Everything’s got a weak point. It’s just a question of waiting until it turns up, that’s all.
The TARDIS lands on the Moon in 2070, where the crew are becoming infected with a strange alien virus. With Jamie unconscious, the Doctor, Ben and Polly become aware of a mysterious silver menace.
The Moonbase is perhaps notable for being the first episode to launch the “base under siege” style of Doctor Who stories, as well as cementing the Cybermen as a true A list Doctor Who villain. Whilst the story is not perfect, it does a lot of things well, but there is some incredibly shaky scientific basis, surprising as the writer, Kit Pedler, was a scientist. I think this story gives us Troughton’s first definitive performance as the Doctor, encapsulated by his delivery of the famous “corners” speech.
One of this story’s real strengths is that it definitely shores up the feeling of the Troughton era. Troughton seems to have learnt where his strengths are and what sort of person the Second Doctor is. Aside from the obvious moment, he really nails it when he realises how the Neurotrope virus is affecting the crew via the sugar, as well as the look of abject horror on his face when he realises that the crew didn’t search the medical bay. Troughton’s face is so expressive, and he really uses it to sell the sense of impending dread. Whilst it’s a shame that Jamie is unconscious or feverish for much of the story, the story does demonstrate the dynamics within the TARDIS team. Both Jamie and Ben seem to have a bit of hostility towards each other, whilst it is nice that the story allows Polly to come up with a solution to defeating the Cybermen. It’s also nice to see Ben and Polly discussing their past encounter with the Cybermen, which helps to turn the tide here, as well as bringing Jamie up to speed on their threat.
Another of the strengths of the story if how it deals with the Cybermen. By us only seeing them fleeting in the first two episodes, it effectively allows tension to be built until they are finally seen by the majority of the crew at the end of the second part. It also allows for Hobson’s distrust of the Doctor and his companions to feel legitimate and it is a good performance by Patrick Barr. I initially found the new voice of the Cybermen jarring and a bit irritating, but as I got used to it, actually found it more menacing and sinister than the sing-song version we get in The Tenth Planet. The use of music here also helps give the Cybermen a feeling of real dread and I particularly love the shots of the Cybermen moving across the lunar surface.
The Moonbase is definitely an episode that I’d recommend watching when looking at the development of the Second Doctor’s era as a whole, as well as seeing how the Cybermen became a classic villain. That is not to say that it is not without flaws. Some of the direction seems quite flat, especially whilst on the titular Moonbase, although some of the shots on the lunar surface are spectacular. The story in places does stretch credibility, especially when the Cyber-controlled Dr. Evans is able to gain access to the controls of the Gravitron despite the base supposedly being on red alert and the fact that he is covered in black lines and wearing a Cyber control helmet. Additionally, the conclusion to the episode feels a bit too silly for a story that by and large is a serious story that packs a lot of a threat. The Cybermen’s plan to destroy the surface of the Earth by using the Gravitron also feels pretty ridiculous and convulted plan. None of these issues massively affected my enjoyment of the story, though I do feel as though they need to be mentioned.
Verdict: A fun, if flawed, introduction to the base under siege style of stories. The Cybermen really have a decent second outing. 7/10
Cast: Patrick Troughton (The Doctor), Michael Craze (Ben Jackson), Anneke Wills (Polly), Frazer Hines (Jamie McCrimmon), Patrick Barr (Hobson), Andre Maranne (Benoit), Michael Wolf (Nils), John Rolfe (Sam), Alan Rowe (Voice from Space Control), Mark Heath (Ralph), Alan Rowe (Dr. Evans), Barry Ashton, Derek Calder, Arnold Chazen, Leon Maybank, Victor Pemberton, Edward Phillips, Ron Pinnell, Robin Scott, Allan Wells (Scientists), Denis McCarthy (Voice of Controller Rinberg), John Wills, Sonnie Willis, Peter Greene, Keith Goodman, Reg Whitehead (Cybermen), Peter Hawkins (Voice of Cybermen)
Writer: Kit Pedler
Director: Morris Barry
Behind the Scenes
- The Moonbase was commissioned very quickly after the broadcast of The Tenth Planet, due to uncertainty about the availability of the Daleks for future appearances and the success of the Cybermen. Dalek creator Terry Nation was looking at opportunities to launch the infamous villains in televisions and movies in the United States. The Cybermen would go on to reappear several times in Troughton’s run as the Doctor.
- The first story to feature the Earth’s Moon, and the first redesign of the Cybermen. It also marks the final usage of the original title sequence until 2013’s Day of the Doctor.
- Episode 1 and 3 are missing, but have been animated in the BBC’s DVD release.
- According to a story told by Anneke Wills, Patrick Troughton was nearly crushed when the Gravitron prop fell from the rigging whilst he was exploring the set.
- Victor Pemberton, who plays an unnamed scientist, served as the show’s largely uncredited script editor from The Evil of the Daleks until The Ice Warriors, and wrote Fury From The Deep. This makes him both one of the five people to write and act in the show and the only person to appear in a story before a story of his was broadcast.
I really love the moment where the Cyberman is found in the stock room. It’s really effective and quite scary, and the story really uses shadows effectively.
There are some corners of the universe which have bred the most terrible things. Things which act against everything we believe in. They must be fought.