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7 June 2013
8/10 Day 158: The Moonbase, Episode Three

Will Brooks’ 50 Year Diary - watching Doctor Who one episode a day from the very start... 

Day 158: The Moonbase, Episode Three

Dear diary,

There's a moment in this episode, when Hobson comments that if they can't get the Gravitron back under control quickly, then the weather on Earth will be all over the place. I couldn't help but sympathise with that, as I listened to this episode on a walk home in the pouring rain. Does anyone know who I need to email if I want them to change the settings on their weather plans a little, and bring back the sunnier weather?

On the plus side, the darkening sky and downpour of rain really did help to amp up the atmosphere in this episode. Instantly, I realised why I'd always thought of myself as being such a fan of these Cybermen (and the ones in the next couple of Cyber-stories): they have such creepy voices! There's a real metallic drone to everything they say, and it really works. Even when they Cyberman is mocking the crew of the Moonbase ('Clever. Clever. Clever…'), there's something quite unnerving about the tone.

And these Cybermen are cruel. The ones in The Tenth Planet were pretty heartless, to be fair, wanting to suck Earth's power and then convert its inhabitants to Cybermen to ensure their survival, but the ones we're presented with here are really cruel. I'm thinking, specifically, of the moment when a Cyberman is told that humans can't be sent into the chamber, because they'll lose their minds. They Cyberman assertions how long they'd have before going insane, and then declares that it's longer than they're needed for, so it's no matter.

People often ask me why I prefer the Cybermen to the Daleks, and I think that just about sums it up. Daleks have no care for your life, they'll just kill you. Cybermen will get what they need from you first, and then if they don't kill you, they'll remove all your humanity and then shove you in a tin shell. Lovely.

It has to be said that the Doctor doesn't really do a whole lot in this episode. For the first fifteen minutes or so, he mostly sneaks around, playing with the various sonic controls When you take this and also think of his attempt to break a sonic lock with his recorder during The Power of the Daleks, you have to wonder if he's started to think about creating a Sonic Screwdriver yet. It turns up at the tail end of next season, and this almost feels like the early stages of its invention. I know it's not - they didn't plan things like that so far in advance in 1967 - but it's a nice little happenstance.

The benefit of the Doctor being taken out of the action a little is that it gives his companions a chance to shine. With the room to breathe, Jamie is allowed to wake up and take some screen time alongside Ben and Polly. It's great to see more being made of his 'companion from the past' status here again (Ben and Polly discuss the idea of using radiation to beat the Cybermen, before Jamie chimes in and announces that in his day, they used to throw Holy Water on witches… and that's what leads them to a solution!), and being given more of a chance to stand out.

Perhaps most interesting is the slight rivalry between Jamie and Ben when it comes to their fellow TARDIS traveller. It's very different to see two companions falling out like this, almost puffing out their chest to state their superiority, and I'm hoping that we see a bit more of it as we move forward. Certainly, it helps to remind us that Ben is a 1960s Cockney lad, and Michael Craze plays the scene beautifully. It also gives Jamie a great chance to show us that he's capable of standing up for himself, too.

Even Polly gets a chance to be important again, today. Following on from Jamie's suggestion of using Holy Water, it's Polly who comes up with the solution of disintegrating the Cybermen's chest units, with a number of different cleaning fluids. Ben even christens the concoction 'Polly Cocktail'!

This is more The Moonbase that I remember from my first viewing years and years ago. Full of suspense, with the Cybermen being devious and harsh, and the Doctor accompanied by a brilliant group of companions. The more I watch, the more I come to the conclusion that Season Four really is my season of Doctor Who - I'm loving it!

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