March 18: The Moonbase Episodes 3 & 4

Back to animation for episode 3, which on the one hand is rather a shame, as there's a lot of Cyberman action in this one, but on the other hand, it's also the episode with the Cybermen denying emotion while taunting the humans.  "Only stupid Earth brains like yours would have been fooled," they say, and then they seem to mock the base crew, as the crew realize that the drops in pressure are related to the Cybermen entering the base: "Clever, clever, clever."  It also doesn't help that the Cybermen's plan to devastate the surface of the Earth makes no sense.  Hobson suggests they're just taking revenge, but the Cybermen disagree; no, they're just wiping out anything that might be a danger -- as if that makes any sense.  But unfortunately it's the closest thing we get to motivation here.

Jamie and Ben attack the Cybermen. (The Moonbase Episode 3
Animation) ©BBC Worldwide
Of course, this is also the episode where Polly makes a plastic-dissolving cocktail to take out the Cybermen, so there's a nice action scene where Polly, Ben, and Jamie attack the Cybermen's chest units, causing them to die (quite horribly in the animation, with copious amounts of foam spurting out of their chests and their mouths -- and while we're on the subject of the animation, it looks like they used the telesnaps as reference more often this time around).  This means that the Cybermen no longer have control of the Gravitron, so they have to march on the base to attack it from the outside...

Episode 4 is back to video, and we get to see the Cybermen march for real and attack the base.  Their first blast punctures a hole in the base, which the crew is fortunately able to plug with a plastic tea tray.  It's a nice idea, but where was this thinking when we saw the gaping hole into the base back in episode 2?

The Gravitron sends the Cybermen into space. (The
Episode 4) ©BBC
This episode is primarily a tense standoff between the Cybermen and the crew, but once the Doctor figures out that they dislike gravity (which he actually worked out in episode 3), it's just a matter of pointing the Gravitron at the moon's surface and sending the Cybermen flying off into space.  And, well, that's it.  Hobson announces that they need to get the Gravitron back under control while the Doctor and company slip away.

It's not that The Moonbase is a bad story; there are moments that are quite nice, in fact.  But we can't ignore the fact that we already essentially had this story this season with The Tenth Planet -- this is a bit more claustrophobic affair, since there aren't any shots of Geneva, and it's nice to see Hobson, the leader of the base, actually survive the story with both his skin and his sanity intact, but other than that this is just a remake of that story.  We even have a spacecraft sent into the sun and Ben defeating the Cybermen in the middle of the story, requiring them to have to come attack again.  And when you factor in the other bits of silliness in this serial (the Doctor's haphazard analysis of the base, the Cybermen's inconsistent emotional qualities, that hole blocked by sacks of flour), you can't help but feel that there's a contempt for the audience here: if they liked The Tenth Planet, they'll like it again, just redressed slightly with better-looking monster costumes, and they won't demand anything more than that.