Revenge of the Cybermen

Revenge of the Cybermen Cybermen

Harry Sullivan is an imbecile!

Fourth Doctor

Synopsis

Arriving on Space Station Nerva in its distant past, the Doctor, Sarah and Harry find its crew threatened by a mysterious plague. Discovering that things are not what they seem, they stumble upon a plan to commit genocide devised by the Doctor’s old enemies, the Cybermen.
Review

Revenge of the Cybermen is a bit of a bizarre story really and a lacklustre end to Tom Baker’s largely strong first season. Having held a cult statement due to being the first story to be released on VHS, it demonstrates some poor writing and feels like a 60s era story. The direction is largely strong from Michael Briant and generally, the story feels as though it has quite high production values. I really struggle with this story, especially the Vogan Civil War element, which really failed to grab my interest.

Revenge of the Cybermen Doctor

I will start by talking about the positives of the story. I feel like the direction, is for the most part, quite good and Briant is very competent in his shots. I particularly like the contrasting uses of light on Nerva Beacon and on Voga, as it makes the scenes on the planet feel significantly different to those on the space station. This is not to say that everything works well, although the blame cannot solely be laid at Michael Briant’s door. The writing and some of the performances do him no favours and small things like the Cyber Leader having his hands on his hips when interrogating Sarah seem like contributing factors as to why the story doesn’t really work for me – the Cybermen seem to have too much emotion. Additionally, scenes like the fight between the Cybermen and the Vogans lack any kind of visual flair to keep them interesting, which feel especially necessary when they drag like they do here. Like I say, it would be unfair to blame the director solely for this, and he does do the best he can with an admittedly poor script. Briant does a good job considering the fact that he is working with a limited budget and it is fair to say that I think that Spielberg, or, to use a more achievable director for the modern series, Rachel Talalay, would struggle to make scenes involving that Cybermat look good.

As this story featured the return of the Cybermen after a seven-year absence, it does seem as though both Gerry Davis, one of the creators of the Cybermen, and Robert Holmes seem not to understand how they work. I think that Holmes, like his predecessor as script editor Terrance Dicks, did not like the Cybermen and so his interest was probably not too high when he came to do his extensive rewrites on this story, but there are some really ridiculous moments that smack of laziness on both men’s behalf. The Vogan Civil War is really uninteresting, rather extraordinary when you consider the calibre of actors under the prosthetics, and just feels like padding to get the story up to the required length. Each part feels as though it has a massive amount of exposition in There are also massive plot holes in this story, the most irritating of which being that the Vogans at no point consider using the gold as a weapon against the Cybermen, despite it being one of their weaknesses and Voga is the planet of gold. I really dislike the idea of gold being a weakness for the Cybermen anyway as it adds to a list of weaknesses for this supposedly continually upgrading race established over the course of 1960s Doctor Who, but this plot hole bugged me, especially as two Cybermen slaughter a load of Vogans in the overlong battle scene.

Sadly, unlike other stories of this era where the elements feel a bit lacking, this story suffers from coming early in Tom Baker’s era, and it is clear that he has not got to grips with the part during the production of this story. There are hints of the direction that Baker would take his incarnation and he isn’t helped by the fact that this story feels as though it was written for any of his three predecessors. It’s hard to say for certain, but the moments that feel most in character for this incarnation of the Doctor are likely ad-libbed moments and reactions. Equally, Sarah Jane feels very poorly written and lacking any agency. The scene where she is interrogated by the Cybermen in the concluding part really shows how disinterested Holmes was in this story, and it is a shame Sladen doesn’t have more to sink her teeth into. I do feel that both Sladen and Baker deserve a huge amount of credit for getting through the scene talking about heading towards the “biggest bang in the universe” without absolutely corpsing though. The only one of the TARDIS team who feels well written in this story is Harry, continuing to show his usefulness to the Doctor, combined with his occasional bumbling.

Verdict: The return of the Cybermen is really rather underwhelming, with a poorly written story which doesn’t stand up to much scrutiny. It does contain some lovely direction and the use of Wookey Hole Caves does raise it slightly. 3/10
Cast: Tom Baker (The Doctor), Elisabeth Sladen (Sarah Jane Smith), Ian Marter (Harry Sullivan), Ronald Leigh-Hunt (Commander Stevenson), William Marlowe (Lester), Jeremy Wilkin (Kellman), Kevin Stoney (Tyrum), David Collings (Vorus), Alec Wallis (Warner), Michael Wisher (Magrik), Brian Grellis (Sheprah), Christopher Robbie (Cyber-Leader) & Melville Jones (First Cybermen)
Writer: Gerry Davis
Director: Michael Briant
Parts: 4
Behind the Scenes

  • The symbol hanging in the Vogan audience chamber would be re-used in The Deadly Assassin and would be retrospectively named as the Seal of Rassilon.
  • The story was largely rewritten by Robert Holmes. The original story was set on a deserted space casino and Davis rewrote it to be set on the Nerva Beacon. This story carries Gerry Davis’ only writing credit on his own.
  • Terror of the Zygons was originally shot as the season finale for Tom Baker’s debut season, but was held over to start the following season.
  • The first Doctor Who story released on VHS.
  • The location filming took place at Wookey Hole Caves, where production was beset by bad luck. An electrician broke his leg and Elisabeth Sladen’s motorboat went out of control. Terry Walsh rescued Sladen, but was taken ill shortly afterwards.
  • First major appearance of the Cybermen since The Invasion. They had previously made a cameo appearance in Carnival of Monsters, their only appearance in the Pertwee era.
  • During the transmission of the story, William Hartnell passed away.
  • This story marks the reappearance of the TARDIS, which was last seen on screen in The Ark in Space.
  • The first occasion where the Cybermen’s voices are provided by the actor inside the suit.

Best Moment

The entrance of the Cybermen at the end of the second part is one of my favourite parts of this story.
Best Quote

Then what is it? You’ve no home planet, no influence, nothing. You’re just a pathetic bunch of tin soldiers skulking about the galaxy in an ancient spaceship.

Fourth Doctor

Revenge of the Cybermen TARDIS

Flesh and Stone

Flesh and Stone Crack

Cracks, cracks in time. Time running out. No, couldn’t be. But how is a duck pond a duck pond if there aren’t any ducks? And she didn’t recognise the Daleks. Okay, time can shift. Time can be rewritten. But how? Oh.

The Eleventh Doctor

Synopsis

The Doctor, Amy, River and the Clerics are trapped by an army of Weeping Angels and an evergrowing Crack in the Universe. They try to escape through the crashed Byzantium, while Amy faces a deadly battle with a Weeping Angel inside her own mind, forcing her to navigate the forest vault with her eyes closed.

Review

Flesh and Stone picks up from where The Time of Angels left off, and the frenetic pace doesn’t let up, which leads to a really satisfying conclusion to the story. The first two-part story of the Matt Smith era has a great mix of horror and humour with some superb writing from Steven Moffat. Adam Smith’s direction and Murray Gold’s music help to escalate the tension as the number of the Doctor’s allies dwindle.

Now. Listen. Remember what I told you when you were seven.

What did you tell me?

No. See that’s the whole point. You have to remember.

The Eleventh Doctor and Amy Pond

The strength of this concluding part is that it manages to maintain the frenetic pace and energy of its predecessor, and Adam Smith is a massive part of that.  In the opening moments of the story, after the recap, we get a beautiful tracking shot which reveals how they escaped the climactic events of The Time of Angels.  One of my favourite moments is the scene where the Weeping Angels enter the Byzantium in a darkened corridor whilst the Clerics fire at them.  The direction here is effective and creepy and I like how the only light is from their weapons.  Murray Gold’s music particularly helps, especially when Amy is walking through the forest with her eyes closed, evoking unease and putting the viewer on the edge of their seats.

Flesh and Stone Weeping Angel

The story is top-notch, which makes it one of the few two-parters in modern Doctor Who which feels like it really lives up to its predecessor.  The fact that Moffat gives the Angels a voice makes them feel all the more menacing and a potent threat.  What this two-parter does, in general, is add to the mythos around the Weeping Angels, making them feel much more fleshed out and resourceful.  There is genuine brilliance in some moments of the dialogue, especially the speech that Father Octavian and the Doctor share before the former has his neck broken.  The dialogue flips quickly between comedic and epic speeches, which are equally well written, and the comedy does not detract from the overall tone of the story as the Doctor looks to lead the Clerics and Amy and River

I know that this episode is controversial amongst some regions of the fanbase due to two separate issues.  The first of these is that we see the Weeping Angels move.  I feel that this is particularly well done in the story, with the idea being seeded when we see an Angel reach out to grab the Doctor’s jacket, something which I only noticed when watching for this review in a quite literal blink-and-you’ll-miss-it moment.  As mentioned above, the sequence in which Amy has to walk through a group of the Angels with her eyes closed is one of my favourite moments in the episode.  I appreciate for some it may take away some of the mystery of them, but the execution is superb.  The second controversial moment comes in the final moments and one that I can see where people are coming from.  When Amy comes on to the Doctor, it is an expression of her relief of surviving the ordeal she has been through, and it has been horrific.  She has had an angel in her mind and was seconds away from dying.  However, I feel the execution is inappropriate for a show of Doctor Who’s ‘family nature’ stamp, even if it does not impact on my appreciation of the episode too much.  One redeeming part of it is Matt Smith’s reactions to being kissed, looking largely uncomfortable.  This establishes this incarnation as much less comfortable with romantic interactions, even perplexed by them., whereas his predecessor seemed to be completely at ease.  It might be a difference even from the asexual nature of the Doctor of the classic series, but it is at least something a bit different, a bit more alien and just watching Smith’s performance here, it is entertaining.

Flesh and Stone River Doctor Amy

Like the Angels, this story continues to flesh out the mysterious relationship between the Doctor and River Song, and with a slightly smaller cast, this story does get a bit more room to breathe.  Alex Kingston is fantastic as River again and we learn here that she is in prison for killing ‘a good man’.  There is surely no doubt in anyone’s mind that her victim is the Doctor and I’m not sure that it was ever intended to be some great mystery.  Kingston and Smith have some good chemistry, especially demonstrated in the scene where the two talk before she gets picked up at the end of the story.  I also really like Karen Gillan in this story, and by this time in 2010, she was established as possibly my favourite companion in the revived series.  However, contrived the reasons for bringing Arthur Darvill in as a semi-regular for the remainder of the series in the next story would cement her and the Last Centurion as two of my favourite companions of all time.

Verdict: Flesh and Stone is one of the strongest concluding parts of a two parter, with the perfect melding of writing, performances, music and direction. 10/10

Cast: Matt Smith (The Doctor), Karen Gillan (Amy Pond), Alex Kingston (River Song), Iain Glen (Octavian), David Atkins (Angel Bob), Darren Morfitt (Marco), Mark Monero (Pedro) & George Russo (Phillip)

Director: Adam Smith

Writer: Steven Moffat

Behind the Scenes

  • Flesh and Stone reveals more about the Cracks in the Universe, with the Doctor realising that a lot of past events have been retconned.
  • The final scene where Amy attempts to make sexual advances on the Doctor was criticised.
  • The first episode where we actually see the Weeping Angels move.

Best Moment

It should come as no surprise, but Amy’s walk through the forest.

Best Quote

The Angels are feasting, sir. Soon we’ll be able to absorb enough power to consume this vessel, this world and all the stars beyond.

Well, we’ve got comfy chairs, did I mention?

We have no need of comfy chairs.

I made him say “comfy chairs”!

Angel Bob and the Eleventh Doctor

Terror of the Autons

The Master

I am usually referred to as the Master.

Oh? Is that so?

Universally.

The Master and Rossini

Synopsis

A renegade Time Lord, the Master, plans to destroy the Earth and silence the Doctor forever using the Nestene Consciousness and the Autons.  Aided by the Brigadier and his new companion, Jo Grant, the Doctor is the only one who can stop them.

Review

Terror of the Autons almost acts as a soft reboot for the Jon Pertwee era of Doctor Who.  It serves as an introduction for such key characters as the Master and Jo Grant, as well as firmly establishing the “UNIT family” to provide the Doctor’s support.  It is a good story, if not as good as Spearhead from Space, which introduced the Autons at the start of the previous season.  There are some great moments, full of horror and a sense of unease, a charming and well-portrayed central villain and some good performances, even if the story does feel extremely similar to Spearhead and the overuse of colour separation overlay really do undermine it.

One of the weakest parts of this story is the titular villains and the fact that this story feels very similar to the plot of Spearhead from Space.  The Autons are really rather sidelined as the Master’s heavies for the majority of the story, however, I can understand how this happens.  The Nestenes, sadly, are rather a one-dimensional alien race and so they can easily lapse into this role, but this does not mean that they don’t contribute to one of the best moments – the stunt where one of the Auton policemen is knocked down a steep incline, before getting back up and ascending the slope.  Sadly, however, for the majority of the story, they lack their previous feeling of threat, no matter how creepy they look as the Auton policemen or the big-headed promotional mascots handing out murdering daffodils.   I think this might have something to do with the fact that they move around silently, without the creepy sound that accompanied them in Spearhead from Space.  Ultimately though, there’s not really very much you can do with the Autons, and here they serve as a narrative shorthand as something familiar for the audience to hang onto when a lot of the show seems a bit up in the air, introducing a lot of changes.

Autons

The story also suffers from an overuse of what was at the time a new and emerging technology, then known as colour separation overlay (CSO), but now known as blue screen.  Barry Letts was a particularly forward-thinking individual, both as a producer and a director, and using this new technology did also help with storytelling on a show like Doctor Who, however, the issue that crops up here, and in multiple other stories, is in its overuse.  In this story, CSO is used to show the inside of a lunchbox, a kitchen and a quarry, to name but a few, which sadly just takes you out of the story.  It is obviously a product of its time and by and large I do excuse it, but there are in occasions in Terror of the Autons where it really spoils it.

Brig Doctor Daffodil

Robert Holmes’ script can feel highly derivative of his earlier story introducing the Nestene Consciousness and the Autons, however, it is full of some horrifying ideas and concepts, helped along by Barry Letts’ direction, featuring some of the best uses of everyday items as a source of the terror.  One of the most famous and at the time controversial of these is the conclusion to the second episode, where policemen appear to rescue the Doctor and Jo from the Master’s hypnotised circus troop, only for one of the policeman’s masks to slip and reveal that they are Autons.  This was highly controversial at the time as it was seen to be undermining the police and did attract complaints at the time.  Equally, moments like the Doctor being strangled by some telephone cable and Jo nearly being suffocated by one of the plastic daffodils are really horrifying and really toe the line of what was acceptable for Doctor Who at the time.  Another famous moment involves a plastic armchair quickly enveloping and suffocating McDermott in the plastic factory, and the camera lingers on this for a surprisingly long time.  Scenes like this really do stick the memory and are definitely part of Terror of the Autons‘ strengths.

Finally, the elephant in the room.  Roger Delgado is superb as the Master, effortlessly oozing class and charm in every scene he appears in.  The Master is a direct parallel for the Doctor, acting as the Moriarty to his Holmes, and it is telling that after his smooth introduction to Rossini, we see the Doctor being completely horrible to his new assistant Jo Grant, and actually a bit bumbling.  They are perfect mirror images of each other, and I love the way that Pertwee bristles when he is reminded by the Time Lord who appears in Episode One that the Master received a better final result than him.  The chemistry shared by Pertwee and Delgado is superb and improves the story considerably as the actors bounce off each other fantastically.  Of the other new additions, Katy Manning stands out as Jo, who is a distinct departure from her predecessor, Liz Shaw.  Whilst she may not have the scientific acumen of Liz, Jo is determined to prove herself and is resourceful in different ways.  Manning gives Jo great enthusiasm and the scenes where she is frustrated by being treated like a child by the Doctor and UNIT in general are really well played.  As much as I miss Liz, Jo Grant is a fantastic companion for the Doctor, more in the vein of the standard question asking companion but benefits from Katy Manning’s performance.

Nonsense, what you need, Doctor, as Miss Shaw herself so often remarked, is someone to pass your test tubes and tell you how brilliant you are.

Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart

Verdict: Terror of the Autons works really well as a soft reboot of the Earthbound stories of the early Pertwee era, even if the story feels like a retread.  Roger Delgado’s debut as the Master cements this as a really strong story. 8/10

Cast: Jon Pertwee (The Doctor), Katy Manning (Jo Grant), Nicholas Courtney (Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart), Roger Delgado (The Master), Richard Franklin (Captain Mike Yates), John Levene (Sergeant Benton), Michael Wisher (Rex Farrel), Harry Towb (McDermott), David Garth (Time Lord), Frank Mills (Radio Telescope Director), Christopher Burgess (Professor Philips), Andrew Staines (Goodge), John Baskcomb (Rossini), Dave Carter (Museum Attendant), Stephen Jack (Farrel Senior), Barbara Leake (Mrs Farrel), Roy Stewart (Strong Man), Dermot Tuohy (Brownrose), Norman Stanley (Telephone Mechanic), Bill McGuirk (Policeman), Terry Walsh (Auton Policeman), Pat Gorman (Auton Leader) & Hadyn Jones (Auton voice)

Director: Barry Letts

Writer: Robert Holmes

Behind the Scenes

  • This story introduces Katy Manning as Jo Grant, Roger Delgado as The Master and Richard Franklin as Mike Yates.  This story also marked the start of John Levene working under an annual contract.
  • The story marks the debut of a new UNIT uniform and a lab for the Doctor, which would remain until the end of his exile.
  • The Autons return following their debut in Spearhead from Space.  They would not return until Rose after this story.
  • The set of the Farrel’s home contains the famous round window from the children’s television show Play School.
  • Whilst filming the escape from the Auton policemen, Katy Manning sprained her ankle in one of the first scenes she shot on the programme.
  • Terry Walsh was injured when he was rammed by one of the cars, which remains in the finished story.
  • Harry Towb had previously appeared in The Seeds of Death, whilst Michael Wisher makes his second appearance in Doctor Who.  Roy Stewart previously played Toberman in The Tomb of the Cybermen and both Andrew Staines and Christopher Burgess in The Enemy of the World.

Best Moment

Almost any moment that Delgado is on screen, but probably his introduction.

Best Quote

The human body has a basic weakness.  One which I shall exploit to assist in the destruction of the human race.

The Master

The Doctor and Jo

The Girl in the Fireplace

TGIF Doctor and Reinette

What’s a horse doing on a spaceship?

Mickey, what’s pre-Revolutionary France doing on a spaceship?  Get a little perspective.

Mickey Smith and the Tenth Doctor

Synopsis

The Doctor, Rose and Mickey arrive onboard a deserted spaceship three thousand years in the future.  What has happened to the crew?  And why has the ship got gateways into the life of Madame de Pompadour, a French lady from the 18th Century?

Review

The Girl in the Fireplace is not only a superb example of what Doctor Who can do but is a fantastic example of television in general.  It is definitely in my top ten episodes of the revival and probably in my top ten episodes of Doctor Who of all time.  I say this as someone who loves Moffat’s work under Russell T Davies and his work whilst showrunner with a very few exceptions, and this has a lot of his tropes perfectly executed – we’ve got a bit of mucking about with time and some sharp, witty, and frankly brilliant dialogue.  I think if I am looking for an episode of Doctor Who to pick me up, this is one of the first I will turn to.

You think I fear you.  But I do not fear you even now.  You are merely the nightmare from my childhood.  And if my childhood nightmare can return to plague me then rest assured, so will yours.

Reinette

One of the strongest parts of this episode is in the casting of Sophia Myles as Reinette, who gives a superb performance as Madame de Pompadour, and she has clear and believable chemistry with David Tennant.  Obviously, I must mention that Tennant and Myles did date for a short time following working together on this episode, breaking up in 2007.  However, when you have a story that hinges on the central premise of two characters falling in love and telling this story in 45 minutes, this chemistry is essential.  On a side note, a large part of my issues with Tennant’s first series as the Doctor and Rose is that Tennant and Billie Piper don’t have that chemistry.  The two obviously get on well as friends, but there’s something lacking that stops me buying into that whole ‘they both love each other romantically’ element of their story.  The chemistry between Reinette and the Doctor also means that you ultimately believe in both the Doctor’s decision to come and save her, knowing that this means being separated from his TARDIS and Rose and Mickey, as well as the final scene, where he comes back for her, only to find that she has passed away.  Sophia Myles’ Reinette also feels like a strong heroine and we fully root for her defeating the Clockwork Droids.  Her speech when she speaks about being resigned to taking the slow path whilst hearing her own future screams is beautifully played, as is the scene when the Doctor manages to fix the link to the ship.

TGIF Doctor and Arthur

Steven Moffat’s writing is also fantastic.  The story itself, despite its obvious links to The Time Traveller’s Wife, is different enough, and the reveal of the twist is really superb.  I love the fact that the Doctor and his companions never solve the mystery of why the Clockwork Droids are stalking Reinette, and the way the episode is directed by Euros Lyn withholds this reveal well.  We see the exterior of S.S. Madame de Pompadour on multiple occasions as a transition shot between scenes, but this never spoils the twist.  Moffat’s script fizzles with what we now see as his trademark wit but packs a lot of emotion into this story.  I love the fact that the Doctor reasoning for wanting to keep Arthur is that he allowed Rose to ‘keep’ Mickey!  The story also has some fantastic pacing and ties up the story beautifully with no loose ends.  One of the most powerful scenes in a story that is full of them is the mind reading scene where the chemistry between the two actors really helps but the writing is fantastic and the twist is very cleverly done.

TGIF Reinette

I feel that this is one of Tennant’s best performances as the Doctor to date, and there are some really great moments here.  Obviously, this story allows Tennant to utilise his Casanova experience, but he has lovely moments like when he sees the clockwork mechanism in the Clockwork Droid’s head which is quintessentially Doctor-y.  Additionally, the scene where the Doctor acts drunk when Rose and Mickey have been captured by the Clockwork Droids is great.  Ultimately, the highlight of this story is how he plays the scene where the King tells him that Reinette has died, he reads the letter and tucks it into his pocket is beautifully played by all involved, and the following scene where he reads the letter in the TARDIS is heartbreaking.

The Clockwork Droids are a really good adversary for the Doctor and his companions, with their intentions no doubt honourable but misguided in their attempt to repair their ship.  Before the story even begins, they have murdered the entirety of the crew of the S.S. Madame de Pompadour and their search then turns to Reinette, believing that the ship can only be fixed with her head once she has reached the correct age. The Droids are very creepy, with their wigs and masks and I really like the idea that they would break any working clocks in the room to disguise themselves.

Verdict: I don’t think I can overstate my fondness for The Girl in the Fireplace.  It is one of the finest episodes of Doctor Who since the revival, if not of all time. 10/10

Cast: David Tennant (The Doctor), Billie Piper (Rose Tyler), Noel Clarke (Mickey Smith), Sophia Myles (Reinette), Ben Turner (King Louis), Jessica Atkins (Young Reinette), Angel Coulby (Katherine), Gareth Wyn Griffiths (Manservant), Paul Kasey (Clockwork Man), Ellen Thomas (Clockwork Woman), Jonathan Hart & Emily Joyce (Voices)

Writer: Steven Moffat

Director: Euros Lyn

Behind the Scenes

  • The story follows School Reunion directly, however, when Steven Moffat wrote the story he had not had the chance to read the end of the story, hence the lack of animosity between Rose and Mickey.  There are also no references to Torchwood, as Russell T Davies did not ask Moffat to put any in.
  • This story was originally second in the series order, however, due to the experimental nature of the story, it was moved to fourth.
  • The Time Traveller’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger was an inspiration for Moffat whilst writing this story but the finished product is structured differently.
  • Russell T Davies was inspired by the Turk, an 18th Century robot, when devising the Clockwork Droids.
  • The Girl in the Fireplace was nominated for a Nebula Award and won the 2007 Hugo Award for Best Dramatic Presentation, Short Form.

Best Moment

The mind reading scene.

Best Quote

What the hell is going on?

Oh.  This is my lover, the King of France.

Yeah? Well, I’m the Lord of Time.

King Louis, Reinette and the Tenth Doctor

Clockwork Droid

The Macra Terror

the-tardis-crew-in-the-console-room-1552571850

This is an emergency! Control must be believed and obeyed!  No-one in the colony believes in Macra!  There is no such thing as Macra!  Macra do not exist! There are no Macra!

Control Voice

Synopsis

The Doctor, Ben, Polly and Jamie visit a colony that appears to be a happy holiday camp.  However, when they scratch beneath the surface, they find that the colonists are mind controlled by the Macra, crab-like creatures, who are forcing them to mine a gas vital for their survival, but fatal to the colonists.

Review

On the face of it, The Macra Terror seems like a kind of B-movie that you’d comfortably sit down to watch on a rainy Sunday afternoon.  There are more interesting ideas lurking beneath the surface, a bit like the titular aliens about the idea of conformity and mind control, which draw obvious parallels to Orwell’s 1984 and give an interesting insight into concerns at the time.  The story has certainly benefitted from being animated and I think that the quality of the animation really helps the story, even if the Macra aren’t a great or particularly memorable villain.  The parts that will stick with me are around some great performances from both the guest and main cast, especially Patrick Troughton who seems to be revelling in the chaos.

doctor-who-the-macra-terror-1552570328

Sadly, the titular monsters are the weakest part of the story.  The Macra feel like a rather generic monster and this really undermines the story especially in its later stages.  They are quite effective in the early parts of the story, where they are shrouded in mist and their glowing eyes are quite creepy.  Later on, sadly they are less interesting, but they still do add a sense of menace, such as when the Macra sneak up on Ben and Polly or when they come looming out of the gas when Jamie is in the old shaft.  As creatures that can only talk through the projections of the Controller, they are rather one dimensional beyond the feeling of threat.  Ultimately, the conclusion feels a bit anti-climatic as the Macra cannot pose more of a threat.   They are menacing enough, but they don’t really pose the Doctor enough of a real threat to be taken too seriously.

However, the underlying ideas of the story are interesting.  The mined gas being fatal to humans but vital to the survival of the Macra is a good idea, making the mind washing seem like a reasonable thing to see here.  I find the mind control a much more sinister aspect of this story – there’s something about gloriously happy people that I find inherently creepy.  Ian Stuart Black obviously takes inspiration from Orwell’s 1984, with the Controller feeling very much like Big Brother.  I particularly find the propaganda songs to be particularly creepy, and while the reveal that the Controller is really the Macra is not particularly shocking – it’s the sort of twist that almost always happens in stories like this – it is well done here.  The story also delves into propaganda, indoctrination and unquestioning obedience to authority, especially when it comes to the character of Ola, who is power hungry and therefore keen to make a stand against the Pilot when he starts to believe the Doctor about the Macra.

Bad laws were made to be broken.

The Second Doctor

The cast is especially good here, especially Troughton who seems to take a childish joy in teasing the authority figures and generally causing mischief.  A story which features a compliant group of colonists is practically perfect for the Doctor to unleash his inner rebel and his detestation of authority.  This story is notable for perhaps giving Jamie the first real action he has seen since joining the TARDIS team.  Ben and Polly are more sidelined here, possibly to prepare the audience for their imminent departure in The Faceless Ones, but Michael Craze does some good work with Ben, despite being subject to mind control for the majority of the story.  You can feel the conflict and anguish he is going through when he sells out his friends to Ola as he battles the Macra’s mind control.  Amongst the guest cast, Peter Jeffrey stands out as the Pilot, who gradually comes to believe that the Doctor is telling the truth, and Gertan Klauber is great as the unsmiling Ola, hungry for more power.

Verdict:  The Macra Terror is a good piece of the Second Doctor’s era, now gloriously restored in animated form.  It is an enjoyable adventure, even if the titular monsters aren’t fantastic. 8/10

Cast: Patrick Troughton (The Doctor), Michael Craze (Ben Jackson), Anneke Wills (Polly), Frazer Hines (Jamie McCrimmon), Peter Jeffrey (Pilot), Terence Lodge (Medok), Gertan Klauber (Ola), Graham Armitage (Barney), Ian Fairbairn (Questa), Jane Enshawe (Sunaa), Sandra Bryant & Karol Keyes (Chicki), Maureen Lane (Drum Majorette), Graham Leaman (Controller), Anthony Gardner (Alvis), Denis Goacher (Control Voice), Richard Beale (Broadcast and Propaganda Voice), Robert Jewell (Macra Operator), John Harvey (Officia), John Caesar, Steve Emerson & Danny Rae (Guards), Roger Jerome, Terry Wright & Ralph Carrigan (Cheerleaders)

Writer: Ian Stuart Black

Director: John Davies

Parts: 4

Behind the Scenes

  • The first story to feature the lead actor’s face in the opening titles, which would continue until Survival.  It would return in The Snowmen in 2012, until Twice Upon A Time.  This story also featured a new arrangement for the theme tune, but this did not debut until the broadcast of the second episode due to technical issues.
  • Sandra Bryant asked producer Innes Lloyd if she could be released from her contract due to a more attractive offer of work.  Her role was recast for episode four.
  • The Macra returned in Gridlock, forty years after this story was broadcast.  This is the third longest gap between appearances, behind the Great Intelligence and Alpha Centauri.
  • All four parts of the story are missing from the BBC archive, however, the story was completely animated and released in 2019.  This is the last four part story missing from the archives.
  • Peter Jeffrey went on to play Count Grendel in The Androids of Tara.  Sandra Bryant and John Harvey previously appeared in The War Machines, while Gertan Klauber had previously appeared in The Romans.

Best Moment

 

Best Quote

Oh, come now, we can’t have bad temper and differences of opinion in this happy-type colony!  Say you’re sorry, Ola.  Say you’re sorry, Pilot.

The Second Doctor