doctor : "Everything's got a weak point. It's just a question of waiting until it shows up, that's all."

Dialogue Disasters

Cyberman : "Feelings? Yes we know of this weakness of yours. We do not possess feelings."

Cyberman : "Only stupid Earth brains like yours would have been fooled."

Continuity

In this story the Cybermen have three digits and shoot electricity from their wrists. They measure time in minutes. Polly and Ben use a chemical cocktail to destroy two Cybermen. The TARDIS crew are seen in space suits with breathing apparatus.

QV

The Doctor's Doctorate

Cyber History

The TARDIS Scanner

Location

The Moon, Spring 2070.

Future History

The Moonbase was established around 2050 to control the Earth's weather via the Gravitron. [Earth has become environmentally unstable. This story seems to take place before The Seeds of Death, when a moonbase is being used to control Earth's travel system and weather control has been moved to the Earth.] Hobson makes a reference to 'space plague' [this seems to be different from the one seen in Death to the Daleks].

Links

Trivia

There is an unusual sequence in episode three where the Doctor debates with himself what the Cybermen might be afraid of; this was achieved by pre-recording his whispered 'thoughts' and playing them back in the studio with Patrick Troughton muttering the responses in between.

Talkback from the headphones of the crew on the studio floor is clearly audible at times during episode four (the same problem as had earlier caused the opening episode of the first Dalek story to have to be remounted) - for example, a voice can be clearly heard saying 'cue' at the start of the scene where the controlled scientists are first activated by the Cybermen.

John Levene, later to play the more prominent role of Benton, appears as a Cyberman extra in the third and fourth episodes.

John Wills, who plays one of the Cybermen in this story, earlier appeared as 'Frankenstein' in The Chase under the name John Maxim.

Goofs

You can always tell a Cyberman by his footwear.

Episode two's cliffhanger involves the discovery of a Cyberman who has been hiding under a sheet in the medicentre for the last 25 minutes. When he gets off the sickbay bed, he nearly takes the whole thing with him.

The addition of Jamie to the cast leads to a sharing of lines, so Ben becomes a scientist for a story (he knows that the Gravitron uses thermonuclear power, that interferon is a viral antibody, and that acetone is present in nail varnish remover).

In episode two, when a Cyberman tries to zap Polly while she tends to Jamie, he misses, but she falls anyway.

The Cybermen's spaceships look like paper plates held up by string.

In episode four, when Evans sneaks into the Gravitron control room, he puts the cloth helmet on back to front (in the next scene it's the right way round).

Why make only one hole in the dome?

And just how strong is that tea tray?

Fashion Victim

Ben wears a tasteful Carnaby Street shirt.

Benoit wears an onion seller's neck tie (just in case we forget he's French).

Cast & Crew

Cast

The Doctor - Patrick Troughton

Ben Jackson - Michael Craze

Jamie - Frazer Hines

Polly - Anneke Wills

Benoit - Andre Maranne

Cyberman - John Wills

Cyberman - Sonnie Willis

Cyberman - Peter Greene

Cyberman - Keith Goodman

Cyberman - Reg Whitehead

Cyberman Voices - Peter Hawkins

Dr. Evans - Alan Rowe

Hobson - Patrick Barr

Nils - Michael Wolf

Ralph / Scientist - Mark Heath

Sam - John Rolfe

Scientist - Barry Ashton

Scientist - Derek Calder

Scientist - Arnold Chazen

Scientist - Leon Maybank

Scientist - Victor Pemberton

Scientist - Edward Phillips

Scientist - Ron Pinnell

Scientist - Robin Scott

Scientist - Alan Wells

Voice from Space Control - Alan Rowe

Voice of Controller Rinberg - Denis McCarthy

Crew

Director - Morris Barry

Assistant Floor Manager - Lovett Bickford

Costumes - Sandra Reid

Costumes - Mary Woods

Costumes - Daphne Dare

Designer - Colin Shaw

Film Cameraman - Peter Hamilton

Film Editor - Ted Walter

Incidental Music - stock

Make-Up - Gillian James

Make-Up - Jeanne Richmond

Producer - Innes Lloyd

Production Assistant - Desmond McCarthy

Special Sounds - Brian Hodgson

Story Editor - Gerry Davis

Studio Lighting - Dave Sydenham

Studio Sound - Gordon Mackie

Title Music - Ron Grainer and the BBC Radiophonic Workshop, arranged by Delia Derbyshire

Writer - Kit Pedler

Bottom Line - from The Discontinuity Guide

'Hurray! That's taken care of the Cybermen. Now then, everybody, we've got to get this Gravitron in operation again as fast as we can!' Final proof that ridiculous and tacky Doctor Who didn't begin in the 1970s. The Moonbase is illogical and boring, reducing the Cybermen to the role of intergalactic gangsters. A waste of the talent involved.

Analysis - from Doctor Who, the Television Companion

The Moonbase is all but a remake of the first Cyberman adventure, The Tenth Planet. In this remix, the Antarctic is replaced with the Moon, Cutler with Hobson, and the sub-plot involving the space capsule in danger with one about a mysterious illness. However, this is by no means to suggest that The Moonbase is a poor relation. On the contrary, it is far superior in many ways, not least of which being the depiction of the Cybermen themselves.

In The Tenth Planet, the creatures were impressive both in their physical size and in their alien nature, but their effectiveness was arguably diminished slightly by the somewhat chunky nature of their costumes and by the strange sing-song effect used for their voices. The new look that the designers gave them for The Moonbase - cloth face swapped for an impassive metal helmet, chunky chest unit and gun for a smaller affair incorporating a hand-held weapon, plastic suit for a loose fitting one-piece silver garment - is far sleeker and more polished, making them more impressive still.

Similarly, their radically rethought voices - sing-song lilt replaced with a totally electronic drawl created by Peter Hawkins using a vibrating palate originally developed as a medical aid for people with throat and vocal cord problems - are simply chilling, and still sufficiently different from the Daleks' to preserve the Cybermen's distinctiveness.

The Cybermen do not in fact make much of an appearance in the first two episodes, but in the last two they dominate the proceedings. This story, far more than their debut, can be seen as the one that truly established them as popular recurring monsters in the series. 'The Moonbase was a superior story all round [to the one that preceded it],' stated Bruce Campbell in A Voyage Through 25 Years of Doctor Who, dated December 1988. 'The newly [redesigned] Cybermen had a more menacing feel to them, and arguably these "mark two" versions are the most effectively realised Cybermen to date. The storyline, although slightly implausible at times, kept the action flowing with some fine moments of suspense throughout..., aided by some effective stock music.'

Another point in the story's favour is that it features some great performances from the regular team. Patrick Troughton has now clearly settled into his role as the new Doctor and is well served by the scripts, in which the comedic excesses of The Highlanders and The Underwater Menace have given way to a more subtle and effective use of humour. The crew of the moonbase, on the other hand, are unfortunately something of a washout. The best character is Hobson, and he is still nowhere near as strong as Cutler, his equivalent in The Tenth Planet.

On the production side, the stock music used for this story is - as Campbell observed - very effective, providing themes for the Cybermen as well as action stings and general background atmosphere. The sets, however, seem somewhat spartan, particularly after the relatively lavish look of The Underwater Menace, and the Gravitron is far too wobbly to be convincing as a machine supposedly capable of projecting some form of gravity beam with great precision onto the Earth. Worse still is the modelwork, which is dreadful. The effects shots of the Cybermen's ships landing, and later being thrown off the Moon by gravitational forces, are amongst the worst ever seen in Doctor Who, and nowhere near as good as similar shots in The Tenth Planet and in other earlier stories.

Morris Barry's studio direction, too, is rather lacklustre in places. An example of this is the unconvincing lumbering about of the men possessed by the Cybermen. It would be interesting to know, too, how the possessed Sam Beckett manages to get into the Gravitron control room without anyone seeing him, given that he has black neutrotropic viral lines all over his face and a Cyberman control device on his head! Fortunately the film work done at Ealing is very much better, suggesting that this is Barry's main strength.

The scenes set on the lunar surface are excellent (in fact it is no surprise to learn that Innes Lloyd made a special request of his BBC colleagues that they be used to promote the show). Particularly effective is the one in Episode 3 - probably the strongest episode of the story altogether - where a Cyberman attacks Benoit and Ben hurls a cannister of 'Polly Cocktail' at it by hand, as the fire extinguishers won't work in the vacuum.

In the final analysis, the negative points of the story are far outweighed by the positive - a view shared by those whose opinions were recorded in the BBC's Audience Research Report on the final episode. 'This particular... adventure... seems on the whole to have kept many in the sample fairly happily entertained,' it was noted. 'They often took it with a large grain of salt, but, even so, enjoyed a situation that, as a fitter pointed out, reflects "the dream of many to reach the Moon".' In what could be considered a vindication of Lloyd's efforts to introduce more 'hard science' into the series, the Report continued: 'The idea of being able to control the Earth's weather from a Moon station was original too, as other viewers maintained, and the story won approval from another group because it was real science-fiction, at least in reference to the electronic technicalities with which Hobson, Doctor Who and the rest of the team were concerned.' There remained 'a large minority' whose comments reflected 'some asperity', mainly directed towards Doctor Who in general. There was also a 'not inconsiderable degree of fairly lacklustre feeling' about the climax to this particular story, a typical comment being that it 'lacked credibility; not good enough to win through by accident'.

Overall, though, the tone was upbeat: 'A large minority were... much intrigued by the events of this final episode and found them very exciting. There was plenty of imaginatively-devised incident, it was said, before the last of the Cyber attacks was foiled, and all with an out-of-this-world touch, that, as various viewers observed, makes the science-fiction sequences in the Doctor Who series generally more thrilling than when the TARDIS travels backwards rather than forwards in time. The rout of the Cybermen was ingeniously managed, further comment went on, and the episode had its agreeably gruesome moments ("but this is what we love - makes us shiver", said a customs officer), was lively too, and not unbelievably far-fetched.'

Their popularity now assured, the Cybermen were well on the way to becoming the archetypal monsters of the second Doctor's era.

< The Underwater MenaceSecond DoctorThe Macra Terror >

This episode guide is made up of the text of The Discontinuity Guide by Paul Cornell, Martin Day and Keith Topping, and Doctor Who: The Television Companion by David J. Howe and Stephen James Walker.

The Discontinuity Guide © Paul Cornell, Martin Day and Keith Topping 1995.
Doctor Who: The Television Companion © David J Howe and Stephen James Walker 1998, 2003.



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