`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, but the results tell 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. 5*
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.
It's been a long wait but well worth it. The animators are to be congraulated in bringing the missing episodes to life. I hope that the forthcoming Web of Fear, with only one episode missing, is not, as I fear (pardon the pun!) going to depart from the animation route and, instead, resort to the old-fashioned soundtrack / photographs. I shall still buy it but with disappointment if this is the case!
Broadcast in February/March 1967, The Moonbase is a creepily effective story with a setting that, at the time, was pure science fiction as it wouldn't be until 1969 that Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldin would actually set foot on the Moon.
Some four months after their debut in The Tenth Planet, the Cybermen (after receiving a considerable makeover) are back for a rematch. They look sleeker, but also less human and more robot-like. There's no denying that Troughton-era Cybermen are iconic - but the clumsy, cumbersome Tenth Planet Cybermen had a certain menace which none of the later incarnations had.
Like The Tenth Planet, Gerry Davis and Kit Pedler's script is concerned with an isolated outpost staffed by an international group of scientists who find themselves menaced by the Cybermen. And also like the previous story there are some fairly broad stereotypes here, but then Davis and Pedler tended always to write for Doctor Who this way, they weren't particularly interested in in-depth characters - for them the concepts, and the monsters, were the most important thing.
Four stories in, Patrick Troughton is assured and confident as the Doctor. The recent recovery of Enemy of the World and Web of Fear have only served to strengthen Troughton's reputation. Is he the best Doctor? Tom Baker still casts a huge shadow over the series, but Troughton at his best (and he has some fine moments here, particularly the "they must be fought" speech) is a pleasure to watch, managing to mix both humour and steel in a way some other Doctors failed to do.
A year ago, Planet 55's first Doctor Who animations were showcased on The Reign of Terror. Those two episodes had many things to recommend them - but also various flaws. The most serious was a tendency for certain characters - particularly Hartnell's Doctor - to look totally different from one angle to the next. Their next effort - The Tenth Planet - was much better and The Moonbase is better still.
For me, these are easily the best Doctor Who animations yet seen. Character likenesses are all very good, and crucially they do not change when the angle switches. There's a few minor niggles - because nothing can ever be perfect - but overall this is a wonderful effort and really helps to bring the story to life. If anybody already has the Lost In Time set (which contains the two existing episodes) and is wondering if this DVD is worth the money, then I would say, definitely, yes.
Extras-wise, the two surviving episodes have a commentary track with Anneke Wills, Frazer Hines, Edward Phillips and Brian Hodgson. Anneke and Frazer are always good value and help to make this an enjoyable 50 minutes. The two animated episodes have a mixture of new and archive interviews with Kit Pedler's daughters Lucy Pedler and Carol Topolski, producer Innes Lloyd, AFM Lovett Bickford, Cyber voice artist Peter Hawkins and Cyberman actors Barry Noble, Derek Chaffer and Reg Whitehead. This varied collection of contributors allows us to hear some new insights into the programme as well as shining a light onto the life and career of Kit Pedler.
Production subs on the two existing episodes, a coming soon trailer, the usual photo gallery and a making-of documentary - Lunar Landing - round off the extras package.
A strong story which has now been completed with two very good animated episodes, The Moonbase is an early Troughton adventure that is well worth your time.
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.
"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".