After a psychologically unstable pilot’s condition is quietly ignored by the crew of Moonbase 3, he commits suicide during a spacewalk, leaving Dr. Ransome, the Moonbase administrator, with only minimal astronautics training to fly his shuttle. The shuttle is destroyed when Ransome tries to pull off a daring maneuver that any trained pilot would never have even considered. The incident places the future of Moonbase 3 – considered by Earthbound authorities to be a costly “extravagance” – in jeopardy.
Dr. David Caulder is appointed to succeed Ransome as the administrator in charge of Moonbase 3, and Michel Lebrun – who thought he was next in line for the job – prepares to resign in protest. Caulder seems affable enough and eager to learn about life on a permanent outpost on the moon, but just as the crew warms to him, he begins a no-nonsense investigation into Ransome’s death, catching them off guard. Blame is placed and fingers are pointed, and Caulder finally reads his verdict to the three ranking officials on Moonbase 3: he holds them all personally responsible for the deadly incident, and will personally escort all of them home to face formal charges. But after their shuttle lifts off from the Moonbase, it becomes clear that someone aboard has taken steps to ensure that its passengers – and Caulder’s damning report – will never reach Earth…
written by Terrance Dicks and Barry Letts
directed by Ken Hannam
music by Dudley Simpson
Cast: Donald Houston (David Caulder), Ralph Bates (Michel Lebrun), Fiona Gaunt (Helen Smith), Barry Lowe (Tom Hill), Madhav Sharma (Rao), Michael Lees (Ransome), Michael Wisher (Sanders), Jonathan Sweet (Walters), Peter Bathurst (Director General), Robert La Brassiere (Bill Jackson), Patsy Trench (Jenny), Mary Ann Severne (Sandy), Christine Bradwell (Ingrid), Victor Beaumont (Franz Hauser), Elma Soiron (Madame Carnac), Peter Miles (Dr. Laubenthal)
Notes: Moonbase 3 (the fictional setting) is controlled by the “European Community,” lending Moonbase 3 (the show) an unusual bit of foresight in predicting the European Union. Moonbases 1 and 2 are controlled by, respectively, the United States and Russia (though not the Soviet Union, a body which most assuredly did exist at the time of Moonbase 3’s production – score another point for foresight), and Moonbase 4 is controlled by China. The series came about when BBC bosses asked Terrance Dicks and Barry Letts – the then-script editor and producer of Jon Pertwee-era Doctor Who – if they’d like to do an original SF series of their own to air during Doctor Who’s “off-season.” Moonbase 3 was the result, though both Dicks and Letts have said that there are things they would change about the show if they were to do it again, not the least of which is the show’s grim tone (which, to be fair, seems to be present in a great many SF TV series in the early 1970s). Moonbase 3 was mounted as an international co-production produced by the BBC with financial backing from ABC and 20th Century Fox on the American end of things, but it didn’t make a splash in the ratings on either side of the Atlantic. Ironically, the fact that the series was shown in America is the only reason it still exists today: as with many BBC series made in the 1960s and early ’70s, including many a classic episode of Doctor Who, Moonbase 3 was “purged” from the BBC archives and was only recoverable by way of the American master tapes.
LogBook entry by Earl Green