Written by Kit Pedler
Directed by Morris Barry
After being pulled off course by a strong gravity well, The Doctor and companions find themselves on the moon. And obviously, there is a base on it. A moonbase.
“It’s the phantom piper!”
Moffat-Who has raised the horror element of Doctor Who, which would make many people assume that Steven Moffat has been inspired by the Hinchcliffe-Holmes era with it’s Hammer-horror style. I can’t remember where I read this, but Moffat disputes this, citing The Moonbase as the inspiration for the frightening elements of his era of Doctor Who. I have not known The Troughton Era to be regarded for its horror, but when you think about it, it is there. The basic conceit of the “base under siege” is that a group of disparate people are attempting to survive at all costs. Likewise, season five has been dubbed “the monster season”. The first time I experienced The Moonbase, it was through audio. But this time around, I watched the two surviving episodes, and I think I can see Moffat’s point. The first time I saw a Cyberman walk into the medical bay and wrestle an ill, struggling man off his bed, then carry him out of the room, I felt chills. For whatever reason, I grew up with childhood fears of being kidnapped and this image resonated with me. The image of someone larger and stronger physically subduing and taking a weaker person away is horrifying.
We have the return of The Cybermen, a bit more metallic and much more robotic in voice. In truth, I miss the voices from The Tenth Planet because I found them genuinely inhuman and creepy. That, and you could understand what they said, which is more of a struggle with the vocal distortions used here. This complaint aside, The Cybermen are still being used well. I can see why they were so striking in the early days, and I think I am still waiting for an amazing Cyberman story in Cymru-Who. The return of these villains in The Moonbase is never adequately explained (how did Cybermen survive the destruction of Mondas), but it hardly matters. The Moonbase takes place a couple of centuries after The Tenth Planet. Sure, people remember The Cybermen, but they have almost faded into a type of verifiable mythology. There is something mythic in the return, much like the return of Sauron in The Lord of the Rings, The Others in A Song of Ice and Fire, The Sith in Star Wars, or some ancient, inhuman Lovecraftian evil. Even The Doctor invokes this mythic idea when he tells his companions that evil is bred in the dark corners of the universe and these evils must be stopped. And I guess The Cybermen are evil, they want to destroy all life on Earth after all, but they don’t seem quite as evil and unnatural as the examples above. In comparison, they seem quite petty and driven toward revenge. Still evil, just a bit less evil. Uninspired evil. Regardless, they are still creepy and their plan isn’t on the same level of absurd that later plots would achieve.