Friday, 15 July 2011

33: The Moonbase - A Brilliant Base-Under-Siege Troughton.

Written By: Kit Pedler.
Companions: The Doctor, Ben Jackson, Polly, Jamie McCrimmon.
Monsters/Villains: The Cybermen.
Brief Synopsis: The Cybermen attempt to take over a weather-control station on the moon.
Rating: 7/10.

I listen/watched this little gem while I was on my way to The Crash of The Elysium. I throughly enjoyed it. It was great to see the return of the Cybermen and with a stylish new design; much more machine and less humanoid. They also, no longer have names. Here we have the very first Base Under Siege style episode which will grow to become the quintessence of the Troughton era. The story is also very ahead of it's time in the sense that man hadn't even walked on the moon when it was aired.

A new kind of Cyberman.
The TARDIS leaves Atlantis. The Doctor sets out to prove to Jamie that he can control the Tardis and plots a course for Mars, but the TARDIS goes out of control. After a while it stabilises. Jamie notes, "I'll never ask you to do that again." Polly thinks they're on Mars but Ben quickly deduces that they're on the moon, only missing Mars by some 200 million miles. Jamie struggles to understand, "the moon is up in the sky." Ben and Polly want to look around, all four gear-up in spacesuits and head out on to the surface. Jamie hopes to meet the old man in the moon. The Doctor's three companions jump around in the zero gravity until Jamie goes a little too far and tumbles over a ridge. The others go to investigate and spy a large domed building. Two space-suited figures arrive and pick up an unconscious Jamie.

We quickly discover that it is the year 2070 and the base is a weather control centre, run by a small team of scientists, who monitor and govern weather patterns on earth using a piece of equipment called a gravitron. Inside the control centre a man collapses. We meet Hobson, the base commander and his second, Benoit. We also learn that they are awaiting a relief Doctor as some sort of infection has broken out inside the moonbase. The Doctor, Ben, and Polly enter, whilst Jamie is taken to the sickbay. Hobson and his scientist buddies really don't seem too fussed that they don't know who the Doctor and his friends are, why they're here or how they got there. This does jar a little but it gets the whole 'mistrusting/gaining confidence in the Doctor phase' that we see so often in Doctor Who, old and new, out of the way.

The Moonbase.
Another man collapses and the base receives a call from International Space Control, who we last heard from in The Tenth Planet.  There is a fault with the gravitron, a hurricane that the base controls is off course and threatening peoples lives. We discover that the gravitron affects the gravity and the tides of Earth and the tides control the weather. We witness someone, or something monitoring their communication. Due to the infection space control places the moon base under quarantine.

Meanwhile Polly is looking after a concussed Jamie, who rather melodramatically is worried about catching a glimpse of the phantom piper, who supposedly appears to a McCrimmon before he dies.

Ben goes off to help Ralph in the food store, who drops a large sack of sugar. When Ben returns Ralph is gone and we see a huge figure loom out of the darkness and drag Ralph's body away. We then get some informative stuff as the Doctor explains to Polly that on the moon they have a fortnight of days and a fortnight of nights, so they make artificial night so as to not upset their biological time clocks.

In the Sickbay there is something seriously wrong with Dr. Evans, one of the infected. He is babbling about a silver hand. Left alone Jamie awakes, sees something and faints again. Polly enters to find Dr. Evans body is missing. Jamie awakes once more and Polly goes to get him some water. Again he sees something: the phantom piper?

The video exists for episode two and I couldn't be happier to actually see what's happening again. It's not the phantom piper that Jamie has seen but a Cyberman. Jamie falls unconscious from shock and the Cyberman takes another infected crew member away. Polly enters just in time to see the Cyberman leave and of course recognises it and screams. Hobson and the Doctor arrive. Hobson denies it, saying every child knows about the Cybermen. Ben recalls the Cybermen were destroyed ages ago when Mondas blew up. Finally Hobson questions the Doctor and co's identities and reason for being there. It's about time Hobson! We then get an immortal line from Troughton, "There are some corners of the universe that have bred the most terrible things, things which act against everything that we believe in. They must be fought." The Doctor promises to help discover the cause of the virus. Hobson gives him just 24 hours before he must leave the moon.

With the help of Polly, the Doctor begins to hunt for the cause of the 'virus' and recalls, "I think I took a degree once. In Glasgow, 1888 with Lister." I can now actually see the scientists that work aboard the moonbase and I found it slightly amusing that they all wear flags of the country they're from on their chests. Hobson receives a message from Controller Rinberg  that the hurricane is threatening Florida. The base is also experiencing brief drops in the air pressure. Hobson and Benoit set about checking everything to find the fault with the gravitron.

Jamie awakes and both Polly and him see a Cyberman, which shoots energy from it's hand knocking them out before taking yet another patient. In the food store a Cyberman enters through a scorched hole in the wall, and covers it up with bags of food. Benoit discovers that two pieces of the probe are missing. Hobson blames the Doctor and his friends and wants to put them into cold storage. Two men in spacesuits go on to the surface to fix the probe, only to be attacked by Cybermen who beat them until they fall unconscious.

Some interesting space suits.
Polly is beginning to doubt the value of Lister's teachings, questioning whether they might have not quite taught the Doctor everything he needs to know to find the problem. Hobson is getting restless and wants them to leave but the Doctor stalls him as he can't find the answer. Polly makes them some coffee, but a man drinks some and falls to the ground, and develops an odd black pattern on his skin like the others. The Doctor suddenly deduces that the disease is being spread in the sugar. Back in the sickbay the Doctor tests a sample of the sugar and discovers a large nuerotrophic virus which only attacks the nerves. The Doctor knows it's the Cybermen who have deliberately infected the base. The group realise that the Cybermen are in the base and a blanket is lifted to reveal a Cyberman, who lurches toward them!

And, we're back to just audio for episode three. The Cyberman advances and speaks. It's a different Cyber voice, this time. It's a little harder to understand, but it's still very eerie. Another Cyberman arrives and fires it's weapon killing one of the scientists. The Cybermen recognise the Doctor, 'you are known to us,' to which he replies 'and you to me.' They  reveal that they have been altering and now control the missing patients using nuerotrophic drugs. The Cyberman orders Hobson and the Doctor take him to the control centre, threatening Ben and Polly with conversion.

In the control centre the Cybermen admit that they are here to take over the gravitron and use it to destroy the surface of the earth by changing the weather. Hobson challenges them questioning, that they are meant to be advanced yet here they are taking revenge like children. The Cybermen do not understand vengeance. They also explain that they entered through a hole in the store room and poisoned the food, explaining the drops in air pressure. The Cyberman intones, "Clever. Clever. Clever." It is so creepy.

The Cybership.
Aboard the Cybership, Dr. Evans, and two others are being converted, and fitted with metal head pieces that control their minds. In the sickbay Jamie finally wakes up. Ben remembers the Cybermen's weakness to radiation. Jamie offers that they used to throw holy water on witches, which give Polly an idea. She suggests that they sprinkle the Cybermen's plastic chest units with nail varnish remover to make it melt.

The Cyber Leader.
Dr. Evans and the two others enter the control room with a third Cyberman. The Cyberman orders the scientists to move from their stations and that the technicians come out of the power room. The converted men take control of the gravitron. Benoit worries for the controlled men saying that they need to wear protective helmets or they will go mad within 12 hours. The Cyberman coldly replies, we will not need them that long.

Polly and Ben work in the sickbay, forming a chemical cocktail of: benzine, ether, alcohol, acetone, and hi-proxy propane and contain it within converted fire extinguishers. In the control centre, Earth contacts the base. Due to the lack of response a relief rocket would be dispatched. Hobson and the Doctor wonder why the Cybermen didn't operate the controls themselves. The Doctor deduces it must be something, radiation or gravity they don't like in the power room. Jamie, Ben and Polly go to try out their Polly Cocktail. They use the solvents from the converted fire extinguishers on the Cybermen causing their limbs to jerk and them to clutch at their rapidly dissolving life surport units. Ben, Polly and Jamie remove the headsets from the controlled men, Hobson and the scientists try to regain control of the gravitron. The Cyber Leader tries to contact the downed Cybermen, orders the weapons to be prepared and to begin the invasion of the base. Benoit goes out to fix the probe, but a Cyberman tries to attack him. Ben goes out on to the surface and hurls a glass cilinder of cocktail at the Cyberman and drags Benoit back inside, closing the airlock. An army of Cybermen advance on the base.

Episode four also has video, thank goodness. The Cyber Leader contacts the base warning them that resistance is useless. On the surface the Cyberman are affecting the aerial so the base cannot contact earth. They just have to hold on until a relief rocket arrives in 15 minutes. The Cybermen remotely take control of Dr. Evans, who gets in to the control room. He knocks out Benson and takes over control of the gravitron. The Cybermen command Evans to use the gravitron to deflect the rocket directly into the Sun.

A Cyber controlled Dr. Evans.
The Cybermen threaten to destroy the base if they don't open the airlocks. They fire a warning shot and break a hole in the dome where they start to loose oxygen and pressure. Benoit and Hobson try to patch it with a shirt, which unsurprisingly doesn't hold and then a tea tray, which does. Evans faints, they rescue Benson, and Benoit takes over in the grav room. The Cybermen try to use their laser weapon, but the gravitron deflects the beam. The Doctor suggests they aim the gravitron on the surface of the moon. After some struggle they manage to aim it down lifting the Cybermen and their ships off the ground and to float away into space and the whole crew celebrate. Now this was the only part of the episode I wasn't mad about. Surely that isn't going to kill the Cybermen at all. They'll just float around for ages until they get back to their ships and try again.

But for now the Earth and indeed the moon are safe. They start to regain control of the gravitron. The Doctor, Ben, Polly and Jamie slip out, suit up and return to the TARDIS. The Doctor decides that they should look at the time scanner which shows the future. They see a large crab claw.

Join me next time for The Macra Terror.


Anonymous said...

Another awesome blog! I love the fact that the Cyberman's silver hand is seen first - there is a character in Celtic Myth called Lugh of the Silver hand and it reminded me of that. J

Anonymous said...

I think this is a very strange story. Why are the Cybermen attacking the Earth? They say, to“eliminate all dangers,” but what does that mean? Why is the Earth a danger to them? According to this story, there's been no encounter between Cybermen and humans for eighty-four years. Ultimately, then, Hobson must be right in his claim that all the Cybermen are doing is taking childish revenge for the destruction of Mondas. But, if that's true, then the Cybermen aren't emotionless, are they? Also, the plan the Cybermen come up with appears totally cock-eyed. Instead of poisoning the sugar, and kidnapping moonbase personal, why don't they just punch a few holes in the dome, suffocate all the humans and then operate the Gravitron themselves? The Doctor deduces that the Cybermen are using the remote controlled men because there's something in the Power Room the Cybermen “don't like.” Finally, he concludes it must be “gravity”. Gravity!!! What does that even mean?

In fact everything the Cybermen are doing in this story is like stuff they should have done in “The Tenth Planet”. Again, for example, the using of mentally controlled humans to prepare the Z Bomb in the latter story would have made perfect sense, as the Cybermen were incapable to entering the Fusing Room at South Poler Base because of the high radiation. Equally, destroying the Earth makes logical sense in their first adventure because they need to save Mondas from absorbing too much energy from the planet. It's like the Cybermen are literally fighting the wrong war, which means that either Gerry Davis/Kit Pedler are writing a very clever story about a bunch of autistic robots, or they are performing a very bad rewrite of “The Tenth Planet.”

Lastly, where do these Cybermen come from? Now, as I think everyone knows, originally a Cyberman tells us in episode three that they come from Telos and that they were the first space travellers from Mondas, and that they left just before the planet blew up. But if that's the case, then “Telos” must be the Cybermen's name for another planet within our solar system, most likely, Mars.

“The Tomb of the Cybermen,” of course, contradicts this completely, which leaves you wondering how these first Cyber-astronauts were able to travel so far away? This is especially perplexing when we are told in subsequent stories that the Cybermen can only land on the Earth if they have a radio beam to guide them. Meaning that although the Cybermen can travel light years between the moon and Telos, they get completely lost when having to travel across that small patch of space between the Earth and the moon. Crazy.