…with a quick look at The Moonbase, a Troughton-era revisitation of the Cybermen introduced in The Tenth Planet (discussed HERE in our last Docback).
The Moonbase was originally transmitted February/March 1967 and releases on DVD this week with two of its missing episodes completed via animation (the visual component of these installments were lost a while back as part of BBC’s housecleaning process - which saw the systematic destruction of recordings, although audio from the the destroyed installments still exists).
Does The Moonbase tickle my fetish for moonbase-in-distress adventures? Find out below. But first…
VERY COOL DOCTOR WHO CONCEPT ART
Tracked and uncovered by iO9, from designer/visualist Matt Savage. Love these studies of potential TARDIS interiors - 'specially the second, sleeker one I think.
There’s more HERE - be sure to follow the links in the article to a variety of TARDIS interiors, and more…
Why doesn't BBC issue an "ART OF DOCTOR WHO" Book!?!?!? There are SO many 'Art of..." books being made - how can DW not be one of them?
SHERLOCK S3 ARRIVES ON BLU-RAY/DVD - ITS SOUNDTRACK IS SOON AVAILABLE, TOO!
This isn’t exactly DOCTOR WHO related, but we tend to talk about SHERLOCK on the Docbacks all the same as 1) I’ve tremendous affinity for SHERLOCK, and 2) it’s headed up by WHO overboss Steven Moffat and frequent WHO contributor Mark Gatiss.
The divisive third Season/Series of SHERLOCK arrived on Blu and DVD here in the States this week. The Blu version of the issuance looks, predictably, fantastic - SHERLOCK remains one of the most handsome and inventively presented shows on television. The first installment of this particular series - The Empty Hearse - still feels a bit off-kilter and hinky (Sherlock was far too ebullient to make that episode work either dramatically or dynamically), but the following two tales remain hugely impressive and wildly enjoyable.
Three extras are included, each running approximately 16 minutes: THE FALL, discussing, well, Sherlock’s apparent death and the impact it had on the show internally and publicly, FANS, VILLAINS, AND SPECULATION (the title pretty much describes its content), and SHOOTING SHERLOCK - a look at the filming of the show. All extras contain ample insight from cast (including Cumberbatch and Freeman) and crew (including Moffatt and Gatiss). These extras are a tad frothy, but provide interesting and worthwhile insight all the same. Recommended for fans of the show. It's availabe HERE in the US and HERE in the UK.
David Arnold and Michael Price’s soundtrack for SHERLOCK S3 will arrive in early March on CD and digital download. I just received a review copy and am impressed by how well this score works on its own. More thoughts on the SHERLOCK S3 score next week…
The Doctor and companions Polly (Anneke Wills), Ben (Michael Craze), and Jamie (Frazer Hines) end up on our moon, where a manned installation controlling the weather back on Earth is beset by a fast acting and unknown virus . This malady heralds the arrival of the dreaded Cybermen, whose determination to exact a vengeance they neither understand or acknowledge threatens the existence of life on Earth.
I love movies and television shows set on isolated off world outposts - moon bases in particular. I don’t know why, but they invariably grab my attention - moreso than space crises in other settings. SPACE: 1999, MOON, and by extension OUTLAND, SATURN 3, U.F.O, and MOON ZERO TWO are excellent examples of such tales. By ‘excellent examples’ I mean: these are nice representations of the type of story I’m talking about, even though, admittedly, some aren’t terribly ‘good.’ DOCTOR WHO’s The Moonbase fits comfortably into this obscure sub-genre (namely, peculiar hybrids of science fiction and thriller) and is, on the whole, relatively wise in its conveyance of the obstacles presented by its isolated and lonely setting.
Direction by Morris Barry is workmanlike here, although not as crisp or defined as his subsequent stint on Tomb of the Cybermen (Troughton, Story #37). There’s a bit of dilly-dallying in first act - perhaps a tad early for Moonbase to succumb to the time killing padding which sometimes dragged down early WHO storys. Pacing regains its footing in the second half, remaining relatively consistent save for an over attention to detail when our heroes are attempting to divide what is essentially an anti-Cyberman grenade - a cool idea which took too long to develop.
The Moonbase finds Doctor & company doing a traditional EVA (Extra-Vehicular Activity, involving space suits)…
…as opposed to utilizing the TARDIS’ jiffy-cool, magical/invisible/atmospheric extension field seen later in WHO mythology. The later gag always felt a tad lazy to me - like the atmosphere belts on STAR TREK: THE ANIMATED SERIES…
...or JASON OF STAR COMMAND (7:26 in)...
And, the pulp magazine bubble helmet and those goggles? Can’t be beat.
Clever oblique reference to the events of The Tenth Planet (factoring in the disparate time settings) pepper this tale - providing a subtle internal mythology which helps to flavor this piece, without mandating familiarity with its progenitor tale.
Moon-based technology driving Earth’s weather patterns by impacting our gravitational fields with a device called a Gravitron…
…is an imaginative concept, evoking visions which are grand in scale and provocative in resonance. Although, some of The Moonbase’s other science is dodgy and inconsistent at best (particularly in the story’s fourth installment). The station’s international staff wearing casual uniform T-shirts denoting each character’s nationality is at first glance B-movie cheesy…until one considers these pre-date the more casual attire we often see on, say, the International Space Station today. So, kudos to The Powers That Be for projecting that trend.
Moonbase is considerably more straight forward and less theme driven than The Tenth Planet - yet the earnestness of performance here (and their controlled nature)…when compared to TTP…lends this adventure a tad more gravity overall.
The Doctor and Polly distracting pissed off moonbasers with a pot of fresh coffee is funny even by today’s measure. Although, throughout the story, it’s difficult not to ask: does companion Ben actually serve any purpose whatsoever? This is, if I recall correctly, my second Ben story (the other being TTP) and in both cases, I found the character doing nothing to justify his existence beyond blustering about and asking questions which lead to annoying expositional detours.
A few moments feature the Doctor’s inner monologue - a conceit not often employed in DOCTOR WHO, but recently brought to bear with spectacular result in the closing moments of The Day of the Doctor 50th Anniversary special.
It’s a nice gag, and its conversational nature in this instance is illuminating and amusing all at once.
The Moonbase wouldn’t rank highly amongst the Troughton-era stories I’ve seen thus far, and it lacks the elegance the next Cybermen adventure (Tomb of the Cybermen) which would debut four storys later. It does, however, work as a better introduction to these iconic silver menaces than The Tenth Planet - if for no other reason that the Cybermen voices here are nowhere near as comically affected as their TTP counterparts. In a way, one could skip TTP altogether and roll out Moonbase as the more effective and well-rounded debut of the Cybermen - doing so would serve both continuity and the effectiveness of those bastards from Mondas quite well.
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