Dan Dare: The Red Moon Mystery Review

The second Dan Dare adventure, though shorter than Voyage to Venus, this serial still upped the stakes and saw Dan and his friends battle an entire planet that had been transformed into a spaceship by a hostile alien race.

Though not quite as epic or ground breaking as the Venus adventure this is still one of the better Dare adventures and a very exciting and influential story in its own right.

Plot

In the year 1999 Dan and Digby who are celebrated heroes are enjoying a holiday on Mars. Dan’s uncle Ivor Dare a renowned Archaeologist meanwhile discovers that the ancient society of Mars was destroyed by some unseen alien force that came from the sky called the Red Moon. Sadly he is unable to find out exactly what the Red Moon is at this point.

Later Dan and Digby are called away to deal with a mysterious red asteroid which Sir Hubert coincidentally describes as being like a red moon. Naturally Digby is scared, but Dan assures him that its just a stray asteroid that fell out of its path.

Dan leading a team consisting of Digby, Professor Jocelyn Peabody, and Hank and Pierre travel out to investigate the Red Moon which draws closer to earth.

Unfortunately as they try to land on the Red Moon a powerful noise knocks them out and damages their ship using powerful magnetic forces. Dan deduces that a Venusian ship could make its way to the Red Moon as they repel all outside magnetic forces due to fact that they use magnetic motors.

As Dan and the others make their way back to earth the Red Moon arrives near Mars and begins to cause electrical storms and power failure’s.

A mass evacuation is ordered of the planet’s human colonies, but unfortunately some of its inhabitants panic and attempt to riot. Peabody manages to single handedly put down the riot by turning off the artificial gravity.

After the riot is put down the colonists manage to escape. Dan uses the Venusian ship christened the Anastasia which is able to survive the powerful magnetic force. After everyone is off Mars, Dan discovers that his uncle Ivor is still on the planet trying to finally crack the mystery of why the Martians died out. He manages just as the moon is approaching to save Ivor. Unfortunately the space station taking people from Mars to Earth is nearly pulled in by the moon’s gravitational field and though Dan manages evacuate the colonists into escape pods, Peabody is left behind and is stranded on the Red Moon.

Dan, Ivor and Digby subsequently manage to arrive on the Red Moon itself. Ivor is convinced that the secrets to stopping the Red Moon lies within the box he discovered on Mars and tries to find a way to open it. Dan meanwhile explores the surface of this strange world which is inhabited by hideous insect like creatures. Dan also manages to find Peabody who survived the crash.

As the Red Moon draws closer to earth electrical equipment begins to break down, climate catastrophes erupt all over the earth, and no spaceship is able to leave the planet.

In desperation the global powers attempt to launch an atomic strike on the moon, using one of the few nuclear weapons kept after world peace was declared.

Unfortunately it isn’t able to make its way to the Moon as the magnetic fields cancel it out. Thus it seems nothing can stop the moon as it heads ever closer to the planet earth.

Dan, Peabody, Digby, and Ivor manage to make their way back to earth where having discovered what was in the box Ivor has managed to put the pieces of the puzzle of the Red Moon Mystery together.

Ivor believes that the insects on the Red Moon originated on a similar planet to earth where insects became the dominant life form. The creatures then evolved to the point where their bodies could survive in the vacum of space and explored their nearby moon.

The creatures then found a way to propel the moon through space and used it to escape their solar system after its sun went supernova.

The creatures then piloted their moon through the endless recesses of space searching for planets whose resources they could use. They fought many battles and lost most of them at first, but over time they became much stronger. The creatures hibernate through long treks between solar systems. Ivan Dare believes that they have destroyed possibly 100’s of millions of worlds, ancient Mars obviously among them.

As they created massive tunnels on their planet and burrowed deep into the earth, their burrowing created a metallic dust cloud around the planet which turned the planet into a giant dynamo and produced huge quantities of electricity and a huge magnetic field.

The creatures also create the deafening noise by rubbing their legs together like crickets. The sound travels through space as it is turned into light waves and transformed back into sound when it arrives on a nearby planet.

The sound at full force kills its victims by creating reverberations in the brain. After the magnetic and climate problems and the sound has killed most of the life forms on the planet below, an invasion force of insects then sweep across the planet enslaving, killing and devouring any survivors. They strip the planet for all its worth and then move on to the next world.

With Earth their next target, Professor Peabody is able to devise a solution to stopping the Red Moon. She works out that as light is the only thing that can travel through space the Queen Bee’s trace the light coming from whatever planet they come near and tell if there is chlorophyll coming from it.

Using Peabody’s solution the Treens whose ships aren’t affected build a giant light house which fools the creatures from the Red Moon and causes them to pursue it thinking it is a planet instead.

A Treen ship carrying, Sondar, Dan, Digby, Peabody and an Atlantine boy named Urb then are able to destroy the red moon using a Treen super bomb.

As the planet explodes however Sondars ship isn’t able to escape the blast in time and is seemingly destroyed. Back home everyone believes that Dan, Peabody, Sondar and Digby are dead and they are hailed as heroes. In reality however they managed to survive the destruction of their ship but are stranded on Mercury.

Review

The Red Moon Mystery is overall a cracking adventure that explores a lot of interesting ideas and concepts.

The idea of a planet moving through space is an interesting idea and allows the villains of this story to seem like a much greater threat than the Mekon. The creatures from the Red Moon are brilliant villains as not only do they seem genuinely unstoppable, but they are also as different to the Mekon and the Treens as you can imagine.

The Mekon and the Treens as evil as they were did not wish to destroy humanity. They wished to conquer earth and other races across the universe so that they could study them. They were cold and logical. These creatures however are completely destructive.

They devour virtually all life on the planets they visit and strip them completely clean of all resources. They also kill because they have too as well. In a way the reader is invited to have sympathy for them as unlike the Treens as these creatures do not have a twisted belief system that inspires them to kill. Instead they are as Ivor Dare himself puts it, the victims of a horrific accident themselves who live, hideous, miserable, violent lives.

Ultimately in what is a darker solution than the hopeful end of Voyage to Venus Dan is actually forced to commit genocide and wipe these creatures out. What’s interesting is the way that Dan doesn’t destroy them to save the earth as they have already successfully driven them away from the earth. Dan and the others feel that they need to destroy the Red Moon as they don’t have a right to let it loose into the universe where it will harm other worlds. They carry out one genocide to prevent possibly millions more.

The ending of Voyage to Venus was almost like a Western, with the good guys literally riding in on horses and beating the evil monsters, this story raises an interesting moral question around our heroes of was what they did actually right? Yes they have save countless knows how many worlds, but at the end of the day they are still guilty of genocide and who is to say that the creatures from the Red Moon wouldn’t have changed their ways in due time and become a peaceful race?  Ultimately even our heroes are not sure if they did the right thing and thus in contrast to the neat, happy ending of the preceding story, the Red Moon Mystery’s ending invites the reader to think about the great moral dilemma its main characters ultimately had to face.

In the end there were no easy options. Had they let the Red Moon go more people would have undoubtedly died, but what they do is still sheer murder, exterminating an entire race that is fleeing by shooting them in the back.

The idea of a giant satellite arriving in our solar system and causing havoc on the earth as it draws closer is a common story in modern science fiction. We’ve seen it dozens of times, Star Trek the Motion Picture, and Star Trek 4 The Voyage Home both revolve around this premise as does the 1998 blockbuster Armageddon and even the Futurama episodes A Big Piece of Garbage and Game of Tones.

At the time this story was released however it was a fairly original concept. The only precedents I can think of are the original Flash Gordon strips which involved the planet Mongo heading on a collision course with the earth. The George Pal film When World’s Collide was released 1 month after the start of this story in November 1951.

Undoubtedly Flash Gordon was an influence on this story, as Dan Dare was conceived as essentially a British version of Flash Gordon.

Still I feel that this story was able to make the idea somewhat more frightening than in Flash Gordon by tying the planet entering out solar system into the destruction of Mars.

The fact that we have already seen what the planet is capable of makes the threat feel greater. We are taken deep into the final days of Mars and discover that their last leader burned himself to death in order to avoid facing the insects. Again this personally for me made the threat of the planet seem greater than in Flash Gordon.

 

My only problem with this story is the rather huge coincidence that Ivor Dare manages to discover what killed the Martians just as the Red Moon enters our solar system. Literally minutes after talking about it with Uncle Ivor Dan is told the Red Moon is arriving in the solar system. It almost seems comical rather than scary.

It would have been better if the Red Moon had been introduced and then Dan went to see his Uncle who had discovered the warning left by the Martians years ago afterwards.

Still despite this minor plot flaw the Red Moon Mystery overall is a classic story and a worthy follow up to the original pioneering Venus adventure.

Dan Dare and the Cybermen

This story was a massive influence on the first Cyberman story in Doctor Who, The Tenth Planet.

The Tenth Planet revolves around the planet Mondas arriving in our solar system. Mondas was originally the Tenth Planet in our solar system centuries ago. It was also Earth’s twin planet. Ultimately however it drifted away from the sun and as its people the Mondasians began to die out, the survivors in order to survive the catastrophe transformed themselves into Cybermen by removing all of their organic components and replacing them with metal ones.

The Cybermen would then at a later point find a way to move their planet through space and begin subjugating other worlds, using up their resources and turning all of their inhabitants into Cybermen. Eventually the planet returns to our solar system where the Cybermen hope to cyber convert all of humanity. The Cybermen ultimately defeat themselves when they end up draining too much energy from the earth’s core which destroys Mondas.

Now it would obviously be wrong to accuse the Tenth Planet of being derivative of The Red Moon Mystery, but you can see how it did borrow from it.

Both revolve around a planet being turned into a spaceship and its inhabitants becoming hostile monsters after a cosmic accident knocks it out of the solar system and we have both worlds returning to our solar system after a long absence.

Kit Pedler who co-wrote the Tenth Planet and co-created the Cybermen was a massive fan of Dan Dare. He openly admitted to taking inspiration from it for his Doctor Who work.

He even supplied the forward for a 70’s reprint of the Dan Dare story the Man From Nowhere. Here he mentioned that the Treens were a major inspiration on the Cybermen.

The Treens are not the main villains of the Red Moon Mystery, but they are similar to the Cybermen in some ways. Both are tall, menacing aliens who have removed all of their emotions. Both operate from a position of pure logic and are utterly incapable of compassion. The Cybermen and the Treens main base of operations are also destroyed in their first stories too. In Voyage to Venus the Mekon and his Treens lose their city Mekonta and are forced to go on the run from spacefleet whilst in the Tenth Planet Mondas is destroyed and the Cybermen for the rest of their appearances in the 60’s are like the Mekon and the Treens a desperate band of creatures trying to rebuild their power base.

Kit Pedler had originally intended to create a Mekon like figure for the Cybermen. He had intended to reveal that their leader was a small, frail creature that flew around like the Mekon. Pedler hoped that this creature which he intended to call the Cyber Controller could become a personal nemesis of the Doctor much like the Mekon for Dare.

Sadly however for Pedler the budget could afford to make the creature small though they still gave it an enlarged brain which was borrowed from the Mekon’s look.

Ultimately the Cyber controller never caught on despite the popularity of his first appearance Tomb of the Cybermen. He only appeared in one more story over two decades later. Ironically Terry Nation the creator of the Daleks, whose work was also greatly inspired by Dan Dare did manage to later create a Mekon like enemy for the Doctor in the form of Davros. Davros was essentially to the Daleks what the Mekon was to the Treens. The Daleks, the Cybermen, and the Treens are all fantastic monsters of course, but the fact that they don’t have emotions (apart from anger and hatred in the Daleks case) means that sometimes it can be difficult to give them any kind of character and thus have any kind of meaningful interaction with the main hero.

Davros, the Mekon and the Controller were all meant to counteract this by being the leaders of each race of monsters who did have more of a personality and could serve as more of a classic nemesis to the hero. In Davros and the Mekon’s case it was successful (perhaps a little too successful as Davros and the Mekon in many ways overshadowed both the Treens and the Daleks) but sadly in the Cyber controller’s case, for whatever reason he just never caught on.

Whilst the Cybermen are iconic creations in their own right at their core they owe a lot to the Treens in terms of character and the Red Moon monsters in terms of origin.

In addition to inspiring the first Cyberman story, the Red Moon Mystery also inspired some Dalek stories too. The Dalek Invasion of Earth though drawing more heavily from Reign of the Robots also did draw some inspiration from this story as the Daleks ultimate plan is to remove the magnetic core from the planet earth and turn it into a giant spaceship. In the early Dalek comic books from the 60’s they also transformed Skaro their home planet into a spaceship too.

Notes and Trivia

  • The Mekon is mentioned briefly by Sir Hubert who says that he expected it to be a Super Mekon behind the Red Moon. The character does not appear however.
  • This story ran from the 5th of October 1951 until the 20th June 1952.

 

 

 

 

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