Sunday, 7 June 2009

Doctor Who: The Moonbase

Part One

"We've got a bit of a flap up here."

The fact that our heroes have landed on the Moon is most cool, although it's surprising we've had to wait so long for such a seemingly obvious setting. I enjoy Jamie's reaction: "That picture cannae be the Moon. The Moon's way up in the sky." Unfortunately Jamie then proceeds to not be in this episode much. Or the next.

This is a decent enough introductory episode, although it's a little too reminiscent of The Tenth Planet even at this early stage. The guest characters are a bit dull in the main and their multi-national nature seems a bit tokenistic, not to mention Eurocentric. Still, it's amusing to see that Bob, in 2070, clearly gets his glasses from the National Health.

Things end on an upswing though, with Ralph being zapped by a mysterious metallic arm (all right, I'm sure even the original viewers would have known perfectly well what it was!) and that music...

Part Two

"There are some corners of the universe which have bred the most terrible things. things which act against everything that we believe in. They must be fought."

Interesting: it's implied Hobson is at least vaguely aware of the events of The Tenth Planet. It may not be much, but it's a step towards continuity between the future Earth stories.

The best thing about this episode by far is the Doctor's speech, which I've used as my quote. This is the final affirmation of the Doctor as hero- from this point onwards just going back to the Ship when there's trouble afoot should not normally be an option.

Ooh, Glasgow, 1888, Lister- another namedrop! It feels like ages since the last one. Although, are we talking Joseph or Dave? There's yet more nostalgia from the noise made by the computers, straight from The Tenth Planet.

I have to ask though... why are some members of the crew wearing shower caps? And surely the "hurricane" in the Pacific should be a cyclone?

The Doctor is great here, especially in the scenes where he's collecting "specimens", although a lot of this may be down to the fact that Troughton's performance is actually visible as well as audible. The new Cybermen are also great, although much less obviously human.

Oh, and Polly makes some coffee while the Doctor "thinks of something". What an ending, though!

Part Three

"How did you get in?"

"It was very simple. Only stupid Earth brains like yours would have been fooled."

Oh pants. This is the only Troughton story with speaking Cybermen where I can't turn on the subtitles, which is a bit of a problem. Still, I love the way Loose Cannon make their mouths move. And that music is just great. They may not look quite as cool and their voices may be a bit crap, but I like these new Cybermen. And although the voices are crap the emotionless delivery can be quite chilling: "They're not dead?" "No, they are not dead. They are altered".

Jamie only narrowly (and conveniently) escapes Cyber-conversion. I love the way conversion is taking such a central role here. Although I'm not exactly sure why the Cybermen want to destroy the surface of the Earth. Saying that there are "dangers" to be "eliminated" is not exactly an explanation! But still...

Oh, any the Cybermen get some rather eyebrow-raising lines. I mean "Clever, clever, clever"?

This episode is rather good though and certainly the best yet, as the missing episodes often are, annoyingly enough. Polly's plan with the nail varnish is great. As is the disturbing fact that the Cybermen don't care that the converted human slaves will die within 12 hours because they will have served their purpose.

The blatantly educational conversation about plastics between Polly and Ben takes me back to the early Hartnells. They both seem to have a rather impressive grasp of GCSE chemistry type things.

The way Polly, Ben and Jamie defeat the Cybermen through cleverness is great, but by this point it's clear that the plot is rather too close to that of The Tenth Planet for comfort: our heroes have defeated an initial wave of Cybermen only to be besieged by more. I can overlook the reuse of the same plot just this once, but I hope we don't see this "base under siege" formula again any time soon... what, what?

Part Four

"Everything's got a weak point. It's just a question of waiting till it shows up. That's all."

The tension has clearly been building up to this episode and it pays off splendidly with a sense of inevitable doom. But from the start Troughton's quiet stoicism is the perfect counterpoint- this is the Second Doctor I remember from before the marathon, unprepossessing, somewhat in the background, but quietly thinking his way out of the situation and being the centre of attention even though he's not doing very much.

The music is very eerie and effective by this point, and combined with the powerfully effective sight of Cybermen being still and silent on the lunar surface this must have had the kids cacking themselves.

This episode is therefore mostly great, with only two things which jar somewhat: Polly makes some coffee again while Ben and Jamie do all the man's work and is generally a bit wet throughout; and some dodgy science- "Once they get into the Sun's gravity belt, they can't change course." Er, yes...

The tension keeps on ratcheting up in a nicely paced way as the episode goes on, and our heroes are looking increasingly doomed. One dialogue exchange packs quite a punch: "You'll never get inside the base." "We are in it already". Unfortunately another line is rather less effective: "I shall count to ten. If you still stupidly remain silent, we shall fire." But the tension is great, and the resolution highly satisfying.

Once again the TARDISeers quickly slip away at the end, and take a look at the Doctor's time scanner which, unless it's a reworked version of the Time / Space Visualiser from The Space Museum, the Doctor has rather oddly never mentioned before.

Overall, a fantastic story, pacey and full of suspense. If I'd watched it in isolation a 5/5 may not have been out of the question, but in the context of the marathon it suffers from being too similar to The Tenth Planet for comfort. So 4/5.

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