Departure And Arrival

Moonbase 3After 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

Behemoth

Moonbase 3The unexplained disappearance of two astronauts conducting a survey on the surface of the moon brings the prospect of further moonwalks to a halt. Caulder orders no further moonwalks in the survey area, which infuriates seismologist Dr. Heinz Laubenthal, whose studies have concentrated on that very area – though he refuses to say why he’s so interested in it. A mysterious accident depressurizes the seismology lab, exposing it to cold vacuum and killing Laubenthal; rumors begin to run rampant that his experiments on the moon’s surface may have awakened some previously undiscovered life form which is now seeking revenge. Other moonbases pick up on the rumor and a siege mentality quickly sets in. Caulder decides to lift his ban on exploration in Mare Frigoris and personally investigate what’s going on – but if something or someone evil is behind the disappearances, even he may not survive this mission.

written by John Brason
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), John Hallam (Peter Conway), Tom Kempinski (Stephen Partness), Peter Miles (Heinz Laubenthal), Garrick Hagon (Bruno Ponti), Dennis de Marne (Guido Mirandelli), Jurgen Anderson (Per Bengison), John Moreno (Alan Benavente), Derek Anders (Dr. Andrew Robertson), Robert La Bassiere (Bill Jackson), Anthony Chinn (Cheng), Christine Bradwell (Ingrid), Cy Town (Technician), Ken Haward (Foreman)

LogBook entry by Earl Green

Achilles Heel

Moonbase 3Rejected for a seat on Britain’s expensive, high-profile manned mission to Venus, astronaut Adam Blaney is stuck on Moonbase 3, heading up a research team – and, whether he consciously knows it or not, deliberately putting their experiments and their careers in jeopardy. One of his scientists worries about the state of his marriage since his wife remains on Earth, and the other is hesitant to jeopardize her career, worried that she’s washed up due to her age. Dr. Caulder, under strict orders to rush research whose potential revenue is needed to fund Moonbase 3, tries to keep Blaney and his team on task. Moonbase psychologist Helen Smith becomes a counselor to this team, but she fails to detect Blaney at the center of all of these problems; when he ends up starting a relationship with her, she’s even more blinded to the potential trouble. It’s only when she’s at the mercy of the vacuum of space that she realizes that refusing his advances could bring out a more dangerous side of him.

written by John Lucarotti
directed by Christopher Barry
music by Dudley Simpson

Cast: Donald Houston (David Caulder), Ralph Bates (Michel Lebrun), Fiona Gaunt (Helen Smith), Barry Lowe (Tom Hill), Edward Brayshaw (Adam Blaney), Ann Ridler (Kate Weyman), Malcolm Reynolds (Bill Knight), Nancie Wait (Dodi Knight), Peter Bathurst (Director General), Joanna Ross (Jane), Anne Rosenfeld (Lisa), Oliver Ford-Davies (Astronaut)

Original Title: The Gentle Rain

Notes: Moonbase 3 had already predicted the existence of a European Union (with Britain as a member nation), and here it identifies the currency of this body as the “eurodollar”; where Moonbase 3 is experiencing a budget crunch, Caulder complains that the American and Russian-funded Moonbases are blessed with far deeper pockets. Although the term that inspired this episode’s title, “Achilles’ heel,” includes a possessive apostrophe, the episode’s title does not include the apostrophe and is chronicled here as such. Writer John Lucarotti (1926-1994) was one of the earliest group of freelance writers to pen Doctor Who scripts in the 1960s, including the well-regarded historical story The Aztecs. All of his Doctor Who contributions aired in the 1960s, which makes his participation here a bit of a coincidence, since the then-current team of producer Barry Letts and script editor Terrance Dicks – both serving in the same capacities for Moonbase 3 – had not worked with Lucarotti on any produced Doctor Who stories. Actor Oliver Ford-Davies, making an early career appearance here as a nameless astronaut, is now better known to genre fans at Sio Bibble, governor of Naboo and advisor to Queen Amidala, in the Star Wars prequel trilogy.

LogBook entry by Earl Green

Outsiders

Moonbase 3Talk of massive cuts to Moonbase 3’s budget loom, as does a visit from Dr. Hauser, a member of the Moonbase’s Earthbound appropriations committee. Caulder ramps up the pressure on his resident researchers to come up with a breakthrough – any breakthrough – to impress Hauser and save the Moonbase’s funding. One scientist is on the cusp of just such a major discovery, as he tries to perfect a process by which an incredibly strong but lightweight metal, normally something which can only be formed in microgravity, can be replicated under Earth’s gravity. Another scientist’s experiments into a new energy source are promising, but inconclusive. Both of them already feel isolated from the small community manning Moonbase 3, and the pressure to produce a major breakthrough manifests itself differently in each of them. The metal experiment produces a resounding success before Hauser’s eyes, but Caulder is surprised to see a major breakthrough in the energy experiments as well – but when he discovers that the seemingly successful experiment was faked, he has to decide whether or not to keep that a secret from Hauser.

written by John Brason
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), John Hallam (Peter Conway), Tom Kempinski (Stephen Partness), Madhav Sharma (Rao), John Moreno (Juan Benavenie), Garrick Hagon (Bruno Ponti), Victor Beaumont (Franz Hauser), Jonathan Sweet (Walters), Patsy Trench (Jenny), Edmund Pegge (Macadam), Christine Bradwell (Ingrid), Cy Town (Technician)

Notes: Cy Town, seen here as a nameless Moonbase technician, has graced many an episode of the BBC’s much more familiar SF series, Doctor Who – even though his face usually isn’t seen during his many stints as a Dalek operator.

LogBook entry by Earl Green

Castor And Pollux

Moonbase 3A Russian delegation visits Moonbase 3 ahead of a groundbreaking manned mission to Mars, and with his base under constant threat of being shut down by budget cuts – and the potential embarrassment of the breakdown of the Omicron 4 weather satellite – Caulder is surprised when the Russian commander invites the Europe to participate in a manned mission to the outer planets of the solar system. Such a mission isn’t in the European space budget, not by a long shot, but Caulder doesn’t reveal that little bit of information. Tom Hill personally takes on the Omicron 4 repair mission, but finds himself in life-threatening danger when a misalignment of his space capsule’s docking mechanism leaves him stuck to the satellite without a way to bail out of his capsule. Caulder immediately starts to plan a rescue mission, but the only pilot who volunteers to rescue Hill is one of the Russians, and this creates an international incident that gets Caulder relieved of his command. Always critical of Caulder’s command style, deputy director Michel Lebrun relishes a shot at command, but given the chance, will he reverse Caulder’s rescue mission orders and leave Hill to die, or allow the mission to proceed and possibly end any chances for the proposed outer planets mission?

written by John Lucarotti
directed by Christopher Barry
music by Dudley Simpson

Cast: Donald Houston (David Caulder), Ralph Bates (Michel Lebrun), Fiona Gaunt (Helen Smith), Barry Lowe (Tom Hill), George Pravda (General Trenkin), Milos Kirek (Colonel Gararov), Peter Bathurst (Director General), Madhav Sharma (Rao), Mary Ann Severne (Sandy), Perry Sobolsky (Mather), Christine Bradwell (Ingrid)

Original title: The Dark Side Of The Moon

Notes: Probably the best episode of Moonbase 3 to be produced, Castor And
Pollux
takes its title from the names of the mythical twins in the constellation of Gemini. Ironically, the Gemini spaceflights of the 1960s inform much of the episode’s details: Gararov’s hand-held maneuvering jet strongly resembles the one carried by Gemini astronaut Ed White in the first American space walk in 1964, while Tom Hill’s constantly-spinning predicament may have been inspired by the Gemini 8 mission, which nearly resulted in the deaths of astronauts David Scott and Neil Armstrong in 1966. Even the design of the space capsules themselves is reminiscent of Gemini hardware. The scenes of Gararov’s rendezvous and spacewalk are extremely realistic, and are even thoroughly explained in other characters’ dialogue, the one possible criticism being that the shadows of such details as ladders, hand-rails and exterior gantries do not move, a dead giveaway that the camera – not the vehicle – is spinning. (If the vehicle had been spinning, the shadows would have shifted constantly as the capsule’s orientation changed relative to an unmoving light source such as the sun.) The most surprising piece of forward-thinking space science is the mention of the “Grand Tour” alignment of the outer planets, a fairly recent (as of 1973) discovery which resulted in the real life Voyager missions. Where Moonbase 3 comes uncannily close to predicting such “future” political developments as a unified Europe with a single standardized currency, it falls down a bit on its political predictions by depicting the Russians as members of a communist (and possibly still Soviet) state, with characters referring to each other as “comrade” (though the Soviet Union is not mentioned in dialogue as still being in existence).

LogBook entry by Earl Green

View Of A Dead Planet

Moonbase 3Brilliant scientist Sir Benjamin Dyce arrives on Moonbase 3, having been dispatched to observe the activation of the Arctic Sun project – a project he helped to devise and then later disowned because he discovered that it represented a danger to the entire human race. Arctic Sun is a satellite poised over Antarctica, programmed to release and detonate a nuclear device close enough to the surface to melt the ice cap of the south pole, opening up habitable space for human development. But after proposing the idea, Dyce later discovered that the detonation also stood a good chance of causing global flooding on the other continents and, worse yet, would render the entire atmosphere inhabitable to all life. Despite his warnings, Arctic Sun is soon to be set into motion – and Dyce is only too happy to not be on Earth when that happens.

After the Arctic Sun detonation, Moonbase 3 loses all contact with Earth, and the planet’s atmosphere takes on an unusual tinge, eventually turning completely opaque. Whatever is happening there is preventing any communication with Earth, and the other international Moonbases are reporting similar observations. It appears that Sir Benjamin Dyce’s most nightmarish predictions are all coming true, leaving mere weeks of supplies for those isolated on the moon – and the thin veneer of civilization begins to wash off of the personnel of Moonbase 3. Caulder finds himself trying to fight down violence, insubordination and even some crew members’ suicidal urges, despite Caulder himself planning to flood the base’s ventilation system with carbon monoxide to provide his crew with a merciful death. He tries to order everyone to stay calm, but when there is no one to answer to for defying Caulder’s authority, what does anyone have to lose by disobeying and acting on their darkest impulses?

written by Arden Winch
directed by Christopher Barry
music by Dudley Simpson

Cast: Donald Houston (David Caulder), Ralph Bates (Michel Lebrun), Fiona Gaunt (Helen Smith), Barry Lowe (Tom Hill), Michael Gough (Sir Benjamin Dyce), Garrick Hagon (Bruno Bertoli), Magda Miller (Paula Renner), Ed Stewart (Disc Jockey), Robert McBain (Semyonov), Leonard Gregory (Quiz Master), Aubrey Danvers-Walker (Mr. Hopkirk), Anne Rosenfeld (Lisa), Joe Santo (José)

Notes: The final episode of Moonbase 3 to be aired (but the first script to be commissioned), View Of A Dead Planet mixes the show’s surprisingly good foresight (concerns of massive flooding should the polar ice caps melt – keep in mind that the series was written, filmed and aired in 1973) with some surprisingly fantastical “science” (Earth’s atmosphere burning up). Having appeared in several episodes prior to this one, recurring guest star Garrick Hagon is thrust into the limelight here, roughly a year after his appearance in the Doctor Who story The Mutants (also produced and script edited by Moonbase 3’s Barry Letts and Terrance Dicks), though his real claim to genre fame would come a few years later with the role of Biggs in Star Wars. Guest star Michael Gough would also later make the jump to Hollywood, playing Alfred in the string of ’80s and ’90s Batman movies. Despite the relatively lavish budget spent on Moonbase 3, including a full-scale moonscape at the BBC’s Ealing film studios, the show had not snared a loyal audience and wasn’t renewed. It was even wiped from the BBC’s archives, though complete copies of all six episodes were later recovered from the vaults of co-producer 20th Century Fox in the U.S. – which reportedly prompted Moonbase 3 script editor Terrance Dicks to blurt out an expletive when he found out about the find. Though some fans of cult British SF regard the show somewhat more kindly today, Dicks’ reaction isn’t far out of line with the general viewing public’s memories.

LogBook entry by Earl Green