The Moonbase

Doctor Who Big Finish Moonbase

Moonbase Radio TimesDr Who On The Moon is the latest in our occasional series of Special Edition Revisitations of earlier fan edits. This edit was only done just over a year ago, but since then the Beeb have finally released The Underwater Menace come out on DVD. And we all know what a success that was…

As a result of what the Beeb did with TUM, I’ve had to revisit this edit, which is a crossover of sorts, based on the idea that, somewhere in an alternate universe, Sydney Newman never went to the BBC. Instead, his idea for what would become Doctor Who was taken up by Lew Grade’s ITC, following the success of Newman’s earlier show The Avengers. Just imagine if that had happened… all of Doctor Who on film, in colour, and still in the archive!

Back in the real world, I used to watch both UFO and Space: 1999 when I was a kid but neither of them came close to Doctor Who. Gerry Anderson was part of my TV childhood with both Thunderbirds and Fireball XL5 as well as all those old ITC shows – Randall and Hopkirk, Department S and the like. Years later, somewhere deep in my fanbrain I made the creative connection between the moonbase of The Moonbase and Moonbase Alpha from Space: 1999.

Question: What if the Cybermen had turned up on Alpha instead? Then you’d have a sort of alternate universe version of the story, where you get a crossover between Doctor Who and Space: 1999, resulting in a new version of the story called Moonbase: 1999!

I could just imagine Dr Pat having to help Commander Koenig sort out the Cybermen, who then set off  “the biggest bomb man’s ever made” and throw the moon out of orbit as per the original. And I loved the idea that the planet Koenig and his chums finally abandon the rogue moon for turns out to be Mondas…  A few years back I even made a video of what I though the Moonbase: 1999 title sequence might have looked like, replacing all the “this episode” stuff with clips of Cybermen and the like. And then the story was released on DVD. You can see where this is going, can’t you…

And so I embarked on my fan edit version of The Moonbase, a Doctor Who story done in the style of Space: 1999, and utilising the distinctive music of Barry Gray, who contributed music to the two Peter Cushing Movies back in the Sixties. Soundtrack Replacement is one of the more fun things about fan editing and lets you do something a bit different with the material than just a straightforward compilation.

In the original TX version, we had the reprise/conclusion of the cliffhanger ending of The Underwater Menace and then the Tardis crew buggering about on the moon’s surface before we head into the base itself where one of the blokes has come down with the lurgy. Of those three sequences – Tardis, Moon Surface, Base Interior – I didn’t think we needed the reprise as that could go at the end of the Underwater Menace edit [!] and we only really needed the Tardis arriving to lead us into the credits. So I started the mk1 edit off with an establishing shot of the moon, an establishing shot of the base, set up the infection and get poor old Ralph zapped in the stores to give us a nice dramatic lead in to the opening credits.

Space 1999 OSTI’d always told myself that if I was ever going to do Doctor Who in the style of Space:1999 there was no way I wasn’t going to do that fast cut opening sequence, only with Moonbase clips. It was great fun doing the credit sequence but tracking down suitable clips wasn’t exactly easy.

Emulating the style of the original, down to including the “this episode” caption, I was quite pleased with the result of the part one version and this gave me the idea of possibly doing this edit as four cut down episodes instead of the ususual compilation edit. I had simply crossfaded between the animation and live action when I did The Reign of Terror so the first thing to do was to see how the transitions between them would work here. Depending on how they looked, that would determine whether I went for a cut-down episodic edit or not.

The transition from the animated part one to the live action part two was a fade over the shot of Jamie which worked quite well after a little judicious warping of the animated version to more closely match the “real” version. And going from part three to part four was again, a nice fade over a shot of the mutliple cybs. But the transition from the live action part two into the animated part three was another matter. In the animated reprise of the cliffhanger, the captions are all over the action where you would otherwise fade from one to the other, which meant a rather sudden transition as the cyb throws back the bedsheet and jumps down off the bed. In the live action version the end credits come in really quickly and the aforementioned captions in the animated version made the changeover the only one that gave me any trouble.

moonbase dwm

The only possible way to do it was to see if I could block out the captions in the animated version, that way the fade wouldn’t be so jarring. And so I masked out the “By Kit Pedler” caption as best I could, one frame at a time, as we fade from action to animation. Time consuming? Yes, but at least I only had to work on every second frame!

With the pre-credits taking care of a lot of the set up, part one saw a couple of sections where I retimed the animation to fit the dialogue. When the Dr, Ben & Polly meet Hobson there are a couple of shots that look less like the kind of thing that Morris Barry would have shot and more like the kind of thing that was easier to animate! So I re-used some of the face shots of the characters to try and make things a little more genuine. I have a real problem with non-authentic shots in these animations, to my mind the point is to replicate the missing episode as closely as possible, and let’s just say that Planet 55 haven’t always achieved that and move on.

Moonbase covers

The eps on the DVD have a slight bue-ish tinge to them so one of the first things to do was to greyscale them to match the live action eps. The knock on effect of having Ralph get done in before the credits was that Ben couldn’t get sent to the store to help him so that sequence got cut completely, as did the earlier shots of him in the control room as Hobson is doing his spiel, another reason for cutting that stuff back. Cutting that sequence in turn meant that we had to lose the next scene where Ben says he can’t find him just before the Doctor enters and says Evans is dead. So we run the two sick bay scenes together to make one – the Doctor exits, Polly screams and the Doctor and Hobson run back in. After that it’s cue The Phantom Piper and we’re into part two.

Having completed part one, I actually edited part three next before moving back to part two. I felt it was probably best to get the animated eps out of the way first, since they were likely to involve more work fixing inappropriate shots than the two live action ones. In the end, unlike when I edited Reign, none of the shots needed replacing, making things a lot easier. What I did do, however, was to reorder the scenes slightly, with most of the cuts coming to the “Polly Cocktail” stuff, as well as losing the padding of Benoit being chased outside the base by a Cyb. And sailor boy Ben shows a surprising level of scientific knowledge here that he’s never shown before and never will again. So I’ve cut all that so that in this version he’s a bit less of an info-dumping clever clogs.

moonbase shawcraft cybermen

The other thing to notice in part three is how little the Doctor actually does in this episode, Pat has got very few lines to learn this week and spends most of his time twiddling the Cybs’ knobs and lurking in the background. You have to wonder whether that was an intentional decision to give him a bit of an easy week for a change or a deliberate attempt to give Ben and Polly a bit more to do.

The final ep to be edited, part four was fairly straightforward, the biggest challenge once again being the credits sequence. The model cyberships are rather naff and come in far too quickly so I slowed down both arrivals and masked out the rather obvious wire the model is suspended on for both clips, meaning more frame-by-frame work.

This is the point at which it becomes terribly clear, if it wasn’t already, that this is just a straight rewrite of The Tenth Planet, with the cybs sending the relief rocket into the sun just like they did last time out. Here they don’t melt when Mondas absorbs too much energy but they do get thrown out into space thanks to the gravitron so it’s a similar fate. Only thing is, Cybermen don’t need to breath so they’re not destroyed, they’re just floating around in the vacuum of space until their ships can pick them up once they’re free of the gravitron’s influence. I wonder if any of them went astray or got picked up by a passing spaceship…

One of the reasons for the final ep being so long is that one thing leads into another, making it almost impossible to cut. For instance, all the puncturing a hole in the dome stuff would have gone if it wasn’t for the fact that you can see the patched up hole later in the ep. And cutting it would also leave you with no reason as to why Hobson has suddenly taken his coat off, so that’s an example of not being able to lose something you otherwise would.

Having edited all the eps together the next thing to do was to put together a set of closing credits, making sure that everyone involved in the animation got credited, correcting the cock-up on the DVD release. That involved a bit of jiggery-pokery to create the missing names from the letters of the existing ones in order to put together a complete set of caption cards. There were so many credits to include that it felt very rushed when set against the standard closing theme so I used the seldom heard longer version, with the middle eight, from the Devil’s Planets CD. Then, with that done, it was time to add in the Barry Gray music. The Space:1999 DVDs have got isolated music tracks on them but in the end I found it was less time consuming just to use tracks from the Year One CD release that I managed to find online.

And, just in case you’re wondering, in the Gerry Anderson original the moon was blasted out of orbit on September 13th 1999, which was a Monday. In 2070 – the year in which The Moonbase is set – September 13th is a Saturday!

And that was it, or so I thought. And then the Beeb went and released The Underwater Menace without animating the missing first and last episodes. That meant the opening sequence of this story, which I had edited to be the end of Dr Who And The Fish People, wasn’t going to see the light of day, there was far too much work involved in covering the missing eps to make it worth the pain of doing it. And so I quickly realised that I was going to have to update my original edit and reinstate the original animated opening. Bugger.


The edit of The Moonbase was completed ages before The Underwater Menace finally came out on DVD but once it was done the very next thing I did was cut together the opening of the former to use as the close of the latter.

I’ve always been a fan of ending one story before starting another and wanted The Moonbase to start with them stepping out of the Tardis onto the Moon’s surface, which is how the original Fan Edit started. But without an animated demise for Professor Zaroff to precede it, I had no choice but to include it here instead and amend the audio edit of The Underwater Menace so that it ended with the original cliffhanger.

Moonbase opening fan edited

Here’s how I initially cut together the animated intro from The Moonbase. The TARDIS’ landing gets adjusted and uses the proper landing effect instead of the take-off one used in the TX version. I also edited out Polly’s fluffed line. The next thing to do after this was to cover up the episode credits.

The first thing to do was to cut together that end sequence and get it out of the way, since it would be the easiest part of the edit to do. I reordered the material slightly, and redid the landing of the Tardis, in order to keep the sequence as tight as possible. After that it was a case of getting rid of the episode captions, the most time-consuming part of the entire edit of this sequence.

They appear over three juddering separate shots of the console, the lever, and the the Doctor’s face. The shot of the lever was fairly easy to fix as the shot gets repeated when the “Episode 1” caption fades out, so I simply dropped in the repeat of the shot and matched it to the original. Easy, or at least the easiest of the the three.  The next shots to do were the two shots of the Doctor’s face. There were other sections with a “clean” version of each shot so I grabbed those and pasted them over the captions, frame-by-frame, resizing them to match the originals and cover up the captions. All in all it took 51 frames to fix those two shots, which only left me with the hardest ones to do, the long shots of the console.

Covering up the credits was complicated by the sheer amount of movement in both shots, resulting in lots of patching with “clean” sections from other points within the two shots, requiring another 37 frames. The next thing to do was to truncate the resolution of the cliffhanger slightly in order to eliminate the two short gaps that were too time consuming to patch. They only cover 33 frames of the action so their loss isn’t exactly noticeable.

Next I had to engage in a bit of jiggery-pokery in order to insert the DVD opening into my original Fan Edit opening. It actually turned out to be fairly easy to do, requiring only one short section to be re-ripped and a couple of music cues to make it look as if it had always been that way! The original edit ran just under 57m but the addition of the opening sequence only adds another couple of minutes of material. Apart from the new opening section this edit is exactly the same as it was first time around. 

The Moonbase is arguably where the Pat Troughton Era as we know it begins, after all the nonsense of stove pipe hats, baggy trousers and pointless disguises. The trousers and pixie boots went after The Highlanders, the hat and disguises after The Underwater Menace. Pat’s performance started to change once he found himself opposite Josef Furst but it’s mostly Morris Barry we need to thank for getting Pat to finally step up to the plate and play the lead role of Doctor a lot more centre stage. After all, the show is called Doctor Who, it isn’t called The Adventures of Ben & Polly is it!

MOONBASE CD REARdownload moonbaseMoonbase by Ben Willsher DWM470


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