The Moonbase

Doctor WhoThe TARDIS lands on the surface of the moon in the year 2070, and the Doctor provides Ben, Polly and Jamie with pressure suits so they can explore outside the TARDIS. They spot a massive lunar base in the distance, but when Jamie damages his space suit, reaching the base becomes a matter of urgency. Inside the base, the Doctor and his friends are shocked to find that Jamie won’t be alone in the sick bay – a plague is sweeping through the moonbase’s population seemingly at random, leaving those it strikes comatose. Worse yet, even the comatose patients have been disappearing without a trace, leaving the base – whose gigantic Gravitron controls the tides and governs Earth’s weather – dangerously short-staffed. The Doctor tries to find out what disease is slowly claiming the moonbase’s crew, only to find that the base has been deliberately infected by the Cybermen, who intend to take control of the base and use it as a staging area for an invasion of Earth.

Order this story on audio CDwritten by Kit Pedler
directed by Morris Barry
music not credited

Order this story on DVDGuest Cast: Patrick Barr (Hobson), Andre Maranne (Benoit), Michael Wolf (Nils), John Rolfe (Sam), Alan Rowe (Dr. Evans, Space Control voice), Mark Heath (Ralph), Barry Ashton, Derek Calder, Arnold Chazen, Leon Maybank, Victor Pemberton, Edward Phillips, Ron Pinnell, Robin Scott, Alan Wells (Crew), John Wills, Peter Greene, Reg Whitehead, Keith Goodman, Sonnie Willis, Ronald Lee, John Clifford, Barry Noble (Cybermen), Peter Hawkins (Cyberman voice), Denis McCarthy (Controller Rinberg’s voice)

Broadcast from February 11 through March 4, 1967

Note: The master tapes of episodes 1 and 3 were destroyed by the BBC in the early 1970’s, leaving only episodes 2 and 4 in the archives. The missing episodes are still available as audio recordings, and are presented in that form both on CD and on the Lost In Time DVD set.

LogBook entry & review by Earl Green

Review: Though not perfect by any stretch, The Moonbase is a standout adventure for the new Doctor, and it’s a reintroduction for the improved Cyberman as well. Fresh from their first outing in The Tenth Planet, the Cybermen now look metallic (and sound like it too, thanks to a completely different voice treatment), silver-spray-painted Wellies notwithstanding. Due to the unfortunate 1970s purging of the BBC archives, parts 2 and 4 are all that remain of The Moonbase (available on the Troughton portion of the Lost In Time DVD set); the other parts are available in audio form, as well as a series of “telesnaps” – an enterprising fan’s photographs taken directly from a TV screen when the episodes were first broadcast – on the BBC’s web site.

It’s a pity, because The Moonbase is, by the standards and budget of the time, quite the science fiction spectacular. For a BBC budget of the mid-1960s, the lunar weightlessness effect is done rather well (though the slide-whistle sound effects accompanying those scenes do much to rob them of their credibility). The sets, and the Gravitron setpiece, are impressive in their scope, and the new Cyberman design does much to make them a much more credible threat than their appearance in Tenth Planet did.

The character of Jamie, in only his second adventure aboard the TARDIS, winds up in a hospital bed, thrashing around deliriously and believing a Cyberman he sees to be the equivalent of the grim reaper in his clan’s lore. Polly, in the meantime, isn’t helped much by this story, as she is seen to scream at the merest glimpse of a Cyberman (and yet she had unflinchingly helped to fight them at the South Pole base just weeks before). Ben is shuffled into the background to make way for the large number of incidental characters on the moonbase.

The real star here, however, is the Doctor. In a far, far cry from his goofy, disguise-assuming persona from The Highlanders, the Doctor here offers his famous quote, “There are corners of the universe that have bred the most horrible things. They must be fought.” Though it seems like an innocuous enough statement on the surface, this marks a huge shift in the portrayal of the Doctor, and indeed in the rest of the entire series. No longer an aimless, passive wanderer whose companions often get him into situations that he has to react to and resolve, the Doctor now seems to be actively seeking out wrongs to right and battles to fight. It could be argued that this creates a through-line that takes you straight through the McCoy era and into the post-TV novels of the 1990s, where this almost vigilante-like approach to the Doctor’s wanderings is resolved to a certain extent, but more importantly, it serves as a clear notice of what Patrick Troughton’s Doctor is all about.

What remains of The Moonbase visually is a tantalizing glimpse of an era of Doctor Who that is sadly incomplete in the archives. That it’s an interesting and exciting story, even stripped of the visuals, certainly doesn’t hurt it.