Doctor Who: Revisiting THE MOONBASE - Warped Factor - Words in the Key of Geek.

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Doctor Who: Revisiting THE MOONBASE

Christopher Morley takes a trip to the dark side of the moonbase...

Time now to take another look at how the early years of Patrick Troughton's tenure have in their own way gone on to shape modern day Doctor Who. This time we explore the dark side of The Moonbase! And where a lot further into his personal timeline the Doctor'll have to help his companion shape the long term future of the night-time sun replacement service, here he's got a sort of prelude to that on his hands as the crew of the titular base are under siege from the Cybermen.

As you can see, these Cybermen are radically redesigned from their first appearance opposite the man the Doctor had been just four stories previously. Now it seems to be the done thing on Doctor Who, everytime the men from Mondas are rolled out there's some kind of tweak to the design. this was the first time that happened though. Gone is practically every last reminder that they were once as human as those they now stalk, no visible flesh & blood hands or even names in a realisation of the worst nightmares of Dr Kit Pedler & Gerry Davis - those who created them. And now they seek to do the closest thing they can to a little creation of their own - converting those who still possess both flesh & blood into unthinking, unfeeling metal appropriations like themselves.

Luckily for those in peril the Doctor has yet to even consider the possibility that it isn't his decision as to whether or not the Moon & those on it is saved, as his Twelfth incarnation did. That same regeneration opened his TARDIS doors to Danny & Clara before Mr Pink shuffled off this mortal coil into a horrific inversion of the afterlife inside the then-latest Cyber-exterior upgrade, giving the Doctor perhaps the sternest of tests of whether he really is a good man.

Long before such soul-searching, though, the Second has the practicalities of the base under siege format to deal with after overshooting in his initial calculations of where he's landed his traveling companions!
POLLY: Anyway, Doctor, you've done it. It's Mars. It must be. You're landing the TARDIS exactly where you said you would.
BEN: Hey, wait a mo! This don't look like Mars to me.
POLLY: How would you know? You never seen it.
BEN: No, Duchess, but I have seen pictures of the moon's surface and that's what this looks like.
JAMIE: That's the moon?
POLLY: Doctor, is it the moon?
BEN: Oh, well, you weren't too far out, were you? Only about two hundred million miles.
The real irony being that once he does actually reach the Red Planet for a first meeting with the Ice Warriors he'll find himself in roughly similar base under siege territory and with Jamie once more in tow (Victoria joining them for only her third trip in the blue box).

The year here is 2070 and 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 self-isolating with symptoms of Covid-19 (or even Praxeus). No, the Cybermen have a rather big hand in this contagion - they've released 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! It's his own fault though, overdoing it in the low gravity & knocking himself out. And so the travelers three enter the moonbase, which they'll soon discover has a dark side - the crew of the base are dropping like flies.

The base under siege format often returns to the world of Who, the Twelfth had one of the best in recent years, that being Under The Lake, and a clever spin on the format arrived after he'd saved the Moon when things went a bit Agatha Christie for Mummy On The Orient Express. A plot straight out of one of the Queen of Crime's novels, but a base under siege no doubt.

In a sense though The Moonbase is a perfect forerunner for those adventures. In this case it was the Cybermen with the poison aboard the unnamed moonbase! And a certain Mop Top Poirot arrives just in time to play sleuth. Sync up Pink Floyd's magnum opus & join him!
DOCTOR: Well, it looks like some sort of weather control centre? Ah, yes. And that's the thing with which you control the weather. That's the culprit, then.
BEN: Ay?
DOCTOR: That's what gave us such a bumpy landing. Some sort of gravity device?
HOBSON: Some sort of gravity device. You are from Earth, aren't you?
HOBSON: Well, where've you been for the past 20 years? Every school kid knows about the Gravitron in there.
DOCTOR: Ah, yes. It must be about the year 2050, Ben.
HOBSON: We've got a proper Rip Van Winkle here. It's 2070, in case you'd like to know.
DOCTOR: There you are. I was only twenty years out.
HOBSON: Well, before we all forget what century we're in, I'd better tell you why I've called you here.
DOCTOR: Won't you introduce us first? I am a Doctor.
HOBSON: A Doctor? You're arrived just in time. We need your help.
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.

That gravity device is a gravitron, and it's controlling the weather back on Earth. It's also becoming faulty and 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, and in many other time right up to the recent series twelve finale.

The Moonbase, then, being another instance of the old girl not getting the Doctor where he wanted to go but ultimately getting him where he needed to be, well before he can discuss the issue with the very soul of the Type 40 inside Idris. By that time the Doctor's aged considerably but rocking a younger body, the soul of which owes much to dear old Pat far beyond alternative headgear & a fondness for bow ties well before they became cool.

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