Saturday, 25 February 2017

151 The Moonbase: Episode Three

EPISODE: The Moonbase: Episode Three
TRANSMITTED: Saturday 25 February 1967
WRITER: Kit Pedler & Gerry Davis
DIRECTOR: Morris Barry
PRODUCER: Innes Lloyd
RATINGS: 8.2 million viewers
FORMAT: DVD: Doctor Who - The Moonbase
TELESNAPS: The Moonbase: Episode Three

"You will remain here. If you leave you will be converted like the others!"

One of the base staff draws a weapon on the Cybermen but is quickly gunned down. The Cybermen, like the Daleks before them, recognise the Doctor. The remaining men with the virus are taken to the Cyberman spacecraft where they are operated on to install a control device. Jamie is recovering in sickbay as Ben & Polly plan how to attack the Cybermen. The Cybermen bring the controlled humans back to the base and use them to control the Graviton, intending to use it to destroy all life on Earth. Polly, inspired by nail varnish remover, is brewing up a cocktail of solvents to dissolve the Cybermen's chest units. The Doctor discovers he can interrupt the Cybermen's control using the base's communication device and wonders why the Cybermen aren't controlling the Graviton: he concludes they have a weakness for gravity. Ben, Polly & Jamie load the cocktail into spray cans. They sneak into the control room and spray it on the Cybermen killing them as the Doctor breaks the Cybermen's control. Benoit goes out onto the surface to look for the missing crew members but is pursued by a Cyberman. Ben follows him outside and kills the Cybermen with more of the cocktail. They return to the base where something is spotted on the moon's surface: An army of Cybermen is approaching the base.

vlcsnap-00015 vlcsnap-00016

This sounds and looks from the telesnaps like a cracking episode full of action and Cybermen!

The Cybermen are on screen for most of the episode and up close to the humans in the base, quickly dispatching Bob who tries to attack them in a manner similar to that of the soldier that rushes the Cybermen as they enter the control room in Tenth Planet episode 2.

3 attack 3 Bob

Bob might be the only member of the Moonbase crew to die in this story, although the eventual fate of the plague infected and controlled crew members is a little unclear. Interestingly the gun the Cyberman uses to kill Boob doesn't look like the one stored in it's chest unit which we saw being drawn at the end of the last episode!

The Cybermen return quickly to the theme of converting Humans that was previously aired in Tenth Planet:

CYBERMAN 1: You are known to us.
DOCTOR: And you to me.
CYBERMAN 1: Silence. Who is in command?
CYBERMAN 1: You will be needed.
HOBSON: What have you done with my men?
CYBERMAN 1: They will return.
HOBSON: They're not dead?
CYBERMAN 1: No. They are not dead. They are altered.
BEN: Altered? What have you done to them?
CYBERMAN 1: They are now controlled.
HOBSON: If you do anything to my
CYBERMAN 1: You will do nothing.
CYBERMAN 2: This one has not received neurotrope X. Stand back.
POLLY: Please, leave him alone. His head is hurt. He's had an accident.
CYBERMAN 2: His head? Then he would be of no value. The others are ready for conversion.
CYBERMAN 1: You will now take us to the control centre.
HOBSON: I'll be damned if.... It's through here.
CYBERMAN 2: You will remain here. If you leave you will be converted like the others.
BEN: I don't like that word converted.
We get plenty of opportunity to hear the new Cybermen voices provided by regular Dalek voice artist Peter Hawkins, who also contributed Cyber vopices in the later episodes of The Tenth Planet. For my money the earlier sing song, sampled, voices are better than slightly indistinct electronic drone here which can sometimes make their speech hard to follow. I've never particularly liked it as far back as when I first heard it when Tomb of the Cybermen was recovered and rush released on Video.

Their voices maybe different but their attitude towards non Cyberman life hasn't:

CYBERMAN 1: Silence. We are Cybermen. You will listen.
BENOIT: But you were all killed!
CYBERMAN 1: We are going to take over the Gravitron and use it to destroy the surface of the Earth by changing the weather.
DOCTOR: But that will kill everybody on the Earth.
HOBSON: You're supposed to be so advanced. Here you are taking your revenge like, like children.
CYBERMAN 1: Revenge? What is that?
HOBSON: A feeling people have when
CYBERMAN 1: Feelings? Feelings? Yes, we know of this weakness of yours. We are fortunate. We do not posses feelings.
BENOIT: Then why are you here?
CYBERMAN 1: To eliminate all dangers.
HOBSON: But you'll kill every living thing on the Earth.
CYBERMAN 1: Yes. All dangers will be eliminated.
BENOIT: Have you no mercy?
CYBERMAN 1: It is unnecessary. Keep watch on them.
One truly dire bit of dialogue from the Cybermen as they seem to boast in their own cleverness:
CYBERMAN 3: Operational system four complete. Entry to base now completed.
HOBSON: Entry? How did you get in?
CYBERMAN 1: It was very simple. Only stupid Earth brains like yours would have been fooled.
HOBSON: Go on.
CYBERMAN 1: Since we couldn't approach direct, we came up under the surface and cut our way in through your store room, contaminating your food supply on the way. A simple hole, that's all.
HOBSON: A hole! That explains those sudden air pressure drops we've been recording.
CYBERMAN 1: Clever. Clever. Clever.
Their previous weakness for radiation is recalled, along with a decent reason why it can't be exploited here together with a sensible line of reasoning for the attack they do use.
BEN: Yeah, those Cybermen have got us all worried, mate. We've see them in action before.
POLLY: They must have some weakness.
BEN: They have, don't you remember? They can't stand radiation.
POLLY: But where do we find that here?
BEN: There's the Gravitron power pack but that's thermonuclear. No one can get near it once its going.
POLLY: Why not?
BEN: Well because Duchess, the temperature inside is about four million degrees, that's all.
JAMIE: Well, in my day, they used to sprinkle witches with holy water.
BEN: Fat lot of use that would be on them.
POLLY: Sprinkle. Holy Water. Ben?
BEN: Yeah?
POLLY: What are the Cybermen covered in?
BEN: As far as I know, their suit is a metal of some sort.
POLLY: Oh. What about that thing on their chests? You know, the part which replaces their heart and lungs.
BEN: Some kind of plastic, I think.
POLLY: I thought so. You see, it's simple. Nail varnish remover dissolves nail varnish. Nail varnish is a plastic. So we do what Jamie says. We sprinkle them, see?
The program then takes an opportunity to get some science in:
POLLY: What is nail varnish remover?
BEN: It's a sort of thinner, something like acetone I think.
POLLY: Acetone, of course. Great, we've got some of that. Now, keep your fingers crossed.
(Polly drops some plastic into the acetone and watches it dissolve.)
POLLY: It's works!
BEN: But I still don't know what you're on about.
POLLY: If we can sprinkle some of that on their chest units, it might help to soften them.
BEN: I get it! You mean it'll clobber their controls or something.
POLLY: Yes, that's it.
BEN: Yeah, but how do we know that acetone will dissolve their sort of plastic?
POLLY: I hadn't thought of that.
BEN: Just a moment though, if we make up a mixture.
POLLY: Of all the solvents.
BEN: What have we got?
POLLY: Benzene, ether, alcohol.
BEN: We brew a right old cocktail.
POLLY: Yes. Wait a minute, how are we going to throw it at them?
BEN: Well, in bottles, I suppose. Now just a tick though. I've got a better idea.
The spray bottle used in the episode do look worryingly plastic, like the sort you use to spray plants with, in the telesnaps which might have been part of the reason that Gerry Davis has the fluid loaded into fire extinguishers in the novelization.

3_bottles 3_chest

The eventual results are very effective and gory though with foam spurting out of the damaged Cybermen's chests. I'd love to be able to see that sequence!

Ben doesn't come out of this exchange in preparation for the attack very well. First he's not keen on Jamie's involvement, ostensibly due to his recent recovery from, injury but more likely because he sees him as a threat to his relationship with Polly!

BEN: So, get it? This bottle holds the stuff that puts the fire out and this cylinder pushes gas into the bottle so that stuff squirts out here. Now, all we've got to do is to undo it. Phoar. Empty it and fill it with Polly cocktail.
POLLY: I've got it all ready here.
BEN: Good. What did you put in it?
POLLY: Let's think. Benzene, ether, alcohol, acetone and epoxy-propane.
BEN: Blimey, one of them should do it. Now, we'll need another one of these.
JAMIE: Right, I'll get it.
BEN: No, you stay where you are, Jamie.
POLLY: Jamie, you're not well enough.
JAMIE: It takes more than a wee crack on the head to keep a McCrimmon down.
BEN: Look mate, we don't want you cracking up on us. I'm sure Polly's very impressed.
JAMIE: Look, I said I was better. Would you like me to prove it to you?
BEN: Any time, mate.
Ben is then dead against Polly taking part as well. Did he intend to attack the Cybermen by himself? Typically sexist attitude of the time Ben comes from or is he genuinely protective to Polly?
POLLY: Look, come on. Haven't we got enough trouble without you two fighting each other?
JAMIE: I go.
BEN: Oh well, come on then. Not you, Polly. This is men's work.
Polly however is having none of it!
BEN: Polly. I thought that I told you to stay behind.
POLLY: I'm coming with you.
JAMIE: You'll maybe get hurt. Now go back.
POLLY: I'm coming with you and that's flat! You still need someone to look after you
JAMIE: I don't want
BEN: There's no time for arguments. If you're coming, come on.
BEN: Now look, we've only got one chance. When I open the door, drop down as low as you can, aim this things at their chests and squirt like mad. Right?
JAMIE: Right.
BEN: Now get ready.
But as if the weakness in the plastic in the chest units isn't enough they get another as the Doctor reasons why they're using humans in the Gravitron control room instead of taking control in person:
CYBERMAN 1: What is happening?
CYBERMAN 2: There is loss of control.
DOCTOR: Thought so. Sonic control. That should be easy.
(He resets the dials.)
DOCTOR: Funny. Funny. Go to all that trouble to make the men do the work. Why? Do it themselves, easy. They're using the men as tools. Why? Don't know. Yes, I do though. There must be something in here they don't like. Pressure? Electricity? Radiation? Maybe. Gravity! Now there's a thought. Gravity. Oh, yes. Gravity.
So that's radiation, solvents and gravity. The Cybermen are starting to look VERY vulnerable.

The sequence above seems to be showing the Doctor thinking to himself as he works out what's going on, something we don't see too often in Doctor Who being let into the head of the Doctor. There's a similar sequence post regeneration in Power of the Daleks episode 1 as the Doctor regains control of his body.

Although the episode is missing from the BBC archives, a film can for it (sadly empty of film) was found in New Zealand. Several other empty film cans have been found over the years in odd places and in one case the film that was in it (Dalek Masterplan 2: The Day of Armageddon) turned up years later. So I live in hope that somewhere in New Zealand someone is hoarding a copy of this episode as I'd love to have this one back, it sounds great on audio. I'd love to see Ben, Jamie and Polly attacking the Cybermen. Easily in my top ten individual episodes of Doctor Who I'd most like back!

This episode, The Moonbase episode Three, brings to mind the BBC science fiction series Moonbase 3 developed by Doctor Who's producer & script editor team of Barry Letts & Terrance Dicks during the 1970s. Several people, both in front and behind the camera, are involved in both series as you've frequently seen when I go through credits for actors, writers and directors on Doctor Who. I own a copy of the Moonbase 3 DVD but don't think I've ever got further than the first episode, and that's saying something because I've seen the Sensorites 4 times!

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