Normally new edits go up on a Fan Edit Friday, but, since it’s Easter, I thought we’d have a Mondas Monday instead and upload the original Dr Who resurrection story – The Tenth Planet!
The Moonbase is a far better version of the same adventure, but aside from all the other claims to fame the original version has – Hartnell’s final story, the first appearance of the Cybermen, regeneration #1, the missing episode four – it`s arguably Doctor Who`s first BUS story – Base Under Seige. Only trouble is the Cybermen have to attack twice in order to pad the story out to four episodes! If I could I would have condensed both attacks into one but the latter has too many references to the rocket so I simply had to resort to cutting back the bits in between to the bare minimum.
Hartnell is absent for episode three but here he just has a bit of a wobbly rather than getting packed off to one of the soldiers` bunk beds for a bit of a kip. And speaking of soldiers, it`s a great pity that Sergeant from Brooklyn snuffs it so early on, I would have liked to have seen him make it to episode four and maybe come back as part of the Cyb`s second attack, totally de-humanised and partially converted. Shiver!
And that`s the real shame about this story, quite aside from it`s notoriety for the reasons we all know. The themes and motifs are there but the story doesn’t have nearly enough of the “You will be like Us” stuff that would make the Cybs such a memorable monster with Bill`s successor. The whole conversion side of the their nature isn’t really developed at all in this first story, as if Pedler and Davis haven’t quite realised what they’ve come up with.
What they should have emphasised was the zombie-esque nature of the Men From Mondas, the whole hollowed-out shell of humanity type thing. Here they’re not so much concerned with the conversion that would later become their hallmark, although it is mentioned in passing. Instead Pedler and Davis seem to be emphasising the vampiric nature of their desire for energy. The whole concept of the Cybs being dependent on Mondas for energy and Mondas itself being dependent on absorbing that energy from other planets is a supernatural idea, not a scientific one. And Pedler was a scientist, so that’s a strange story choice to make.
And at this point I’d like to digress just for a moment…
Let’s go on a journey, not through the dimensions of Space or Time, but the dimension of Imagination. Let’s travel to the Crossover Universe and think about Space: 1999 and Message From Moonbase Alpha… now, am I the only one whose Fan Brain made the connection and thought “ooh, what if Terra Alpha was actually Mondas?” That would mean that the human crew of the stranded Moonbase [yet more crossover potential there if you think about it!] did finally make it back to Earth… just not in the way that they’d hoped they would! I love the notion that Cyberleader Krang is the remains of Commander Koenig…
Anyway, back in the Non-Crossover Universe, this half-formed concept of a supernatural, vampiric nature to the Cybermen might have worked well with the original skull-like cloth-faced designs but it wouldn’t have given the metal meanies the storytelling longevity that they’ve enjoyed thanks to the better concept of forcible conversion.
There’s a lot more dramatic potential in scientific advances leading to an unintended dehumanisation of mankind than supernatural vampirism that just wants to suck all the life out of you. The whole idea of Mondas somehow absorbing too much energy and melting and the Cybs being dependent on that energy is just bonkers. Mind you, it does give you the rather striking sequence where the Cybs “melt” but it’s just as well the idea was never revisited as it’s all a bit bollocks and easily on a par with the Daleks` plan for a Planet With A Bloody Big Engine In It.
I`ve often wondered if Tenth Planet would be half as interesting if all four episodes existed. It`s a pretty poor show, even by the B-Movie standards of the Fifties and regarding it as the Doctor Who equivalent of Plan Nine From Outer Space is maybe a bit harsh. But not much.
Back when Doctor Billy’s journey began, I pointed out that he can be seen as a Gandalf figure in that JRR Tolkien meets CS Lewis mashup that is The Doctor, The Teachers and The Wardrobe or, to give it its better known title, An Unearthly Child. And if that’s an acceptable point of view, then this story is Hartnell’s equivalent of The Bridge of Khazad-dum, with the Cybermen [or to be strictly accurate, Mondas] as The Balrog. But where Gandalf The Grey came back as Gandalf The White, Hartnell will regenerate into Troughton… or is that an analogy too far?
This was another of those Fan Edits that I went back and redid from scratch when the story came out on DVD. The original version was done from the VHS release, with clips from the existing episodes re-used to cover for the missing bits of part four where possible. The result was somewhat akin to dubbed version but it worked well enough. However, once the story was released on DVD it was time to head back to the South Pole…
I did wonder what difference using the animated part four would make to the running time, but this second version is just a full minute shorter than the first one. The animation is much better here than the rubbish we got with Reign of Terror but it still annoyed me that they didn’t recreate the existing 8mm footage accurately. To me, as I’ve said before, that is the whole bloody point of the exercise but Dan Hall let Planet 55 get away with it again.
As for the Cybermen themselves, they`re a bit of a crap design, and though they admittedly do sort of work in Adrian Salmon Land, personally I much prefer the Moonbase versions. They never use that ruddy great lamp on top of their heads for a start and the sellotape holding their helmets together? That was really obvious even on VHS and it’s even worse now the eps have been VidFire`d. And, just to digress for one moment, exciting though it was to see one in colour in An Adventure In Space And Time, was I the only one disappointed by how inaccurate their faces were? Matthew Savage did a really nice steampunk type redesign which looks so much better…
A minor niggle I know, but it’s not as if they didn’t have enough reference photos to notice that the silver around the mouth is too thick and the stuff around the eyes is too thin. Where was Mark Gaytits that day, eh?
But getting back to Tenth Planet, the worst thing about The Metal Men From Mondas is those bloody awful voices! Fixing them was the most satisfying part of the whole edit first time round, involving chopping up each of the sound files to remove all those elongated vowels and stretching the resultant clip to lower the pitch of the voice. But this time round, I’ll be honest, I simply couldn’t be arsed.
So, for a story that’s all about the need for new sources of energy to extend your lifespan, with Mondas as an early version of Axos, sucking the life out of every planet it comes across, though God only knows how, it’s interesting to think that maybe, just maybe, Mondas somehow absorbed enough energy from The Doctor to trigger his regeneration…