The Discontinuity Guide may not have liked The Moonbase, and it certainly drags in places (and what happened that took four episodes) but for me it’s important. Why? Well it’s the first story I can clearly remember watching on transmission. I like to think I must have watched the rest of this season (and earlier Hartnell stories), and 1967 is clearly a bit faded in memory but I did watch this.
On with the review.
There’s certainly a lot to criticise, especially with modern eyes. The Discontinuity Guide calls it illogical and boring both criticisms being valid (you can read more on the link above). I won’t repeat work of others, but yes there are lots of continuity mistakes and random changes made to accommodate Frazer Hines staying on a Jamie, a decision made after the script had been mostly written.
It’s depressingly of its time with regards the role of women. Polly is the only female character on a moonbase full of men in uniforms bearing flags on their chests. It’s a cheap way to say multi-national, though everyone is still white. Even worse, Benoit the Frenchman wears a cheeky scarf just to say look at me, I’m French. It’s a real shame as his is a well written character in many ways.
The Cybermen are clearly better realised than Tenth Planet though the silver trainers and shoelaces should have been avoided. They don’t talk for two episodes then suddenly won’t stop. The idea of mind control via the virus is interesting though the reveal they can still be manipulated without machinery is odd. Odder still is how they aren’t cured and at the end are all still in sickbay!
What I like is how Jamie’s piper delusion leads to the holy water and Polly proposes the use of solvent to attack the Cybermen. They even test it on a piece of cybermaterial, another nice touch. What’s worth considering is how brutal a method of fighting this is. Use of acid on people would raise eyebrows, and it might be viewed as a parallel to the use napalm in Vietnam, which was in use at the time. We seem to be happy to wipe out Cybermen and Daleks in vast numbers and without any moral qualms. Very black and white. Ignoring Ben’s sudden science knowledge (and he could have learned a lot in the Navy so it’s not entirely unreasonable).
If we watch this through 1967 eyes, you get (in my case) a young child aware of the NASA moon missions and a sense of wonder at seeing people on the surface of our satellite. It was all splendid and part of the wonderful future of technology we all thought was around the corner. Weather control and gravity beams are even now a long way away (if at all) yet Kit Pedler worked them in with a certain logic. His role as unofficial scientific advisor to the show left a testament in style that we may have moved away from but perhaps are somewhat poorer for losing.
One last point. This is so much a classic base under siege one of the scientists even says we’re under siege. Magic!
As to my memories, the floating Cybermen were a highlight and it’s the older, cynical me who want to point out the moondust doesn’t seem to want to join them. Perhaps it’s me who has changed more than the show!