Doctor Who and the Cybermen
|ISBN||0 426 10575 3|
|First Edition Cover||Chris Achilleos|
|Back cover blurb: One by one, their limbs became diseased - they were replaced by plastic and steel! Little by little, their brains tired - computers worked just as well! With metal limbs, they had the strength of ten men. They could live in the airless vacuum of space. They had no heart, no feelings, no emotions, and only one goal - power! In the year 2070, a small blue planet caught their attention. They would land on its satellite and, from there, attack, ransack, destroy and finally abandon... THE SATELLITE WAS THE MOON THE HELPLESS PLANET - EARTH THEIR NAMES? THE CYBERMEN!|
An assault on continuity but... by Tim Roll-Pickering 2/12/03
In the modern era of fandom where continuity is regarded as sacrosanct this book would be crucified if it were released today. It contains many subtle deviations from the continuity of the series on television, as well as contradicting itself in the text at least twice whilst the illustrations can cause further confusion. And yet this is a novelisation that holds up well and remains a classic to this day.
The book begins with a chapter detailing the origin of the Cybermen and this was to generate much confusion for many years to come. Here it is clearly stated that the Cybermen originated on the planet Telos, despite lines on page 89 (clearly taken from the television script) stating that these Cybermen left Mondas for Telos. This introduction nevertheless remains a strong introduction to the monsters and it comes as no surprise that an edited version of it was reprinted (with occassional additions) in Doctor Who and the Tenth Planet, Doctor Who and the Revenge of the Cybermen and Doctor Who and the Tomb of the Cybermen in later years. Nevertheless it is a telling sign that in one part of the book the continuity details from the television series have been altered, but this change has not been followed through in other sections. A similar problem occurrs with the devices used by the Cybermen to control the captured humans, although this has caused less confusion over the years. Davis' initial description and Willow's accompanying illustration state that the devices are clearly helmets (as opposed to the wire attachments in the television story) yet later on Dr Evan is able to hide his helmet beneath the ear-muff head gear that crew working on the Gravitron must use (again altered from the shower caps of the television story).
The rest of the changes in continuity are less obvious within the book itself, although they could make for a nightmare if anyone tried to construct a chronology based purely on Target novelisations and I wonder how fans in the 1970s who had little more to go on than the early books managed to reconcile things. Polly and Ben both now come from the 1970s, presumably in an effort to make them seem closer to the readership when the novelisation (the first to feature them) was originally printed. The Cybermen now have helmets, with the Cyberleader denoted by a black helmet, and so presumably Davis was thinking of the Cybermen from either The Invasion (one of which appears on the original Achilleos cover) or Revenge of the Cybermen (in production around the time the book was written) but this goes against those seen in The Moonbase on television and Willow's illustrations follow the latter.
Yet despite all these alterations, many of which would presumably have gone unnoticed back in 1975 when organsied fandom was still in its embryonic stages, Doctor Who and the Cybermen comes across as a strong novelisation and in no way feels like a rush job designed to tie in with the Cybermen's television appearance in Revenge of the Cybermen. Gerry Davis takes the television story and makes virtually no changes to its structure but instead fleshes it out. Many subsequent authors have complained that the Troughton Doctor is difficult to capture on paper but this novelisation disproves it as Davis easily captures the essence of Troughton's performance, bringing the dialogue to life and describing the Doctor's moves and how his features change as he reacts to different situations. Other characters are similarly brought to life, most obviously Jules Benoit whom Davis is clearly fond of, whilst the description of the environment around them is equally strong. There is a real sense of isolation as the humans are trapped in the moonbase facing the threat of the Cybermen. Unfortunately Davis declines the opportunity to show the reaction to the events on Earth as the Gravitron breaks down but the pace of the book is such that it doesn't matter.
On television The Moonbase is a strong story where the elements of production all combined together to support one another. In the novelisation the illustrations are weak (and at times contradict the text a little as noted above) but the text is strong and the result is a tough novelisation that brings the story to life on the printed page and makes the continuity points seem irrelevant. 8/10
A Romp on the Moon! by Andrew Feryok 3/5/04
POLLY: Now wait a minute! You don't expect to land us on the moon and let us fly off just like that, do you?Well, I've been faithfully reading this website of reviews for many years now and I really enjoy reading about people's opinions of the various Doctor Who stories on this site! In fact, I enjoy it so much, that I decided to try my hand and write my first review for this site.
-The Moonbase, Episode 1
I've been a fan since the early nineties and watched the series faithfully on my local PBS station every Saturday at 5pm. I can still remember the magical moment when I first saw the swashbuckling antics of the Fourth Doctor in The Androids of Tara and was swept away by Doctor Who's magic ever since. Oddly, despite Tom Baker's Doctor being the most favorite in the family, my favorite Doctor has always been Patrick Troughton. I love his bashful, slapstick humor and his wonderful raport with Jamie and Zoe. I was first introduced to him in The Five Doctors and later saw The War Games as a two part omnibus edition on TV. It was only natural that I should pick one of his adventures for my first review.
I did not grow up reading the Target novels since they were only available in the odd used book store here in America. In fact, I have been lucky enough to buy any at all! I actually got Doctor Who and The Cybermen when I took a trip to England and bought it at the Doctor Who collector's dream-come-true: Haye on Wye: The town of books! It was here that I purchased this and many other Doctor Who books that I was able to get my hands on, and this was the first one which I read.
It is a very fast-paced read, and I read it on the train ride to London. The Moonbase, despite having only two surviving episodes, was always been a favorite of mine (I like it much better than The Tomb of the Cybermen). I have watched the episodes many times and I hunted down a copy of the missing episode scripts to fill in the gaps. I assumed, when I first started reading the book, that it would follow the TV adventure closely. By and large, it did; with a few adjustments here and there. From the top of my head, the most obvious change was the format of the moonbase bridge. Freed from the constraints of the BBC budget, Gerry Davis was able to create a much larger control room with multiple levels. In fact, in the Episode 4 scene were the crew try to patch a hole in the dome, the scene in the book has them climb up scaffolds to the ceiling area where they repair the hole.
Other than this, the story follows the original TV adventure quite closely. Don't go into this novel expecting high-class characterisation, and motives, because (let's face it) this is a children's book. But the plot of The Moonbase is still there and is quite gripping. I enjoyed reading about the time travelers initial antics on the moon's surface, Jamie's encounter with "The Phantom Piper", the Doctor collecting samples of everything around the base, thier discovery of the Cyberman in the hospital, the slow-motion chase on the moon's surface, and the Cyber-army's assault on the moonbase. It is these set pieces that keep the story moving at a break-neck speed, full of suspense and adventure.
The Cybermen are possibly my favorite villains in all of Doctor Who. I own David Banks' Cybermen and was fascinated how he brought all the continuity and changing constume designs together into one coherent picture. Of all the Cybermen designs, the one featured in The Moonbase (and Tomb) are my favorites. They look haunting with thier blank, metal faces, empty eyes, and electronic voices. The novel captures thier terror perfectly as they take control of the minds of the sick and assault the moonbase with thier large cyber-cannon. It is no wonder they are considered Doctor Who's #2 baddie. There is a lost scene from episode 2 were Ralph encounters a Cybermen in the storeroom, and all we see is the shadow of the creature. The book captures the magic of this sequence quite well, and if it survived, I'm sure people would be raving about it as much as the cliffhanger to episode 1 of The Daleks. Luckily, we still have the photonovel of this story and the book also provides a gripping illustration of the scene as well. Many have complained that this story is nothing more than a rip off of The Tenth Planet, but I would rather watch/read this than that yawn-inducing mess of a story (which has an undeserved legendary ending).
Also of note for the story in general, this is one of the few Doctor Who base-under-seige stories where the leader of the base does not go insane and get killed in the last episode by the monster of the week (usually the Cybermen). Hobsen is a very admirable character. He has every right to suspect the time travelers as being responsible for the plague, and it isn't until the Doctor proves him wrong by finding the source of the disease, at the end of episode 2, that he finally believes in the time travelers. He then wisely allies himself with the Doctor, pulling on his knowledge of Cybermen to help him protect his base. He's a very calculating leader and it's easy to see why he was appointed the base's leader, unlike some of the madmen that always seem to make it into positions of power!
I haven't read all my Target novels yet (or even my Virgin or BBC Books!) but of the few that I have read, Doctor Who and The Cybermen remains one of my favorites and I highly recommend it if you manage to find a copy somewhere. It's definitely worth a read! I also recommend checking out the surviving episodes on Cybermen: The Early Years tape. They are well worth watching, even if they are only part of the story. You won't regret it. 10/10
PS: The Doctor's speech about the evils of the universe is very much the classic that it is said to be, even if it does seem a little out of character for this normally light-hearted, and carefree Doctor.