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8 June 2013
8/10 Day 159: The Moonbase, Episode Four

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

Day 159: The Moonbase, Episode Four

Dear diary,

I didn't notice it during Episode Two (possibly because we spent a lot more time in the medical wing), but the set of the Moonbase itself is huge! There's a shot early on, where the Doctor and Hobson walk from a telescope across to a section of controls, and they're walking for ages. Several other shots focus on people in the foreground, with others getting on with work elsewhere (it's usually the Doctor, watching through the telescope) in the back of the shot. It's not often in Doctor Who at this stage that you get sets on a scale like this, so it adds something really different to the story.

It's also nice to see close ups being used here to great effect, much as they were in Episode Two. Once again, we get a great close up of Pat Troughton as he delivers the end of a speech, and it really does help to sell the danger that they're all in. Again, it's an unusual look to a Who story, so it's fantastic to see. Hopefully, when the story sees its release on DVD later in the year, with the two missing episodes animated, they'll be keeping to this style - it really is better than average.

The close ups are also used brilliantly when we're with the Cybermen in their ship - which has a great design, by the way! The hexagons are beautiful, and the weird light-effect pattern being used as a screen is psychedelic. Very 1960s! - and they're framed at slightly odd angles, not usually face-on to one of the creatures. I think it makes the Cybermen costumes look better than they otherwise might, as it has to be said that the more this story goes on, the less keen I am on this design. It's very nice and all, it just looks a bit… tatty.

They're at their best in the first few minutes, and the recap from yesterday's episode as they slowly advance across the surface of the Moon. The shot of their feet marching along is stunning - one of the best we've ever had - and having the title come up over it looks fab, too. It helps that there's loads of Cybermen, so it seems like those feet are coming towards you for ages.

It has to be said that they also look pretty good when being lifted off into space. I mused during Episode One that it was perhaps thankful that it was missing from the archives, so we could imagine the shots of the Doctor, Ben, Polly, and Jamie larking about in zero-gravity looking as good as we wanted… but actually, it's pulled off really well here, with the Cybermen! It does help that the black sky gives more of a chance to hide the wires, but it looks great all the same. It's also a nice touch that they're not just whisked off into the air, but they start to lift a little first, before being swept away. A little thing, but it really helps the moment.

And then, as soon as the Cyber-menace is defeated, the Doctor and his friends slip away before too many questions can be asked. It's something that's become a staple of the series by now, even though it's crept in as a relatively recent thing. Hobsons' comment that it's probably for the best, since there's enough madmen in the base anyway is great, and sums up Troughton's Doctor perfectly. He really is the first 'madman with a box'.

I'm tempted to turn on my own Time Scanner now, and see if I'll enjoy tomorrow's episode or not, but I don't know, since The Macra Terror is another of those stories from this era that I know little about. It’s got giant crabs in it. That's about all I can tell you. I do know, however, that the idea of the Time Scanner is a bizarre one - something that perhaps feels more at home in the TV Comic stories than it does on screen. I don't dislike it, per say, but it does feel a bit out of place…

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