DOCTOR WHO - Looking back at THE MOONBASE - Warped Factor - Words in the Key of Geek.

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Christopher Morley travels back to 1967, or is that forward to 2070? Either way, he revisits the Second Doctor Cyber-adventure, The Moonbase.

Redesigning the Cybermen every so often now seems to be the done thing on Doctor Who- so we thought it only right to have a gander at the first time it was done! We first see them in The Tenth Planet, the First Doctor's swansong...

But when they return alongside his new Second incarnation in The Moonbase, they're looking rather different, less human if you will...

Most certainly more machine than man, & they'll stay as they are until the Fourth Doctor's on the scene in Revenge Of The Cybermen.

As the title rather gives away, The Moonbase sees the Doctor taking 'Sexy' on a voyage to the moon. Rounding out his crew for the perilous mission are Ben & Polly alongside Jamie McCrimmon. Its a first trip to the Sun's night- time replacement service for all concerned, though the funny little chap with the recorder will return in his personal future a few selves down the line- indeed most recently in Kill The Moon. Here though, the year is 2070 & a mystery virus is working its way through the crew of a weather control station. Which doesn't mean the good folks at the Met Office are pulling a sickie. No, the Cybermen have a rather big hand in it, having released a poison into the atmosphere of the base. Not by spreading catty gossip, either. This poison's literal! And to think our new, freshly regenerated McCartneyish hero wanted to leave in a huff having proved no better a driver than his previous self, eh? He's outvoted by Ben & Polly, who want to explore. They may well regret it once Jamie's laid low! Its his own fault though, overdoing it in the low gravity & knocking himself out. And so the travellers three enter the moonbase, which they'll soon discover has a dark side.

Incidentally if you have a copy of both Pink Floyd's masterpiece & a DVD of The Moonbase, we've always been curious as to whether they sync well together! Why not try it & let us know (#DarkSideOfTheMoonbase).

The Doctor, Ben & Polly soon see the toll this mystery plague is taking on the crew of the base- they're dropping like flies. Its all hands on deck, as they're using a ' gravitron' to control the weather back on Earth. Yet another poor worker collapses, & Space Control places everyone under quarantine after being told of the incident. Just think of the Health & Safety paperwork! More worryingly though, somebody was listening in to the initial contact......

Things are getting much worse rather rapidly- Polly, down in the sick bay looking after Jamie, must be getting worried. The hardy Scot is having hallucinations of the Phantom Piper, a Caledonian variant on the Grim Reaper! Crumbs. If that weren't enough to be going on with, a metal hand has been picking off more victims on the quiet- a literal hand of doom you could say. So far its carted off Ralph, a manual worker, & Dr Evans, who you'd rightly guess is the resident medic. Evans's screaming about ' the silver hand' before he died has the Doctor itching to investigate. Perhaps predictably nobody believes the Doctor or Polly when they're convinced the Cybermen are the architects of all this.

Jamie's convinced the Phantom Piper has come to claim him when he gets a glimpse of one of the men from Mondas coming for him! Its not wearing a kilt or Tam O'Shanter while clutching a set of bagpipes underarm sadly. Though a glimpse of any such army of pipers might have you doing a double take- where's that sort of marching been seen/heard before?

The Doctor's given 24 hours to sort out the whole mess- if he fails he'll have to leave the base. At least he is a ' medical' Doctor in a sense, as we learn he studied medicine under the watchful eye of one Joseph Lister in 1888. Its implied that he was in his First incarnation during his student days- a period of which little was mentioned when Bill Hartnell was in charge of the TARDIS. Prime Past Doctor Adventures territory? We think so. Who wouldn't want to imagine the old/young man having to apply for a student loan, use 'Sexy' as his halls of residence & rush to get his essays in on time while fighting the urge to rush off to the pub with his new friends? In a sense he'll become an art student four selves later in City Of Death, too.

But back to the moon! The gravitron's becoming faulty, & Space Control is getting worried about a hurricane. An engineer discovers something wrong with one of the gravitron's antenna. Apparently it stopped working around the time the Doctor & pals turned up- bad news for them as it looks like they'll be given the order of the boot. There's still no concrete evidence of the Cybermen, either. At least not if you discount two engineers being attacked on the lunar surface & getting their spacesuits pinched! Not that anyone knows about that yet. Not until Polly makes coffee for everyone anyway- the virus is getting in through sugar! And upon finally discovering the truth, they & we learn more of the Cyber-plan...

Bodies of the afflicted crew members have been going missing as the Cybermen have been carting them back to their ship to be converted so as to operate under their control. They want to use the gravitron as part of a plot to destroy Earth! Not good. But science saves the day, & Polly suggests the use of a solution made up of various different solvents. It works a treat, though the Doctor isn't sure they've seen the last of the metal men- as it turns out he's right! He'll encounter them again in The Tomb Of The Cybermen, the earliest surviving full Second Doctor story.

And we'll be right behind him, as that's where we're heading next!

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