THE DOCTOR WHO RATINGS GUIDE: BY FANS, FOR FANS

The Tenth Planet
The Tomb of the Cybermen
BBC
The Moonbase

Episodes 4 And Polly will make the coffee!
Story No# 33
Production Code HH
Season 4
Dates Feb. 11, 1967 -
Mar. 4, 1967

With Patrick Troughton, Michael Craze, Anneke Wills, Frazier Hines.
Written by Kit Pedler. Script-edited by Gerry Davis.
Directed by Morris Barry. Produced by Innes Lloyd.

Synopsis: The Doctor, Jamie, Polly, and Ben arrive at a Moon Weather Control Station amidst the outbreak of a deadly plague. Accused of being the cause, the Doctor must quickly discover the identity of the real saboteurs. But his adversaries are the Cybermen, and their designs may be too far gone for the Doctor to halt.

Note: Episodes 2 and 4 are available on Cybermen: The Early Years. Audio recordings and telesnap reconstructions of episodes 1 and 3 are available at Missing Doctor Who Reconstructions & Audios.


Reviews

A Review by Jeff Sims 26/4/97

This is a very good Cyberman story, the first of four Troughton tales dealing with the schemes of those evil metal men. It has Cybermen crawling through holes in walls, enslaving others through hypnosis, and marching around to memorable music (the same used in The Tomb of the Cybermen). The climax is a bit weak, but the overall plot is sound. Also, here are heard those immortal words of the Doctor which provide the rationale for much of the series:

"There are some corners of the universe which have bred the most terrible things, things which act against everything that we believe in. They must be fought". Patrick Troughton is especially convincing at such quietly serious moments.

The Moonbase does not exist in complete form; episodes 2 and 4 are intact, while 1 and 3 have been reconstructed with telesnaps. Taken together they create a worthwhile viewing experience.


How Many Times Can You Tell the Same Story? by Michael Hickerson 12/1/98

When the only two existing episodes of The Moonbase were released on BBC Video a few years ago as part of the Cybermen: The Early Years collection, I rushed to the video store. It had been a tough choice for me of which to purchase first, the Dalek tape or the Cyber tape. I eventually decided on the Cybermen since it had four Troughton episodes and I have come to love the Troughton years. Also, having recently acquired Tomb of the Cybermen, I was anxious to see more of the metal monsters.

I rushed home and watched these two episodes. And wasn't that disappointed. At least not until a year or so later when I got a bootleg copy of The Tenth Planet and realized that The Moonbase is pretty much the same story. Yes, there are some interesting quirks to it (such as the sugar being used to poison the Moonbase inhabitants) but overall, it's the same thing. The Cybermen want to invade Earth and plan to turn Earth's own technology against them (in this case the Gravitron). It's only intervention by the Doctor and his companions that stops this.

There are some nice moments though. My favorite is Jamie's reaction to the Cyberman, thinking it's the Phantom Piper come to take him to the afterlife. However, beyond that Jamie gets very little to do (this may be due to the fact that this an early appearance and he may not have written into the script until late!) Troughton's performance is excellent, as always. He's not as manipulative as he in Evil of the Daleks or Tomb of the Cybermen, but we see elements of it here, such as when the Doctor announces that he's found a cure to buy time.

My other major problem with the story is that on my commerically released copy: the sound quality is rather poor. It fades in and out, and while I understand that this was a missing story, it feels as though the BBC rushed the remaining episodes to video without cleaning up the sound quality (as was done on such releases as Tomb of the Cybermen, for example.) And that's a shame since it takes away from the story a bit.


A Review by Stuart Gutteridge 6/12/00

To say The Moonbase isn`t a retread of The Tenth Planet, would be a lie as it is basically the formulaic base under siege scenario. In this respect because of its lack of originality it doesn`t really appeal. It does have some redeeming features notably the Cybermen themselves who are certainly harsher and more calculating, complete with an enhanced appearance and a touch of sarcasm ("Clever, Clever, Clever").

Its also a good story for Anneke Wills` Polly, although Patrick Troughton and Frazer Hines play less significant roles than usual. As episode 3, the most dramatic, is missing, you might expect high hopes of the audio release; as it is the sound quality of episode 4 particularly is variable at best.


Fearsome by Tim Roll-Pickering 4/12/01

Based on the Change of Identity reconstruction of Episodes 1 and 3.

The Moonbase presents a strong threat in a carefully constructed environment and does so quite well. Although there are several elements of the story that are repeated directly from The Tenth Planet, this is by no means an inferior story. The Doctor and his companions play a large role in the story, especially at the resolution, and they are supported by a small cast of believable characters facing an ever present threat.

The Cybermen have been wisely redesigned for this story and now look far more advanced and threatening. As with the earlier story they spend most of the story out of sight, coming as and when they need something. The very idea of monsters that can come and go as they please is truly frightening and extra tension is generated by the small size of the Moonbase itself. This is one of the best of all the isolated bases under siege stories because here the external environment itself is restrictive, making it even harder to tackle the enemy, such as in Episode 3 where Benoit encounters a Cyberman on the surface on the Moon and it takes time to get help to him.

By this story Patrick Troughton has firmly found his footing in his portrayal of the Doctor, with the comical scenes confined to odd moments such as the scene in Episode 2 where he scuttles around the control room taking samples. There's a strong sense of the Doctor's morality, especially in his brief speech:

"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."
Here, more than anywhere else so far in the series, is the point where the Doctor has stopped being a mere wanderer and become a crusader for justice. The companions have mixed roles in the story and it is strange to see Ben suddenly so knowledgeable about both the inner workings of the Gravitron and the composition of the Cybermen. Of the guest cast, Patrick Barr (Hobson), Andre Maranne (Benoit) and Michael Wolf (Nils) all put in strong performances that show the three main crew members as distinctive from one another. There's a lot of good material in in the script and the Cybermen come across as the threat they are meant to be.

Production wise the story benefits from good design and direction, with the result that the story does truly feel as though it's set on the Moon and the camera work rarely lets the whole thing down. The Moonbase is fortunate in that most elements in the story are working together to complement one another and that many of these are already strong. Consequently this is one of the strongest stories of Season 4. 9/10

This reconstruction uses the telesnaps and the soundtrack and is a good way to view the story. Unfortunately the cliffhangers and reprises are static, but this is because on the existing episodes they have captions over them that are too complex to remove with the available facilities. However this does not detract from the reconstruction in any way. 8/10


A Review by Brian May 8/4/04

In a nutshell, The Moonbase is a story of two halves, and quite different ones at that. An interesting and intriguing first half, full of suspense and shadows; followed by a boring, unengaging, runaround of a second half that lacks any sort of tension or excitement.

From the soundtrack and telesnaps, the missing first episode has a great expository feel. There's the usual TARDIS arrival, the crew exploring their surroundings and becoming embroiled in the strange goings-on at the moonbase, as well as falling under suspicion themselves. This could be any Doctor Who story. But the feel of the episode has a nice sense of isolation, especially the eerie sounds as the Doctor and friends traverse across the lunar surface. The first signs of something afoot come with the presence of the (as yet unidentified) Cyber-ship nestled not far away, and the base crew's awareness that they're being monitored.

The first fleeting appearance of a Cyberman occurs when the crewmember Ralph is in the food store. The "something is in the room with him" scenario is built-up quickly (and enjoyably), the jug-headed figure silhouetted against the wall is suitably eerie and, to those familiar with the Cybermen from The Tenth Planet (four months ago, on initial screening), their curiosity is piqued. Although the design is slightly different, it's still distinctive. (If the story had been called by its working title, The Return of the Cybermen, such a scene would have been redundant!) The first full view of one comes at the cliffhanger, which is given an added edge due to Jamie's delirium. The updated "grinning skull" model is quite freakish as well and makes for a lasting image.

Although now revealed, episode two maintains the suspense by keeping the Cybermen to a minimum. Although why does one begin to abduct Jamie and suddenly change its mind and take another crewman? It happens twice, making it doubly irritating. (In part three they realise he has not been conditioned. Is this why? But it's not made clear and therefore just seems sloppy.) But the climax to episode two is another great moment; the slow realisation on everyone's faces that the Cyberman is in the room with them is terrific. Funnily enough, although the endings to parts one and two are similar, they're both very satisfying.

But, with the beginning of episode three, the rot sets in. The latter half of the story is unexciting, with no sense of drama at all. There are a few bold attempts - such as Polly leading the attack with her cocktail of solvents, Benoit on the lunar surface, and the hole blasted in the wall of the base - but really, they're not that exciting. The story is very slow, while other attempts to beef up the action, or to create a race against time feel, also fall flat. There's the situation of the relief ship and its deflection into the sun's orbit, but we have lines like "No good sir. The Doppler effect. It's going too fast." and "Nothing can save them now", delivered with such a bland air that douses any tension whatsoever. There's also the reminder that the weather is wreaking havoc on Earth and will worsen if the Gravitron isn't sorted out PDQ. But I was actually thinking, who cares? There is no sense of urgency projected outside of the main situation (the Cybermen getting in) - which is pretty unengaging in itself and turns into a fizzer of a climax. And I'm afraid the publicity stills of the Cyber march across the moon are much more memorable than the televised incident.

The direction is patchy as well. Morris Barry's work in the first two episodes is great, really contributing to the atmosphere I've mentioned. For the second half he just seems to give up, making a decidedly insipid effort. One exception is the repulsion of the Cybermen from the lunar surface. It's not a brilliant scene, but concentrating on the lower halves of the silver giants as they rise into space thankfully avoids any "held up with string" embarrassments.

The acting is not that inspiring, either. Among the guest cast, only Patrick Barr as Hobson and Andre Maranne as Benoit show any traces of personality, and even this is inconsistent. The latter's accent is highly exaggerated (strange coming from a French actor, but he was probably instructed to stretch it, similar to Janet Fielding's Aussie twang). Patrick Troughton is excellent as always, but it's obvious the script has only catered for one assistant (Polly). It's understandable (given the late inclusion of the character) that Jamie is sidelined, but there's no excuse for writing Ben so poorly. He doesn't have much to do, is extremely out of character (his knowledge of thermonuclear power and acetones) and says embarrassing things like "Not you, Polly! This is men's work!" But Anneke Wills gets to shine as Polly. Quickly moving on from her coffee making skills, she's caring, resourceful and proactive, and gets to display a good rapport with the Doctor. She delivers a wonderful line about the electronic doctor administering to Jamie: "It can't be nice to him." The other great line is Troughton's unforgettable, and oft quoted "There are some corners of the universe that have bred the most terrible things..." speech.

Unfortunately the rest of the dialogue in the story is not as sparkling as this. Ironically, it's the Cybermen who get the clunkers, with "Only stupid Earth brains like yours..." and the unbelievably dire "Clever, clever, clever". (Christopher Robbie and David Banks weren't the first sarcastic silver guys!)

Production wise, The Moonbase is quite good. The designs of the interior of the base and the Gravitron are impressive for their day, although the flying saucers should have been left in The Dalek Invasion of Earth. I quite like the stock march/action music (despite its use in other Cyber stories). The special sounds are excellent, helping to make the moon an eerie, lonely place, and the hums and reverberations in the sick bay (especially in episode two as the Doctor and Polly work) add to the atmosphere. The uniforms of the crew actually look practical - the T-shirts and coveralls a better choice than the usual fashion nightmares we see in sci-fi Who settings. Needless to say, the tea cosy/shower cap combos worn inside the Gravitron are not included in the above commendation! As for Benoit's neckerchief - I realise it's worn to cover up an erroneous number on his shirt, but his exaggerated accent already pushes national stereotypes far enough!

The Moonbase is a mixed tale. My main regret is the lack of episode one, which would have been wonderful to watch, for all the mystery and build-up described previously. Episode three's loss doesn't really make a difference to me, except for the Doctor's mental conversation with himself (I would have loved to have seen Troughton's face during this!) What we have left to watch is one terrific episode (2) and one dreary one (4). Perhaps a fitting representation. But at least the story has its moments. 6/10


A Review by Finn Clark 23/2/06

I quite like The Moonbase, but it's a shameless remake of The Tenth Planet, broadcast less than four months previously, and the least original of all Troughton's base under siege stories. To think that we bash Terry Nation for self-plagiarism! Kit Pedler can hardly have spent fifteen minutes digging out his old scripts, changing a few names and resubmitting in the hope that no one would notice. He even recycles plot points like the Cybermen diverting a spaceship into the sun.

Everyone knows all that. The Tenth Planet always garners solemn respect, being a cornerstone of the mythos with the first regeneration and the original cloth-faced Cybermen invading Earth and losing Mondas. However it's also a horrible load of old cobblers. The Moonbase is better.

Firstly it makes better use of the Doctor. In The Tenth Planet, Hartnell mostly just sits about waiting to regenerate. His change isn't even triggered by a heroic last stand or some terrifying assault from the Cybermen! That would have been awesome. No, instead we bade farewell to Hartnell because... er, he was old. Instead of all that, The Moonbase has Patrick Troughton outwitting Hobson, snaffling comedy boots and generally being the star of the show. Not all his companions fare so well (Phantom Piper, anyone?) but it's a good outing for Polly and her scary eye make-up.

Secondly the plot's better. The Tenth Planet contains three milliseconds of plot and 1,000,000 hours of Cybermen standing around talking... or does it just seem that way? It even ends with a big deus ex machina as Mondas blows up all by itself. At least the remake's heroes do something!

The production values are good. The Gravitron set looks great and I like the new Cybermen, who may be less freaky than their Tenth Planet predecessors but still have something of a sixties pop-art aesthetic. The moonwalks are also infinitely better than they might have been, not least because of authentic details like base personnel doing safety checks on each other's suits before going through the airlock. Compare and contrast with the silly science we had to forgive almost throughout the whole series, or indeed in certain novels today. God bless Kit Pedler, that's what I say.

The story even manages a little atmosphere at times. The Cyber-possessed men resemble zombies, coincidentally in a story broadcast the year before Romero made Night of the Living Dead. There's also part two's delicious cliffhanger, in which the Doctor realises there's a Cyberman in the medical bay and GOES LOOKING FOR IT.

Unfortunately the story invents two (two!) Cyber-allergies: gravity (huh?) and nail-varnish remover. The former could have been clever if someone had pointed out that a man-shaped object made mostly of metal that's about two metres tall could weigh about half a ton, but they didn't. There's also some unfortunate Cyber-dialogue in part three that's easily the silliest to date, eclipsing even Revenge of the Cybermen's Christopher Robbie. It may have only survived on audio, but you'll still cringe at "Only stupid Earth brains like yours" or the infamous "clever clever clever".

The Hartnell era would have died rather than become this formulaic. The Moonbase isn't a deep story. It's possible to read subtext into it, e.g. do all those self-consciously international flags on people's chests perhaps suggest a less harmonious 21st century than the 1960s production team clearly expected? It's not far from the era of Warriors of the Deep. However, overall these are surprisingly efficient episodes of base under siege Cyber-suspense with Patrick Troughton and a funky Cyber-theme. Apart from anything else, I've got a feeling that watching The Moonbase gives you historical context that helps you better enjoy Tomb of the Cybermen. You wouldn't believe the difference it made for me...


Moonbase Under Siege by Matthew Kresal 25/9/12

They say that nothing dates a story more than ideas of the future. That is certainly true of the fourth Patrick Troughton Doctor Who adventure The Moonbase. Yet, once we move past the 1960's notions of what a 21st century Moonbase would look like, there is a good adventure story to be enjoyed.

By the point this story had originally aired, way back in 1966, the four regular stars of the series had become established for the most part. Patrick Troughton's Doctor is firmly entrenched and he has some of his best Doctor Who moments in this story including the "There are corners of the universe" speech in episode two. As always, Troughton is the centerpiece of the story and a sheer joy to watch. His companions are just as good, though Frazer Hines spends much of the story in bed due to having to be inserted into the story at the last moment. The upside of this is that it gives Michael Craaze and Annekke Willis a chance to shine as Ben and Polly for the first time since The Power of the Daleks. If nothing else, The Moonbase gives the series regulars a chance to shine.

Then there is the supporting cast. Patrick Baar makes a nice (and thankfully not cliched) base leader in his role of Hobson, making a nice change from a very similar character in The Tenth Planet. Andre Maranne makes an interesting appearance as the French physicist and has some good chemistry with the series regulars. Much like The Tenth Planet before it, the supporting cast really rests on the silver monsters known as Cybermen.

After their debut in The Tenth Planet, the Cybermen make their second appearance in the series. The decision to replace the rather cheap-looking Cybermen with the more robotic-looking suits help to bring not only menace but realism to these monsters. The voices used in this story also mark an improvement over the sing-song voice that appeared in The Tenth Planet. Despite some questionable dialog (such as the "stupid Earthling brains" line in episode three for example), these Cybermen are a definite improvement over their predecessors.

Then of course there's always the production values. As I said at the beginning of this review, nothing dates more then ideas of the future. The sets of the Moonbase and the spacesuits used in this story are proof of that saying if there ever was any. The sets and costumes are a definite 1960's vision of the future, right down to the bubble-headed space suits and large the reel-to-reel computers seen in the base itself. While these views may seem unfair from some four decades later, they are nonetheless jarring to look at.

On the upside, there's the script by Kit Pedler (and an uncredited Gerry Davis) which follows the "base under siege" formula of many 1960's Doctor Who stories including The Tenth Planet. Despite the fact that it is essentially formulaic, the script plays with the formula to help make the story less than predictable. Even if the designs aren't up to task, the script still makes it enjoyable.

While the set design and costumes might make the story seem dated, there is still a good story to enjoy. From the performances of the regulars and the supporting cast to the Cybermen and the story itself, there is plenty to enjoy. While it might not be a Doctor Who classic, its two surviving episodes (and at least the Loose Cannon recon of the missing two episodes) remains a watchable Doctor Who story.