The experiment is over! And then it’s back on again! Just like the Cybermen, we’re all over the shop this week…
Sue: I bet the Moon was very topical when this originally went out.
Me: Just a bit.
Sue: I’m not convinced by the Ronson hairdryers on their backs, and their helmets are steaming up something rotten. I notice that they’re using the same wires from The Underwater Menace. Are they trying to get their money’s worth out of them?
When a base commander informs us that we have arrived on the Moon in the year 2070, Sue sighs.
Sue: I realise the Doctor can’t control the TARDIS at this point, but what I don’t understand is why he doesn’t know when and where he is. It seems like a pretty fundamental piece of equipment to have on a time and space machine, don’t you think? A little display with the date and a map that says ‘You Are Here’. How hard can that be? My iPhone can do that.
Me: The TARDIS gains that ability eventually.
Sue: The Doctor should install that feature immediately. It’s ridiculous when he blunders around without the basic facts at hand. No wonder he always ends up in trouble.
Sue is immediately struck by the international flavour of the base.
Sue: That’s the worst French accent I’ve ever heard.
Me: That’s Andre Maranne. He’s French.
Sue: Are you sure? He sounds like he’s trying to impersonate Raymond Blanc.
Me: And we have the temerity to accuse the 1960s episodes of being racist.
A mysterious plague that has swept through the base (infecting Jamie in the process), and it’s this, along with the isolated location, that reminds Sue of something vaguely significant.
Sue: It’s The Thing.
Me: You’re referring to the Howard Hawkes original, of course.
Sue: Yeah, obviously, assuming that’s the one where the guy’s head falls off and it turns into a giant spider.
When she isn’t comparing The Moonbase to The Thing, she’s comparing it to a gay sauna.
Sue: Everyone on this base looks very camp. Even the ones who aren’t wearing cravats and shower caps. They should have called this one The Moon Camp.
And then Sue’s saviour turns up.
Sue: Ah, someone called Bob. I like a good Bob. You can’t go wrong with a good Bob and this Bob looks like a proper Bob. I bet he comes from England. Birmingham, probably.
Me: He’s from New Zealand, I think.
Sue: That’s close enough for me.
Sue immediately recognises the Cybermen from their shadows, which blows the cliffhanger out of the water, but the most remarkable moment in the episode occurs when Polly has the screaming ab-dabs when she witnesses a door closing.
Sue: Why did Polly scream if she didn’t actually see anything? Get a grip, love.
And then, as the still images flicker to life again, signalling the arrival of yet another cliffhanger, a radically redesigned Cyberman finally shows its face.
Sue: I prefer the originals.top
Sue: How did Polly recognise the Cyberman? They don’t look the same at all.
Me: You recognised them just fine yesterday. And you only needed a shadow to do it.
Sue: Yeah, but I’ve seen plenty of Cybermen in my lifetime. I’m not ten. And do I really have to mention the little Cybermen dolls sitting on your bookshelf again?
Me: They’re not dolls.
We inevitably end up discussing Troughton’s famous “some corners of the universe” speech, which Sue talks over the first time (I have to pause and rewind it), but she’s not impressed.
Sue: He’s all talk. It’s very easy to come out with a speech, but when is he going to do something?
Me: You could argue that this is the moment when the Doctor finally becomes the Doctor.
As I labour this point, the Doctor is busy readying test tubes in an attempt to find a cure for the virus.
Sue: So the Doctor becomes the Doctor as he’s pretending to be a Doctor. That’s interesting.
Me: How do you feel about Troughton now?
Sue: He’s alright, I suppose.
Me: Just alright?
Sue: He’s not doing it for me yet. I wouldn’t want to travel with him, that’s for sure. He just hovers around in the background; he’s very passive aggressive.
Jamie is still our for the count in the medical bay, and it isn’t looking good.
Sue: Jamie looks like he’s strung out on nicotine patches. Perhaps the pipe he’s calling for is stuffed with tobacco?
Me: What have the Cybermen got against Jamie? That’s the second time one of them has passed up an opportunity to abduct him.
Sue: The picky bastards.
The Doctor asks Polly to put the kettle on. Again. It’s like the 1967 version of Bad Wolf.
Sue: The sexist pig. And just when I was beginning to like him.
When a Cyberman finally leaps off a table to confront our heroes, Sue has her eyes on other things.
Sue: Ooh, there was some major furniture wobble there. Still, that’s what you get when you lie down on table that was designed for pasting wallpaper. There’s no stability.top
And then the experiment came to an unexpected and premature end.
It had nothing to do with Morris Barry, Kit Pedler, or even the threat of another recon. No, it pivoted around a very animated discussion about how loud a husband can raise his voice when he is trying to warn his lovely wife that if she doesn’t apply the brakes on their car immediately, they will hit another vehicle. It’s a discussion that went on for far longer than was probably necessary and many things were said, including.
Sue: And you can call that stupid blog of yours Adventures with the Ex-Wife in Space!
Me: Does that mean if I divorce you, you’ll still carry on with it?
Sue: Don’t try to be clever, Neil.
I would have said “Clever, clever, clever” at this point, but as we haven’t got that far in the story yet, and it didn’t feel appropriate. Things got so bad, I even drafted a final, melodramatic “It’s all over, folks” epilogue for the blog, but common sense prevailed and we kissed and made-up before I could post it.
Even so, I decided it was probably best if I didn’t mention the Cybermen recon we had waiting for us for at least a couple of days, hence the delay. Sorry.top
Sue: I don’t like the Cybermens’ new voices.
Me: That’s a shame. They’re probably my favourite of all the Cybermen voices.
Sue: It’s just a Dalek rip-off. The sing-song lot were much more frightening.
It doesn’t help that Sue can only understand one in every three words uttered by the Cybermen, and you can’t blame the recon either: no matter how hard you try, you can’t lipread a Cyberman.
Sue: Do they have accordions strapped to their chests? Watch out, they could break into a polka at any moment.
Just as she’s putting the Cybermen down, they zap Bob in the chest.
Sue: Noooo! They killed Bob! Brave, burly Bob!
Sue is mightily relieved when she discovers that Bob isn’t dead after all – he has been taken away to be ‘converted’ (“I know how he feels”). Cue some barely comprehensible exposition where the Cybermen lay out their plans for destroying the Earth with seriously bad weather. It’s nothing personal, mind.
Sue: This Cyberman is very sarcastic with his “clever, clever, clever” routine. But doesn’t that mean he has emotions? That doesn’t make any sense.
Meanwhile, Polly, Ben and Jamie are hatching a plan to defeat the invaders.
Sue: At least Polly is trying to find a solution and it makes a change from making the bloody coffee. It’s a bit like Blue Peter for terrorists, this scene.
When Jamie and Ben vie for the role of alpha-male, you can cut the testosterone with a knife.
Sue: I knew there was a bizarre love triangle brewing. Polly secretly loves the fact that these two fellas want to fight over her. She won’t sleep a wink tonight.
Despite their McGuyver-like ingenuity, Sue is less than impressed with their chosen delivery system for Polly’s deadly cocktail; it looks like they are armed with Mr. Muscle spray-cleaners.
Me: I’m sure they converted some fire extinguishers in the novelisation…
Sue: If anyone asks, they should say they’re there to clean the windows. And there are a lot of windows to clean.
A brief battle ensues and the plucky youngsters emerge triumphant when the Cybermen melt away to nothing.
Sue: The Cybermen are a bit crap, aren’t they? How can you be a super-villain when you are allergic to a bit of nail polish remover? It’s pathetic.top
Sue: You can see the Moon’s floor bouncing up and down as they walk across it. Bless them.
Me: It’s epic. Cybermen marching across the surface of the Moon. Does it get any more iconic than this?
Sue: I’m sure the kids would have enjoyed it. I definitely didn’t see this when it went out or I’m pretty sure I would have remembered it.
Just when we think the enemy is contained outside the base, a cyber-slave named Evans threatens to overturn it from within.
Me: His quiff makes David Tennant look like Bobby Charlton.
Sue: It’s Sean Penn with varicose veins.
Despite looking like a berk, Evil-Evans manages to bounce a rescue ship into the sun. It will take the crew over a week to die.
Sue: What a way to go. This Doctor is far too dithery for me. He just let a spaceship full of people die. And it’s not just him – the whole room is made of windows and no one saw a thing. This base’s peripheral vision is shocking.
It’s at this point that I ask Sue if this story feels more quintessentially Who-ey than the others.
Sue: What the hell does that mean?
Me: Could you imagine any other Doctor in this story?
Sue: I suppose so. But it would be a lot shorter. They would have done something by now.
Me: Some might argue that this story sets the template for the entire series. It’s called the Base Under Siege formula.
Sue: You mean, they’re all going to be like this from now on? Really? Oh dear…
When the Moonbase’s hull is breached, all hell breaks loose. They try to plug the gap with some loose fabric, but it doesn’t work. Strange, that.
Sue: Stick Bob in there! He could plug it up!
Eventually, the tray Polly that used to serve the coffee saves the day. Seriously. It’s worth pointing out that Kit Pedler was a real scientist.
Soon, the entire base is under threat from an advancing army of Cybermen.
Me: I’ve surprised that the French bloke hasn’t surrendered already.
Sue: I love the way the lead Cyberman reacts to the fact that their big gun doesn’t work. It’s priceless.
And then, with just a few minutes to go, the Doctor comes up with a cunning plan.
Sue: It’s about ****Ing time.
The plan, such as it is, involves hanging on a very expensive piece of equipment and hoping for the best.
Sue: The Doctor couldn’t even sort it out himself – the commander had to do all the heavy lifting for him and he’s probably over 70 years old. This Doctor is just taking the piss. The commander is the real hero of this story.
When the Cybermen start drifting aimlessly away into space, Sue laughs. But it’s an affectionate laugh. I think.
Back in the TARDIS, the Doctor has found the button that activates the TARDIS’s previously unheard of ‘Trailer Mode’, and when he gives his companions a peek into their next adventure. Polly practically wets herself with fear.
Sue: Would you really scream at a crab’s claw like that? It could be a normal crab claw hanging off the top of the camera. From a rock pool in Cornwall, probably.top
The Final Score
Sue: That was a good effort, I suppose. The Doctor isn’t doing it for me, though. He needs to buck his ideas up.
Sue: Put the kettle on, love. I don’t know why but I could murder a cup of coffee.
The experiment continues…top
If you don’t already own this story, why not buy it on DVD? If you use the link below, we get a small cut, which will help pay for the site’s running costs. Many thanks for your support (UK residents only).