Friday, June 5, 2015

The Moonbase — Blogging Doctor Who

Cybermen on the moon!
When I decided to watch through all the surviving Doctor Who serials in order, I had just filled out my collection with the last three releases: one partial reconstruction and two complete finds. This meant that I couldn’t call this a Doctor Who rewatch, since there were three serials I hadn’t seen yet, the first of which was “The Moonbase.” Two of the four episodes survive, so the other two (the first and third) are animated reconstructions. I was perfectly fine with the reconstructions on “The Reign of Terror” and “The Tenth Planet” (they grew on me), so I was fine with the reconstruction of “The Moonbase.”

By the end, I was thinking that were they to offer fully reconstructed episodes (where fan-recorded audio is all that remains), my reaction would be that of Fry in Futurama: “shut up and take my money!” This, apparently, is not to be. Two Trouton episodes survive of an earlier serial, “The Underwater Menace,” but plans to reconstruct the other two episodes were scrapped. Listen up, BBC: you’re spoiling my dreams of watching a reconstructed version of “The Dalek Master Plan,” which is better than not watching it at all.

When we left the Doctor, Ben, and Polly at the end of “The Tenth Planet,” they had just dealt with the Cybermen, and in “The Moonbase,” the Cybermen have returned (and we’ve missed the stories that happened between the two). There are some differences. “The Tenth Planet” is set in 1986, while the “The Moonbase” is set in 2070. Ben and Polly have been joined by Jaime McCrimmon (with “The Highlanders” another much-missed lost serial). Oh, and the Cybermen talk differently, though you don’t find that out until the third episode when one finally speaks. (Is it a spoiler to say that instead of the weird voices in “The Tenth Planet,” the Cybermen now have buzzing, flat, mechanical voices? I miss the weird voices.)

Like the arctic base in “The Tenth Planet,” the moon base is an international affair, and everyone wears his (it’s a stag affair) national affiliation on his chest (literally, with their names and national flag dead center). Benoit, the Frenchman, wears a onion sellers tie, because he’s French. Nobody else gets an article of national dress, which is good. The one they used was enough.

It’s a pretty good story, with one weak feature: the way the Cybermen get into the base is absurd. Are you telling me that they cut a hole in a wall and nobody noticed? Please. After the hole is discovered, one of the characters makes reference to the unexplained changes in pressure they’d be noticing. Please. There was a plot element that was so good they used it again (I don’t have to pretend; I know what’s coming); the idea of a Cyberman-created disease gets used again in “Revenge of the Cybermen,” but that’s a long way off.

The companions get a good workout (except for Jamie, written in at the last moment), and Polly even figures out a way to fend off the Cybermen. The moon suits are all silly, and the Doctor just seems to have suits identical to the ones used by the crew of the moon base. Maybe he’d been there before. In a final, great (and partially intentional) irony, at the end of the last episode, the Doctor says that he won’t meet the Cybermen again any time soon.

Eye Candy for Gay Time Lords
Other than the Doctor’s two male companions, Ben and Jamie, there isn’t anything in the way of eye candy in this story. The technicians at the moon base aren’t hideous, but none of them really count as eye candy.

So, Is This a Must-See?
In a way, the Cybermen of “The Tenth Planet” are sort of an odd, earlier, almost alternative set of Cybermen. This is the story in which the Cybermen really emerge in their classic form: mechanical voices and all. And it’s a good story. They didn’t just trot out the Cybermen and then squander them. It’s a serious global threat, with an intelligent solution. Yeah, this is a must-see.

More Cybermen. You just can't get rid of these guys.
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