The Moonbase: Episode Four
About the only thing this story has going for it is Troughton and the redesign of the Cybermen. I suspect it’s been treated with kid gloves for so long because of the latter.
In the opening scene there seems an attempt to qualify why the Cybermen haven’t full-on invaded the base yet, but like everything else it lacks coherence. Hobson tells the Doctor that they can’t just march in as he discovered how they got in last episode (if by “discovered” he means that a Cyberman volunteered the information, I guess he’s right).
Cyberman: You are surrounded. All resistance is useless. You must open the entry port.
Hobson: We’ve discovered your passageway and blocked it. You cannot enter now.
How have they blocked it, I wonder? With sandbags? Why not just march up and use their Cyberstrength to open the airlock doors (or, as I suggested earlier, they could all have filed in through the tunnel when they finished it)? Later we discover that the Gravitron is deflecting a Cyberweapon (I’m not clear if the laser hole in the dome was achieved when the Gravitron wasn’t working, I guess it was), which seems flimsy. The Cyberman decides that “Other methods of entry will be tried” but first they need to deal with the Earth rescue ship. They’ve already blocked radio signals by jumping up and down on the Moonbase antennae. Hobson, tiresome pessimist that he is (God, he’s a moaner) thinks there will be a replacement aboard.
So it’s just as well for him that Evans, repossessed by the Cybermen and taking control of the Gravitron, diverts the ship on a doomed trajectory for the Sun. It was lucky that Cybersignals still reached the controlled humans, even more that the control devices had been carefully placed beside their beds (how they are controlled to place the devices back on their heads is anyone’s guess; if it’s the sonic signal – and just how is that sent anyway? – why do they need the control devices at all?).
Evans is able to wander around the control room, plague-ridden (surely it is debilitating their bodies, controlled by the Cybermen or otherwise), unnoticed. Mind you, so much is going on, what with science whizz Ben being trained up at the base controls while Polly makes more coffee. Jamie, who may not have drunk much coffee prior to this, is knocking it back like a man possessed.
Hobson: They’ll blast the Cybermen and their ship to Kingdom come in about four minutes time.
Cocky. Cocky. Cocky. Its course altered, the rescue ship heads towards the Sun, “too fast”. It’s the Doppler effect, don’t you know. “Nothing can save them now from plunging into the Sun” Well, that’s a bugger. As boffin Ben notes, the Sun is millions of miles away. But apparently, they have no way of righting their course.
Benoit: Once they get into the Sun’s gravity belt they can’t change course. It may take a week but they’ll end up there just the same.
But… they’ve only just passed the Moon. Ben and Jamie are kept busy fending off Cyberzombies, the rest of whom have revived in the sickbay.
The puncturing of the dome is a jolly scene. Amazingly, Hobson and Benoit’s jackets plug the hole for about twenty or thirty seconds before they get sucked out (“Oh. Thank heavens. I can breathe again.”) Then a handy plastic tray seals it up. The drop-down oxygen masks are a nice touch, although how long they’d help in a vacuum is questionable. Shouldn’t the Cybermen have just peppered the dome with holes, rather than giving up at that point? Polly, being a thickie girl, asks why they couldn’t just have used the reserve oxygen while there was a hole in the dome.
Two more saucers land in a dazzling display of model work. And then the Cybermen unload a big gun out of a packing crate. Very curious, this, as it presents them as some sort of technologically advanced removal men.
Cyberman: I shall count to ten. If you still remain silent, we shall fire.
They have a colloquial turn of phrase, these Telosians. The Doctor, having deduced that gravity is the key last episode, doesn’t duck for cover as the Gravitron is still on. It seems that it creates a force field protecting the base from the Cyberweapon. Most mirthsomely, when their gun fails the Cybermen pack it away again. Wouldn’t giving it an unemotional kick be more suitable?
So the Gravitron is trained on the lunar surface and presto, off the Cybermen start floating with the same silly sound effects that accompanied the companions in Episode One. It seems to send the Cyberships shooting off too (unless they opt to scarper). Surely gravity doesn’t really represent a weakness as such to the Cybermen. The use of the Gravitron clearly has an effect on any object, so it’s hardly something that would take three episodes for the Doctor to work out.
Hobson: Well, that’s taken care of the Cybermen! Now then, everybody, we’ve got to get this Gravitron operational again as fast as we can.
For fuck’s sake. You can type this shit, Kit, but you sure can’t say it. And never mind about the fate of the rescue ship. Perhaps a conscious reminder of the destructive second Doctor’s behaviour thus far, he comments, “I’m sorry we damaged it” of the Gravitron.
The scene with the Time Scanner is a fairly shameless way of trying to get bums on seats for the following week (it seems to have worked, as The Macra Terror’s average ratings were only fractionally lower than those of The Moonbase). Jamie’s continuing superstitious interpretation of advanced science is the best aspect of this.
The Doctor: Instead of a normal picture showing where we are, it gives us a glimpse of the future.
Jamie: The second sight? Very dangerous.
The Doctor: Oh, nonsense. I haven’t used it very much. It’s not very reliable, as you can see.
A fairly horrendous pile-up of daft action scenes. It’s difficult to get engaged in the attempts at drama when every plot point screams its stupidity at you.
Overall: After a trio of at least agreeable outings, the Troughton era takes its first tumble. Trout is watchable as ever, even if he now feels like a cog in the wheel of a production-line script. And the Cybermen are an impressive presence. Unfortunately, everything else about them is laughable. This is a real stinker, the best that can be said about it is that it isn’t boring.
(Episode rating below. Overall rating is two stars.)