The Moonbase

This story is not known to exist in its original format
(4 black-and-white 25-minute TV episodes)
in its entirety.
Region 1 U.S.
Region 1 Canada
Region 2 U.K.
(Doctor Who Story No. 33, starring Patrick Troughton)
  • written by Kit Pedler (and Gerry Davis)
  • directed by Morris Barry
  • produced by Innes Lloyd
  • featuring library music tracks
  • 4 episodes @ 25 minutes each
Story: The Doctor and friends land on the moon in the year 2070, discovering an international weather control base. Personnel at the base are gradually becoming bed-ridden, jeopardizing the guaranteed good weather that Earth now depends on. The Doctor struggles to find the answers, but is it really an illness that is affecting the crew? When many awake and act like zombies when demanding to return to work, it becomes apparent that another force has landed on the moon, determined to "save" humanity from its organic frailties....

DVD Features include:

  • Two digitally remastered complete original episodes (#2 & 4)
  • New animated recreations of the two missing episodes (#1 & 3), synchronized to the original television sound.
  • Plus extra features:
    • Audio commentary for episodes 2 & 4 by actors Frazer Hines (Jamie), Anneke Wills (Polly), Edward Phillips (Scientist #6: Bob), and
      sound designer Brian Hodgson.
    • Audio commentary for episode 1 using interviews of producer Innes Lloyd and writer Kit Pedler's daughters Carol and Lucy.
    • Audio commentary for episode 3 using interviews of AFM Lovett Bickford, actors Peter Hawkins (Cyber Voice), and
      Barry Noble, Derek Chaffer, and Reg Whitehead (Cybermen). Moderated and linked by Toby Hadoke.
    • "Lunar Landing" making-of featurette (22 min.) with Hines, Wills, Whitehead, and production assistant Desmond McCarthy.
    • Pop-Up Production Note Subtitles for episodes 2 & 4 only
    • Photo Gallery music montage (5 min.)
    • Coming Soon trailer for a DVD of the previous story "The Underwater Menace"

In-Depth Analysis Review

by Martin Izsak

WARNING: This review contains "SPOILERS", and is intended for those who have
already seen the program. To avoid the spoilers, read the Buyers' Guide version instead.

Quality improves nicely at this point in the Troughton era, as we get one of this season's better stories.

The Doctor's character is in perfect form at the beginning of this one, aiming for Mars and landing on the Moon instead, after many TARDIS-wracking jolts, of course. And of course, it isn't his fault either. He'll blame it on the first Gravitron he finds, no doubt.

A true sense of gripping exploration returns to the opening episode of a Doctor Who adventure for the first time in a long time, as the crewmembers don special protective suits to check out the moon surface. Contrary to what Colin Baker's introduction on "The Cybermen Years" BBC video may tell you, Jamie's concussion is a result of him relying too much on the Moon's lighter gravity and not respecting its hidden canyons. It is also very likely the result of having his character tacked onto a script that was first drafted without him, but that's another story. At any rate, Jamie's self-inflicted condition is a big turn-off for the Cybermen and their recruitment efforts, which is why they always approach him just enough to check him out or knock him out, but don't bother with him any further after that. Good motivation. (If he had contracted the Cybermen's "disease", he would have been a prime candidate for cybernization).

Episode Two displays the sort of atmosphere that made Troughton's "isolated base defense" stories work so well. When choice pieces of BBC stock music are not playing, a creepy background breathing sound holds the tension together, sounding something like Darth Vader's younger cousin. (If only we could have had something like this during "The Sensorites" [story no. 7]...) The Doctor is kept busy and in the central limelight in this episode, as he takes on the task of solving the mystery of the disease affecting the Moonbase crew. A few scenes of the crew are potential lullabies for sleepy viewers however, as a lot of redundant number-crunching techno-babble takes center stage without any visuals of the abstract ideas that get discussed. A live set with the crew's main contact on Earth might have helped, as it did during "The Tenth Planet" (story no. 29).

Polly appears to be nothing but a screaming coffee machine again in the existing video episodes. However, it is a gross injustice to judge her character without an examination of episode three's antics, in which she becomes the chemical mastermind behind the defeat of the only true Cybermen to invade the base. Cocktail Polly, anyone? Episode one also proves that Ben is just as productive a coffee machine as Polly ever was.

Jamie recovers in time to participate in most of the drama of episodes three and four. Just as the Doctor and Sir Ian jostled for the position of leading hero in the first two seasons, now the role of prime sidekick doesn't seem to be big enough to give Jamie and Ben each enough to do. Luckily, this type of story can thrive well on having too many characters in one small space, which is especially good as Polly has them both beat as best sidekick.

Without episode three, the Cybermen are almost never seen and heard at the same time, nor can we watch any of the other main characters confronting them. Something definitely seems to be missing from an otherwise very good script. The new look of the Cybermen is okay, but without the characteristic ring-pattern on the sides of their faces, I prefer the soft-cloth creepiness of the design seen in "The Tenth Planet". The new sound of their voices is not as horrific or easy to understand, but it does give the Cybermen an added sense of power and adds to their menace.

The final episode does not seem to get pulled off with the same atmospheric expertise as the second episode. It has much to recommend it, including a VERY well done visual laser effect, a stock musical cyber-theme that will return more prominently in "The Tomb of the Cybermen" (story no. 37), and enough plot-tidbits to give everyone something heroic to do AND create a strong sense of teamwork at the same time. A little more attention to detail, although difficult under the constraints of this program's time and budget, could definitely have taken this story's believability, excitement, and drama up another few notches.

2014 DVD with animation

For 2014, we are lucky enough to get a new version of the story fleshed back out to its original length with animated versions of episodes 1 & 3 - definitely a good idea that finally allows us to WATCH the whole thing from beginning to end. However, I admit to having mixed feelings about the end result.

On one hand, I'm amazed to see so many detailed and expensive in-between frames for much of the animation, indicating a lot of extra work. Much has been done to make the characters more detailed and expressive, and very closely match the look of their live-action counterparts. There's a lot of improvement here over the simpler techniques that made their debut in 2006's animation for "The Invasion" (story no. 46). But I wasn't very impressed with the overall directing of these new visuals, which seemed to be distracting our attention off topic instead of keeping it on-story.

Mind you, "The Moonbase" is somewhat more challenging than other stories in that it has a lot of sequences with either no dialogue or unimportant background technobabble. The live action episodes often show purely visual communication, as with astronauts giving each other hand-signals while suiting each other up in an airlock, or counterpoint action, such as the Doctor collecting samples off of working crewmembers, and scenes like these could easily lose all meaning if one listened to the audio alone. For the animated episodes, I get the feeling that extra meaning in the visuals just isn't coming through in similar scenes. Other simpler dialogue scenes simply seem to make bizarre choices in determining whose face to show, and what expression that character will have. Ben is seen to pull a number of bizarre grimaces in this one, almost as if he's decided to become a Cyberman's henchman. Don't know what that was about.

It also feels at times that the team limited themselves to recreating the shots that they think would have been achievable in the primitive studios of the 1960's, instead of the shots that might best tell the story, particularly for shots on the moon surface in low gravity, and for some of the action of characters moving in and out of various rooms. Too often, animated and live action episodes feel like they are repeating each other's visuals to pad out the story - I had feared "The Invasion" would do something similar when the 6 episodes were extended to 8, but it had proved to me that the new visuals were different enough to make the whole thing move even better.

Overall, I think about 1/3 of the more freestyle sequences had creative and exciting visuals, while the other 2/3 were a bit too lost for my tastes. Mind you, the source material is a major factor here, as the appeal of "The Moonbase" isn't in the characters or their dialogue on the audio track, and the basic story doesn't have the same energy as "The Invasion" or many other later Troughton tales. Still, this remains the best way yet to enjoy "The Moonbase" at full length.

Extras include a very good making-of featurette that highlights this story's place in developing Troughton's Doctor, his sidekick Jamie, and his nemesis villains the Cybermen. As usual, there are commentaries, but I found Innes Lloyd's brief archive audio interview to be much harder to listen to because the audio quality was much inferior to what we are accustomed to. Sadly missing for reasons I don't understand are the interviews of director Morris Barry that were made for "The Cybermen Years" VHS release. Those definitely deserved a spot here.

All things considered, this is a decent story, and, in the original broadcast chronology, definitely the best Troughton story so far.

International Titles:

Magyar: "A holdbázis"

Français: (La Station Lunaire)

Русский: "Лунная база"

English Novelization: "Doctor Who and the Cybermen"

"The Moonbase" is not known to exist in its original format (4 black-and-white 25-minute TV episodes) in its entirety.

The existing episodes from this story (#2 & 4) are now on DVD again for 2014,
with new animated versions of episodes 1 & 3, allowing us to finally enjoy a viewing of the entire story.

Region 1 U.S.

NEW for Feb. 11, 2014.
Region 1 Canada

NEW for Feb. 11, 2014.
Region 2 U.K.

NEW for Jan. 20, 2014.

Audio Commentaries, a making-of featurette, and other extras are also included.
See the top of this page for the full list.

Doctor Who: Lost in Time - Patrick Troughton
2 DVD discs

(also included in Lost in Time Boxed Sets)

Even on this older DVD package, coverage on The Moonbase is extensive enough to allow one to follow the whole story, including:

  • Audio only of Episode 1 (no narration)
  • Episode 2
  • Audio only of Episode 3 (no narration)
  • Episode 4
More details & buying options for "Lost in Time" DVD's
Audio CD - Doctor Who - The Moonbase.

This audio CD set features the complete audio tracks of all 4 television episodes of this story, narrated by actor Frazer Hines (who also played Jamie McCrimmon) to help listeners follow what used to be visual aspects of the story. This version is playable in any normal audio CD player.
Doctor Who: Cybermen - The Early Years
introduced by Colin Baker

1 VHS video tape

Coverage on The Moonbase includes:
  • Two complete episodes:
    • Episode 2
    • Episode 4
  • interviews with director Morris Barry, and Cyber voice Roy Skelton.
More details & buying options for missing episode VHS videos
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Read the In-depth Analysis Review for the next story: "The Macra Terror"

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