Saturday, 4 March 2017

152 The Moonbase: Episode Four

EPISODE: The Moonbase: Episode Four
TRANSMITTED: Saturday 04 March 1967
WRITER: Kit Pedler & Gerry Davis
DIRECTOR: Morris Barry
PRODUCER: Innes Lloyd
RATINGS: 8.1 million viewers
FORMAT: DVD: Doctor Who - The Moonbase
TELESNAPS: The Moonbase: Episode Four

"You are surrounded. All resistance is useless!"

As we kick off let's spare a moments thought for the *LAST* appearance of what's become an old friend: The original Doctor Who title sequence.

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It's started everyone of the show's 152 episodes to date and is the title sequence used on the most number of Who episodes. Tom's is on 144 broadcast episodes and even if you lump all 3 versions of the Starfield sequence together that was only used on 128!

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The Cybermen attack the base's communication aerial cutting them off from Earth. They reactivate Doctor Evans in sickbay, who knocks out his guard and enters the control room. A rescue ship from Earth is spotted, but it suddenly veers off course towards the sun: It has been deflected by the Gravitron under Evans' control. The other controlled crew members are also reactivated but Jamie and Ben barricade them into sickbay. The Cybermen puncture the base's dome with a laser cannon causing it to depressurise and the crew to seize oxygen masks. Fortunately Benoit & Hobson seal the hole with a tea tray over the hole. Evans has been rendered unconscious and the crew seize control of the Gravitron. Cybermen reinforcements arrive but further attempts to attack the dome prove futile as the beam is now deflected by the Gravitron. The Doctor gets the Gravitron lowered to an angle where the Cybermen are repelled from the surface of the moon. As the base crew celebrate, the time travellers slip away and return to the Tardis. In flight the Doctor activates the time scanner to look into the future: they see a giant crab like claw on the scanner screen.

Whereas the first 2 episodes were the Cybermen operating in stealth, then the third had them out in the open, this episode has them attacking en masse.

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Except that en masse doesn't seem to feel that many Cybermen. Claims of "You are Surrounded" are lessened by only showing one small group of Cybermen, albeit with about a dozen actors involved, which makes them a large grouping by Doctor Who monster standards. Personally I felt they worked better up close and personal in the base.

In amongst the attack the shot of their laser cannon being fired is a pretty good effect for the time.

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Is this first time we've seen an actual laser beam in Doctor Who?

Then we get some science in with the dome depressurising after being struck by the laser...

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The tray providing a seal over the hole is quite clever.

However if it is the laser that's struck the dome why has it hit it this time? All subsequent blasts are deflected by the Gravitron!

The guest cast is boosted in the final two episodes by the arrival of the Cybermen! Amongst those on the surface of the moon there's a number of actors who we've seen before in Doctor Who or will see again. Chief amongst them is Reg Whitehead, who was the Cybermen Krail and Jarl in The Tenth Planet. He'll be back as a Cyberman in The Tomb of the Cybermen and as a Yeti in The Abominable Snowmen. John Wills is the first Cyberman to appearing this serial: he was previously in The Chase episode 4: Journey Into Terror as Frankenstein's Monster. He's also got two appearances in The Prisoner as the Second Judge in The Chimes of Big Ben and Number Eighty Six in Once Upon a Time. Keith Goodman was previously an extra in The Savages and returns as a Technician in Doctor Who and the Silurians. Sonnie Willis returns in the first two episodes of The Dæmons as a BBC3 TV Crewmember . He's also in Doomwatch as a man in Hear No Evil and a Prison Officer in Fire and Brimstone. Derek Chafer has got the longest Doctor Who history to date of theses Cybermen appearing as a Saxon in The Time Meddler, a Greek Soldier in The Myth Makers, a Guard in The Massacre and a Lynch Mob Member in Don't Shoot the Pianist. He's back as another Cyberman in The Invasion, an Extra in The Space Pirates, a UNIT Soldier in Doctor Who and the Silurians, a Prisoner in The Mind of Evil, a Guard in The Curse of Peladon, an Exxilon in Death to the Daleks, a Guard in The Monster of Peladon and the armourer in The Masque of Mandragora part four. He's been in Doomwatch too as a Man in Project Sahara , Re-Entry Forbidden & The Red Sky and also appears as a man in the missing Out of the Unknown series 3 episode 1+1=1.5. Both Declan Cuffe and Barry Noble are in The Massacre as Parisian Men and The War Machines: Episode 1 as an Inferno Customer with Noble additionally appearing as an Egyptian Warrior in Dalek Masterplan episode 10 Escape Switch, while Terry Wallis is in a later episode of The War Machines as a Soldier.

But by far the most prominent name amongst the Cybermen is one John Levene. During 1967 he gets a recurring role as a background policeman in Z-Cars which brings him into contact with director Douglas Camfield who casts him as a Yeti in The Web of Fear, a role he reprises in The War Games episode 10, and then as Corporal Benton in The Invasion, a role he plays, promoted to Sergeant, for a large part of early to mid 70s Doctor Who. I can see on his CV a small role as an Interceptor pilot in the UFO episode Close Up!

So the Moonbase. Episode one sounds good, episode two is superb, episode three sounds like it's good and episode four has perhaps not survived the test of time lessening it's impact. I'd love to see the missing two episodes, especially episode 3.

The Moonbase, in it's printed form as Doctor Who & The Cybermen, was the second Troughton novel published by Target, but probably my first encounter with the Second Doctor. I may have read Tomb of the Cybermen (also with the wrong Cyberman on the cover) or Web of Fear first, my local library had both in Hardback. Indeed the library's copy of Web of Fear, later sold off, now sits on my book shelves here. I got a copy of Doctor Who and The Cybermen from the book shop in Brook Street, Kingston which later became the Waterstones serving the University and is now one of town's many ex bookshops. My copy has got the older cover on with Troughton's face and completely the wrong style of Cyberman but with the rounded Tom Baker logo rather than the block Pertwee logo or the newer cover with awful gold Cybermen and the neon logo. I loved Doctor Who and The Cybermen, it's a fabulous read and one of my favourite Doctor Who books so I was delighted when it was reissued on 7th of July 2011 alongside Doctor Who and the Daleks, Doctor Who and the Crusaders, Doctor Who and the Abominable Snowmen, Doctor Who and the Auton Invasion and Doctor Who and the Cave Monsters.

The 2 surviving episodes of the Moonbase were released as part of the Doctor Who - The Cybermen - The Early Years VHS (worth it for Roy Skelton giving an airing to two of his more famous non-Who voices at the end) and then on DVD as part of Doctor Who - Lost In Time. All 4 episodes Soundtrack were released on CD as Doctor Who: The Moonbase, and were re-released as part of Doctor Who: The Lost TV Episodes Volume Four(1967). The two surviving episode were then paired with animations to form the Doctor Who - The Moonbase dvd.

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