THIS STORY TAKES
BETWEEN THE TV
AND "THE MACRA
(& GERRY DAVIS,
RETURN OF THE
'LOST IN TIME' DVD
RELEASED IN NOVEMBER
The year is 2070, and
Earth's weather is
controlled by a
device called the
Gravitron, based on
the Moon and manned
by an international
team of experts. The
TARDIS arrives to
find the base in the
grip of a plague
epidemic which is
the personnel. Before
long an even greater
menace is proved to
be responsible - an
invasion force from
the planet Mondas,
home of the
EPISODES ONE AND
11TH FEBRUARY 1967 - 4TH MARCH 1967
The Moonbase is an absolutely cracking serial, and of all these missing stories, this one has such a wealth of photographic and audio material still existing that one can enjoy the story almost as it was originally intended. As was the case with The Crusade, the Lost in Time DVD contains both existing episodes of the serial together with the sound-tracks to both missing episodes.
Surprisingly for a television show that aired in 1967, The Moonbase has a very realistic feel. The weather control device on the moon is populated by a rather cosmopolitan crew, and
the design of the place is not as cringeworthy as some other contemporaneous takes
on the future. The story itself s also very well-written; fast-paced and exciting. The first episode sets things up wonderfully; Morris Barry’s direction is particularly good as he uses shadows of the Cybermen to build up the suspense – Joe Ahearne used a similar trick with the Daleks recently in Bad Wolf to similar effect, so Barry must have been doing something right! Sadly, lovely little touches like this are lost on audio, but when combined with the telesnaps you can just about get the picture.
For the most part a tense and claustrophobic story, much of the plot here revolves around
the Doctor and his companions investigating the strange plague that is slowly killing the
crew of the base. Like certain eagle-eyed viewers at home, the Doctor knows it is the Cybermen behind the plague, but he just cannot convince the crew of that until it is too late…
Nevertheless, Kit Pedler and Gerry Davis’ script certainly is not without humour; and quite clever humour at that. The Moonbase is notorious for the sexist treatment Polly has to put
up with, not only from the “make a cup of coffee, Polly” Doctor, but also from just about everyone else that she comes across in the story. And so Doctor Who is hammered by critics for being sexist, which at times is a fair criticism – but not here. These critics forget that it is Polly alone who creates the ‘pollycocktail’ that destroys some of the Cybermen. If anything, in having Polly help save the day, the writers of The Moonbase were actually striking a blow against sexism, not endorsing it!
“Not you, Polly. This is men’s work!”
Better still, whilst images of the Cybermen coming out of the sewers near St Paul’s Cathedral or emerging from the Ice Tombs of Telos are burned into the memories of so many Doctor Who fans, I would argue that the Cybermen marching across the surface of the moon with that evocative stock music (the same piece used in The Tomb of the Cybermen) playing is just as enduring an image.
The Moonbase isn’t perfect though. As with the preceding story, Frazer Hines’ Jamie is given little to do as the result of being written in at the last minute. He is unconscious for the first episode, and then spends half the serial in sickbay with a fever. And what’s more, after all the hype surrounding the Cybermats, they really do not impress at all here. The story about how they carry the plague is clever and works well, but sadly the visual effects of the time were just not up to the job.
All told, I actually prefer this serial to both The Tomb of the Cybermen and The Wheel in Space. And, though I do prefer The Invasion on the whole, the Cybermen in that serial are completely overshadowed by Tobias Vaughn and UNIT and as such, I take the view that The Moonbase is perhaps the best ‘proper’ Cyberman story of the Troughton era.
Copyright © E.G. Wolverson 2006
E.G. Wolverson has asserted his right under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act, 1988 to be identified as the author of this work.
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