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

Prepare the Heathen’s Stand! By order of purification!

Apostle (2018)
(SPOILERS) Another week, another undercooked Netflix flick from an undeniably talented director. What’s up with their quality control? Do they have any? Are they so set on attracting an embarrassment of creatives, they give them carte blanche, to hell with whether the results are any good or not? Apostle's an ungainly folk-horror mashup of The Wicker Man (most obviously, but without the remotest trace of that screenplay's finesse) and any cult-centric Brit horror movie you’d care to think of (including Ben Wheatley's, himself an exponent of similar influences-on-sleeve filmmaking with Kill List), taking in tropes from Hammer, torture porn, and pagan lore but revealing nothing much that's different or original beyond them.

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…

You can’t just outsource your entire life.

Tully (2018)
(SPOILERS) A major twist is revealed in the last fifteen minutes of Tully, one I'll happily admit not to have seen coming, but it says something about the movie that it failed to affect my misgivings over the picture up to that point either way. About the worst thing you can say about a twist is that it leaves you shrugging.

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.

Well, you did take advantage of a drunken sailor.

Tomb Raider (2018)
(SPOILERS) There's evidently an appetite out there for a decent Tomb Raider movie, given that the lousy 2001 incarnation was successful enough to spawn a (lousy) sequel, and that this lousier reboot, scarcely conceivably, may have attracted enough bums on seats to do likewise. If we're going to distinguish between order of demerits, we could characterise the Angelina Jolie movies as both pretty bad; Tomb Raider, in contrast, is unforgivably tedious.

If you want to have a staring contest with me, you will lose.

Phantom Thread (2017)
(SPOILERS) Perhaps surprisingly not the lowest grossing of last year's Best Picture Oscar nominees (that was Call Me by Your Name) but certainly the one with the least buzz as a genuine contender, subjected as Phantom Thread was to a range of views from masterpiece (the critics) to drudge (a fair selection of general viewers). The mixed reaction wasn’t so very far from Paul Thomas Anderson's earlier The Master, and one suspects the nomination was more to do with the golden glow of Daniel Day-Lewis in his first role in half a decade (and last ever, if he's to be believed) than mass Academy rapture with the picture. Which is ironic, as the relatively unknown Vicky Krieps steals the film from under him.

Outstanding. Now, let’s bite off all the heads and pile them up in the corner.

Venom (2018)
(SPOILERS) A 29% fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes can't be wrong, can it? To go by the number of one-star reviews Sony’s attempt to kick-start their own shred of the Marvel-verse has received, you’d think it was the new Battlefield Earth, or Highlander II: The Quickening. Fortunately, it's far from that level of ignominy. And while it’s also a considerable distance from showing the polish and assuredness of the official Disney movies, it nevertheless manages to establish its own crudely winning sense of identity.

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 …

Yes, cake is my weakness.

Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle (2017)
(SPOILERS) Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle is good fun, and sometimes, that’s enough. It doesn’t break any new ground, and the establishing act is considerably better than the rather rote plotting and character development that follows, but Jake Kasdan’s semi-sequel more than justifies the decision to return to the stomping ground of the tepid 1995 original, a movie sold on its pixels, and is comfortably able to coast on the selling point of hormonal teenagers embodying grown adults.

This is by some distance Kasdan’s biggest movie, and he benefits considerably from Gyula Pados’s cinematography. Kasdan isn’t, I’d suggest, a natural with action set pieces, and the best sequences are clearly prevized ones he’d have little control over (a helicopter chase, most notably). I’m guessing Pados was brought aboard because of his work on Predators and the Maze Runners (although not the lusher first movie), and he lends the picture a suitably verdant veneer. Wh…

The whole thing should just be your fucking nose!

A Star is Born (2018)
(SPOILERS) A shoe-in for Best Picture Oscar? Perhaps not, since it will have to beat at very least Roma and First Man to claim the prize, but this latest version of A Star is Born still comes laden with more acclaim than the previous three versions put together (and that's with a Best Picture nod for the 1937 original). While the film doesn't quite reach the consistent heights suggested by the majority of critics, who have evacuated their adjectival bowels lavishing it with superlatives, it's undoubtedly a remarkably well-made, stunningly acted piece, and perhaps even more notably, only rarely feels like its succumbing to just how familiar this tale of rise to, and parallel fall from, stardom has become.