The Moonbase: Episode Three
Bob is shot dead (“You devils! You killed him!” – the dialogue emphasises that these are horror movie monsters, not science fiction ones) and we see not one but two Telosians (apparently Telos was referenced in the script although it didn’t make the televised programme). When the Cybermen actually start talking it does nothing to make their plan sound any more convincing. The men they have been abducting are alive.
Cyberman: No, they are not dead. They are altered… They are now controlled.
I’ve been wondering how many crewmen have been stricken, since every time a Cyberman enters there seem to be more bodies on the benches. They recognise the Doctor.
Cyberman: You are known to us.
The Doctor: And you to me.
Do they know him from The Wheel in Space? Or The Invasion? Or can they recognise a regenerated Time Lord? Fortunately for Ben and Polly the Cybermen leave them unguarded to hatch a plan of resistance, with the weak threat that if they leave the sickbay they will be converted.
The headgear applied to the converted crewmen appears to have some sort of third eye attachment. It seems that the Cybermen undressed the crewmen on the lunar surface and carried them back to their ship (why were they so desperate to strip them?) How they survived is anyone’s guess (likewise how did they return to the Moonbase?)
The Cyberplot is just dastardly villainy, with no suggestion of the cosmic ying-yang pull of the troubles of Mondas. They plan to take over the Gravitron and use it to destroy the surface of the Earth. Their motivation is “To eliminate all dangers” Couldn’t they have marched in two episodes ago and achieved the same thing?
Hobson: You’re supposed to be so advanced yet here you are taking your revenge – like children.
Cyberman: Revenge. What is that?
Hobson: It’s a feeling that people have.
Cyberman: Feeling. Feeling. Yes, we know of this weakness of yours. We are fortunate. We do not possess feelings.
He then goes on to show a nice line in rude sarcasm, although the vocal makes it hard to be certain.
Hobson: How did you get in?
Cyberman: It was very simple. Only stupid Earth brains like yours would have been fooled. Since we couldn’t approach direct we came up under the surface and cut out way in through your store room, contaminating your food supplies on the way. A simple hole, that’s all.
Hobson: A hole. That explains the sudden air pressure drops we’ve been recording.
Cyberman: Clever. Clever. Clever.
To be fair, the verbal slap down is well deserved. This is pitiful stuff, but there’s more. In the sickbay with a now-recovered Jamie, Ben and Polly are displaying all-new skill sets. Ben’s physics and chemistry degrees are in full effect as he notes how the Gravitron is thermo-nuclear and that the temperature inside its “power pack” is about four million degrees. He leisurely advises that nail varnish remover contains a “sort of acetone”. Polly, far more resourceful than the Doctor has been thus far, discerns that the Cybermen chest units are composed of plastic and that this could be a means to overpower them.
Polly: It’s simple. Nail varnish remover dissolves nail varnish. Nail varnish is a sort of plastic. So we do what Jamie says. We sprinkle them. See?
Ben: No, I don’t.
Jamie wasn’t suggesting peeing on the Cybermen, although the way things are going for them it might not be so surprising to discover that urine is highly corrosive to their feet. The “right old cocktail” they produce contains benzene, ether, alcohol and epoxy propane. Which they appear to pour into plastic spray bottles (Frazer Hines refers to them as fire extinguishers on the missing episode audio, but they clearly aren’t).
Benoit is horrified that the Cybermen will send their controlled crewmen into the Gravitron room without their protective swimming caps. These produce a very intense sonic field, and without the caps they’d go insane within 12 hours. It takes Hobson to point out to the dozy Doctor that the Cybermen aren’t willing to operate the Gravitron controls themselves. The story’s only nod to the previously inventive approach in portraying the new Doctor is his interior monologue as he works out what the Cybermen are afraid of.
The 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? Dunno. Yes, I do though. Must be something in here they don’t like. Pressure? No. Electricity? No. Radiation? Grav- gravity. Now there’s a thought. Gravity. Oh yes. Gravity.
Like most of the Troughton material, it’s a much-needed oasis of inventiveness in a dull-witted story (although the logic of their weaknesses is as suspect as everything else).
Being Enid Blyton in Space, it’s about time the kids had a spat.
Jamie: It takes more than a wee crack on the head to keep a MacCrimmon 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.
The thought that Ben’s being a prick is only confirmed when he follows it up by instructing, “Not you, Polly. This is men’s work”. On the positive side, she doesn’t act the wilting violet and refuses to remain there.
The sequence of overcoming the Cybermen (aided by the Doctor disorientating the controlled crewmen through his turning up the volume of the RT unit) sounds reasonably effective, and it’s at least dramatically compelling to have a seeming victory just prior to the end of the episode. The Cybermen chest units get all nice and frothy when they are sprayed, whereas the one Ben tackles on the lunar surface (rescuing Benoit) spurts volumes of juice that would get Victor Lewis Smith all excited. I’m not really clear on why a glass full of Pollycocktail will be so much more effective in tackling a Cyberman in a vacuum than a spray bottle, but it seems to work.
Hobson announces “From our point of view we’re under siege” (the Cybersaucer really does seem very close to the TARDIS, and the scale looks all wrong too), instructing the companions to “Make up as much of that gubbins as you’ve got. We may need it”. The advancing Cybermen look quite effective (strength in numbers), aided enormously by the space march theme.
As witless as ever. Many stories appear to hide behind their plot holes with invented science. This one at least keeps things down to earth, but in doing so reveals itself as ridiculous, nonsensical or foolishly twee.