Wednesday 20 April 2011

149 The Moonbase: Part One

EPISODE: The Moonbase: Part One
TRANSMITTED: 11 February 1967
WRITER: Kit Pedler
DIRECTOR: Morris Barry
PRODUCER: Innes Lloyd
FORMAT: CD: Doctor Who: The Moonbase
TELESNAPS: The Moonbase: Part One

The Tardis lands on the moon. Something here has dragged it off course. The Time Travellers have fun in zero gravity until Jamie is knocked unconscious and rescued by two people from the nearby moonbase. The Moonbase has a Graviton which is used to control the weather on Earth: this affected the Tardis. One of it's operators is taken ill and rushed to sickbay where Jamie has been taken. The Doctor is initially mistaken as the station's relief Doctor but his medical skills can be put to use as the base's Doctor was the first affected. The base's commander Hobson speaks with Earth who aren't helpful and quarantine the base. Nills, his communications expert, is concerned because he feels they are being monitored. Base number 2 Benoit takes Polly to sickbay to see Jamie, but another member of the crew is taken ill. The Doctor goes to Sickbay with Ben to assess the situation and connects Jamie to the monitoring equipment. Doctor Evans is the worst of the crewmen affected by the virus which is leaving a pattern of glowing vein like lines on the skin. Ben is sent to the control room to see what's happening and be useful. He arrives as Hobson goes off duty, noting to Benoit that there have been sudden drops in the base's pressure. Benoit sends Ben to help Ralph in the stores. Ralph wonders if Ben is responsible for some split bags in the stores. While Ben fetches something for him Ralph disappears. In Sickbay Doctor Evans cries out and dies. The Doctor goes to find Hobson, already irate at Ralph's disappearance to break the bad news to him. Just before the Doctor returns Polly catches sight of something in the sickbay but it vanishes through a door before she can get a proper look. Hobson is angry when he discovers Evans' body gone and tells the Doctor to find it or get off the base. Jamie is hallucinating the Phantom Piper of clan Acrimony. The Doctor finds a fragment of silver cloth in sickbay and goes to look for more odd things. Jamie calls for water which Polly goes to fetch. While she is gone a tall silver figure enters sickbay: Jamie's Phantom Piper is in reality a Cyber!

Cracking stuff. Little hints right the way through of who it is causing the problems are finally revealed in the closing moments. Fresh from their successful debut in the Tenth Planet 18 episodes previously the Cybermen are back with a bit of a redesign. In fact the Cybermen are only the second monster in Doctor Who, after of course the Daleks, to make a return appearance!

The Moonbase is a reflection of popular culture at the time, the race to the moon being very much in progress with JFK's deadline of "by the end of this decade" closing in. This is the first Moonbase in Doctor Who: it won't be the last. In Seeds of Death one is controlling the T-Mat network while in Frontier in Space it's serving as a penal colony. David Tennant's tenth Doctor gets to visit the Moon in Smith & Jones, but he's in an abducted hospital building rather than a Moonbase then! Saturn's moon Titan also has a Moonbase in The Invisible Enemy. We'll also see Moonbases in several other sci-fi series including UFO (which you must see if you haven't), Moonbase 3 (or what Barry & Terrance did between seasons 10 & 11), Space 1999 (just watch the first series, not the second), Star Fleet (which is fabulous) and Star Cops (which I love).

The moon itself controls the tides on the Earth which in turn have an influence on the weather so you can see how a gravity device on the moon *might* be used to control the weather: another example of the "anchored in reality" science that Kit Pedler has brought to Doctor Who.

The Moonbase is one of two 4 part stories that has two parts missing and two existing: the other is the Crusade. When the surviving episode were released in Doctor Who - Lost In Time the missing episodes audio was included with them. Telesnaps are available for this story on the BBC website, together with brief scene descriptions. Scene timings are available on the CD. From these last two I was able to work out how many telesnaps for each scene and thus how long each telesnap should be on the screen for. I downloaded the telesnaps, put them into Powerpoint, set timings for each slide and voila: An amateur reconstruction of episode 1 of the Moonbase! Watching it back now I could make some adjustments to the timings within the scenes but overall it's not a bad attempt and has enhanced my viewing of this episode. I had several friends from the TMUK Forum in to watch this episode with me but unfortunately I didn't write down anything they said. I do recall that Ralph Burns claimed that this is his favourite episode ending ever!

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