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Doctor Who - The Moonbase [DVD]
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
TOP 500 REVIEWERon 14 April 2014
`The Moonbase' is a welcome addition to the `Doctor Who' DVD range, not only because it's an enjoyable story, but because it's a key point in the life of the show. This is the moment the Cybermen returned and the Second Doctor challenged them; the Patrick Troughton era is defined here - a `base under siege', monsters that would become legendary and the thoughtful and determined Doctor who would take them on: "There are some corners of the Universe which have bred the most terrible things ... they must be fought!"

From their base on the Moon in 2070, a multi-national team use artificial gravity to control Earth's weather. In this story the Cybermen are homeless after the destruction of Mondas in `The Tenth Planet'. With no major weaponry of their own they want to seize the `gravitron' to use it against Earth. Fortunately the base is commanded by the level-headed Hobson (Patrick Barr), and it's bad luck for the Cybermen that the Doctor happens to turn up at just the right time ...

The Second Doctor was almost defeated not by monsters but by the BBC policy of wiping tapes; many of the best Troughton-era stories were missing or had large gaps from missing episodes. So what's it like watching a story where half the episodes (1 and 3) are animated replacements? The animators have quite a challenge to capture the look and spirit of Patrick Troughton's expressive face; the results are far better than early reconstructions such as `The Invasion' and it tells the story well. We should not expect Hollywood textured animation on a small budget, and I enjoyed watching this reconstruction. The surviving half of the story (episodes 2 and 4) looks superb after the VidFIRE restoration process.

Patrick Troughton is brilliant as the Doctor (as expected). According to the DVD commentary he was asked to tone down the comic side of the character by director Morris Barry during filming. It's difficult to know how significant any change really was because most of his earlier episodes are missing (and one of those stories does if we're honest have its comic aspects); but here, just a few stories into the role he is certainly the familiar Second Doctor - a friendly genius, slightly wistful, still humorous, and always ready to take on evil whatever the danger.

Companions Polly (Anneke Wills), Ben (Michael Craze) and Jamie (Frazer Hines) each get their moments in the story with three very good performances. However, Ben and Jamie were almost sharing the duties of a single character, as Jamie McCrimmon was an unexpected addition for Kit Pedler to write in (as the commentary explains, after Frazer Hines' success in `The Highlanders' saw him join the regular cast).

Polly's creation of `Polly Cocktail' solvent as a weapon is a good scientific device for the character, and a believable weapon against the part-plastic Cybermen; she also shares the hazards of a direct attack on the silver giants. Ben is a classic British man of action and intelligent with it, operating the gravitron in this emergency. Jamie's unexpected late inclusion in this story sees him spends half the time semi-conscious in the sickbay. But this has a memorable twist - Jamie imagining a Cyberman to be the dreaded phantom piper of the Clan McCrimmon, coming to take the dead warrior (himself!) cleverly combines fear from the 18th and 21st centuries.

The regular TARDIS crew are joined by a large multi-national cast as the crew of the Moonbase, with some faces familiar from films and TV of the period - showing that `Doctor Who' could always attract quality actors. Kit Pedler wrote a base-under-siege story where tension builds for two episodes before the showdown with the Cybermen begins; there are some now-famous lines, good situations and characterisation and some ambitious low-gravity `moon-walking' two years before anyone had seen it for real. Broadcast at the height of the `space race' this moonbase adventure must have been a thrillingly topical vision of future possibilities - plus monsters!

Two large sets - the lunar surface and the Gravitron control centre - provide a good backdrop for the action and the model work mostly works; the cyber ships do have obvious wires attached, but that's a small point. The combination of background music, sound in the Moonbase and silence in the vacuum beyond adds `atmosphere'. Then there are the Cybermen - they have `evolved' greatly since their first appearance in `The Tenth Planet'; this is the story where the famous metal-cased Cyberman head was created and the first time we hear those menacing electronic voices replacing the earlier `sing-song' voices. I was quite surprised to hear Cybermen say "Clever, clever, clever" and "your stupid Earth brains"! The Cybermen may have removed positive emotions like love and compassion, but it appears they can still be sarcastic and have characteristics like pride, contempt and desire for revenge. That evil combination made them formidable regular enemies for the Second Doctor in several classic adventures.

`The Moonbase' is not the best `Cybermen' adventure ever, but it's a very enjoyable story with some great moments. 4*

Special DVD Features:
The commentary for surviving episodes 2 and 4 is excellent; Anneke Wills and Frazer Hines especially bring a great sense of fun to the audio. Animated episodes 1 and 3 have commentary replaced by interesting interviews including those with writer Kit Pedler's daughters and some of the Cybermen actors. This is a good idea for these recreated episodes but it would have been even better to have the interviews as an extra alternative to commentary.
`Lunar Landing' is a quite short (20 minute) but well made `making of' feature, with entertaining anecdotes from cast and studio crew members.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on 2 March 2015
My first experience of this story was reading the Target novelisation as a kid. With it's missing episodes I never dreamed that I'd actually get to watch it, but here it is and it is as fantastic a story to watch as it was to read. The animation compliments it perfectly, but no amount of animation can ever compensate for the chance to see an actual live performance from Patrick Troughton himself in the existing episodes. Utterly brilliant!
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
I was reluctant at first to buy 'The Moonbase'. I am grateful that other stories with missing episodes have been completed with animation, but often found the animated episodes dragged - not through any fault of the animators, just that it's more entertaining to see the real actors in actual episodes. And with only two out of four episodes in existence, it means half of this story in animated.

I needn't have worried. This is the best animation so far - the animated episodes zip along nicely, are well-made with excellent visual characterisation and most of all are creepily atmospheric.

Extras-wise there is a nice making-of documentary and commentaries that include interviews with various folks involved (or their relatives).

As for the story itself, it's a simple but effective tale where atmosphere covers any plot-holes and dodgy science. There are several classic moments: episode 2 ends with one of the best cliffhangers of the Troughton era (even with a wobbly bed!) And the Cybermen's attack on two crewmen on the moon's surface is surprisingly brutal

'The Moonbase' as a sequel to 'The Tenth Planet' not only cemented the Cybermen's role as a recurring menace, but also consolidated the claustrophobic "base-under-siege" storyline that was really introduced in that tale, and would become a Troughton era staple. It also sets up the notion of Cybermen as ragged groups of survivors trying to regain power, a role they often played in classic Who.

It's also pointed out in the making-of that this was the story where much of Troughton's earlier clowning was really dialed down by the director and the Troughton character we recognise today really cane together.

A lot of people mock the sexist "Polly is sent to make coffee in a crisis" element of the story, but it's worth noting that she is the strongest companion here - Jamie spends most of the story unconscious and Ben wanders about the base looking for things to do (the two boys are also having to split dialogue between them as the writers try to find ways to cater for a larger TARDIS crew). Polly gets to help save the day and use her brain so she comes out of this story very well overall.

A pleasant, chilling surprise.
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89 of 105 people found the following review helpful
Oh wonderful, another classic Patrick Troughton serial complete at last on DVD, albeit with animated episodes 1 & 3. This is a classy tale, no end, and I am just grateful that although it has been released on DVD as part of the Lost in Time DVD box set, the beeb have put up the funding to animate and thusly complete this classic Cyber serial. I have been aided in my review of this story by virtue of the review discs doing the rounds. The first thing to note when writing one of these things is to firstly concentrate on the story in hand, then the DVD, so, let's begin with The Moonbase.

The success of 1966's The Tenth Planet was instrumental in birthing this sequel. Tenth Planet, when aired in the cold October of 66 did something to the viewing audience. It changed them. The true horror of de-humanised medicine had never been made so explicit onscreen, but those 4 episodes had really re-invigorated the programme and no doubt continued to ensure that it was a success. Here, we land 85 years later, in 2070, and our setting changes from the South Pole Tracking station in Antarctica, to The Moonbase, on the Moon {of course}. There are patent similarities in both stories, instead of General Cutler, we have Hobson, both are gruff base leaders who initally suspect the Doctor of all the current trouble. Then, as ever, the plot unfolds as the Cybermen make their appearance and try to take control of the base, leaving everything hanging on the Doctor's ingenuity.

Funnily enough, if it ain't broken, don't fix it. Tenth Planet works beautifully, and it's twin sister Mondas, sorry Moonbase, works just as well even though they are one and the same. I think the reason the Moonbase is a bigger success, rating and audience wise, to the Tenth Planet is the Cybermen themselves. They look fantastic here, the re-design is brilliant. They look horrible and truly menacing. Lovely. Their speech patterns are also different, much easier to understand and alot more atmospheric. Overall, I think the new-look Cybermen are the real success here, it's no wonder they didn't change their look one iota when they returned for season 5's classic opener The Tomb of the Cybermen.

Another ingredient of the success of the Moonbase is of course Patrick Troughton. What an actor. To come into a show that is 3 years old and just totally reinvent it but not at the same time takes class, and only an actor of Troughton's class could be relied upon to provide it. Here, a mere 4 stories in, he truly comes into his own as the Second Doctor. All his trademark mannerisms are on display. The humour, intelligence, manipulation etc etc. It's no wonder the Cybermen were the most popular villains for Troughton's era, he bounces off their humourlessness beautifully.

The same can't be said of the companions. Poor Frazer Hines was knocked out for 2 and a half episodes due to scripting difficulties and even when he does find his feet, the lines provided are hardly centre-stage. Mike Craze's Ben, also, is not the centre of attention here, as by episode 3 Jamie's robbing most of his lines, cheeky git!!! However, sexism aside, this is probably Anneke Will's Polly's strongest tale, barring The Highlanders. She shares some lovely scenes with Troughton and takes control of the latter half of the adventure. Polly cocktail, ha!!!

Overall then, this is a worthy tale, some great direction from Morris Barry, especially the stuff on the Moon's surface, and a brilliant cast of actors, look out for Patrick Barr's Hobson in particular, contribute to a first rate knock-out adventure in the year 2070.

Now then, the part of the review you no doubt have been waiting for, the DVD. Well, let me start by saying that the animation is a thing of beauty. Times have changed and lessons have been learnt. No more "Reign" style cutting, the pacing is much more authentic to the original 67' production and the level of detail creepy. The boys and girls at Planet 55 have obviously paid attention to the fans and adjusted their production methods to try and re-create as close as possible, this missing Cyber classic.

The 22 minute Lunar Landing doco is as usual an informal sit down with some old mates. Anything with Anneke Wills in is always entertaining and when you throw in Frazer Hines, you're on a winner. A great 22 minutes that rounds out the story in style. Thrown in as usual is a photo gallery and some production subtitles. All good and very comprehensive.

All in all then, the Moonbase is very lucky to be receiving this animation treatment. It was pretty well served by it's DVD release back in 04' but as usual with these latest DVD's, the quality only gets better and the standards of the day back then have been vastly exeeded I'm glad to say. Buy this DVD purely for Troughton if anything else, it's a classic that we can now all enjoy complete. And that is just fantastic.

Many thanks for taking the time to read my review of The Moonbase, it's greatly appreciated.

M.B.
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on 27 July 2015
"The Moonbase" is Patrick Troughton's fourth story and now its Troughton's earliest story to be released on DVD, which his first two stories are completely missing and Pat's third unreleased story "The Underwater Menace" is half missing like"The Moonbase". In "The Moonbase" DVD episodes one and three are animated with the original audio and I have to say I was hugely impressed with the animation, which Patrick Troughton and the Cybermen look very good. Also the Cybermen mark their second appearance in this story and their first appearance was in William Hartnell's final story "The Tenth Planet". But the Cybermen in "The Moonbase" look far better compared to what they first looked like in "The Tenth Planet" and I thought they looked and sounded pretty daft in their first story. After watching the reconstructions of Troughton's first three stories, I do think his character seems to be more serious in the "The Moonbase", which in his first three stories he acts like a complete clown who plays a recorder and likes dressing up. But with the stories I have watched and listened to so far I think Patrick Troughton is a great Doctor and he is definitely in my top 5 favourite Doctor's. Also "The Moonbase" DVD is well worth buying and I actually prefered this more than Troughton's classic complete story "The Tomb of the Cybermen".
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 6 October 2014
Moonbase is one of the creepiest Who serials - eerie synth sounds running through each episode creates a claustrophobic edginess. Superb as a soundtrack (ripping the audio and listening on a tablet), the imagination replaces cardboard sets and dodgy tin men (and child-like animation for missing episodes) with glorious galaxies and hi-tech wizardry. My enthusiasm for the early Doctors started with the soundtracks to the 'lost episodes', now I prefer listening rather than watching.
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9 of 11 people found the following review helpful
on 20 January 2014
With the cancellation of DOCTOR WHO avoided mid-way through SEASON FOUR courtesy of television's most audacious conceit to date (regeneration), the series had entered into the most challenging period of its production. Would viewers accept the same character with a new face? With familiar companions (Polly and Ben) and the most iconic of alien enemies (Daleks), the transition was a triumph, and resulted in the lead actor's almost immediate ascension.

It may have only been his fourth story as the Second Doctor but Patrick Troughton's performance is preciously defined in DOCTOR WHO - THE MOONBASE (1967), establishing the characterisation for the remaining 17 stories of his tenure. He's ebullient, creative, and manipulative but always seeming to be undermined at every turn, and, strangely, human.

In re-viewing this four-parter, is it any wonder that former DOCTOR WHO lead actor, Matt Smith cited Troughton as his favourite and template (with additional characteristics commandeered from Michael Crawford's SOME MOTHER'S DO HAVE `EM's Frank Spencer) for his Eleventh incarnation.

Directed with precision and flare for both the horror and technical, Morris Barry's skill is evident throughout DOCTOR WHO - THE MOONBASE, guiding and, by all accounts, restraining Troughton's ambition to deliver a lighter and more whimsical character. This `tough love' approach by Barry ensures that across the four episodes the `base-under-siege' threat of the Cybermen is relentless, gripping you around the throat like the eponymous silver hand. Today, it may be regarded by viewers are pedestrian, dull or even predictable - effectively, television-by-numbers - but its capability for linear, substantial story-telling (without the gimmicks of "timey-wimey" novelty and inconsistence character flashbacks) cannot be challenged.

Firstly, the quality of the DVD's restored print is exemplary; bright, defined and accented with greater depth probably more than the original broadcast. Such is the extensive clean-up for the first time the clarity is such that the clear Perspex piping (read: `ears') across the Cyber helmets can be seen as being an intricate design detail.

With episodes one & three `missing', BBC WORLDWIDE engaged Planet 55, in association with Pup Ltd., to animate the content. And, when compared to the first attempts, in 2006, to animate the DOCTOR WHO CLASSIC SERIES for Troughton's DOCTOR WHO - THE INVASION (1968), it is meritorious.

Superbly atmospheric (the `deletion' of a Cyberman at the hands of Ben & Jamie with `Pollycocktail'), appreciative of Morris Barry's original camerawork & `period' styling, technically precise with an adroit level of weight, detail (even the underside of the Moonbase swivel chairs have working mechanisms) and clarity that warrants the animated episodes to be re-watched again.

Like the actor's own malleable & hawkish jowl and idiosyncratic `ticks' & gesticulations (the rhythmic playing with his fingers as he under goes contemplation like a time travelling Sherlock Holmes, the Second Doctor's "illustration" is equally expressive and diligently observed.

Furthermore, a number of the re-created scenes deliver a `depth of field' variation that gives a true suspicion of perspective that adds value to the animation content. It may be a minor contribution to the animation but, for me, it is expedient.

A remarkable piece of work, and along with a re-mastered audio track (courtesy of Mark Ayres) of which DOCTOR WHO fans should be both grateful and, ironically, animated about.

And with the COMING SOON trailer previewing Troughton's 1967 four-parter, DOCTOR WHO - THE UNDERWATER MENACE, I hope that the same animation techniques are used to complete the two episodes that remain `missing' from the BBC Archives too.

The additional DVD VAM (`Value Added Material') is, as you would expect for an animated release (i.e. financial resources focussed on recreation of the `missing' content), marginal and that is acceptable.

The `...making off...' documentary, LUNAR LANDING, is succinct but nonetheless informative. With contributions from Anneke (Polly) Wills ("...we were struck how quickly the Cybermen were back. They must have been popular. The time scale was immensely fast...I like the original Cybermen costumes...") ("...Patrick Troughton knew that he'd met his match with Morris Barry. He wasn't going to have any clowning around. His [Troughton's] costume and his performance were toned right down..." "Morris Barry was the only one who could do that. It was interesting..."), Reg (Cyberman) Whitehead ("...we never dreamt that it would come back so quickly..."), Frazer (Jamie) Hines ("...how do fancy joining the TARDIS crew for a year or so...") and production assistant Desmond McCarthy ("...when we saw the very graining pictures coming from the Moon [during the 1969 NASA Moon landing] our set was very similar even better...") the documentary rattled along entertainingly.

The PHOTO GALLERY demonstrates that even as the four-parter was unfortunate to having been transferred from Riverside Studios with its capacious studios to the limiting confines of Studio D's Lime Grove that quality of the set design (or recording) was not undermined, and with the `location' filming at Ealing Studio (representing the Moonscape) the behind-the-scene photographs demonstrates that for a story to be thrilling and gripping an over-bearing reliance on back-projection (or today's CGI) is not required.

Moderated by Toby Hadoke, the Studio Commentaries are truly special. Taking a break from the normal format, the animated episodes are accompanied with a combination of archive interview material (featuring the Series Producer, Innes Lloyd) and newly recorded recollections from the story's author's, Kit Pedler, relatives.

Commentary for episode one highlights:

On aiming to add a scientific depth to DOCTOR WHO, Innes Lloyd: A scientist to write it who could provide us with the real information, so I contacted Kit Pedler. A creative mind; a very wide view of science and came up with Cybernetics. But he needed a guiding hand as a writer and Gerry Davies helped.

On his vision for DOCTOR WHO monsters, Innes Lloyd: I was also looking for an alternative to the Daleks, and so that's how the Cybermen came up.

On her Father (Kit Pedler), Carol Topolski: He had a genuine concern especially about `social irresponsibility' in science but he had a fiendish imagination about how humanity was going. He actually built the World's first artificial Retina in Canada in the 1960's.
Toby Hadoke: A man `out of his time'?
Carol Topolski: Yes. He became an Ecologist. He was prepared to put his money where his worth was. He even built a Nuclear Bomb - without the Plutonium - in the garage.

On his gravestone reading "A Man Of Ideas", Carol Topolski: It summed him up. Constantly curious and challenging ideas. He looked outside the box.

Commentary for episode three highlights:

On the production, AFM (Assistant Floor Manager), Lovett Bickford: All very good fun but the pressure to get everything in the can! Morris Barry was a modest talent. Patrick Troughton was the best actor (of all the Doctors).

On the Cybermen costumes, actor Derek Chaffer: The worst costumes were the first ones (DOCTOR WHO - THE TENTH PLANET). So confining. Claustrophobic.
Reg Whitehead: Chaffing, smelly, and the most uncomfortable costumes that the BBC has ever made. Impractical.

Overall, DOCTOR WHO - THE MOONBASE is a remarkable release from BBC WORLDWIDE and, thankfully, over due in its release. Why `thankfully'? The development of animation techniques to capture the creative essence, palpably values and the inherent filming restraints of the period (to animate a 1960's programme with PIXER-styled animation would be inappropriate) have been considerable since its first DOCTOR WHO DVD outing (DOCTOR WHO - THE INVASION). Ironically, I would like an option to view the animation with applied `film scratches', `electronic drop-outs' and `film-judder' to experience the quintessential black-and-white era from which some of the most riveting adventures derive.

So, with the animation format being creatively honed, what's the next for the treatment (other than DOCTOR WHO - THE UNDERWATER MENACE)? With two of its four episodes missing and the `illustrations' of Troughton, Hines, Craze and Wills already `in the can', DOCTOR WHO - THE FACELESS ONES?
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 6 March 2015
I wish they would do more of these old stories, even if it's only all in cartoon format. Great story, Great doctor, great everything.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 12 January 2015
Patrick Troughton was very much the 'monster' Doctor and here he battles Cybermen, again assisted by Ben, Polly, and young Jaime McCrimmon, rescued from 18th century Scotland. This serial is 50% original TV episodes and 50% reconstructed animation replacing two missing episodes. A fine entry in the Doctor Who genre of 'base under attack' stories.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 14 October 2014
The second Cybermen story, first in the Patrick Troughton era and its a classic base under seige story, one of the hallmarks of Doctor Who Seasons 4 and 5.

Shame 2 episodes are still missing but they've been well animated and synched up to the existing soundtracks.

Very good and highly recommended.
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