Written by Kit Pedler
Directed by Morris Barry
Nothing looks as dated as yesterday’s view of the future. Given the way technology was moving in 1967 its not really surprising that people would predict that by 2070 there would be functional permanent settlement on the moon, but that computers would take up a whole room and still use tape for memory. Understandable maybe, but it still looks pretty dated though, given that nowadays the opposite is true. Having said all of that, there are still another 57 years to go, so the notion of a base on the moon isn’t all that far fetched, and who knows, maybe computers will buck all recorded trends, balloon in size and reprise the use of cumbersome and inefficient storage media.
Technological quaintness aside, The Moonbase is a story that has a lot to offer. Its true that most of what it has to offer can be found in other Doctor Who stories, but it’s there nonetheless. Plotwise, this is the same story as the Tenth Planet, the main difference being that this one is set on the moon, not in Antarctica. The details are a bit different, but the basic thrust is the same.
Sadly, Jamie doesn’t get much screen time here, spending a lot of it unconscious or delirious. Polly does get to show off a bit here, in between the somewhat demeaning task of getting everyone coffee, by coming up the a way of giving the cybermen a metaphorical kick in the nuts. With science and everything. Not bad for the 60s. Shame they made her get so much coffee. She did also get to ignore Ben telling her that something was “men’s work,” so it’s a start.
I have to admit that I’m not the biggest fan of the cybermen. I do appreciate the cold emotionless efficiency with which they perform their tasks. It’s terrifying in a completely different way to the hatred of many sci-fi villains, but at the end of the day I think I enjoy their American shameless knock-offs, the Borg, more. ‘Assimilated’ is just such a good word, and ‘futile’ is much better than ‘useless’.
One of the strengths of Doctor Who is that it can use sci-fi as a framework to talk about something bigger. The Moonbase, sadly, doesn’t say a lot that wasn’t said in The Tenth Planet. The next story might be about a bunch of giant arthropods on a beach, but it has plenty to say. Find out what, next time, in The Macra Terror