Skip to main content

Well, that’s taken care of the Cybermen!


Doctor Who
The Moonbase: Episode Four

Quick, Polly! Jamie’s had another attack of spacewind!

About the only thing this story has going for it is Troughton and the redesign of the Cybermen. I suspect it’s been treated with kid gloves for so long because of the latter.

In the opening scene there seems an attempt to qualify why the Cybermen haven’t full-on invaded the base yet, but like everything else it lacks coherence. Hobson tells the Doctor that they can’t just march in as he discovered how they got in last episode (if by “discovered” he means that a Cyberman volunteered the information, I guess he’s right).

Cyberman: You are surrounded. All resistance is useless. You must open the entry port.
Hobson: We’ve discovered your passageway and blocked it. You cannot enter now.

How have they blocked it, I wonder? With sandbags? Why not just march up and use their Cyberstrength to open the airlock doors (or, as I suggested earlier, they could all have filed in through the tunnel when they finished it)? Later we discover that the Gravitron is deflecting a Cyberweapon (I’m not clear if the laser hole in the dome was achieved when the Gravitron wasn’t working, I guess it was), which seems flimsy. The Cyberman decides that “Other methods of entry will be tried” but first they need to deal with the Earth rescue ship. They’ve already blocked radio signals by jumping up and down on the Moonbase antennae. Hobson, tiresome pessimist that he is (God, he’s a moaner) thinks there will be a replacement aboard.


So it’s just as well for him that Evans, repossessed by the Cybermen and taking control of the Gravitron, diverts the ship on a doomed trajectory for the Sun. It was lucky that Cybersignals still reached the controlled humans, even more that the control devices had been carefully placed beside their beds (how they are controlled to place the devices back on their heads is anyone’s guess; if it’s the sonic signal – and just how is that sent anyway? – why do they need the control devices at all?).

A terrifying ensemble.

Evans is able to wander around the control room, plague-ridden (surely it is debilitating their bodies, controlled by the Cybermen or otherwise), unnoticed. Mind you, so much is going on, what with science whizz Ben being trained up at the base controls while Polly makes more coffee. Jamie, who may not have drunk much coffee prior to this, is knocking it back like a man possessed.

Hobson: They’ll blast the Cybermen and their ship to Kingdom come in about four minutes time.

Cocky. Cocky. Cocky. Its course altered, the rescue ship heads towards the Sun, “too fast”. It’s the Doppler effect, don’t you know. “Nothing can save them now from plunging into the Sun” Well, that’s a bugger. As boffin Ben notes, the Sun is millions of miles away. But apparently they have no way of righting their course.

Benoit: Once they get into the Sun’s gravity belt they can’t change course. It may take a week but they’ll end up there just the same.

But… they’ve only just passed the Moon. Ben and Jamie are kept busy fending off Cyberzombies, the rest of whom have revived in the sickbay.

May I present you with the full length of my garlic bread stick, mademoiselle?

The puncturing of the dome is a jolly scene. Amazingly, Hobson and Benoit’s jackets plug the hole for about 20 or 30 seconds before they get sucked out (“Oh. Thank heavens. I can breathe again.”) Then a handy plastic tray seals it up. The drop-down oxygen masks are a nice touch, although how long they’d help in a vacuum is questionable. Shouldn’t the Cybermen have just peppered the dome with holes, rather than giving up at that point? Polly, being a thickie girl, asks why they couldn’t just have used the reserve oxygen while there was a hole in the dome.

Two more saucers land in a dazzling display of model work. And then the Cybermen unload a big gun out of a packing crate. Very curious, this, as it presents them as some sort of technologically advanced removal men.

Cyberman: I shall count to ten. If you still remain silent, we shall fire.

And there you were taking the piss out of the Fish People.

They have a colloquial turn of phrase, these Telosians. The Doctor, having deduced that gravity is the key last episode, doesn’t duck for cover as the Gravitron is still on. It seems that it creates a force field protecting the base from the Cyberweapon. Most mirthsomely, when their gun fails the Cybermen pack it away again. Wouldn’t giving it an unemotional kick be more suitable?

So the Gravitron is trained on the lunar surface and presto, off the Cybermen start floating with the same silly sound effects that accompanied the companions in Episode One. It seems to send the Cyberships shooting off too (unless they opt to scarper). Surely gravity doesn’t really represent a weakness as such to the Cybermen. The use of the Gravitron clearly has an effect on any object, so it’s hardly something that would take three episodes for the Doctor to work out.

HOO-FUCKING-RAY!

Everyone: Hooray!
Hobson: Well, that’s taken care of the Cybermen! Now then, everybody, we’ve got to get this Gravitron operational again as fast as we can.

For fuck’s sake. You can type this shit, Kit, but you sure can’t say it. And never mind about the fate of the rescue ship. Perhaps a conscious reminder of the destructive second Doctor’s behavior thus far, he comments, “I’m sorry we damaged it” of the Gravitron.

The scene with the Time Scanner is a fairly shameless way of trying to get bums on seats for the following week (it seems to have worked, as The Macra Terror’s average ratings were only fractionally lower than those of The Moonbase). Jamie’s continuing superstitious interpretation of advanced science is the best aspect of this.

The Doctor: Instead of a normal picture showing where we are, it gives us a glimpse of the future.
Jamie: The second sight? Very dangerous.
The Doctor: Oh, nonsense. I haven’t used it very much. It’s not very reliable, as you can see.


A fairly horrendous pile-up of daft action scenes. It’s difficult to get engaged in the attempts at drama when every plot point screams its stupidity at you.

Overall:


After a trio of at least agreeable outings, the Troughton era takes its first tumble. Trout is watchable as ever, even if he now feels like a cog in the wheel of a production-line script. And the Cybermen are an impressive presence. Unfortunately everything else about them is laughable. This is a real stinker, the best that can be said about it is that it isn’t boring. 

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…

This isn't fun, it's scary and disgusting.

It (2017)
(SPOILERS) Imagine how pleased I was to learn that an E Nesbitt adaptation had rocketed to the top of the US charts, evidently using a truncated version of its original title, much like John Carter of Mars. Imagine my disappointment on rushing to the cinema and seeing not a Psammead in sight. Can anyone explain why It is doing such phenomenal business? It isn’t the Stephen King brand, which regular does middling-at-best box office. Is it the nostalgia factor (‘50s repurposed as the ‘80s, so tapping into the Stranger Things thing, complete with purloined cast member)? Or maybe that it is, for the most part, a “classier” horror movie, one that puts its characters first (at least for the first act or so), and so invites audiences who might otherwise shun such fare? Perhaps there is no clear and outright reason, and it’s rather a confluence of circumstances. Certainly, as a (mostly) non-horror buff, I was impressed by how well It tackled pretty much everything that wasn’t the hor…

Imagine a plant that could think... Think!

The Avengers 4.12: Man-Eater of Surrey Green
Most remarked upon for Robert Banks-Stewart having “ripped it off” for 1976 Doctor Who story The Seeds of Doom, although, I’ve never been wholly convinced. Yes, there are significant similarities – an eccentric lady making who knows her botany, a wealthy businessman living in a stately home with an affinity for vegetation, an alien plant that takes possession of humans, a very violent henchman and a climax involving a now oversized specimen turning very nasty… Okay, maybe they’re onto something there… – but The Seeds of Doom is really good, while Man-Eater of Surrey Green is just… okay.

You better watch what you say about my car. She's real sensitive.

Christine (1983)
(SPOILER) John Carpenter was quite open about having no particular passion to make Christine. The Thing had gone belly-up at the box office, and adapting a Stephen King seemed like a sure-fire way to make bank. Unfortunately, its reception was tepid. It may have seemed like a no-brainer – Duel’s demonic truck had put Spielberg on the map a decade earlier – but Carpenter discoveredIt was difficult to make it frightening”. More like Herbie, then. Indeed, the director is at his best in the build-up to unleashing the titular automobile, making the fudging of the third act all the more disappointing.

Don't worry about Steed, ducky. I'll see he doesn't suffer.

The Avengers 4.11: Two’s A Crowd
Oh, look. Another Steed doppelganger episode. Or is it? One might be similarly less than complimentary about Warren Mitchell dusting off his bungling Russian agent/ambassador routine (it obviously went down a storm with the producers; he previously played Keller in The Charmers and Brodny would return in The See-Through Man). Two’s A Crowd coasts on the charm of its leads and supporting performances (including Julian Glover), but it’s middling fare at best.

It could have been an accident. He decided to sip a surreptitious sup and slipped. Splash!

4.10 A Surfeit of H20
A great episode title (definitely one of the series’ top ten) with a storyline boasting all the necessary ingredients (strange deaths in a small village, eccentric supporting characters, Emma even utters the immortal “You diabolical mastermind, you!”), yet A Surfeit of H20 is unable to quite pull itself above the run of the mill.

Believe me, our world is a lot less painful than the real world.

Nocturnal Animals (2016)
(SPOILERS) I’d heard Marmite things about Tom Ford’s sophomore effort (I’ve yet to catch his debut), but they were enough to make me mildly intrigued. Unfortunately, I ended up veering towards the “I hate” polarity. Nocturnal Animals is as immaculately shot as you’d expect from a fashion designer with a meticulously unbuttoned shirt, but its self-conscious structure – almost that of a poseur – never becomes fluid in Ford’s liberal adaptation of Austin Wright’s novel, such that even its significantly stronger aspect – the film within the film (or novel within the film) – is diminished by the dour stodge that surrounds it.

Have no fear! Doc Savage is here!

Doc Savage: The Man of Bronze (1975)
(SPOILERS) Forget about The Empire Strikes Back, the cliffhanger ending of Doc Savage: The Man of Bronze had me on the edge of my seat for a sequel that never came. How could they do that to us (well, me)? This was of course, in the period prior to discernment and wisdom, when I had no idea Doc Savage was a terrible movie. I mean, it is, isn’t it? Well, it isn’t a great movie, but it has a certain indolent charm, in the manner of a fair few mid-‘70s SF and fantasy fare (Logan’s Run, The Land that Time Forgot) that had no conception the genre landscape was on the cusp of irrevocable change.

Let the monsters kill each other.

Game of Thrones Season Seven
(SPOILERS) Column inches devoted to Game of Thrones, even in “respectable” publications, seems to increase exponentially with each new season, so may well reach critical mass with the final run. Groundswells of opinion duly become more evident, and as happens with many a show by somewhere around this point, if not a couple of years prior, Season Seven has seen many of the faithful turn on once hallowed storytelling, and at least in part, there’s good reason for that.

Some suggest the show has jumped the shark (or crashed the Wall); there were concerns over how much the pace increased last year, divested as it was of George RR Martin’s novels as a direct source, but this year’s succession of events make Six seem positively sluggish. I don’t think GoT has suddenly, resoundingly, lost it, and I’d argue there did need to be an increase in momentum (people are quick to forget how much moaning went on about seemingly nothing happening for long stretches of previ…

James Bond, who only has to make love to a woman and she starts to hear heavenly choirs singing.