Stupid Things About “The Moonbase”
(And 9 Cool Ones)
(But we're not telling you which is which)
(We're expecting you to work that out for yourselves)
By Alan Stevens and Fiona Moore
Originally published in Celestial Toyroom Issue 371
established in 2050,
has been operating for 20 years according to the dialogue, and
affects the weather by controlling the tides... ignoring the other
factors which affect weather systems.
Gerry Davis wanted the
whole thing recordable on one big set, supported by smaller (i.e.,
to save on costs, with the result that six people, including the base
commander, wind up sitting down to have coffee in a corridor, using a
little table and chairs.
Crewman John's death in
where he takes a gulp of coffee, feels funny, decides to keep
drinking anyway, then staggers around groaning heavily and clutching
his abdomen before falling to the ground, is definitely one for the
Coarse Acting Hall of Fame.
At one point the
Gravitron prop on
the larger set fell, nearly killing Patrick Troughton.
The story was originally
“Return of the Cybermen.” Which isn't stupid in and
but it is when you consider that “The
the Cybermen” and
"Attack of the Cybermen" shared exactly the same working title. No
originality, these people.
script editor and writer Victor Pemberton appears as a supporting
artist in this story, as one of the scientists.
The story is overpadded,
nothing interesting happening in the whole of episode two. Despite
this, overrunning in episode three forced the deletion of a scene
which would have revealed the small but important detail that these
Cybermen had left Mondas prior to its destruction and had settled on
the planet Telos, which is retained in the novelisation.
some corners of the
universe which have bred the most terrible things. Things that act
against everything we believe in. They must be fought” speech
cool thing, rendered into a stupid thing due to forty-odd years of
idiotic ming-mongs quoting it (to the point where it's only slightly
less irritating than the similarly-overexposed “Homo
speech from “The Ark in Space”), and even more
taking it as a call to destroy all sentient life to which they take
Hobson is a criminally
supervisor. Although Nils informs Hobson that their conversations are
being monitored by someone not too far away on the lunar surface,
Hobson's response is to say “Oh, never mind that
now.” Which is
even more stupid when one considers that the base had been
experiencing mysterious pressure losses and an outbreak of some sort
Hobson also can't seem
to make up
his mind about the Doctor. In episode one, the crew are waiting for a
doctor to take over from the stricken Evans (providing an obvious
setup for a “The
the Daleks”- type
scenario where the
Doctor is assumed to be the expected official), but, when the Doctor
does arrive, Hobson is told by Nils that the shuttle hasn't arrived,
and thus this isn't the doctor they're expecting. However, when the
Doctor introduces himself a few minutes later, Hobson, apparently
forgetting that, says “The Doctor? You're arrived just in
need your help,” and treats him as if he thinks he is the
doctor. By episode two, however, Hobson has forgotten this and is
acting as if the Doctor is some interloper who's just turned up, and
from there on in vacillates wildly between trusting the Doctor and
suspecting him, with unsurprisingly inconsistent results.
The relief doctor never
up, leaving a massive dangling plot thread.
Something as important
Gravitron is sure to be a high security area, and yet, in episode
one, when the Doctor arrives, Hobson casually introduces him to
everyone and gives him a tour of the place, even though he has no
idea who this person is.
And, if the Doctor is,
suspects later, linked with the goings-on, then Hobson is letting a
suspected murderer run around the base loose, in the medical centre
of all places.
The well-known story
Benoit underwent a last-minute change of first name from Jules to
Roger, and actor Andre Maranne was given a scarf to cover the
on his name tag. However, it seems a bit pointless changing the
character's name, since there's no reason for him not to be called
Jules (although Victor Pemberton's character is also named "Jules,"
character's name could be changed far more easily, as it is only a
small role), making one
suspect that the scarf was actually added to make Maranne look more
stereotypically French and the name-change introduced to excuse it.
By the novelisation he's back to being called Jules again; make of
that what you will.
As it is, the scarf
silly, and makes one suspect Benoit also has a beret, a baguette and
a string of onions stashed away somewhere.
Jamie, a last-minute
the story, spends most of the first two episodes unconscious and
raving about the Phantom Piper, meaning that in addition to the
scarf-wearing Frenchman, dour Dane and stiff-upper-lipped Englishman,
the base can add a superstitious Scotsman to its collection of ethnic
Also, from the
appearance, you'd think Jamie would have been identifying it as the
Phantom Accordion-Player instead.
On two occasions when
Polly goes to
get water, a Cyberman comes in and steals someone. How did the
Cyberman know when she was going?
When Polly walks back
into the room
with water for Jamie the first time, the Cyberman is still there,
stuffing a number of pillows under a blanket with one arm while
carrying off an unconscious man with the other. Is she blind?
Dr Evans dies shouting
silver hand!” and ignoring the bloody great Cyberman attached
said hand, suggesting more selective blindness.
At that, it's never
Evans is alive or dead. We're told Evans is dead before he is taken
by the Cybermen, and yet the next man they take is clearly alive, as
he struggles. The converted humans are later taken back to the
medical centre, which implies they're alive, as does the fact that
Evans can be rendered unconscious. Either the Cybermen can animate
corpses, or the Doctor is wrong about Evans' moribund state, but the
audience isn't told which.
The Cybermen transfer
humans in containers due to the lack of atmosphere on the moon,
indicating that even converted (possibly dead) humans can't endure
the vacuum. So why do they take the two men sent out to fix the
antenna out of their spacesuits?
The neurotope seems to
be part of
the process of cyber-conversion, since the Cyberman visibly intends
to infect Jamie with it in episode three, and is only put off when
Polly tells him that Jamie has a head injury (thus making him
unsuitable, it seems). This is confirmed by the fact that Ralph, who
wasn't infected when the Cybermen took him, has the markings of the
neurotope on his face when we next see him.
The Doctor's stated
credentials are that he studied under Lister in 1888. Why not go into
the future and study more advanced medicine? As it is, why doesn't he
just go and announce he's studied medicine under Hippocrates, or a
medieval barber-surgeon (majoring in dipping severed limbs in tar),
as they're only marginally less advanced by 21st
The Doctor's running
sampling clothing, shoes etc. is not really purposeful, and seems to
be done for comic effect-- especially when you consider that he left
out the one thing which really did contain the virus (despite his
claims that he tested everything, food included).
“We've got to
hurricane in the Pacific,” says Hobson. A minute later, said
hurricane is causing problems in Miami-- on the Atlantic
coast of North America, suggesting that the hurricane has traveled
down to Panama, crossed the canal, and come back up the Gulf of
Mexico in a very short space of time.
At the end of episode
two, why does
the Doctor assume that there's a Cyberman in the infirmary? How did
it get in there in the first place (and manage to get on a bed and
under blankets unobserved) and why is it still there by the
The Doctor theorises
Cybermen can't go into the Gravitron power room because they would be
affected by the gravity, and are using the men as proxies. However,
gravity affects everyone, making the whole exercise pointless.
The telesnaps also
four controlled men are also outside the power room, operating
equipment for the Cybermen, who stand nearby and watch them. Why
don't the Cybermen do it themselves and cut out the middleman?
In episode four, too,
we see that
Dr Evans can operate the Gravitron, so it's not like it really
involves a specialist, despite all the fuss and palaver.
How do the Cybermen
Doctor, since they only ever refer back to the events of “The
Planet”? This seems to mark the start of the BBC's tradition
treating the current Doctor as if he's the only one ever in the role.
The Cybermen swear
blind that they
have no emotions, and that they are here to eliminate dangers, not
for revenge. However, the Earth poses no threat to them, so it
clearly is revenge.
Earth brains like
yours would have been fooled.”
Ben is rather sexist,
Polly when she comes up with a weapon against the Cybermen, and
refusing to let her come along with a “not you, Polly, this
However, it is
interesting that in
the 1960s, even fairly “ordinary-Joe” characters
like Polly and
Ben would be expected to know basic chemistry (can you picture Rose
or Donna coming up with an acetone-based Cyberman-fighting solution
The scenes of the
dissolving into empty suits are reminiscent of “The Tenth
Actually, the whole
disturbingly reminiscent of “The Tenth Planet”: a
group of men aboard a base in a hostile wilderness, menaced by
Cybermen; there is a device on the base which the Cybermen want to
use to destroy the Earth; the Cybermen use humans to perform a
particular task because something in the area is hostile to them; a
domineering base commander who holds long-distance conversations with
an absent superior; the destruction of a spaceship featuring as a
39. The ratings were consistently in the 8 millions, peaking at 8.9 million for episode two, which unfortunately encouraged the team to repeat the same formula again and again for most of Season Five.
The scenes of Cybermen
on the moon
are rather spooky in a pleasingly retro sort of way.
Although the Cybermen
have a weapon
fitted under their chest unit, which is nicely redesigned from the
Planet original, they never actually shoot
preferring instead to use handguns fitted with a charge.
The stock music is
Nothing else to say about it really bar, just close your eyes and
listen to it.
If the Doctor can
the Cybermen's sonic control of the converted humans by blowing his
recorder, and if, as Benoit says, the Gravitron produces intense
sonic fields, why are the converted men in the power room also not
affected by the sonic fields produced by the Gravitron?
There's a logic to
his “shower-cap” on backwards in episode four-- to
apparatus on his head (though he later turns the cap round, and it's
still disguising the apparatus, making why he put it on backwards in
the first place something of a mystery).
Why does the Gravitron,
four, deflect the two later laser blasts, but not the first one?
The Gravitron evidently
Cybertechnology-only setting, as the rocks and dust on the moon don't
go flying out into space when the Cybermen and their ships do.
The Cybermen are much
hostile robots here than like creatures which once were human
(apparently a deliberate production decision), which robs them of
some of their edge.
You could argue that
allegory of post-war British hopes and fears for their country in the
portrayal of 21st-century Earth: a multicultural group, living in
harmony in a bounded unit in which everything, even the weather, is
regulated, but which is under threat from a group of faceless
automatons (= Soviets). This would have been cleverer if the same
writers hadn't done exactly the same thing in “The Tenth
If you snip the black
your Character Options “The
Tomb of the Cybermen”
paint black laces on its boots (or, alternatively, cut its feet off
and glue on a pair of feet from a "The Invasion" Cyberman in their
you have your own Moonbase Cyberman. The scary thing is that
someone-- indeed, many someones-- has almost certainly already done
In the final analysis:
the Cybermen just punch a few holes in the base,
killing the humans, and take over and operate the Gravitron themselves,
rather than engaging in such a convoluted