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

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…

Dude, you're embarrassing me in front of the wizards.

Avengers: Infinity War (2018)
(SPOILERS) The cliffhanger sequel, as a phenomenon, is a relatively recent thing. Sure, we kind of saw it with The Empire Strikes Back – one of those "old" movies Peter Parker is so fond of – a consequence of George Lucas deliberately borrowing from the Republic serials of old, but he had no guarantee of being able to complete his trilogy; it was really Back to the Future that began the trend, and promptly drew a line under it for another decade. In more recent years, really starting with The MatrixThe Lord of the Rings stands apart as, post-Weinstein's involvement, fashioned that way from the ground up – shooting the second and third instalments back-to-back has become a thing, both more cost effective and ensuring audiences don’t have to endure an interminable wait for their anticipation to be sated. The flipside of not taking this path is an Allegiant, where greed gets the better of a studio (split a novel into two movie parts assuming a…

I don't like bugs. You can't hear them, you can't see them and you can't feel them, then suddenly you're dead.

Blake's 7 2.7: Killer

Robert Holmes’ first of four scripts for the series, and like last season’s Mission to Destiny there are some fairly atypical elements and attitudes to the main crew (although the A/B storylines present a familiar approach and each is fairly equal in importance for a change). It was filmed second, which makes it the most out of place episode in the run (and explains why the crew are wearing outfits – they must have put them in the wash – from a good few episodes past and why Blake’s hair has grown since last week).
The most obvious thing to note from Holmes’ approach is that he makes Blake a Doctor-substitute. Suddenly he’s full of smart suggestions and shrewd guesses about the threat that’s wiping out the base, basically leaving a top-level virologist looking clueless and indebted to his genius insights. If you can get past this (and it did have me groaning) there’s much enjoyment to be had from the episode, not least from the two main guest actors.

An initiative test. How simply marvellous!

You Must Be Joking! (1965)
A time before a Michael Winner film was a de facto cinematic blot on the landscape is now scarcely conceivable. His output, post- (or thereabouts) Death Wish (“a pleasant romp”) is so roundly derided that it’s easy to forget that the once-and-only dining columnist and raconteur was once a bright (well…) young thing of the ‘60s, riding the wave of excitement (most likely highly cynically) and innovation in British cinema. His best-known efforts from this period are a series of movies with Oliver Reed – including the one with the elephant – and tend to represent the director in his pleasant romp period, before he attacked genres with all the precision and artistic integrity of a blunt penknife. You Must Be Joking! comes from that era, its director’s ninth feature, straddling the gap between Ealing and the Swinging ‘60s; coarser, cruder comedies would soon become the order of the day, the mild ribaldry of Carry On pitching into bawdy flesh-fests. You Must Be Joki…

Luck isn’t a superpower... And it isn't cinematic!

Deadpool 2 (2018)
(SPOILERS) Perhaps it’s because I was lukewarm on the original, but Deadpool 2 mercifully disproves the typical consequence of the "more is more" approach to making a sequel. By rights, it should plummet into the pitfall of ever more excess to diminishing returns, yet for the most part it doesn't.  Maybe that’s in part due to it still being a relatively modest undertaking, budget-wise, and also a result of being very self-aware – like duh, you might say, that’s its raison d'être – of its own positioning and expectation as a sequel; it resolutely fails to teeter over the precipice of burn out or insufferable smugness. It helps that it's frequently very funny – for the most part not in the exhaustingly repetitive fashion of its predecessor – but I think the key ingredient is that it finds sufficient room in its mirthful melee for plot and character, in order to proffer tone and contrast.

Like an antelope in the headlights.

Black Panther (2018)
(SPOILERS) Like last year’s Wonder Woman, the hype for what it represents has quickly become conflated with Black Panther’s perceived quality. Can 92% and 97% of critics respectively really not be wrong, per Rotten Tomatoes, or are they – Armond White aside – afraid that finding fault in either will make open them to charges of being politically regressive, insufficiently woke or all-round, ever-so-slightly objectionable? As with Wonder Woman, Black Panther’s very existence means something special, but little about the movie itself actually is. Not the acting, not the directing, and definitely not the over-emphatic, laboured screenplay. As such, the picture is a passable two-plus hours’ entertainment, but under-finessed enough that one could easily mistake it for an early entry in the Marvel cycle, rather than arriving when they’re hard-pressed to put a serious foot wrong.

Ain't nobody likes the Middle East, buddy. There's nothing here to like.

Body of Lies (2008)
(SPOILERS) Sir Ridders stubs out his cigar in the CIA-assisted War on Terror, with predictably gormless results. Body of Lies' one saving grace is that it wasn't a hit, although that more reflects its membership of a burgeoning club where no degree of Hollywood propaganda on the "just fight" (with just a smidgeon enough doubt cast to make it seem balanced at a sideways glance) was persuading the public that they wanted the official fiction further fictionalised.

I didn't kill her. I just relocated her.

The Discovery (2017)
(SPOILERS) The Discovery assembles not wholly dissimilar science-goes-metaphysical themes and ideas to Douglas Trumbull's ill-fated 1983 Brainstorm, revolving around research into consciousness and the revelation of its continuance after death. Perhaps the biggest discovery, though, is that it’s directed and co-written by the spawn of Malcom McDowell and Mary Steenburgen (the latter cameos) – Charlie McDowell – of hitherto negligible credits but now wading into deep philosophical waters and even, with collaborator Justin Lader, offering a twist of sorts.

How many galoshes died to make that little number?

Looney Tunes: Back in Action (2003)
(SPOILERS) Looney Tunes: Back in Action proved a far from joyful experience for director Joe Dante, who referred to the production as the longest year-and-a-half of his life. He had to deal with a studio that – insanely – didn’t know their most beloved characters and didn’t know what they wanted, except that they didn’t like what they saw. Nevertheless, despite Dante’s personal dissatisfaction with the finished picture, there’s much to enjoy in his “anti-Space Jam”. Undoubtedly, at times his criticism that it’s “the kind of movie that I don’t like” is valid, moving as it does so hyperactively that its already gone on to the next thing by the time you’ve realised you don’t like what you’re seeing at any given moment. But the flipside of this downside is, there’s more than enough of the movie Dante was trying to make, where you do like what you’re seeing.

Dante commented of Larry Doyle’s screenplay (as interviewed in Joe Dante, edited by Nil Baskar and G…

He mobilised the English language and sent it into battle.

Darkest Hour (2017)
(SPOILERS) Watching Joe Wright’s return to the rarefied plane of prestige – and heritage to boot – filmmaking following the execrable folly of the panned Pan, I was struck by the difference an engaged director, one who cares about his characters, makes to material. Only last week, Ridley Scott’s serviceable All the Money in the World made for a pointed illustration of strong material in the hands of someone with no such investment, unless they’re androids. Wright’s dedication to a relatable Winston Churchill ensures that, for the first hour-plus, Darkest Hour is a first-rate affair, a piece of myth-making that barely puts a foot wrong. It has that much in common with Wright’s earlier Word War II tale, Atonement. But then, like Atonement, it comes unstuck.