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.

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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

The Moonbase

moonbase cybermen

Everything’s got a weak point.  It’s just a question of waiting until it turns up, that’s all.

Second Doctor

Synopsis

The TARDIS lands on the Moon in 2070, where the crew are becoming infected with a strange alien virus.  With Jamie unconscious, the Doctor, Ben and Polly become aware of a mysterious silver menace.

Review

The Moonbase is perhaps notable for being the first episode to launch the “base under siege” style of Doctor Who stories, as well as cementing the Cybermen as a true A list Doctor Who villain.  Whilst the story is not perfect, it does a lot of things well, but there is some incredibly shaky scientific basis, surprising as the writer, Kit Pedler, was a scientist.  I think this story gives us Troughton’s first definitive performance as the Doctor, encapsulated by his delivery of the famous “corners” speech.

One of this story’s real strengths is that it definitely shores up the feeling of the Troughton era.  Troughton seems to have learnt where his strengths are and what sort of person the Second Doctor is.  Aside from the obvious moment, he really nails it when he realises how the Neurotrope virus is affecting the crew via the sugar, as well as the look of abject horror on his face when he realises that the crew didn’t search the medical bay.  Troughton’s face is so expressive, and he really uses it to sell the sense of impending dread.  Whilst it’s a shame that Jamie is unconscious or feverish for much of the story, the story does demonstrate the dynamics within the TARDIS team.  Both Jamie and Ben seem to have a bit of hostility towards each other, whilst it is nice that the story allows Polly to come up with a solution to defeating the Cybermen.  It’s also nice to see Ben and Polly discussing their past encounter with the Cybermen, which helps to turn the tide here, as well as bringing Jamie up to speed on their threat.

Polly Doctor Ben

Another of the strengths of the story if how it deals with the Cybermen.  By us only seeing them fleeting in the first two episodes, it effectively allows tension to be built until they are finally seen by the majority of the crew at the end of the second part.  It also allows for Hobson’s distrust of the Doctor and his companions to feel legitimate and it is a good performance by Patrick Barr.  I initially found the new voice of the Cybermen jarring and a bit irritating, but as I got used to it, actually found it more menacing and sinister than the sing-song version we get in The Tenth Planet. The use of music here also helps give the Cybermen a feeling of real dread and I particularly love the shots of the Cybermen moving across the lunar surface.

The Moonbase is definitely an episode that I’d recommend watching when looking at the development of the Second Doctor’s era as a whole, as well as seeing how the Cybermen became a classic villain.  That is not to say that it is not without flaws.  Some of the direction seems quite flat, especially whilst on the titular Moonbase, although some of the shots on the lunar surface are spectacular.  The story in places does stretch credibility, especially when the Cyber-controlled Dr. Evans is able to gain access to the controls of the Gravitron despite the base supposedly being on red alert and the fact that he is covered in black lines and wearing a Cyber control helmet.  Additionally, the conclusion to the episode feels a bit too silly for a story that by and large is a serious story that packs a lot of a threat. The Cybermen’s plan to destroy the surface of the Earth by using the Gravitron also feels pretty ridiculous and convulted plan.  None of these issues massively affected my enjoyment of the story, though I do feel as though they need to be mentioned.

Verdict: A fun, if flawed, introduction to the base under siege style of stories.  The Cybermen really have a decent second outing. 7/10

Cast: Patrick Troughton (The Doctor), Michael Craze (Ben Jackson), Anneke Wills (Polly), Frazer Hines (Jamie McCrimmon), Patrick Barr (Hobson), Andre Maranne (Benoit), Michael Wolf (Nils), John Rolfe (Sam), Alan Rowe (Voice from Space Control), Mark Heath (Ralph), Alan Rowe (Dr. Evans), Barry Ashton, Derek Calder, Arnold Chazen, Leon Maybank, Victor Pemberton, Edward Phillips, Ron Pinnell, Robin Scott, Allan Wells (Scientists), Denis McCarthy (Voice of Controller Rinberg), John Wills, Sonnie Willis, Peter Greene, Keith Goodman, Reg Whitehead (Cybermen), Peter Hawkins (Voice of Cybermen)

Writer: Kit Pedler

Director: Morris Barry

Parts: 4

Behind the Scenes

  • The Moonbase was commissioned very quickly after the broadcast of The Tenth Planet, due to uncertainty about the availability of the Daleks for future appearances and the success of the Cybermen.  Dalek creator Terry Nation was looking at opportunities to launch the infamous villains in televisions and movies in the United States.  The Cybermen would go on to reappear several times in Troughton’s run as the Doctor.
  • The first story to feature the Earth’s Moon, and the first redesign of the Cybermen.  It also marks the final usage of the original title sequence until 2013’s Day of the Doctor.
  • Episode 1 and 3 are missing, but have been animated in the BBC’s DVD release.
  • According to a story told by Anneke Wills, Patrick Troughton was nearly crushed when the Gravitron prop fell from the rigging whilst he was exploring the set.
  • Victor Pemberton, who plays an unnamed scientist, served as the show’s largely uncredited script editor from The Evil of the Daleks until The Ice Warriors, and wrote Fury From The Deep.  This makes him both one of the five people to write and act in the show and the only person to appear in a story before a story of his was broadcast.

Best Moment

I really love the moment where the Cyberman is found in the stock room.  It’s really effective and quite scary, and the story really uses shadows effectively.

Best Quote

There are some corners of the universe which have bred the most terrible things.  Things which act against everything we believe in.  They must be fought.

Second Doctor

Moonbase crew

The Underwater Menace

doctor underwater menace

Nothing in the world can stop me now!

Professor Zaroff

Synopsis

The TARDIS arrives on an extinct volcanic island, and after being captured and taken into the depths of the Earth, the Doctor and his companions find the lost city of Atlantis and it’s civilians. A deranged scientist, Professor Zaroff has convinced them that he can raise the city from the sea, but in actuality, he plans to drain the ocean into the molten core at the Earth’s centre, which will result in the explosion of the planet.
Review

The Underwater Menace contains, at the time of writing, our first look as Patrick Troughton in the role of the Doctor. Up until part two of this story, we have to make do with animation in The Power of the Daleks, audio in the case of The Highlanders and telesnap reconstructions of the first and last parts of this story. It is perhaps a shame that it is quite an underwhelming story, which feels as though the writer doesn’t have a firm enough grip on the concept of Doctor Who.

doctor head dress

It feels like I say this with every early Doctor Who story, but this one definitely had a troubled journey to the screen, as it was another rushed job, due to the scheduled author of this story being taken ill. It does feel as though Geoffrey Orme doesn’t really understand the central concept of Doctor Who and the plot regarding the lost city of Atlantis and the megalomaniacal plans of Zaroff wouldn’t feel out of place in a late-era Roger Moore James Bond movie. Despite how Doctor Who has a relatively flexible structure and can almost fit any kind of story, The Underwater Menace feels as though it has overstepped the mark. Despite Zaroff’s grand plans, it never feels as though the story really has credible stakes due to the sheer ridiculousness of the plot. Orme’s lack of knowledge of the series seems blatant when the note that the Doctor writes to Zaroff is signed by “Dr. W”. Similarly, the story does struggle to accommodate the increased number of companions, with Jamie McCrimmon being a late addition to the TARDIS team and with the existing companions Ben and Polly, it feels like there’s barely enough for them all to do. The narrative also gives the additional pseudo-companion of Ara who gets more to do than any of the three. Catherine Howe, however, does give a good performance and it is a shame that it’s not a better story and that she does not get the opportunity to travel with the Doctor.

Look at him – he ain’t normal, is he? (about the Doctor)

Ben

The elephant in the room here is the performance of Joseph Furst as Professor Zaroff. In keeping with the late Moore-era feel of his villain, Furst really overplays it and it feels at first like he is one in the long list of actors to ham up their role. However, as the story gets more ridiculous, the performance becomes much more commendable as he makes the best of questionable writing. The lasting legacy of Furst’s performance is perhaps helping Troughton finally decide on how he will play this incarnation of the Doctor. Troughton starts the story feeling like he is still feeling his way as the Doctor, however, when he faces off against Zaroff, his performance alters. He starts to play the Doctor more subtly, with an impish charm and hints of a more scheming mind behind his cosmic hobo exterior. This story definitely gives us a more recognisable performance of the Second Doctor, by Troughton largely underplaying the role. This is perfectly demonstrated by the way he fiddles with the lighting at the start of part two, which saves Polly from her surgery.

sea creature

The sea creatures seen in this story also look distinctly cheap and really add nothing to the plot, except to be manipulated by outside elements into rebellion against Zaroff. I appreciate that the budget was much lower in this era and the show was making more episodes on it, but they look utterly bizarre. They also feel like a last minute addendum to the plot, just to give Ben and Jamie something to do. This story also features a beautifully choreographed ‘underwater’ dance sequence, which also just feels like complete filler. Other than Ara, the other civilians of Atlantis seem rather one dimensional, sadly, and this coupled with looking like quite a cheap episode (except for the eventual destruction of Atlantis) means that this is rather forgettable.

Verdict: Sadly, the first surviving footage we have of Troughton features in a bit of a muddle. The performance of Joseph Furst saves some of the more middling moments, but it feels utterly baffling at times. 3/10
Cast: Patrick Troughton (The Doctor), Michael Craze (Ben Jackson), Anneke Wills (Polly), Frazer Hines (Jamie McCrimmon), Joseph Furst (Professor Zaroff), Catherine Howe (Ara), Tom Watson (Ramo), Peter Stephens (Lolem), Colin Jeavons (Damon), Gerald Taylor (Damon’s Assistant), Graham Ashley (Overseer), Tony Handy (Zaroff’s Guard), Paul Anil (Jacko), P.G. Stephens (Sean), Noel Johnson (Thous), Roma Woodnutt (Nola)
Writer: Geoffrey Orme
Director: Julia Smith
Behind the Scenes

  • This is the first story to feature the lost city of Atlantis.
  • Hugh David was originally slated to direct, but realised that it was impossible on Doctor Who’s budget after discussing the story with a member of the crew working on the James Bond films. David dropped out and then assigned to direct the preceding serial, The Highlanders.
  • Jamie McCrimmon was a late addition to the TARDIS team, which meant that there had to be hasty rewrites to accommodate him.
  • This is the first Doctor Who story to feature Atlantis, which would reappear in The Time Monster.

Best Moment

The Doctor’s confrontation with Professor Zaroff, where we start to see what kind of man the Second Doctor will be.
Best Quote

Zaroff, I think you ought to know the sea has broken through and is about to overwhelm us all.

Don’t listen to him! The man lies!

Then perhaps the distant roaring we can hear is just the goddess Amdo with indigestion.

Second Doctor and Professor Zaroff

The Highlanders

This story does not exist due to the wiping of old films by the BBC in the 1970s. As such, I’ll have a look at what the story entailed and talk about the important elements for Patrick Troughton’s time in the TARDIS.

The Highlanders was written by Elwyn Jones and Gerry Davis, and directed by Hugh David. Elwyn Jones, although commissioned to write a script, carried out no work on the script, and the story in its entirety was written by script editor, Gerry Davis.  Normally in situations where the script editor rewrote or wrote the majority of the script, they were not credited, however, in this case, Davis received an on-screen credit. Hugh David was amongst the actors considered to portray the First Doctor by Rex Tucker, however, Verity Lambert rejected him on the grounds that, at the age of 38, he was too young to play the Doctor.  David would also direct a further Troughton story, Fury From The Deep, which at the time of writing remains missing.

It was made up of four parts and would be the last ‘pure historical’ story of Doctor Who until 1982’s Black Orchid.  However, as The Highlanders is based around true historical events, unlike Black Orchid, it can be seen to be the last ‘true’ historical event.  The only character included in this story who actually existed is the villainous Solicitor Grey, though.

This episode sees the introduction of Jamie McCrimmon, played by Frazer Hines, who would remain with the programme until The War Games in 1969. Jamie is a fan favourite companion and would cameo in The Five Doctors and reappear again in The Two Doctors. Due to the vast amount of Doctor Who made in this era, Jamie McCrimmon is the companion with the most appearances, with 113 episodes under his belt.  He also narrowly misses out on appearing in every Troughton episode.  Hines himself now plays the Second Doctor for Big Finish Productions, as well as continuing in the role of Jamie.

Synopsis

The TARDIS team arrive in Scotland in 1746, shortly after the Battle of Culloden, where the Doctor tends to the wounds of a Laird of the Jacobites, Colin McLaren, and gains the trust of a small band of Jacobites.  All of them are captured by the Redcoat troops, except for Polly and the Laird’s daughter, Kirsty, and are put into the custody of Solicitor Grey, who plans to sell his prisoners into slavery in the West Indies.

Polly and Kirsty blackmail the leader of the Redcoats, Lieutenant Algernon Ffinch, to help them, and they smuggle weapons onto the stolen ship where the prisoners are being held, the Annabelle. Solicitor Grey and the captain, Trask, are overpowered, and the stolen ship is returned to it’s rightful owner, Willie Mackay, who agrees to take the rebels to France.  At the end of the story, Jamie joins the TARDIS crew.

Cast: Patrick Troughton (The Doctor), Michael Craze (Ben), Anneke Wills (Polly), Fraser Hines (Jamie McCrimmon), William Dysart (Alexander McLaren), Donald Bissert (The Laird), Hannah Gordon (Kirsty McLaren), Michael Elwyn (Lieutenant Algernon Ffinch), David Garth (Grey), Dallas Cavell (Trask).

 

 

The Power of the Daleks

Patrick Troughton’s first episode, now produced in full as animation, is a fantastic story, full of Dalek menace…

Power of the Daleks diary

We will get out power!

The Daleks

Synopsis

Following the Doctor’s regeneration into a younger body, the TARDIS lands on Vulcan, where he is mistaken for the Earth Examiner.  The Doctor discovers that Lesterton is attempting to revive three inanimate Daleks that were found in a crashed ship.  The Doctor’s warnings go unheeded, and once reactivated, the Daleks start performing routine tasks around the colony.  However, they have sinister plans of their own.

Review

This is the first Dalek story not to feature a writer’s credit for Terry Nation, and under David Whittaker’s penmanship, the debut of the Second Doctor provides a sense of creeping dread and uncertainty about the new man in possession of the TARDIS key.  The Daleks are posing as helpful for the human inhabitants of a colony on Vulcan, but the Doctor and his companions, mistaken for an examining party sent from Earth, know better.

Firstly, the new Doctor.  The script explains that the process of renewing his appearance (regeneration hadn’t even entered the show’s lexicon at this point) is linked to the TARDIS, but his companions, Ben and Polly are untrusting initially that the younger, cosmic hobo is the same man, and the Doctor doesn’t help himself by referring to himself in the third person a lot, especially in the first part.  However, the fact that the Dalek seems to recognise the Doctor eventually seems to calm most of the doubts in their minds.  It is difficult to say much about the intricacies of Patrick Troughton’s performance, due to the animation, but the vocal performance is superb and I believe that the animation does a commendable job of capturing Troughton’s visual performance.

Within the colony, the other colonists have no reason to trust the Doctor’s protests to Lesterton’s attempts to reactivate the dormant three Daleks that have been found in a capsule, even when one of them is killed by one of the Daleks in a scene which is reminiscent of Frankenstein.  One of the best scenes in the earlier parts of the episode are where the Doctor demands that the Daleks are “broken up or melted down.  Up or down,  I don’t care whichbut destroyed!”

The Daleks sell themselves convincingly to the colonists that they are nothing but servants, which is something echoed in Victory of Daleks.  This plot shows the true cunning of the Daleks – even deprived of their gun stalks, they are still a formidable threat and remain plotting, gaining the trust of colonists very easily.  They are also seen as an aid to the rebellion against Governor Hensell, being run by Bragen and Lesterton’s assistant, Janley, which ultimately backfires as the Daleks kill indiscriminately, both members of the rebellion and the loyal forces alike.

The highlight of the episode for me, however, is definitely the production line sequence.  Lesterton enters the capsule, due to increased suspicion thanks to the Doctor’s protests, to discover the Dalek manufacturing more and more Daleks, and to his impending horror, the magnitude of what he has done finally dawns on him.  Unfortunately for the colonists, Lesterton’s discovery is far too late.

The Power of the Daleks is an exceptionally strong episode, and it is a testament to Troughton’s performance that, despite his eccentricities in the first few episodes, he provides a strong performance to convince you by the end of the six parter, that he is indeed the same man who faced the Cybermen in the South Pole, just with a different face.  It is often said by actors who play the Doctor, or felt by fans, that they aren’t the Doctor until they have faced the Daleks, and so it is a true baptism of fire for him as an actor, and he comes through with full marks.

As for the Daleks, we rarely see them so devious, so patient and so cunning as we do here…and it is truly terrifying.

Verdict: An incredibly strong debut for the Second Doctor; with a strong story for the Daleks.  10/10

Starring: Patrick Troughton (The Second Doctor), Michael Craze (Ben Jackson), Anneke Wills (Polly Wright), Bernard Archard (Bragen), Robert James (Lesterton), Nicholas Hawtrey (Quinn), Pamela Ann Davey (Janley), Peter Bathurst (Hensell) and Peter Hawkins (Dalek Voices)

Writer: David Whittaker

Director: Christopher Barry

Parts: 6

Behind the Scenes

  • All six episodes are missing from the BBC Archives.  An animated reconstruction of the story was released in 2016.
  • Dennis Spooner wrote the final versions of the scripts, however, is uncredited.  This would be his final contribution to the show.
  • The first Dalek story not to be written by Terry Nation and the first ‘…of the Daleks’ story, the most common title format for Dalek stories.
  • The first story to show a full body shot of the Dalek mutant.
  • The only story to introduce a new Doctor in the classic era to run for longer than four parts.
  • The only story during Patrick Troughton’s original televised run not to feature Frazer Hines as Jamie McCrimmon.

Best Moment

The production line scene.

Best Quote

I think we’d better get out of here before they send us the bill!

The Second Doctor