Doctor Who: The Moonbase (UK - DVD R2)
The Wilson Bros examine this partially animated Patrick Troughton story...
Having witnessed the demise of megalomaniacal Professor Zaroff's plans to flood the Earth's core and bring Atlantis back above sea-level, The Doctor, Jamie McCrimmon (Frazer Hines), Ben (Michael Craze) and Polly (Anneke Wills) find themselves on the surface of the Moon. They soon discover that the Moonbase, a local weather tracking station is under attack from an old adversary, hell-bent on using the Moonbase's Gravitron to destroy all life on Earth...
The first appearance of the Cybermen in William Hartnell's final story, The Tenth Planet was unexpectedly successful, and the decision was made to have them return to menace The Doctor as soon as possible (in much the same way that the phenomenal popularity of the Daleks meant that they would come back very quickly to capitalise upon them), and one of their creator, Kit Pedlar was brought in to write their return into the Doctor Who universe.
There have been some who have unfairly criticised Patrick Troughton's Doctor for being too comedic; whist it's true that Troughton himself brought much of the impishness to the character, this lighter side is balanced out by the serious side that lies just underneath the surface and in The Moonbase, he gets to say the line that perfectly sums up the nature of The Doctor - "there are some corners of the universe which have bred the most terrible things. Things that act against everything we believe in. They must be fought." It is a wonderfully written line that seems to resonate with a degree of patriotism (NOT jingoism) that spurred people into action for the greater good during the two bloodiest wars of the 20th century. Troughton does present a more serious side to his Doctor in this story, with little of the incorrectly perceived clownishness that has plagued the general perception of the Second Doctor over the years.
Fraser Hines really isn't given much to do in this story, and the reason is relatively simple; Jamie was meant to be a one-off character, written as a character for The Highlanders and was meant to wave The Doctor and co off at the end of the story. Hines impressed the right people with his performance and was asked if he would like to stay on. The introduction of Jamie as a full-on member of the TARDIS crew meant the scripts for the following stories had already been written, so some frenetic juggling was required, often meaning that some of Michael Craze's lines were taken from him and given to Frazer Hines. This last-minute tinkering is particularly evident in The Moonbase, with Jamie spending much of the first couple of episodes in the sickbay in a state of delirium, only returning to vague lucidity now and again to exclaim "The Phantom Piper!"
You have to feel more than a little sorry for poor old Michael Craze – as soon as Frazer Hines agreed to stay on full-time, the writing was on the wall for him and the character of Ben. Craze brings a degree of earnestness to Ben Jackson, something which was never really replicated in quite the same way – he refers to any commanding officer in a situation as “Sir”, which was a conscious nod to his navel background and this little touch adds a unique aspect to his character. Craze was a good actor and he was well equipped to handle the rougher stuff required when an older actor was playing the lead, but the introduction of Jamie seemed to religate him to the background. Whilst we're on the subject of Ben, this episode sees Able Seaman Ben Jackson wearing a shirt that is quite possibly one of the most quintessentially sixties pieces of clothing ever seen on Doctor Who during that era – well, other than anything Dodo ever wore, anyway...
In the documentary, More Than 30 Years in the TARDIS, the issue of sexism and the female companion is touched upon and the clip used to illustrate this apparent gender disparity in Doctor Who is from The Moonbase, where The Doctor rather patronisingly asks Polly to go and make some coffee to keep the men happy whilst he thinks of something. Whilst it's pretty hard to defend that particular moment, Polly gets her time to shine in this story, by creating a solvent-based cocktail that has a fatal effect upon contact with the Cybermen and thereby having a significant effect upon the outcome of the story. What is amusing during the creation of the Polly Cocktail is that whilst Polly is doing all the clever stuff, Ben is essentially fulfilling the age-old role of the companion, to ask “what is it, Doctor?”, or more appropriately in this case, “what does this go, Doctor?” After this mini-triumph, Polly is reduced to serving coffee again in episode four – never mind, she got the shine to shine briefly.
Polly's intelligent questioning of the relevance of The Doctor's medical qualifications outside of the era he earned them is hastily – and somewhat conveniently – brushed aside by a quick “shh! Someone's coming!” and never spoken of again. There's still something pleasing about the way that Ben and Polly are clued-in about the Cybermen, having faced them before, albeit with a different Doctor beside them – such a thing is a rarity in Doctor Who, with only the occasional Dalek story to speak of where a companion is up against an enemy for the second time with another incarnation of The Doctor.
Much like the previous Cyberman story, The Tenth Planet, this features an international cast of characters; the most notable of comes in the form of Pink Panther regular Andre Maranne (the long-suffering underling, Francois Chevalier in the series) playing Benoit. Much like the previous Cyberman story, there is a commander of the base who is decidedly bullish in his demeanour and is unwilling to accept that what is happening is actually going on, but unlike the base commander who tangled with the First Doctor, the one here, Hobson, is slightly more open to help from The Doctor. Speaking of assisting a certain Time Lord, future Pertwee-era star John Levene makes his Doctor Who debut in this story, playing one of the Cybermen. After this, Levene would have to play a Yeti before finally appearing without a mask as Sargent Benton in The Invasion.
The format of the base-under-siege came to define the stories in the Troughton era and this was the first of many; though Hartnell's swansong, The Tenth Planet was the first of this often-used format, this was Troughton's initial stab at a concept that would serve him well during his tenure. Staying on the subject of the last Hartnell story, it's great to hear Space Adventure - the piece of library music that would come to be so closely identified with the Cybermen during the sixties – used so boldly during The Moonbase, especially at the climax of episode three, as the silver nemesis are stomping their way across the surface of the moon toward the titular station.
As was often the case in Doctor Who during the sixties (especially the Troughton era), a base-under-siege story often meant that much of the action took place on a large set, with a few smaller ones to help break things up a little and The Moonbase is no exception. The main set that houses the Gravitron device is pretty impressive, with a large glass dome and various control stations around. What is equally impressive is the matching between the large set and the model shots of the Moonbase on the lunar surface, which work wonderfully as a continuation of the set and go a long way in terms of selling the idea that this is all actually happening in front of your eyes. Another innovative piece of production design is having the names of the Moonbase crew and corresponding flag to depict their nationalities on their uniforms – it's a simple but innovative touch that also helps the viewer to remember the names of the guest characters. The stop-motion/animation effect of the mysterious virus that is sweeping through the base, snaking it's way along the skin of its victims is pretty good, looking like a dark tattoo snaking along the nervous system.
The great production design extends to the set used for the surface of the moon, with a convincing lunar surface making the opening scenes of the TARDIS crew traversing it and also makes the Cybermen advancing upon the base even more impressive. There are also some nice effects employed when the Cybermen fire a very large laser weapon at the base, only to have the beams deflected by the Gravitron device – it's fairly simply done, but very effective. Sadly, it's not all great as far as effects are concerned, with a couple of shots of the Cybermen reinforcement ship landing on the surface of the Moon looking like they were literally hung on fishing wire and just rapidly dropped onto the model set – these shots make the Dalek ship flying over London in The Dalek Invasion of Earth look like something by Ray Harryhausen in comparison.
The Moonbase introduces the concept of having the Cybermen take control of humans to make zombie-like slaves of them; this was continued in Tomb of the Cybermen and the Wheel in Space, before eventually being phased out entirely. You would imagine that Russell T Davies watched these stories as a child and thought: "hmm - stories with zombified humans. I think there some mileage in this...?" What is a little suspect is the way that a black character, Ralph, is one of the first to cop it on-screen and is turned into a mindless slave, in many ways, he was the prototype Toberman from Tomb of the Cybermen. Is this mere coincidence? Or is it an example of a possible Catch-22 situation when trying to have diversification on-screen during a turbulent period? Either way, it's a little uncomfortable to see a black character doing the leg-work for the white... sorry, the SILVER man.
Out of all of the recurring adversaries on Doctor Who, the only ones to be in an almost constant state of evolution were the Cybermen. The silver-suited cyborgs from the planet Mondas were often either tweaked or radically overhauled for every appearance on the show. It could be argued that their redesign here would be the most significant one, making the transition from snood-wearing hulks who got dressed-up out of the kitchen drawer and spoke like Rainbow's Zippy after a stroke, to metallic-looking giants who seemed to be more robotic and genuinely emotionless. This design would be tinkered with for their next couple of appearances (and thankfully eradicated the lace-up boots) before being significantly overhauled for The Invasion. If there is one aspect to the Cybermen during Patrick Troughton's era, it's that the voices weren't the best – in this story, and also in the subsequent story, Tomb of the Cybermen, they all had the unfortunate sound of speaking as though they had just stuck a hot chip into their mouth-slit; half of the time, the human cast are reiterating the dialogue spoken by the Cyberman, almost as though they knew that the audience were going to have difficulty in deciphering it. It's hard to decide whether nor not the voices here are preferable to their Tenth Planet 'continually-changing-gears-on-a-busy-motorway' cadence.
Director Morris Barry manages to wring every drop of tension from Kit Pedlar's script, delivering several impressive cliffhangers, particularly the end of episode two, where The Doctor realises that a Cyberman might be hiding out in the medical bay, where they are all situated and they begin to look around at the bodies lying on the beds to see if they are indeed in the company of one of the bad guys. It's a great little scene that really makes you sit up and take notice. Whether or not it was Morris Barry or writer Kit Pedlar, but when the Cybermen broadcast their demands over the communication device, base commander Hobson switches it off before the Cybermen get to finish the words “resistance is useless”; this seems to be a conscious effort to show that this particular phrase in science-fiction had become trite even by the mid-sixties. Douglas Adams would memorably resurrect this sci-fi cliché in The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, rendering it completely unusable in straight-faced sci-fi ever since.
There's a lovely little moment after the inhabitants of the base have successfully managed to repel a first attack and are confident that the Cybermen will not be able to get inside, only to have the Cybermen reply: “we already are” – just before the faecal matter comes into contact with the blade-driven air conditioner is something that fits in perfectly with the time the story was produced, with fear of infiltration and spying being quite high up in the list of fears fuelled by the Cold War. What really elevates this sequence to 'amazing' status is the unusual amount of menace in the voice of the Cyberman when delivering the line – it really takes you aback momentarily as all hell begins to break loose.
Things end favourably, with the Cybermen floating in space (you would have thought that some of the more vengeful members of the Moonbase would have taken the opportunity to take pot-shots at their helpless adversaries, but this doesn't happen. The Doctor and his companions slip away with no fuss as the everyone else celebrates – classic Doctor Who indeed.
Now – to the question that many of you are asking – what are the animated episodes like? Well, they were done by Planet 55, and they have built upon the sterling work done on episode four of The Tenth Planet and have produced something that would fall comfortably into the category of “wonderful”. Though there are a number of showy, unnecessary pans during the first couple of minutes of episode one, these settle down and you are captivated by what is seen on the screen; the likenesses of the cast – from Troughton to the guest actors – are superb, with impressively expressive faces, especially Troughton, who has many of his facial ticks and nuances preserved here for your enjoyment. Finally seeing the walk across the surface of the moon near the start of episode one is most pleasing – we would imagine that it was fairly close to what was originally filmed. The destruction of the Cybermen via Polly's cocktail is done with a loving – scratch that – almost pornographic, level of detail.
There is some interesting non-verbal interplay between The Doctor and Benoit during episode one, that looks like it could have actually taken place and could have been indicated in the script, or remembered by one of the surviving cast members. There is a moment in episode three that has The Cosmic Hobo having a conversation with himself, using both internal and external voices; it's a wonderful example of a great actor able to internalise and react to playback of his own voice, but the animators have really brought this scene back to life in a manner that is beautifully faithful to Patrick Troughton's acting style and is almost certainly a faithful representation of what was originally shot. This has to be the highlight of the animated episodes presented here – or elsewhere for that matter.
Much of the animation has clearly been rotoscoped from other existing material from elsewhere, or even from members of the animation team acting out some of the movements, which is no bad thing, as it adds a greater degree of life to the animation. Troughton is seen clasping his hands together, playing with the hem on his jacket and even just pensively moving his jaw from side-to-side; this sort of attention to detail is something that could only have emerged because the people working on it are passionate about Doctor Who. This is nothing short of a bloody triumph and sets a new standard for Doctor Who animation. We're eager to see what will be done with The Underwater Menace...
The surviving episodes of The Moonbase were originally released on DVD in 2004 as part of the Lost in Time set. The transfers of episodes two and four that are in this release appear to be the same ones; neither episode can be held up as a shining example of restoration, as the surviving prints weren't in the best of shape to begin with. The Doctor Who Restoration Team cleaned them up and presented them in the best condition possible, within the limitations afforded by the source material.
The animated episodes are pristine and have a sharpeness that borders on breathtaking – these are presented 1.33:1, in keeping with the aspect ratio of the surviving episodes. In short, they look absolutely amazing.
The surviving episodes sound fine and have been cleaned-up along with the image; the animated episodes have their audio sourced from the off-air recordings made by fans; though the quality of these recordings tended to vary between pretty good to fairly awful – thankfully, both recordings here are in the higher bracket of examples of off-air recordings and sound perfectly good.
Audio Commentary: Now, this is a game of who halves, Brian. Not that this particular quote from popular sporting culture is in any way relevant to society today, but it serves as a useful method for explaining the polarised nature of the commentary on this disc. Fuck it: there are two different types here, the existing episodes employing the traditional “sit-down-and-watch” variety, whilst the animated ones appropriately constructing ones from remnants, specifically previously existing interviews with those associated with The Moonbase.
Hosting both is the redoubtable Toby Hadoke, where he sits in with Anneke “phwoar” Wills, Frazer Hines, Edward (Bob) Phillips and Brian Hodgson, the man with the very special sounds, and it plays out in every bit as fun a fashion as before. For the animated episodes, Hadoke provides linking and contextual material for a series of interviews, taken from those closest to the show in question. Here are gathered new recordings from writer Kit Pedlar’s daughters Lucy and Carol, along with archive material from producer Innes Lloyd, Assistant Floor Manager Lovett Bickford, as well as Cybermen actors Barry Nobel, Derek Chaffer and Reg Whitehead.
The personable Topolski makes no bones about her dad’s sociological conscience, asserting that: “… He certainly had a genuine concern,” the successful novelist recalls of her father, “…particularly social responsibility, or as he would say ‘social irresponsibility’ in science, but as far as the Cybermen was concerned…I’m not sure that that was so much to do with his medical background…he did have a very fiendish imagination. He did have some dark ideas about where humankind could go”. Younger daughter Lucy Pedlar confirms the suspicion that many had when watching her fathers‘ stuff, in that he cared very much about the earth and the way it was being systematically destroyed, something which he made sure wasn‘t lost on his kids, and that they were “…Indoctrinated from birth about environmental issues, so he lives on in many ways”.
One story from Topolski makes you think that you have got the ecologically-minded Pedlar skewered, but it all gets turned on its head by the end of the tale. “He was into fast cars,“ she starts, taking us on a mystery tour, “…he had more cars that other people have boxes of Cornflakes… I think there was one year he went through six, and they were not Austin Minis - they were Maseratis, Lancias and Ferraris. He made one car - he bought a racing car, stripped it down completely… built a whole new body for it and put a V8 engine in the front, and took it for a test-drive and the front of the car blew off! Because the engine was too strong for the body! With all that real, real love for fast cars, when he became an ecologist, he did his research, and discovered… some really naff little car was most environmentally friendly car… and drove around in that, so he was actually prepared to put his money were his mouth was”.
The infamous bit of screaming at the start of Episode two is pointed out by Hadoke that it’s frequently used by pop-culture historians to illustrate unemancipated women being exploited on the show, which comes as new to the companion responsible. “Is it really?” asks Wills. “Well, I just enjoyed letting rip, I’ll tell out what! Listen, if you saw a blooming Cyberman, wouldn’t you let rip?” We don’t think that our penchant for double-entendre leaves alone in picking up on the juvenile connotations of her statement! Just you wait until your hear about her experiences recording the Target novel of The Moonbase for audio, and how she got far to into the big finale. Wills stresses just how terrific the book of the story is, and its heartening to hear one the cast being so juiced-up about such things.
Phillips proves to fans once again how that which they know intimately and cherish was but a minor blip useful for paying the bills for thespians. His details about his time on the show really aren’t that: detailed. Probably the closest we get to anything anecdotal comes when he is expertly prompted by our man Toby, spurring his brain into recalling: “…I can’t remember the audition, if there was one,” he kind-of asserts, “…in this particular episode , I just had to look busy - press levers, turn wheels and things. But what I do remember quite distinctly is in a later episode, getting shot by a Cyberman. In this episode, I am wearing a sleeveless leather jersey…what you didn’t see was two pipes, stuck up the back, ending under my armpit…and at the crucial moment, [the operator] pressed the button and volumes of smoke burst out from under my armpit, and I looked as though I was disintegrating, and that‘s the one thing I do remember!”
Bickford comes across as rather forthright, a quality essential to the job he had, as he would be the one to get it in the neck if everything wasn’t ready on the floor when it was needed. His bluntness is cemented by his generalisation of the majority of those he had to work under stating that: “…Most television directors are slightly dull”. As if this isn’t sour enough, it’s hard to know what to say about his comments regarding the differences between the first two to play the lead, with some taking heart in his opinion and others being taken aback at his bluntness. “As actors, I think Patrick probably was the better,” he opines. “…probably the best actor of all the Doctor Whos, I would think, and much more versatile. Hartnell was, I think, probably the most successful Doctor who’s rather frightening in a way that the others weren’t”.
Cyber-thespian Reg Whitehead agrees with Bickford about the lead actor, stating that Troughton was : “…lovely man, very different to Bill Hartnell, and very much easier to work with. He had a very wicked, impish quality about him, which everybody liked… the Beeb were not entirely satisfied at some of the antics he got up to, and I know that at certain times, they did try to tone him down and get rid of the hats and other pieces of the costume. They stole them! They couldn’t find them for the next show!” The tales told by the very first Cyberman are fascinating, from how he got cast, through to his acting career being derailed via the intervention of the Newton’s Cradle, by way of $7 million dollars. Best if all is his story of being confronted by Bill Hartnell, who asked Whitehead if he considered himself an actor, and the bizarre way he went on to prove him otherwise.
Like the damn-good moderator he is, Hadoke puts forward the subject of Innes Lloyd for debate, and how he was infamous for not putting up with the foibles of those involved on the show, postulating that he was “…Quite a harsh producer, in terms of if he came in, and he didn’t think you were doing the job. He let Peter Purves and Jackie Lane go very quickly - William Hartnell doesn’t last long.” At this point, Hines chimes in with a mixture of genuine interest and mild puzzlement: “I’d read about that,” he starts, “That he was a very hard taskmaster, and if you were on the wrong side of him, you where gone. I never saw that side of him”. This sentiment is echoed by Wills, “Nor did I,” she confirms, “He was a pussycat in a tweed suit”. Impressions of him follow from both performers, and rather amusing they are, too.
To us, if you want honesty, go ask a Cyberman, and Derek Chaffer is certainly on a short-list for those you‘d want as your go-to cyborg. You might think that big, strapping fellows like them would have no problems with the suits, but guess again, “The first ones were the worst,“ he admits, “…when they had the stocking masks - we were falling over. The front pack was too heavy, so each [design] was a bit different, they were changing all the time.” Comfort was not even part of the equation during the evolution of the suits, with no proper testing under working conditions. “You really sweat,” informs Chaffer. “You had to be pretty resilient… outside, they were alright, they were cool enough, but when you were on-set, the heat there was fantastic - I’ve actually seen steam coming out of the eyeholes!”.
Fellow Cyberman Barry Nobel concurs, with the aspiring pop-star-turned-baddie waxing philosophical on the nature suffering for his art. “They were quite uncomfortable,” he all but winces. “If they were more comfortable, maybe I would have done a few more episodes [laughs]. But they were very, very hot to be in - there was no ventilation, apart from your eyes. You could only walk in the fashion that we did, and you changed your t-shirt, because that was always soaked with the perspiration. It was like a walking sauna-suit. We had a laugh.” Doing the whole “monster under uncomfortable conditions” thing ourselves, we can certainly empathise with the guy, but it’s also very gratifying to be associated with something so cool, with the end result being worth it.
Not mentioned in the press-notes an the archive recording of the man with the legendary voice, Peter Hawkins, who details the processes he went though to get the creepy tones for the Cybermen, involving the fitting of a metal palate at a dentist to allow the electronic sounds to be made. Naturally, it wasn’t a particularly nice experience, made worse when the long days at work literally built up. “…It did get clogged-up a bit with saliva,” he revealed at a convention, “It was very unpleasant”. This is a lovely inclusion, which they really didn’t have to do, and that it goes unbilled makes it really cool surprise.
Well, this could well be the last commentary, and we have to say that Hadoke has captained another fine vessel. The warmth between all participants is so very inviting, with the interplay ‘twix Wills and Hines particularly charming. Everyone has a good time, and seems to be a fitting way to round out over ten years of tracks. Things have come a long way since the faltering one found on The Aztecs, with the evolutionary process quickly taking hold, delivering heaping great chunks of enlightening entertainment, cemented together by a glue of affectionate humour every other commentary track can only fruitlessly write to Santa to try and get. Stick it on, pour a glass of your favourite alcoholic substance, and enjoy a fine example of life’s pleasures one last time. Talented members of cast and crew, we salute you all!
Production Subtitles: Well, with the word on the street being that the final Doctor Who release - The Underwater Menace - is to contain no extras, then there is a good chance that this is the final text commentary track, and it is a prospect we do not face with glad hearts. It says something when the passion of those brave few who exhaustively gather the ludicrous amount of information, collate it and magically turn it into something which unswervingly enhances the viewing experience can even eclipse the might of the Okudas and their efforts with various Star Trek releases. Whilst the more cheerful of us might it as a way to express our appreciation for the work over more than a decade - which we certainly have - we see it as the end of something pretty damn magical.
With the end being nigh, it seems more than fitting that we are told that the spirit of the Phantom Piper was based squarely on the Ghostly Drummer of Cortachy Castle, presumably given bagpipes to enhance the Scots motif and to give him an instrument even more annoying with which tae irritate those he’s haunting. But you don’t have to worry, as everything we have grown to love about the production subtitles is present and correct, all laced with a sense of humour so wicked it could grow a goatee and fly off in a column-shaped TARDIS. Just take a look at the description of how Victor Pemberton, who turns up here as an actor, didn’t really want to be a script-writer is hilarious, and could easily teach Mike Meyers and Seth McFarlane how to successfully sustain a gag without beating it to death and rendering it DOA in the afterlife.
Once again, the unaccredited are given their dues, and we heartily commend the guys to throwing a light on those who got shafted first time around, and there really are few things more disheartening than being in something a lot of people see without being credited for it. When it comes to exhaustive, then - Jesus, - you even get to find out the owner of the hand who bravely volunteered stand in for Evans during the 8-second animated sequence where the neurotrope surges through the body of its victim. Thirsty for more minutia? How about exactly which Cybermen actors took over when others called in sick?. What about a detailed look at the rush to get a crucial control panel finished when the relevant person called in sick that day, leading the merging of jobs which would have easily resulted in a walk-out if it happened during the seventies! However, the prospect of an all-film Troughton story which might have resulted from said strike is an awesome prospect to mull over…
It certainly isn’t all back-slapping for the episode, as the interests of balance are well looked after. There are numerous times where mistakes, bursts of illogic and head-scratching “ whaaaaaat???” moments are taken to task, and - where possible - rationalised, without ever being sycophantic about it all. OK, we all know that patching a hole in an environmentally-pressured dome is just bloody stupid, but take a look at the beleaguering moment when nobody notices the zombified Evans as they all drink their coffee the same room. It seems that as originally scripted, an observation tower was to conceal his transformation, and everyone’s favourite companion just didn’t get to see his face when delivering the hot beverage. The track goes on to state that this sequence was reinstated for the Target book: “…as well as giving Polly a short skirt for good measure”.
Speaking of pertinent factual errors being pointed out, the track rather kindly notes that The Doctor should have consulted his 500 Year Diary to jog his memory about a piece of factual information he got totally wrong. We’ll leave it for you to discover for yourselves. We are also told where to look for the breaks in recording, including those which allowed Troughton to dispose of certain props he would have otherwise been lumbered with about his person. In perfect keeping with the errors pointed out is where the mood of the victorious goodies is remarkably changes once the pausing in the taping has taken place, when supposed to be an unbroken sequence. It’s all there in aching detail, but never a pain to sit back and enjoy such exhaustive research.
Well, if this is to be truly the last of the Information Subtitles to grace a Doctor Who release, then this sends it all off in fine style, with another indispensable accompaniment. There are those who shun the visual medium in favour of the printed word, resolute in the belief that you can never learn anything from television, and them we say this: it depends if you are sitting in front of a constructive programme open exploring ideas, and when you couple it with something as superbly-written and researched by the best in their field, it gives us confidence to say a hearty “thanks” to Martin Wiggins et al, and a flying “fuck you” to all detractors. We’ll not see quality of this like again.
Lunar Landing: It’s another of the uniformly excellent looks at the original Doctor Who stories, and this one doesn’t do anything to disgrace the track record, bring terrifically entertaining as well as tremendously informative. Even though half the episodes are missing, this doesn’t translate into 50% effort being put into the accompanying documentary, so it’s time (possibly the last!) to sit back and have a straight shot on fun as the guys spill the beans about occasion when the Cybermen panned to bugger about the Earth’s weather. Christ - have they been trying it again recently?
It just wouldn’t be right for a look at The Moonbase without the participation of the woman who has caused the spilling of more thick, white fluid than a leaking McDonalds Thick-Shake machine, Ms Anneke Wills. There is so much good stuff from her to be found here, including where she brings up the instance of Pat Troughton being told to cut back on the clowning of which he was so very fond, and to keep everything in his performance serious for the dramatic instances, with Morris Barry being the only director forceful enough to keep Troughton on a tight leash. She also mentions that writer Kit Pedler being a feminist, allowing her to get involved with the Doctor‘s experiments - and all whilst making coffee! Such noble efforts are countered by her comments about the spacesuits they all got to wear, but you have to feel more than an twinge of fuzziness when a woman as lovely as Wills reminisces that: “…They were padded, quilted, zipped up the back. I was worried ‘cause I thought my bum looked big in them”.
Frazer Hines concurs that the spacesuits were horrible to work in, and had to suffer for his art. “The minute you got the helmet on,” he almost winces, “…your brain says ‘I want to scratch my nose now‘ but you can‘t. ‘I want to sweat now‘. No, I don‘t want to sweat!” Still, any such problems encountered with physical aspects where compensated by other ones, and all because of trying to squeeze him into a story after his last-minute joining to the cast and spending much of it in a coma. “I didn’t mind that,” Hines chortles, “…because I was being paid to lie in a bed and have my brow mopped by the beautiful Anneke Wills. So it wasn’t too bad at all”. He also covers the re-shooting of the climax to The Highlanders in order to have Jamie join the TARDIS crew in the first place, which: “…Started three of the happiest years I have ever had!”
There is an interesting contrast of opinion about which the favourite design of the Cybermen, with Hines preferring the newer version debuted in The Moonbase, but Wills goes for the original costumes from The Tenth Planet, noting that it was based squarely on Kit Pedler’s concept that they are in facet augmented human beings, improving their body without entirely encasing it in metal. It can be safely said that Wills puts her point across with more passion than Hines, who points out that he avoided calling the balaclava on the Cybermen’s heads as “condoms”. If you ask us, we love those from The Invasion, and the Davison/Baker era, but no further: shiny helmets and cyborgs just don’t mix. Speaking of which, we like any which don’t have as drones marching in unison which suggests Macho Man is providing the beat.
Conspiracy theories about the moon landing being fake came as something of a pat on the back for Production Assistant Desmond McCarthy, chuffed with their efforts to put Doctor Who on the moon. “Stories abounded that the whole thing was a construction anyway,” McCarthy recalls of the doubters. “…that the moon landing took place in a studio in America….when we saw the very grainy pictures coming from that camera on the moon to what we saw on [The Moonbase] I thought that the moon landscape was quite convincing in the studio”.
This really is the Cybermen‘s show here, and how they came back so quickly after their initial appearance to become one of the favourite baddies, with Cyber-trooper Reg Whitehead remembering how their infamous publicity-shoot saw the first time a K9 foiled a Doctor Who villain. “I distinctly remember [a Cyberman] being peed on by a stray dog,” he smirks, “…and that was very definitely not in the script”. Not everyone loved them, especially on the studio floor, as Wills spills: “Poor Patrick… found them very difficult to work with. They were his nemesis, they absolutely were”. With this kind of menace created both on an off screen, it is entirely fitting that they have come to be as cherished as foes of the renegade Time Lord, and it‘s best left to Reg Whitehead to accurately sum up their place on the show, honestly stating that: “…They really are part and parcel of Doctor Who”. No argument from us on this one.
Well, his might be the last time we get to be impressed by the efforts of PUP and their bang-on style used to make all this stuff come together beautifully, so we’ll express our appreciation for all their efforts, be they set in the past, present or future. PUP - and previous companies who have produced Doctor Who extras - always coax the best material out of their interviewees, even those who clearly don’t like being associated with the programme, and are able to give the fans exactly what they want. Their (possibly) final instalment is excellent stuff - wait until you see the title shot, and just try to convince us otherwise that it isn’t on of the coolest things anyone will see all year! This sticks NASA at the top of its “thanks” list above the interviewers, so you know that things have to be pretty damned spiffy on this one! Among the many things we heave learned from the recent crop of these featurettes is just how much we are going to miss them once they are gone. There is no methadone for this particular addition, so it’s going to be rough, but we’d just say “thanks for many a Perfect Day, guys”.
Photo Gallery: Smile! You certainly will when you take a look at this impressive set of pictures from this bifurcated Doctor Who story. We have an impressive selection of production snaps, behind-the scenes shots and set-reference shots, all combining to provide a good look at The Moonbase, including glimpses of the two missing episodes. A couple of them have severe “blooming” - not that they were taken by Anneke Wills - but severely blown-out whites, but the rest look wonderful. You’ll see some great ones of the Cybermen, along with numerous others which have graced the pages of Doctor Who Monthly, but with a vibrancy they couldn’t have dreamed of back then. You’ll appreciate the sets even more when looking at them in much greater detail, as the nature of the multiple-camera system used back then really didn’t make the most of the production design. Keep an eye out for the piccys of our heroes taken on the lunar surface, and note the varying amount of fogging in the space-helmets when actors are “flying”, all directly linked to how much they were panicking when the shutter went! It’s a great collection, and even better when set to a certain piece of iconic music…
PDF Materials: Nostalgia can be all it used to be, courtesy of the Radio Times listings, and all four parts have their write-ups reproduced faithfully here. The first episode is accompanies by a rather nice piece about the story, with a nicely-comp’d photo of our “flying” heroes and the Cybermen. The wording mentions the “remarkable” Kit Pedler, going on to list his artistic interests, as well as being “…a builder of successful racing cars”. Would this include the one which his daughter revealed blew up when tested? This is lovely inclusion, and somehow drags you back to a warmer, fuzzier time, even if it was before you were born.
Coming Soon: Oh shit, it’s coming! Possessed of the most OTT villain in the vast pantheon of Doctor Who baddies, The Underwater Menace sees legendary baddie Zaroff planning to blow up the world and nothing - not even scenery - will stand in his way. It’s widely looked upon as a box of shite, but there is something so crap about it that it’s almost charming, like a bunch of 5-year-olds staging a version of Richard III. All of Troughton’s best lines are squeezed in here, and there are so many of them, that it makes the whole story worth sitting through. Coming in the same format as seen here in The Moonbase, it’s going to make a lot of fans happy, and many collectors equally so.
Whilst it's far from being in the top three Patrick Troughton stories, The Moonbase is an entertaining romp and presenting the missing episodes in a visual form will almost certain elevate most people's opinion of this story. Troughton is wonderful, the direction is suspenseful and there is a sense of scale that few sixties stories came close to replicating.
The guys at Planet 55 have done an incredible job of animating the long-missing episodes and it's to their credit that their animations just keep getting better. Patrick Troughton lives and breathes again and these episodes are a joy to watch.
Though the Doctor Who DVD range is almost at an end, the love that has been poured into this release of The Moonbase is evident in every frame and has ensured that the range is going out with a bang this year.
Review by Wilson Bros
General viewing, but some scenes may be unsuitable for young children
Release Date: 20th January 2014
Disc Type: Single side, dual layer
Audio: Dolby Digital 2.0 English
Extras: Audio Commentaries, Lunar Landing, Photo Gallery, Production Subtitles, Coming Soon Trailer, PDF Materials
Easter Egg: No
Director: Morris Barry
Cast: Patrick Troughton, Michael Craze, Anneke Wills, Frazer Hines
Length: 100 minutes
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