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Moonbase. Low budget Cyberthrills. The one with Cybermen on the Moon.

November 5, 2015

MOONBASE

Moonbase is a story that employs a  crowded Tardis.   Of course The First Doctor escorted groups of three (Ian, Barbara, Susan – Ian, Barbara Vicki) but after Ben and Polly leave, the crew thins considerably until the 1980s.    The Fifth Doctor escorted Tegan Nyssa and Adric for a while, and then briefly Tegan, Nyssa and Turlough.  Early in the Second Doctor’s term,  Ben, Polly and Jamie around were being ferried around in a somewhat congested environment, with regular cast members fighting not so much for space as for screentime and viable dialogue..

Now Moonbase will appeal to all connoisseurs of truly cheap sci fi.  If (like me) you enjoy watching people struggling to do their best with a really tight budget, then you’ll enjoy this.  Indeed, it is hard to share any of the moonbase crew’s confidence in the base’s ability to withstand the onset of the cybermen when it’s painfully obvious that this particular collection of plywood and silver paper cannot withstand someone leaning too hard in the wrong place.

For their second outing, cybermen are given more rasping electronic voices than had been employed in The Tenth Planet.  But these voices lack the sing-song uncanniness that made their predecessors sound so effectively alien and amoral.

If you want a late night drunken snigger then Moonbase – even in its half complete half reconstructed form – will offer plenty to tickle.  The plugging of a hole in the wall with a drinks tray is so ludicrous that you want to stand up and applaud the actors responsible for accomplishing it with a straight face.  Nor is it ever explained why the performance of certain essential moonbase duties obligate the donning of a truly ludicrous shower cap type hat.

Moonbase remains watchable for its acting.  Or for enough decent acting.  Ben and Polly make themselves useful on the base – or as useful as any 1960s youths could be in a twenty-first century high tech environment,  though I was waiting for someone to say “Polly – put the kettle on” at various points.

Jamie suffers an injury early on and spends most of the first two episodes in sick bay.  Fraser Hines uses this opportunity rather well though, and his delirious references to the “piper” who has come to collect him are distressing rather than embarrassing.  So early in Jamie’s travels, he remains very much the eighteenth-century highlander with only the vaguest idea of what’s going on around him.   The viewer fears he may go the same way as Katarina.

And of course, there’s the Doctor’s big speech – a speech which almost breaks the fourth wall – and seems broader than its immediate application to lunar Cybermen.  It’s like a belated manifesto, a statement of intent – designed to explain this entire era.

“There are some corners of the universe which have bred the most terrible things. Things which act against everything we believe in. They must be fought.”

Cheesy stuff in the wrong hands.  But when Patrick Troughton makes such a declaration staring out into a notional middle distance, it becomes memorable.  And remembered.

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