Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Doctor Who: 033 The Moonbase

The Doctor, intent to prove to Jamie that he's in control of the TARDIS, decides to go to Mars only to have the TARDIS go out of control (like that's never happened before). Instead of materializing on Mars, he materializes at The Moonbase, which controls Earth's weather by controlling the tides using a device called a Gravitron. That Gravitron is what pulled the TARDIS off course. As is the Doctor's habit, he manages to arrive just in time for trouble - this time an invasion of the Cybermen intent on destroying all life on Earth using the Gravitron.

Two of the four episodes of this story are missing, so again we turn to the Loose Cannon reconstruction for the missing episodes and to the Lost in Time DVD set for the existing episodes. Again, Loose Cannon takes the telesnaps and the audio track and improves on them with animated Cybermen mouths, etc. to keep the viewer interested and the end result is very good.

This is the second Cyberman story in the 4th season, the first being The Tenth Planet which introduced the Cybermen. While The Tenth Planet was Hartnell's last story, it was still in the 4th season. Apparently the script for The Moonbase was commissioned while The Tenth Planet was still airing due to positive fan reactions to the Cybermen. It was originally written with just Ben and Polly as companions and the introduction of Jamie required the script to be reworked a bit so that Jamie spends part of the story in sickbay and takes some of Ben's lines for the rest of it. :)

The Cybermen are probably the second most popular of the Doctor's foes, behind the Daleks (who will also make a second appearance during the 4th season). However, unlike many of the other recurring foes, the Cybermen have a slightly different appearance almost every time they appear with the "handles" on their heads remaining one of the constants. In this case, the sock puppet faces from The Tenth Planet have been replaced by more realistic looking metallic helmets/heads. Their voices are also quite different in this story and I found them a little hard to understand at times. Fans have explained the changes in the appearance of the Cybermen: they are cybernetic and are constantly upgrading themselves to be better. This explanation mostly works, but I won't nitpick. :) The Cybermen in this story are certainly even more impressive and alien than the ones from The Tenth Planet.

I said I wasn't going to nitpick, but there are a couple of plot points in this story that don't quite work for me:
  • Polly, upon first catching a fleeting glimpse of a Cyberman, tells everyone it's the Cybermen. They comment that the Cybermen were all killed, then seem to forget about the Cybermen.
  • In Polly's second encounter with a Cyberman, where she got zapped, she definitely caught a good look at her attacker and knew it was a Cyberman, but again when she's talking to everyone, she seems to forget and they again comment on how the Cybermen were all killed. It seems to take them a while to come back to the realization that it is indeed the Cybermen. :)
  • I thought it was a little unrealistic to have the Cyberman hiding in the sickbay on an exam table covered with a sheet, although I did get a kick out of him almost knocking the exam table over when he leaped off of it. :)
  • Many comments are made about the Cybermen being killed when Mondas was destroyed in The Tenth Planet, but there's never really any explanation for how these Cybermen survived.
  • The Cybermen want to destroy all life on Earth, not for revenge, but to eliminate all threats. That seems a little weak for a reason. I guess they need some reason though, unlike the Daleks, who just want to exterminate everything that's not a Dalek. :)
  • After the Doctor defeats them, the Cybermen ships are seen hurtling out of control presumably into the Sun, but I'm not sure what's to keep more Cybermen from returning and attacking the moobase... perhaps these were the only two Cyberman ships in the area?

Now that I've nitpicked, let me say that I did enjoy the story. :) It was very suspenseful and had good pacing. Even with the minor points I mentioned above, it mostly worked and told a good story. :) Besides, the spacesuits in this story were at least a little more believable than what they used in The Web Planet. ;) I also thought it was interesting that the Cybermen know the Doctor even though they've never met this incarnation: "You are known to us." The Daleks also seem to know the Doctor most of the time after a new regeneration.

At the end of this story, the Doctor turns on the "time scanner" to get a glimpse of the future, something he doesn't use very often because it's not reliable (and here I thought the TARDIS was 100% reliable...). On the time scanner, they see a giant claw and the end of the credits promise The Macra Terror for next week. Fortunately we won't have to wait until next week... It will be the topic of my next blog post.

With the 2 episodes missing from this serial, the total for season 4 goes up to 19 and Troughton's total goes up to 14. We have three serials remaining in this season which all having missing episodes. :(

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