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Doctor Who story number 32

Before the final episode of The Tenth Planet aired the producer wanted to reuse the Cybermen, as they were seen as the successor to the Daleks - the Doctor's recurring foes were overused and also a nightmare to feature due to their evil overlord. The plot was to be similar to that of The Tenth Planet, but set on the moon (to play on the current world climate of a certain pair of idiots showing off with rockets).

As with the previous Cyberman story the idea was to use a single large set for most of the action, keeping the budget from spreading too thin. Theoretically, concentrating the set construction efforts on one set would reduce the "wobbly wall" syndrome so apparent in Doctor Who, but that wasn't to be the case - Patrick Troughton was nearly brained by a chunk of the Gravitron machine.

The late addition of Jamie to The Highlanders had Kit Pedler trying to minimise his role by having him unconscious for most of the duration, but Gerry Davis would give him something to do (though he still winds up knocked out for no good reason). As in The Tenth Planet, The Cybermen were to have names, but this was dropped and they were nameless from this story onward. The other interesting character point is Benoit - the neckerchief is there to cover up his initial, which was stuck with the wrong letter after the script changed his first name.

In some cases the dialogue is great: the Moonbase crew talk like people on the job - along with the usual dramatic statements there is a delivery akin to people at work. Instead of the usual "There's something happening" talk there's a real feel of these people having spent months on the Moon instead of a week in rehearsals. The crew of the Moonbase even have a nickname for their boss, something you'd expect in the later UNIT era but never happens. A downer in the dialogue is the continual recaps of events. We don't need to know in episode 4 that the Cybermen had a tunnel when the tunnel is not going to matter anymore. Rather poorly done is the use of Polly as Exposition Girl - she gets to ask all the questions about anything remotely requiring intelligence for most of the story. This is while Jamie, the perfect character for facilitating the exposition due to the fact that he's got no knowledge of modern times, is unconscious.

Sandra Reid was given the job of redesigning the Cybermen, the remit was to make them more robotic and "streamlined" than her original walking life-support system concept. She succeeded, perhaps too well - the Cybermen would often be referred to as robots from now on. The costume featured a metal helmet, which had a mouth flap that would flip open when a Cyberman was to speak. The voice was created by using a vibrating device (possibly a medical invention intended for people who could not speak) that Peter Hawkins would hold in his mouth, and form the words by making the appropriate mouth movements. This works quite well, except for the reported brain-rattling vibrations. It is a very unique sound though (the Cybermen also talk without pausing for breath), it's just a shame it reinforces the "robot" idea.

This story was thought destroyed in the 1970's, but episodes 2 and 4 have been recovered and are on the Lost in Time DVD box set along with the audio for the missing episodes 1 and 3. The whole audio track has been released on CD with linking narration by Frazer Hines.

The photonovel is available here:
http://www.bbc.co.uk/doctorwho/classic/photonovels/moonbase/

The transcript is available here:
http://homepages.bw.edu/~jcurtis/Scripts/Moonbase/intro.html

Writer
Kit Pedler
Gerry Davis (uncredited)

Episodes
This story has 4 episodes.
Episode cliffahngers are marked in subscript.

Plot Overview
When last we left the TARDIS crew the Doctor had once again sent the ship out of control, this time while trying to take the crew to Mars. Instead he lands on the Moon - literally. Instead of just materialising the TARDIS hurtles down to the surface. Here we must pause for a line from the transcript:

"(With its usual wheezing/groaning sound the TARDIS fades into existence on a cold rocky surface. Wherever the TARDIS has landed, it certainly isn't Mars.)"

Now, the viewing audience probably wouldn't have a clue as most people had black and white TV sets. Not to mention that this was filmed on black and white film.

Ben recognises the Moon on the scanner based off his knowledge of Moon Photos. He then says the Doctor was two hundred million miles off, utterly ruining his little moment of cleverness by being approximately 48,570,000 miles out (assuming optimal Moon-Mars alignment). The prat. The Doctor is embarassed and wants to try again for Mars, but Ben and Polly will have none of it, they want to try some Moon Sex, but make the excuse of "wanting to have a look around" - the Doctor reminds them that there is no air on the moon and they will need spacesuits, while Jamie stands around saying "Och, this cannae be the Moon!".

Out on the Moon the Doctor announces that the moon is deserted, clearly a far cry from the Moon we all know. After they all fail to notice the flying saucer in the nearby crater Polly and the rest start Moon Jumping, but Jamie Moon Jumps too far and when the others look for him they find a Moonbase. Jamie has knocked himself out due to smashing his head into a Moon Dome. Some people from the Moonbase come out and take Jamie inside, and the others just walk up and knock on the door and get let in. Inside, in the control room, with it's telescope that doesn't look like one, the crew of the Moonbase all rush to the power room and find that one of the crew working in there has collapsed, horrible black veins all over his face (I blame the silly hat). Hobson orders the stricken man taken to the medical bay, but Benoit reminds him the Moon Doctor has been afflicted as well. Hobson reminds him that the relief doctor from Earth will be along on the next shuttle. How convenient.

Of course, when Hobson runs into the Doctor and two thirds of the TARDIS crew in the coridoor and asks him if the shuttle got there early, the Doctor says no, it hasn't, thereby rendering some plot useless. Or maybe he's just learned since Vulcan. Hobson lets Polly go off to see Jamie, and tries to weasel information out of the Doctor whilst subtly telling him he's a scruffy, dirty little man. Hobson then drags them off to the control room, as the best place to have strange people when there's a crisis on is the most delicate part of the base. The Doctor takes note that it's a weather control center (saying that the gravity machine must have caused their bumpy landing), and Hobson is quite astounded they haven't heard of the Gravtron, miracle machine that controls the weather by manipulating the tides. The Doctor has, but he still puts the date wrong - they are in the year 2070.

Another controller collapses, and the Gravitron goes haywire - International Space Control calls up and tells the Moonbase crew that a hurricane they were keeping in a holding pattern is now threatening Hawaii. After the conversation Nils plays back the recording and points out that someone is listening in. The listener, in the flying saucer, overhears the news that the Moonbase is to be put into quarantine. The people on Earth are most unhelpful, but the Doctor offers to help out and gets shown to the medical unit. Jamie is delerious and babbles about The Phantom Piper, a ghost who appears to a McCrimmon before he dies. Polly is rather surprised at the Doctor's concern for this spectre, but the Doctor tells her that Jamie believes in it, and so it's important to Jamie.

Ben is sent to keep an eye on the Moonbase staff, while the Doctor muses about the unnatural illness that's affecting the crew. Hobson remarks that if they send the Gravitron too far off course half of London could be thrown into space before Benoit sends him off for some rest, and Ben gets sent to do the washing up and help Ralph in the food storage area. Ralph is in the process of throwing away a damaged Moon Sack, and half-accuses Ben of wrecking his precious Moon Sacks, each one a shining nugget of joy in Ralph's unhappy life on the Moon. Ralph then grumpily sends Ben round the back to look for something and gets attacked by a silver hand, which touches him, knocking him out. Ralph is then carted off and Ben is left wondering where he's got to. Polly and the Doctor are discussing artificial day/night cycles in the sickbay when Evans starts screaming about The Silver Hand touching him in a bad way, and then dies. Hobson comes to the sickbay to examine the corpse, already getting crabby about the rather implausible disappearance of Ralph. Naturally, everyone comes back just after Polly sees a shadowy figure hauling something out. Oh, and Evans' body is gone. Despite this rather obvious connection everyone thinks Polly is nuts. She is the last one to leave, going after some water, but when she's gone Jamie wakes up - and is menaced by The Phantom Piper!1

Polly returns to the sickbay just in time to see the Cyberman, for this is no mere ghostly haggis-guzzling bagpipe fondler, lugging out some other random Moonbase crew member. She does what comes naturally - screams and drops everything she's carrying. All the Moon Staff run in and miss it completely. When Polly explains what she saw she keeps referring to the Cybermen, but Hobson dismisses this - Mondas and all it's inhabitants were destroyed in 1986, everyone knows as much. He then makes the obvious connection between the strange disease, missing bodies and the new arrivals (Hobson is a bit slower than the Base Commanders the Doctor usually meets), and tells them to get off his Moon. The Doctor says there's something evil going on, and he wants to stay and sort it out. He gets one day to find the cause of the disease.

Back in the control room the systems have lost coordination, and the gravitron will soon be unable to hold a huge hurricane over the Pacific in check. This naturally worries the Moon Men: what with them all being from Europe their families are in immediate peril! The field doesn't correct, so they have to increase the reactor power, but it will burn out the torus! Then those whiny buggers on Earth have Rinberg call up and complain about the weather: In the future there really is a weatherman you can blame. Benoit suggests turning off the Gravitron, which Hobson says will cause utter devastation on the Earth. Rinberg overhears this and is more concerned about the angry farmers comlaining about the weather.

The crew start running diagnostic checks, and the Doctor comes in and starts taking samples of their clothing while they work. He gets two samples of Benoit's clothes before receiving a tirade in French. He somehow also manages to steal Nils' boot without Nils noticing it's gone. Meanwhile Ben is taking inventory of the sickbay, and has got as far as noticing they're out of interferon, which is an honest-to-god real use of a real thing in Doctor Who (eat it up). Ben leave and Jamie wakes up, convinced he's dead despite what Polly says, as he can see The Phantom Piper behind her. The Phantom Piper electrocutes Polly and Jamie and carries a sick Moonbase worker out. When the Doctor returns to the sickbay and starts prodding Polly to make her wake up, the crew of the Moonbase note a drop in pressure. This is because the Secret Cyberman Entrance To The Moonbase is an ultra-high-tech hole in the wall with a pile of Moon Sacks in front of it, and one of the Cybermen has just entered via this devilishly cunning subterfuge.

The crew finally find something that's actually broken: Some kind of probe control antennae is all bent out of shape, which leads Hobson to make the conclusion any other Head of Space Base would have made in episode 1: The anachronistic strangers are responsible! Two technicians are sent out to repair the antennae while Hobson and company head off to harass the Doctor, who is being harassed by Polly - he has concluded that the entire Moonbase is sterile, and Polly has pointed out that his claim to have earned a medical degree inder Joseph Lister doesn't really put him at the cutting edge of medical technology. Hobson is naturally angry with the missing crewmembers, and so he delivers another firm "Get off the Moon!" speech. The Doctor simply flim-flams the people who actually work on the Moonbase out of the sickbay again and goes back to his in-depth examination of late 21st century footwear and dismisses Polly to do what she does best: making coffee (an actual job skill for 60's secretaries).

Out on the surface of the Moon the repair crew are struck down by a pair of Cybermen, who for some reason take the unconscious men away sans spacesuits, which means they're probably to be ground up into Cyberfood. Meanwhile, everyone is sitting down to coffee and another random extra screams and develops the symptoms of Moon Plague. As the body is carted off the Doctor realises what is causing the sickness, and dashes Hobson's coffee to the floor - the Moon Plague is in the Moon Sugar, which some people don't have in their coffee, thereby explaining why not everyone gets sick. Back in the lab the Doctor concludes that the virus is a neurotropic virus spreading along the nerves, planted in the base by the Cybermen. Hobson says that's absurd, as his men have searched the entire base. Except for the room where the sacks of Moon Food are kept. Or the sickbay. Which happens to have another Cyberman playing dead...2

The Cyberman coldly guns down Bob as he leaps to the attack, thus killing a character who gets no credit outside of the transcript. Another Cyberman enters and is told to keep the humans prisoner. The first Cyberman recognises the Doctor, which will all make sense in two season's time. Hobson is rather distressed to hear that his kidnapped men have been altered and tries to threaten a seven foot tall cyborg that can walk across the surface of the moon without air. Jamie, having "not received Neurotrope" is menaced by the second Cyberman until Polly informs it of Jamie's head injury, which apparently makes him useless for their plans. Every able person bar Ben and Polly is marched out, they are told to remain under threat of conversion, though they seem to have forgotten what this implies after their last meeting with the Cybermen.

Off in the Cyberman craft - another flying saucer - the converted humans are being tested out. Conversion in this Cyberman story means having wires clipped all over your head so they can control you remotely. In the Moonbase control room Benoit has only just found out the repair team is missing, but that's the least of his worries as the Cybermen and their prisoners walk in. Now their nefarious plan is revealed: They intend to use the Gravitron to destroy the surface of the Earth by changing the weather. Unfortunately the Doctor Who special effects department lack the technology (no one in the audience is alowed to say "also budget") to create destruction on par with The Day After Tomorrow so I'm guessing the Doctor will save the day. The Cybermen get another of their speeches about not understanding emotions because they don't have them, then make fun of the humans and their stupid Earth brains for not noticing the cunning Cybermen and their Cybertunnel.

Back in the sickbay Jamie comes round and listen to the other two trying to find a way to deal with the Cybermen - they have no handy portable source of radiation, but Polly is inspired by Jamie's comment about how back in the good old days the way to deal with witches was holy water, and realising that the chest unit on the Cybermen has plastic parts there might be a way to dissolve it. Meanwhile the radio controlled humans are brought in to run the Gravitron, and to the shock of the crew they will be doing it without their stylish foam rubber hats - the protective hats that prevent people from being sent insane by the intense sonic field. The Cybermen don't really give a toss though, they'll be done before the humans go crazy. While the Cybermen concentrate on destroying the world by proxy, the Doctor fiddles with his recorder and produces a note that disrupts the control of the crewmen briefly, then starts thinking to himself about why the Cybermen need human slaves to work the Gravitron, eventually realising that the Cybermen are subceptible to something in the base (which really goes a long way to explain why they are standing inside the base). He concludes that they are subceptible to...

...wait for it...

GRAVITY!

Yes, that's right, Gravity is their weakness! They will fall down and then won't be able to get up, like the cybernetic old people they are! Their advanced Cyberman knowledge of cybernetics still cannot perfect a decent hip replacement! Their fear of the mighty force of gravity holds them in thrall! They curse Newton and his vile laws! So why are they STANDING ON THE FREAKING MOON??? This also begs the question: Why after they're done here will the Cybermen hop in their Cybersaucer and go down to the Earth? Because apparently when you're vulnerable to gravity the place you really, really want to go is somewhere with SIX TIMES THE GRAVITY OF THE PLACE YOU'RE STANDING RIGHT NOW.

Okay, I've taken a deep breath. Did you know this story was written by a scientist? I kid you not. News at 10: Science fiction written by a scientist is actually rubbish. Okay, I'll stop now. Back to the plot...

As the controlled humans realign the Gravitron, the Earth Control people get worried about not receiving the last scheduled check-in transmission and mention that if there's trouble the crew of the Moonbase should fire the sodium rocket. This apparently will... Oh look, I'm not going to go into details, but needless to say the words "solar flare" are involved, making this the stupidest distress signal ever (Terry Nation came up with a better one by leaving the actual mechanics up to the viewers imagination). Sanity returns in the form of fire extinguishers filled with every chemical found in the sickbay/science lab brandished by Jamie and Ben (here's hoping there's no plastic in the Moonbase systems). One carefully planned Doctor diversion (press buttons, cause chaos) and several dead Cybermen later the controlled humans are bundled off into the sickbay and the Moonbase crew are trying to stop life on Earth being wiped out. Of course, back in the Cyberman craft an invasion of the Moonbase is planned...

Benoit, in a fit of idiocy, goes out to look for the missing repair crew. A random Cyberman attacks him, and his would-be rescuer finds out that fire extinguishers don't work in the vacuum of space. They flee, and when they arrive at the airlock Ben is suited up and throws a bottle of chemical cocktail at the Cyberman, which apparently won't fall prey to the same problem that prevents the use of fire extinguishers when the bottle breaks, and that's one less Cyberman. However, shortly after this a large army of Cybermen march on the dome, carrying some kind of weapon.3

The Cybermen inform the Moonbase that resistance is useless, and then wreck their radio aerial. The Moonbase crew speculate that there's a relief rocket on the way, but it's probably not going to make it - the latest Cyberman saucer has spotted it, and they decide to deal with it using a rather elaborate plan - they activate one of the radio controlled humans they left behind and sneak him into the Gravitron control room and use the machine to bounce the ship into the sun. It will take a week for the ship to sundive, but that's all the nastier. When the Doctor realises this he sends Ben and Jamie barricade the sickbay to barricade the rest of the controlled humans in, which they accomplish in the nick of time.

Hobson tries to talk sense into Dr. Evans: Cyberman Slave, but is ignored. They plan to rush him in the control chamber before he floods half of Europe, but the Cybermen tell them via the radio, having somehow overheard everything that's been said, that resistance is useless and could they please open the door? The defiant refusal of the humans naturally annoys the Cybermen, so they blast a small hole in the dome. Everyone grabs oxygen masks, and someone stuffs a coat into the hole, which fails miserably when it's sucked out. The Moon Tea Tray is then placed over the hole, and is held in place by the pressure. After this little drama Evans has conveniently collapsed, and he is hauled out of the Gravitron controls and dragged away. The Cybermen then inform the Moonbase that they have more troops, more ships and some new weapons - which they carry in wooden Cybercrates. When the Cybermen threaten to fire everyone ducks, but the Doctor calmly checks that the Gravitron is turned on, and stays standing where he is.

The beam of the Cyberman raygun is deflected by the Gravitron, leaving them unable to harm the base. The Doctor then suggests using the Gravitron on the Cybermen, and Benoit leaps to the controls only to find that it doesn't quite lower down to the required angle. After much fiddling with wires (the traditional five seconds worth of rewiring needed to have something save the day) they have it aimed at the surface of the Moon. All the Cybermen are antigravitified off the surface of the Moon, the Moonbase crew can attempt to fix the Earth's weather, and the TARDIS crew can slip out of the base.

Back in the TARDIS the Doctor decides to use the time scanner, which will give them a glimpse of the future, and facilitate a cliffhanger into the next story without all that tedious mucking about with insignificant things like writing a proper script. Everyone is naturally quite shocked when they see a giant crab claw!4

Main Cast


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 - Moonbase Crew
  • John Wills, Peter Greene, Reg Whitehead, Keith Goodman, Sonnie Wills, Ronald Lee, John Clifford, Barry Noble - Cybermen
  • Peter Hawkins - Cyberman Voice
  • Dennid McCarthy - Controller Rinberg's Voice

  • John Levene - Cyberman (uncredited)
  • Notes

    • Victor Pemberton, here in a bit part as a scientist, would go on to write Fury From The Deep
    • John Levene would later play another monster before returning as a core cast member in the 70's
    • Ben and Polly seem to have forgotten that Cybermen seek to convert others into new Cybermen - they don't recall this when threatened with "conversion".
    • What in the hell is a predentiometer? Answers to the usual address....

    It's you! The phantom piper! - Jamie

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