- Series Title: Doctor Who
- Story Title: The Moonbase
- Story #: 33
- Episodes: 4 half-hour parts
- Discs: 1
- Network: BBC
- Cast: Patrick Troughton, Frazer Hines, Anneke Wills, Michael Craze
- Format: Standard, Black and White, DVD, NTSC
“No, Ben, we can’t go yet!” – The Doctor
“But why not? They don’t want us here!” – Ben
“Because there is something evil here and we must stay.” – the Doctor
“Evil? Don’t be daft.” – Scientist
“Evil is what I meant. There are some corners of the universe which have bred the most terrible things. Things which stand against everything we believe in. They must be fought!” – The Doctor
“Resistance is useless!” – Cyberman
Episodes 1 and 3 of “The Moonbase” are black and white animation with the original audio. Episodes 2 and 4 are the original film/video. I like this approach for stories where some episodes are lost, rather than telesnap reconstructions. “The Moonbase” also picks up directly from where “The Underwater Menace” left off – with the TARDIS having a bumpy flight. When the camera pulls back a bit, we can see that Polly is still in her seaweed dress from the previous story and Ben’s still in his wetsuit. the TARDIS lands and the Doctor has his companions change in to more appropriate clothing. They also put on bubble-headed spacesuits to head outside. Once outside they realise they aren’t on Mars as the Doctor promised but on the Moon. Jaime finds this hard to believe. Once walking on the moon, Ben, Polly, and Jaime all discover they can do “super jumps” due to the low gravity. Unfortunately, Jaime gets a bit too enthusiastic and knocks himself out. A pair of scientists from the moonbase bring him inside and Jaime, Ben and Polly join them.
The moonbase is an international station, with an international crew of men. It’s purpose is to monitor and control the gravitron which in turn controls the Earth’s weather. It is of note that while there are scientists from many countries working side-by-side on the moonbase – there aren’t any women. Polly is the only woman in the entire story! A number of the men have suddenly taken sick, with black lines on their faces and hands. Jaime is taken to the medical unit where he is feverish, and keeps muttering that the “Phantom Piper” is going to take him. Polly, acting as nurse, explains to the Doctor it’s a legend of his clan – the Piper appears to those soon to die. Polly continues to act as nurse.
The Doctor finds out what is going on – and offers his services as a scientist and doctor. But, as he admits to Polly, even after examining everything he is stumped – he can’t find anything. But when one of the people from the base enters he asks Polly to look busy, and rushes about, blustering that he needs more time. Jaime sees the Piper – a Cyberman. Polly also sees the Cyberman and to her credit remembers it (having met them in the last Hartnell story, “The Tenth Planet”). The scientists poo-poo Polly, saying there once were Cybermen, but it was eons ago. Even the Doctor isn’t quite convinced.
Meanwhile the base is getting signals from Earth, since the not-quite-controlled gravitron is allowing a hurricane to build that is threatening Hawaii. Later it will turn out these signals are being faked by the Cybermen in both directions. A relief rocket is sent to find out what’s going on – because as far as Earth knows the base has been radio silent for days. The commander’s reports of a mysterious illness are simply never received. The commander also briefly suspects the Doctor, but fortunately that doesn’t last. The Cybermen reveal themselves and even let the commander know how they got in – a hold through the bottom of the store room. This explains the sudden but momentary lost of pressure the base is experiencing.
Meanwhile, the Polly is helping Ben in between playing nurse to Jaime and the others and making the coffee. She asks Ben what the Cybermen are made of, he says metal, she asks about the chest unit, and he tells her it’s some kind of plastic. Polly realises that they can melt the plastic with nail varnish remover (aka nail polish remover). She does have to ask Ben what nail varnish remover is chemically, and he tells her acetone. Polly then does an experiment and melts some plastic in a petri dish using acetone. Ben figures that if one chemical is good – several will be better, and they mix up a cocktail of acetone, benzene, etc. Jaime, now awake and wanting to be helpful, offers to help Ben go after the Cybermen. Ben tells Polly it’s “men’s work” and leaves her in the lab. Polly though doesn’t stay behind, she grabs one of the spray bottles and heads to the control center. Ben, Jaime, and Polly successfully attack and destroy several Cybermen with Polly’s “nail varnish” cocktail.
The Cybermen have become more bold, however, and threaten the control center – taking control of some of the men with units attached to their heads, shooting a hole in the outside wall (letting out the air), threatening to turn off the air entirely, etc. The Commander keeps refusing the Cybermen – even after they reflect the relief rocket into the sun. One of the controlled men gets into the Control center and messes-up the gravitron – but the Doctor notices and stops him.
Eventually the Doctor realises they can use the gravitron itself to reflect the Cybermen off the moon’s surface, just as the Cybermen used it to reflect the rocket. They turn the gravitron manually towards the surface of the moon, and the Cybermen and their ships float off into space, including the reinforcements. The Doctor, Ben, Polly, and Jaime leave.
“The Moonbase” deserves it’s reputation as a classic. It moves at a fast pace, and the Cybermen are a bit more finished looking than in “The Tenth Planet”, yet still have the really spooky, grating, mechanical-sounding voice. Polly finds a way to defeat the Cybermen using nail varnish (polish) remover (acetone) and she’s also the one who figures out that the poison the Cybermen are using against the men on the base is in the sugar. I guess all that pouring of coffee was worth it! But it’s frustrating that in such an advanced, international station – there isn’t a single woman to be found. Polly is literally the only woman in the entire story. Most of the Doctor Who stories, even in the 1960s had female guest stars, so this one really stands out for it’s total male cast. (“The Underwater Menace” had Ara the handmaiden who helps Polly, a old woman in the market who also helps, several unnamed handmaidens in the market, and all the Fish People are women. Power of the Daleks has the scientist/rebel Janey, and a few unnamed background characters for example.) One really wonders what they were thinking to not have any women working on the moon base.
There is also one on-screen blooper. The cyber-controlled man goes into the gravitron control center, knocks out the operator (during the ruckus with the laser shot that puts a hole in the window) and takes the operator’s place, including putting on his helmet – backwords. The poor guy makes quite a show of trying to force the helmet on his head too – when the reason it doesn’t fit is it’s on backwards.
But even with the sexism of such an important Earth institution not including women, and the little opps with the helmet, it’s a good story. I liked seeing Polly being so prominent in the story, though poor Jaime spends two episodes knocked out in the med center. Recommended.