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Friday, 15 December 2006 - Reviewed by Eddy Wolverson

“The Moonbase” is an absolutely cracking little serial, and of all these missing stories, this story has such a wealth of photographic and audio material still existing that one can enjoy the story almost as it was originally intended. As with “The Crusade,” the Lost in Time DVD contains both existing episodes and the soundtracks to both the missing episodes, making the BBC Radio Collection CD virtually redundant. I say virtually, because I managed to get an extra bit of mileage out of mine, using the soundtrack with Frazer Hines’ narration in synch with the telesnaps on the BBC website to create a decent little reconstruction of Episodes 1 and 3!

I actually rate this story above both “The Tomb of the Cybermen” and “The Wheel In Space,” and although I prefer “The Invasion” as a story, this is definitely the best ‘proper’ Cybermen story of the Troughton era (the Cybermen we later see in “The Invasion” are overshadowed by Tobias Vaughn and UNIT. They barely even speak.) Surprisingly for a television show that aired in 1967, “The Moonbase” has a very realistic feel. The weather control device on the moon is populated by a very cosmopolitan crew, and the design of the place isn’t as cringe worthy as other contemporary takes on ‘the future.’ The story is also very good; fast-paced and exciting. The first episode sets things up wonderfully; Morris Barry’s direction is particularly good as he uses shadows of the Cybermen to build up the suspense – Joe Ahearne used a similar trick with the Daleks recently in “Bad Wolf” to similar effect, so Barry must have been doing something right! Sadly, lovely little touches like this don’t work on audio, but when combined with telesnaps you just about get the picture.

For the most part a tense and claustrophobic story, much of the plot revolves around the Doctor and his companions investigating the strange plague that is slowly killing the crew of the base. Like certain eagle-eyed viewers at home, the Doctor knows it is the Cybermen behind the plague, but he just can’t convince the crew of that until it is too late… However, Kit Pedler and Gerry Davis’ script certainly isn’t without humour; and quite clever humour at that. “The Moonbase” is notorious for the sexist treatment Polly has to put up with, not only from the “make a cup of coffee, Polly” Doctor, but also from just about everyone else she comes across in the story!

“Not you, Polly. This is men’s work!”

And so Doctor Who is hammered by critics for being sexist, which at times is a fair criticism – but not here! These critics forget that it is Polly alone who creates the ‘pollycocktail’ that destroys some of the Cybermen! If anything, in having Polly help save the day, the writers of “The Moonbase” were actually taking the piss out of sexist people, not endorsing sexism!

“The Moonbase” isn’t perfect though. As with the previous story, Frazer Hines’ Jamie is given little to do as the result of being written in at the last minute. He’s unconscious for the first episode, and then spends half the serial in sickbay with a fever. Moreover, after four years of television the Doctor finally visits the moon which is great, but he’s accepted far too easily by the crew for my liking. And finally, after all the hype surrounding the Cybermats, they don’t really impress at all. The story about how they carry the plague is clever and works well, but sadly the visual effects of the time weren’t quite up to the job.

Images of the Cybermen coming out of the sewers near St. Paul’s Cathedral, or emerging from the Ice Tombs of Telos are burned into the memories of so many Doctor Who fans, but I would argue that the Cybermen marching across the surface of the moon with that evocative stock music (the same piece used in “The Tomb of the Cybermen”) playing is just as enduring an image... It’s a shame it’s missing.