Magic Bullet Productions

41 Stupid Things About “The Moonbase”
(And 9 Cool Ones)
(But we're not telling you which is which)
(We're expecting you to work that out for yourselves)

By Alan Stevens and Fiona Moore

Originally published in Celestial Toyroom Issue 371

1. The Gravitron, established in 2050, has been operating for 20 years according to the dialogue, and affects the weather by controlling the tides... ignoring the other factors which affect weather systems.

2. Gerry Davis wanted the whole thing recordable on one big set, supported by smaller (i.e., cramped) sets, to save on costs, with the result that six people, including the base commander, wind up sitting down to have coffee in a corridor, using a little table and chairs.

3. Crewman John's death in episode two, where he takes a gulp of coffee, feels funny, decides to keep drinking anyway, then staggers around groaning heavily and clutching his abdomen before falling to the ground, is definitely one for the Coarse Acting Hall of Fame.

4. At one point the Gravitron prop on the larger set fell, nearly killing Patrick Troughton.

5. The story was originally titled “Return of the Cybermen.” Which isn't stupid in and of itself, but it is when you consider that “The Invasion”,  “Revenge of the Cybermenand "Attack of the Cybermen" shared exactly the same working title. No originality, these people.

6. Future Doctor Who script editor and writer Victor Pemberton appears as a supporting artist in this story, as one of the scientists.

7. The story is overpadded, with almost nothing interesting happening in the whole of episode two. Despite this, overrunning in episode three forced the deletion of a scene which would have revealed the small but important detail that these Cybermen had left Mondas prior to its destruction and had settled on the planet Telos, which is retained in the novelisation.

8.The “There are some corners of the universe which have bred the most terrible things. Things that act against everything we believe in. They must be fought” speech is a cool thing, rendered into a stupid thing due to forty-odd years of idiotic ming-mongs quoting it (to the point where it's only slightly less irritating than the similarly-overexposed “Homo Sapiens” speech from “The Ark in Space”), and even more idiotic ming-mongs taking it as a call to destroy all sentient life to which they take exception.

9. Hobson is a criminally negligent supervisor. Although Nils informs Hobson that their conversations are being monitored by someone not too far away on the lunar surface, Hobson's response is to say “Oh, never mind that now.” Which is even more stupid when one considers that the base had been experiencing mysterious pressure losses and an outbreak of some sort of plague.

10. Hobson also can't seem to make up his mind about the Doctor. In episode one, the crew are waiting for a doctor to take over from the stricken Evans (providing an obvious setup for a “The Power of the Daleks”- type scenario where the Doctor is assumed to be the expected official), but, when the Doctor does arrive, Hobson is told by Nils that the shuttle hasn't arrived, and thus this isn't the doctor they're expecting. However, when the Doctor introduces himself a few minutes later, Hobson, apparently forgetting that, says “The Doctor? You're arrived just in time. We need your help,” and treats him as if he thinks he is the relief doctor. By episode two, however, Hobson has forgotten this and is acting as if the Doctor is some interloper who's just turned up, and from there on in vacillates wildly between trusting the Doctor and suspecting him, with unsurprisingly inconsistent results.

11. The relief doctor never does turn up, leaving a massive dangling plot thread.

12. Something as important as the Gravitron is sure to be a high security area, and yet, in episode one, when the Doctor arrives, Hobson casually introduces him to everyone and gives him a tour of the place, even though he has no idea who this person is.

13. And, if the Doctor is, as he suspects later, linked with the goings-on, then Hobson is letting a suspected murderer run around the base loose, in the medical centre of all places.

14. The well-known story goes that Benoit underwent a last-minute change of first name from Jules to Roger, and actor Andre Maranne was given a scarf to cover the “J” on his name tag. However, it seems a bit pointless changing the character's name, since there's no reason for him not to be called Jules (although Victor Pemberton's character is also named "Jules," that character's name could be changed far more easily, as it is only a small role), making one suspect that the scarf was actually added to make Maranne look more stereotypically French and the name-change introduced to excuse it. By the novelisation he's back to being called Jules again; make of that what you will.

15. As it is, the scarf looks pretty silly, and makes one suspect Benoit also has a beret, a baguette and a string of onions stashed away somewhere.

16. Jamie, a last-minute addition to the story, spends most of the first two episodes unconscious and raving about the Phantom Piper, meaning that in addition to the scarf-wearing Frenchman, dour Dane and stiff-upper-lipped Englishman, the base can add a superstitious Scotsman to its collection of ethnic stereotypes.

17. Also, from the Cyberman's general appearance, you'd think Jamie would have been identifying it as the Phantom Accordion-Player instead.

18. On two occasions when Polly goes to get water, a Cyberman comes in and steals someone. How did the Cyberman know when she was going?

19. When Polly walks back into the room with water for Jamie the first time, the Cyberman is still there, stuffing a number of pillows under a blanket with one arm while carrying off an unconscious man with the other. Is she blind?

20. Dr Evans dies shouting “the silver hand!” and ignoring the bloody great Cyberman attached to said hand, suggesting more selective blindness.

21. At that, it's never established if Evans is alive or dead. We're told Evans is dead before he is taken by the Cybermen, and yet the next man they take is clearly alive, as he struggles. The converted humans are later taken back to the medical centre, which implies they're alive, as does the fact that Evans can be rendered unconscious. Either the Cybermen can animate corpses, or the Doctor is wrong about Evans' moribund state, but the audience isn't told which.

22. The Cybermen transfer the converted humans in containers due to the lack of atmosphere on the moon, indicating that even converted (possibly dead) humans can't endure the vacuum. So why do they take the two men sent out to fix the antenna out of their spacesuits?

23. The neurotope seems to be part of the process of cyber-conversion, since the Cyberman visibly intends to infect Jamie with it in episode three, and is only put off when Polly tells him that Jamie has a head injury (thus making him unsuitable, it seems). This is confirmed by the fact that Ralph, who wasn't infected when the Cybermen took him, has the markings of the neurotope on his face when we next see him.

24. The Doctor's stated medical credentials are that he studied under Lister in 1888. Why not go into the future and study more advanced medicine? As it is, why doesn't he just go and announce he's studied medicine under Hippocrates, or a medieval barber-surgeon (majoring in dipping severed limbs in tar), as they're only marginally less advanced by 21st century standards?

25. The Doctor's running around sampling clothing, shoes etc. is not really purposeful, and seems to be done for comic effect-- especially when you consider that he left out the one thing which really did contain the virus (despite his claims that he tested everything, food included).

26. “We've got to stabilise the hurricane in the Pacific,” says Hobson. A minute later, said hurricane is causing problems in Miami-- on the Atlantic coast of North America, suggesting that the hurricane has traveled down to Panama, crossed the canal, and come back up the Gulf of Mexico in a very short space of time.

27. At the end of episode two, why does the Doctor assume that there's a Cyberman in the infirmary? How did it get in there in the first place (and manage to get on a bed and under blankets unobserved) and why is it still there by the cliffhanger?

28. The Doctor theorises that the Cybermen can't go into the Gravitron power room because they would be affected by the gravity, and are using the men as proxies. However, gravity affects everyone, making the whole exercise pointless.

29. The telesnaps indicate that four controlled men are also outside the power room, operating equipment for the Cybermen, who stand nearby and watch them. Why don't the Cybermen do it themselves and cut out the middleman?

30. In episode four, too, we see that Dr Evans can operate the Gravitron, so it's not like it really involves a specialist, despite all the fuss and palaver.

31. How do the Cybermen recognise the Doctor, since they only ever refer back to the events of “The Tenth Planet”? This seems to mark the start of the BBC's tradition of treating the current Doctor as if he's the only one ever in the role.

32. The Cybermen swear blind that they have no emotions, and that they are here to eliminate dangers, not for revenge. However, the Earth poses no threat to them, so it clearly is revenge.

33. “Only stupid Earth brains like yours would have been fooled.”

34. “Clever, clever, clever.”

35. Ben is rather sexist, patronising Polly when she comes up with a weapon against the Cybermen, and refusing to let her come along with a “not you, Polly, this is men's work”.

36. However, it is interesting that in the 1960s, even fairly “ordinary-Joe” characters like Polly and Ben would be expected to know basic chemistry (can you picture Rose or Donna coming up with an acetone-based Cyberman-fighting solution today?).

37. The scenes of the Cybermen dissolving into empty suits are reminiscent of “The Tenth Planet.”

38. Actually, the whole story is disturbingly reminiscent of “The Tenth Planet”: a multicultural group of men aboard a base in a hostile wilderness, menaced by Cybermen; there is a device on the base which the Cybermen want to use to destroy the Earth; the Cybermen use humans to perform a particular task because something in the area is hostile to them; a domineering base commander who holds long-distance conversations with an absent superior; the destruction of a spaceship featuring as a dramatic point.

39. The ratings were consistently in the 8 millions, peaking at 8.9 million for episode two, which unfortunately encouraged the team to repeat the same formula again and again for most of Season Five.

40. The scenes of Cybermen on the moon are rather spooky in a pleasingly retro sort of way.

41. Although the Cybermen have a weapon fitted under their chest unit, which is nicely redesigned from the 10th Planet original, they never actually shoot anyone with it, preferring instead to use handguns fitted with a charge.

42. The stock music is fantastic. Nothing else to say about it really bar, just close your eyes and listen to it.

43. If the Doctor can interfere with the Cybermen's sonic control of the converted humans by blowing his recorder, and if, as Benoit says, the Gravitron produces intense sonic fields, why are the converted men in the power room also not affected by the sonic fields produced by the Gravitron?

44. There's a logic to Evans putting his “shower-cap” on backwards in episode four-- to disguise the apparatus on his head (though he later turns the cap round, and it's still disguising the apparatus, making why he put it on backwards in the first place something of a mystery).

45. Why does the Gravitron, in episode four, deflect the two later laser blasts, but not the first one?

46. The Gravitron evidently has a Cybertechnology-only setting, as the rocks and dust on the moon don't go flying out into space when the Cybermen and their ships do.

47. The Cybermen are much more like hostile robots here than like creatures which once were human (apparently a deliberate production decision), which robs them of some of their edge.

48. You could argue that there's an allegory of post-war British hopes and fears for their country in the portrayal of 21st-century Earth: a multicultural group, living in harmony in a bounded unit in which everything, even the weather, is regulated, but which is under threat from a group of faceless automatons (= Soviets). This would have been cleverer if the same writers hadn't done exactly the same thing in “The Tenth Planet,” of course.

49. If you snip the black tubing off your Character Options “The Tomb of the Cybermen” Cyberman, and paint black laces on its boots (or, alternatively, cut its feet off and glue on a pair of feet from a "The Invasion" Cyberman in their place), you have your own Moonbase Cyberman. The scary thing is that someone-- indeed, many someones-- has almost certainly already done this.

50. In the final analysis: Why don't the Cybermen just punch a few holes in the base, killing the humans, and take over and operate the Gravitron themselves, rather than engaging in such a convoluted plan?

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