Doctor Who
The Moonbase

Starring: Patrick Troughton
BBC Radio Collection
ISBN 1 563 47854 3
Available now

The Doctor, Ben, Polly and Jamie arrive on the moon in the year 2070, where they discover a weather-control station whose crew has been stricken by a deadly plague. The Doctor suspects that this mysterious disease is not entirely natural...

This story marks a pivotal point in the Troughton era. It would be the first of four encounters between the Second Doctor and the Cybermen (although Troughton briefly appeared at the end of their debut story, The Tenth Planet). The Moonbase also sees Troughton's portrayal settle down from the more overtly comical, and sometimes downright irritating, personality of his first three stories. Aside from one scene in which the Doctor removes all manner of bizarre samples for clinical analysis - including a crewman's boot and a piece of someone's trousers - Troughton's performance is decidedly straight. Indeed, his sombre speech, about the need to fight the evils that have been spawned by the universe, virtually sets out his mission statement for the programme's next two and a half years.

Kit Pedlar's script may not be the most original in the show's history, rehashing as it does the Cybermen's siege of an isolated outpost from The Tenth Planet, as well as their interference in the trajectory of a spacecraft, causing it to plummet into the sun. However, this serial also establishes trends for many future stories, including Revenge of the Cybermen, which reused the notion of a "plague" that is selective enough to attack medical staff members first. Relatively little narration is required from Frazer Hines in order to bring this partially wiped story back to life.

The stock Cybermen theme and the eerie background sound effects of the moonbase convey the story's creepy atmosphere at least as effectively as they did on TV. Indeed, the audio medium actually benefits the production in certain respects, by hiding some of its visual shortcomings. For instance, Hines describes the Gravitron operators as donning "acoustic helmets" - which, to those of us who have seen Episodes Two and Four (released on video as part of The Cybermen: The Early Years), looked suspiciously like swimming caps! Unfortunately, nothing could be done to make the Cybermen's modulated voices any less incomprehensible.

All in all, though, this tale makes a very successful Cyber-conversion to audio.

Richard McGinlay