The Moonbase‘s optimism and enthusiasm always fascinates me, as does The Seeds of Death – both broadcast before mankind stepped onto our only natural satellite. Not only do they posit that humanity will get there, but also that we’ll quickly get fed up of going there, settling into a well of apathy as the amazing is reduced to the earthly and everyday. Yes, they’re great – but TV Comic arguably goes one better in predicting when it would happen. And not being too far off the mark.
Moon Landing was published in TV Comic #710 -712, and featured William Hartnell’s First Doctor, and his grandchildren, John and Gillian. The existence of these comic book siblings might pull the rug from underneath newer fans, any unfamiliar with these staples of the First Doctor’s adventures; they were introduced in The Klepton Parasites, in November 1964, the first ever Doctor Who comic, and essentially took the place of Susan for these stories.
They’re something of a Doctor Who curiosity, as is the 3-part Moon Landing. Significantly, it’s the first time Doctor Who ventures onto the moon, in a story devoid of the monsters you might expect when picking up a modern publication like Doctor Who Magazine or Doctor Who Adventures. Instead, the Doctor, John, and Gillian help out the first men on the moon as they fall into a crevasse. No Judoon, Ice Warriors, or Cybermen; just a dip in the landscape. It’s still a neat tale which achieves its purpose: to educate.
It’s only in the third part that the Doctor reveals the astronauts can save themselves. He holds up a sign saying, “YOU CAN JUMP OUT EASILY. MOON’S GRAVITY IS 1/6 OF EARTH’S”. Colonel Roberts laments that “of course, we should have remembered that, Major!” Well, quite.
Okay, so why is this often-forgotten tale important? Moon Landing makes a couple of strong predictions, despite being published in July- August 1965, roughly 4 years before Apollo 11 really did land on the lunar surface.
Firstly, it theorises that the first manned mission to the moon would touch down on 22nd July 1970, just 1 year and 2 days out from the actual date – i.e. 20th July 1969. Moon Landing instead marks 20th July (albeit 1970) as the date the module left Earth, taking just 2 days to get to the moon. In reality, it took 4 days, 6 hours, and 45 minutes.
Presuming that it would’ve taken the comic book craft 2 days to return to Earth, it would’ve touched down on 24th July 1970 – exactly a year after the real Apollo 11.
The comic further predicts that just 2 men would make it to the moon’s surface: the aforementioned Colonel Roberts and Major Simms. Though 3 people were on Apollo 11 – Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin, and Michael Collins (all of whom made their first expeditions into space in 1966) – only the former pair walked on the moon. Collins was left to orbit the satellite, and sadly lost signal when Armstrong famously became the first human on the moon, meaning he didn’t hear those iconic words, “It’s one small step for man; one giant leap for mankind.”
Of course, the space race had been thundering on for many years before the dream was realised, but I nonetheless love the vision displayed in Moon Landing. Its predictions weren’t far out at all, but what makes it such an interesting piece of memorabilia is in capturing the mood at the time: it all seemed so possible.
It’s an optimism that’s sadly faltered – somewhat echoing that nonchalance in The Seeds of Death – but mankind seems to be reaching for the stars again. And isn’t that wonderful?