Story 033: The Moonbase

More drudgery. This story was not as infuriatingly bad as The Underwater Menace, but what it lacked in crappiness, it made up for in boringness. Not helping matters, the reconstructions I watched did not feature any descriptions of what was happening. So there were long stretches of just disconnected audio with no dialogue. It’s difficult to tell what’s going on in those scenes.

The Cybermen Return

This story features the return of the Cybermen, now with metallic masks. I must admit that I still find the Cybermen to be relatively scary villains, despite their slow nature and apparent lack of intelligence. However, the lingering humanity that I commented in my review of The Tenth Planet has been entirely removed, making them less scary to me. In the space of a single story, the Cybermen have devolved from grim portrait of our own future to simple robot villains. They do, however, demonstrate a kind of chilling logic. They are not destroying Earth for revenge. Instead, they are doing it for reasons of self-preservation. This is consistent with their earlier appearance and I liked the nod.

But, unfortunately, the Cybermen could not save this yawner. Almost a complete rehash of the Tenth Planet, the Moonbase involves the attack of a remote base by the Cybermen, bent on destroying Earth for their own survival. The travelers have a bumpy arrival (I won’t say landing, although Ben calls it one) on the moon in the year 2050 (64 years after vanquishing the Cybermen the first time, for those keeping track). They discover that many of the base’s crew are becoming sick, with a strange disease that makes lines appear on their arms and face. I thought these were blood vessels, but the Doctor later explains it’s nerves. In either case, I thought it was a pretty clever depiction for the time and such a low budget production. The Cybermen finally make an appearance at the end of the first episode and beginning of the second, coming in and stealing the patients, whom they have made sick.

Polly: "No! He's sick!" Cyberman: "Oh, right, better leave him be." Me: "Huh?"

They steal the patients in order to convert them into zombie-like beings that will do their bidding. This theme has appeared a few times in the show, and while it’s kind of lazy emplotment, it gets the job done. These crew members are, following the lead of the tenth planet, international. Their nationalities are displayed as flags on their shirts. This echoes the international cooperation of the Tenth Planet and I wonder if it will continue in future depictions of Earth civilization. Worth noting, however, is that the lone non-white character that I noticed worked in the store room and was quickly zombified. And the Frenchman wore a quite effeminate neck scarf. The producers were not particularly concerned with political correctness, were they?

Other than the Cybermen, this stories distinguishing feature was that long stretches went on with nothing happening. I would stop paying attention for a minute or so, look back and have missed nothing. The cybermen moved so incredibly slow and there were long scenes of the crew working on the gravitron (a device for controlling the weather). And then, in the end, a lot happened very quickly. In the final 7 or 8 minutes, a rescue ship was deflected into the sun, more cybermen arrived and slowly marched across the entire moon, a whole was blasted in the side of the base (which was initially plugged by a jacket and then a coffee tray…can you say ridiculous?), and the gravitron was moved, fixed, and finally pointed to the moon and used for blasting the cybermen.

I haven’t said much about Jamie. He hasn’t really done anything except for act skeptical and amazed by everything. We’re on the moon? But that’s way up in the sky!” That’s right. Did you forget that you were just in freaking ATLANTIS? “maybe we’ll meet the old man in the moon.” And maybe when you meet him he’ll slap you upside your stupid scottish head and tell you stop being annoying. Beyond that, he spent more than half of this story unconscious then spouted a few lines and donned a kilt for the rest. I am unimpressed. Ben and Polly’s characters seemed to have leveled out, reached their peak depth. Which means they likely won’t be around for too much longer. I thought Polly would be better than she has been. I still like Ben, though.

Yeah, floating on the moon!


2 Responses to “Story 033: The Moonbase”

  1. 1 Stephen
    29.December.10 at 4:38 am

    Ah yes, the Moonbase. Just a bit of background material worth knowing is that the addition of Jamie as a permanent member of the TARDIS crew was made rather late in the day, with the result being that his early stories, like “The Moonbase” weren’t written with him in mind. Hence, Jamie lies sick for much of the story.

    I agree with you that the Cybermen aren’t quite as interesting with the new redesign. I happen to like the scenes on the moon’s surface. I also appreciate the attempt at having a truly international crew… after all, why should everyone be British… but it does result in some pretty obvious stereotypes. Speaking of stereotypes, I can’t help but cringe just a bit when the Doctor sends Polly off to make the coffee. Hardly the sort of heroine young girls would look up to. Ah… the 1960’s.

    Maybe the lack of existing episodes makes what I am about to say an unfair observation… but even though I somewhat like Ben and Polly, I don’t feel as though I have ever really gotten to know them. They seem somewhat bland to me. Part of it is due to television of the time not being overly concerned with character development, but even so, they have just never struck me as real people. Jamie is even more of a blank slate, but it is still early days for him, and I think you will really warm up to him in time.

    Can’t wait to hear what you think of the next story. It is a rather odd one.

    • 2 jacob1480
      29.December.10 at 11:58 am

      I was looking at the wikipedia entry for this story and saw that Jamie’s part was a new addition and many of his lines were intended for Ben. As I recall, this also happened to Steven who delivered many lines intended for Ian and Barbara. He was unable to recover, of course, but from what I’ve seen Jamie will come out just fine.

      I also found the coffee thing amusing. There is a similar scene in a previous story. I forget which one, but it was probably the tenth planet since a lot of the story was simply lifted from that. If that’s the case, I suppose it’s possible that the coffee making references are some sort of Kit Pedler inside joke (Why else would it be in both stories?). But probably not.

      And I agree about Ben and Polly. I like Ben more than Polly, but they both kind of stopped developing after Patrick Troughton’s arrival. The continuing flatness of the companions is increasing my respect for Ian and Barbra. I felt that they were given their due and that I knew them. And while I didn’t feel particularly into them by the end, I kind of wish for that depth of character to return.

      As usual, thanks for reading and for the comments!


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About These Adventures

This blog exists to document my trip through over 30 seasons of the British science fiction television show Dr. Who. Prior to beginning, I had never seen a single episode of Dr. Who and will be learning the show's mythology and experiencing it all for the first time. I began sometime in July of 2009. Hopefully it doesn't take me over 30 years to reach the end.

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