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