Skip to main content

Only stupid Earth brains like yours would have been fooled.


Doctor Who
The Moonbase: Episode Three


Bob is shot dead (“You devils! You killed him!” – the dialogue emphasises that these are horror movie monsters, not science fiction ones) and we see not one but two Telosians (apparently Telos was referenced in the script although it didn’t make the televised programme). When the Cybermen actually start talking it does nothing to make their plan sound any more convincing. The men they have been abducting are alive.

Cyberman: No, they are not dead. They are altered… They are now controlled.

I’ve been wondering how many crewmen have been stricken, since every time a Cyberman enters there seem to be more bodies on the benches. They recognise the Doctor.

Cyberman: You are known to us.
The Doctor: And you to me.

Do they know him from The Wheel in Space? Or The Invasion? Or can they recognise a regenerated Time Lord? Fortunately for Ben and Polly the Cybermen leave them unguarded to hatch a plan of resistance, with the weak threat that if they leave the sickbay they will be converted.

Moonbase crew just can’t resist skinny-stomping.

The headgear applied to the converted crewmen appears to have some sort of third eye attachment. It seems that the Cybermen undressed the crewmen on the lunar surface and carried them back to their ship (why were they so desperate to strip them?) How they survived is anyone’s guess (likewise how did they return to the Moonbase?)

The Cyberplot is just dastardly villainy, with no suggestion of the cosmic ying-yang pull of the troubles of Mondas. They plan to take over the Gravitron and use it to destroy the surface of the Earth. Their motivation is “To eliminate all dangers” Couldn’t they have marched in two episodes ago and achieved the same thing?


Hobson: You’re supposed to be so advanced yet here you are taking your revenge – like children.
Cyberman: Revenge. What is that?
Hobson: It’s a feeling that people have.
Cyberman: Feeling. Feeling. Yes, we know of this weakness of yours. We are fortunate. We do not possess feelings.

He then goes on to show a nice line in rude sarcasm, although the vocal makes it hard to be certain.

Hobson: How did you get in?
Cyberman: It was very simple. Only stupid Earth brains like yours would have been fooled. Since we couldn’t approach direct we came up under the surface and cut out way in through your store room, contaminating your food supplies on the way. A simple hole, that’s all.
Hobson: A hole. That explains the sudden air pressure drops we’ve been recording.
Cyberman: Clever. Clever. Clever.

To be fair, the verbal slap down is well deserved. This is pitiful stuff, but there’s more. In the sickbay with a now-recovered Jamie, Ben and Polly are displaying all-new skill sets. Ben’s physics and chemistry degrees are in full effect as he notes how the Gravitron is thermo-nuclear and that the temperature inside its “power pack” is about four million degrees. He leisurely advises that nail varnish remover contains a “sort of acetone”. Polly, far more resourceful than the Doctor has been thus far, discerns that the Cybermen chest units are composed of plastic and that this could be a means to overpower them.

Polly: It’s simple. Nail varnish remover dissolves nail varnish. Nail varnish is a sort of plastic. So we do what Jamie says. We sprinkle them. See?
Ben: No, I don’t.

Selectively-destructive-to-plastic pollycocktail.

Jamie wasn’t suggesting peeing on the Cybermen, although the way things are going for them it might not be so surprising to discover that urine is highly corrosive to their feet. The “right old cocktail” they produce contains benzene, ether, alcohol and epoxy propane. Which they appear to pour into plastic spray bottles (Frazer Hines refers to them as fire extinguishers on the missing episode audio, but they clearly aren’t).


 Benoit is horrified that the Cybermen will send their controlled crewmen into the Gravitron room without their protective swimming caps. These produce a very intense sonic field, and without the caps they’d go insane within 12 hours. It takes Hobson to point out to the dozy Doctor that the Cybermen aren’t willing to operate the Gravitron controls themselves. The story’s only nod to the previously inventive approach in portraying the new Doctor is his interior monologue as he works out what the Cybermen are afraid of.

The Doctor: Funny. Funny. Go to all that trouble to make the men do the work. Why? Do it themselves easy. They’re using the men as tools. Why? Dunno. Yes, I do though. Must be something in here they don’t like. Pressure? No. Electricity? No. Radiation? Grav- gravity. Now there’s a thought. Gravity. Oh yes. Gravity.

Like most of the Troughton material, it’s a much-needed oasis of inventiveness in a dull-witted story (although the logic of their weaknesses is as suspect as everything else).

Being Enid Blyton in Space, it’s about time the kids had a spat.

Jamie: It takes more than a wee crack on the head to keep a MacCrimmon down.
Ben: Look mate, we don’t want you cracking up on us. I’m sure Polly’s very impressed.
Jamie: Look, I said I was better. Would you like me to prove it to you?
Ben: Any time, mate.

The thought that Ben’s being a prick is only confirmed when he follows it up by instructing, “Not you, Polly. This is men’s work”. On the positive side, she doesn’t act the wilting violet and refuses to remain there.

My God… They’re completely plastic inside!

The sequence of overcoming the Cybermen (aided by the Doctor disorientating the controlled crewmen through his turning up the volume of the RT unit) sounds reasonably effective, and it’s at least dramatically compelling to have a seeming victory just prior to the end of the episode. The Cybermen chest units get all nice and frothy when they are sprayed, whereas the one Ben tackles on the lunar surface (rescuing Benoit) spurts Cyberspunk everywhere. I’m not really clear on why a glass full of Pollycocktail will be so much more effective in tackling a Cyberman in a vacuum than a spray bottle, but it seems to work.

Run, Frenchie, run!

Hobson announces “From our point of view we’re under siege” (the Cybersaucer really does seem very close to the TARDIS, and the scale looks all wrong too), instructing the companions to “Make up as much of that gubbins as you’ve got. We may need it”. The advancing Cybermen look quite effective (strength in numbers), aided enormously by the space march theme.

Phwoooarrrr! The nudie moon vixens have returned!


As witless as ever. Many stories appear to hide behind their plot holes with invented science. This one at least keeps things down to earth, but in doing so reveals itself as ridiculous, nonsensical or foolishly twee. 

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

My name is Dr. King Schultz, this is my valet, Django, and these are our horses, Fritz, and Tony.

Django Unchained (2012)
(MINOR SPOILERS) Since the painful misstep of Grindhouse/Death Proof, Quentin Tarantino has regained the higher ground like never before. Pulp Fiction, his previous commercial and critical peak, has been at very least equalled by the back-to-back hits of Inglourious Basterds and Django Unchained. Having been underwhelmed by his post Pulp Fiction efforts (albeit, I admired his technical advances as a director in Kill Bill), I was pleasantly surprised by Inglourious Basterds. It was no work of genius (so not Pulp Fiction) by any means, but there was a gleeful irreverence in its treatment of history and even to the nominal heroic status of its titular protagonists. Tonally, it was a good fit for the director’s “cool” aesthetic. As a purveyor of postmodern pastiche, where the surface level is the subtext, in some ways he was operating at his zenith. Django Unchained is a retreat from that position, the director caught in the tug between his all-important aesthetic pr…

She writes Twilight fan fiction.

Vampire Academy (2014)
My willingness to give writer Daniel Waters some slack on the grounds of early glories sometimes pays off (Sex and Death 101) and sometimes, as with this messy and indistinct Young Adult adaptation, it doesn’t. If Vampire Academy plods along as a less than innovative smart-mouthed Buffy rip-off that might be because, if you added vampires to Heathers, you would probably get something not so far from the world of Joss Whedon. Unfortunately inspiration is a low ebb throughout, not helped any by tepid direction from Daniel’s sometimes-reliable brother Mark and a couple of hopelessly plankish leads who do their best to dampen down any wit that occasionally attempts to surface.

I can only presume there’s a never-ending pile of Young Adult fiction poised for big screen failure, all of it comprising multi-novel storylines just begging for a moment in the Sun. Every time an adaptation crashes and burns (and the odds are that they will) another one rises, hydra-like, hoping…

I don’t think you will see President Pierce again.

The Ballad of Buster Scruggs (2018)
(SPOILERS) The Ballad of Buster Scruggs and other tall tales of the American frontier is the title of "the book" from which the Coen brothers' latest derives, and so announces itself as fiction up front as heavily as Fargo purported to be based on a true story. In the world of the portmanteau western – has there even been one before? – theme and content aren't really all that distinct from the more familiar horror collection, and as such, these six tales rely on sudden twists or reveals, most of them revolving around death. And inevitably with the anthology, some tall tales are stronger than other tall tales, the former dutifully taking up the slack.

One day you will speak and the jungle will listen.

Mowgli: Legend of the Jungle (2018)
(SPOILERS) The unloved and neglected Jungle Book movie that wasn't Disney’s, Jungle Book: Origins was originally pegged for a 2016 release, before being pushed to last year, then this, and then offloaded by Warner Bros onto Netflix. During which time the title changed to Mowgli: Tales from the Jungle Book, then Mowgli, and finally Mowgli: Legend of the Jungle. The assumption is usually that the loser out of vying projects – and going from competing with a near $1bn grossing box office titan to effectively straight-to-video is the definition of a loser – is by its nature inferior, but Andy Serkis' movie is a much more interesting, nuanced affair than the Disney flick, which tried to serve too many masters and floundered with a finale that saw Mowgli celebrated for scorching the jungle. And yes, it’s darker too. But not grimdarker.

You look like an angry lizard!

Bohemian Rhapsody (2018)
(SPOILERS) I can quite see a Queen fan begrudging this latest musical biopic for failing to adhere to the facts of their illustrious career – but then, what biopic does steer a straight and true course? – making it ironic that they're the main fuel for Bohemian Rhapsody's box office success. Most other criticisms – and they're legitimate, on the whole – fall away in the face of a hugely charismatic star turn from Rami Malek as the band's frontman. He's the difference between a standard-issue, episodic, join-the-dots narrative and one that occasionally touches greatness, and most importantly, carries emotional heft.

A steed is not praised for its might, but for its thoroughbred qualities.

The Avengers Season 3 Ranked - Worst to Best
Season Three is where The Avengers settles into its best-known form – okay, The Grandeur that was Rome aside, there’s nothing really pushing it towards the eccentric heights it would reach in the Rigg era – in no small part due to the permanent partnering of Honor Blackman with Patrick Macnee. It may not be as polished as the subsequent incarnations, but it has the appeal of actively exploring its boundaries, and probably edges out Season Five in the rankings, which rather started to believe its own hype.

There's something wrong with the sky.

Hold the Dark (2018)
(SPOILERS) Hold the Dark, an adaptation of William Giraldi's 2014 novel, is big on atmosphere, as you'd expect from director Jeremy Saulnier (Blue Ruin, Green Room) and actor-now-director (I Don’t Want to Live in This World Anymore) pal Macon Blair (furnishing the screenplay and appearing in one scene), but contrastingly low on satisfying resolutions. Being wilfully oblique can be a winner if you’re entirely sure what you're trying to achieve, but the effect here is rather that it’s "for the sake of it" than purposeful.

Don’t you break into like, a billion homes a year?

The Christmas Chronicles (2018)
(SPOILERS) Tis the season to be schmaltzy. Except, perhaps not as insufferably so as you might think. The Christmas Chronicles feels very much like a John Hughes production, which is appropriate since it's produced by Chris Columbus, who was given his start as a director by Hughes. Think Uncle Buck, but instead of John Candy improving his nieces and nephew's lives, you've got Kurt Russell's Santa Claus bringing good cheer to the kids of the Pierce household. The latter are an indifferent duo, but they key here is Santa, and Russell brings the movie that all important irrepressible spark and then some.

I take Quaaludes 10-15 times a day for my "back pain", Adderall to stay focused, Xanax to take the edge off, part to mellow me out, cocaine to wake me back up again, and morphine... Well, because it's awesome.

The Wolf of Wall Street (2013)
Along with Pain & Gain and The Great Gatsby, The Wolf of Wall Street might be viewed as the completion of a loose 2013 trilogy on the subject of success and excess; the American Dream gone awry. It’s the superior picture to its fellows, by turns enthralling, absurd, outrageous and hilarious. This is the fieriest, most deliriously vibrant picture from the director since the millennium turned. Nevertheless, stood in the company of Goodfellas, the Martin Scorsese film from which The Wolf of Wall Street consciously takes many of its cues, it is found wanting.

I was vaguely familiar with the title, not because I knew much about Jordan Belfort but because the script had been in development for such a long time (Ridley Scott was attached at one time). So part of the pleasure of the film is discovering how widely the story diverges from the Wall Street template. “The Wolf of Wall Street” suggests one who towers over the city like a behemoth, rather than a guy …

A machine planet, sending a machine to Earth, looking for its creator. It’s absolutely incredible.

Star Trek: The Motion Picture (1979)
(SPOILERS) Most of the criticisms levelled at Star Trek: The Motion Picture are legitimate. It puts spectacle above plot, one that’s so derivative it might be classed as the clichéd Star Trek plot. It’s bloated and slow moving. For every superior redesign of the original series’ visuals and concepts, there’s an inferior example. But… it’s also endlessly fascinating. It stands alone among the big screen chapters of series as an attempted reimagining of the TV show as a grand adult, serious-minded “experience”, taking its cues more from 2001: A Space Odyssey than Star Wars or even Close Encounters of the Third Kind (the success of which got The Motion Picture (TMP) a green light, execs sufficiently convinced that Lucas’ hit wasn’t a one-off). It’s a film (a motion picture, not a mere movie) that recognises the passage of time (albeit clumsily at points) and gives a firm sense of space and place to its characters universe. It’s hugely flawed, but it bot…