09
Jan
11

Story 034: The Macra Terror

I want to start right off by saying I really liked this story. It has a lot going for it, the intersection of a few themes, Jamie finally steps up, and Patrick Troughton gives, I think, his best performance thus far. And we have a new intro! I was wondering when it would change, I didn’t expect it mid-season. I have to admit that the picture of Patrick Troughton is kind of creepy, but it’s a good change and the update of the graphic improves the overall look. The change/improvement was a reminder that the show will eventually move into a more modern time. Color must also be coming soon, I think.

At the Colony. Note Polly's new short hair. Hot.

So, the travelers arrive at The Colony just as the police are chasing Medok, some apparent criminal. As can be expected based on earlier stories, the criminal is, of course, the good guy. His crime is telling people about the Macra, terrible beasts that he say are hanging out in the Colony. Those in charge, led by the Pilot and the Controller and Ola, Chief of Police, all claim he’s crazy. Meanwhile, we learn that everyone in the Colony is super happy to be working and living and their schedule is punctuated by music. The travelers are given a buff and a shine in a scene reminiscent of Dorothy and friends arriving at the Emerald City in the film version of the Wizard of Oz, and then told that they are happy, but Jamie doesn’t like the look of things. He’s apparently smarter than he looks.

It turns out that the Controller, who appears as a still image on a large video screen (similar to Big Brother in the film version of 1984), sends them secret messages while they sleep. “you like to work. You are happy. The Colony is good. The Controller knows best.” All in a nice, soothing voice. Ben falls victim, Jamie is too smart to be duped by such nonsense, and the Doctor saves Polly. Apparently these voices make people think that because they get what they want and the sing and dance that everything is alright and they are happy. This is an interesting theme that I think was done well. Of course, it’s kind of like consumer society. As long as we get what we want and can freely spend our credit..i mean money…we tend to look the other way and ignore the ways we are being controlled. We remain hypnotized in a way by the culture industry.

What went on to be interesting about this was the Doctor’s understanding of the Macra, who were responsible for the state of things. He describes them as a bacteria or a parasite that got into the brain of the Colonists. An infection of sorts. I found this theme and commentary to culture to be brilliant. Well done, Ian Stuart Black.

The Macra. Very scary. And delicious with some Old Bay Seasoning.

 

The travelers, known to the Colonists as the Strangers (another brilliant choice that conjures thoughts of propaganda automatically inclining the people against them), begin to think Medok is correct and he shows the Doctor a Macra. The Macra are large, crab-like creatures with glowing eyes. Ben, seduced by the soothing messages of the Controller, turns on his friends and beings helping the Colony (a word which also reeks of unwanted invasion and occupation). Jamie, Doctor, and Polly are sent with Medok to the mines (isn’t there a better form of punishment than mines….think of something new already!) where they are releasing a dangerous gas from underground. In an amusing scene, Medok is struggling mightily to get some tube in the wall while Jamie and Polly, rather than helping, are off looking a door to another mine shaft. Some help they were.

Jamie runs off into the old mineshaft, followed closely by Medok. Meanwhile, the Doctor discovers the secret formula of the gas. Proud of himself for figuring it out, he says “I think I’ll give myself a 10 out of 10.” When he learns it took the Colony’s computers years to prefect the formula he changes his grade to an 11/10. Ha! I’m starting to warm to Troughton’s humor and his portrayal of the Doctor. It’s taken a while, I think I just needed a story I enjoyed to get used to him.

Did you guys just see the giant claw attack that old dude?!

It turns out that the Macra are really in control and they need the gas to breathe. They’ve been fooling the Colonists. In one great scene, Jamie challenges the image of the Controller saying “that’s not really you!” So, they show a picture of some old man talking and when he doesn’t perform a giant Macra claw comes in and attacks him while everyone looks on. This, however, was not enough to convince the people. Instead, the Doctor takes the Pilot to the Control room and shows him a Macra sitting there.

In the end, the gas the Macra need is withheld and the Colonists get their brains back. The Doctor and his friends dance away. The performances of all the leads were, I felt, quite strong. Jamie shows off his bravery and intelligence for the first time, really taking in the lead after Ben was hypnotized. Troughton gave a performance I could take seriously. Polly continued to be the damsel, not really doing too much, but always being there and chiming in. Ben’s performance was probably the weakest, but that was because he was meant to act like the guest cast, which he did just fine. In short, the best Ben and Polly story since the War Machines and the best Troughton story yet. It makes me optimistic for upcoming stories. And the Faceless Ones, up next, actually has two complete episodes. Which I plan to watch on my Lost In Time DVD Set that I received for Christmas. Awesome.

Macra In Control

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7 Responses to “Story 034: The Macra Terror”


  1. 1 Urias42
    9.January.11 at 4:00 pm

    Glad to see you liked tis one. I was getting a little worried there. The Doctor/Jamie double-act is one of the best in DW history, though it does come across better visually.If I remember correctly, Ben and Polly have more to do in the Faceless Ones, Jamie certainly does.
    At this new pace you’ll be out of the woods and into one of the show’s few almost unanimously praised eras before you know it. It’s been interesting reading your initial reactions to Troughton. It’s a Doctor Who fan’s rite of passage, the transition from one Doctor to the next. You’re not supposed to like the new man right away.You’re supposed to point at the bad hair and silly clothes and say “My Doctor would never do that!” Only later do you accept him, in theory any way.It’s hard to remember that even Troughton went through that process,that there was a time when his performance was shocking and different.

    • 2 jacob1480
      9.January.11 at 4:43 pm

      Thanks for the comment and for reading.

      I’m not sure I can keep up this new pace, although I plan to watch another story tonight. Busy-ness is coming back. I’m just trying to get through these reconstructions, I have great hope for what comes after.

      I think it’s difficult whenever there’s a new character in a television show. For example, I hated Juliet in Lost for a long time. And it’s even harder when a main character is replaced. But they almost always grow on you…and Troughton’s Doctor is starting to be no exception. A couple more good stories and I’ll be sold.

      Thanks again for reading!

      Jacob

  2. 9.January.11 at 5:09 pm

    I’m really glad you liked this one. I think The Macra Terror is generally underrated because it’s one of the completely missing stories. But the music! the creepiness of Ben’s behaviour! as you rightly say, the social commentary! It’s stuff you really wouldn’t find on TV these days, and not for a good reason.

    • 4 jacob1480
      9.January.11 at 5:19 pm

      Thanks for the comment!

      I think Ben’s creepiness gets a little lost in the reconstructions. At least the one I saw the image quality, except for Episode 3, wasn’t very good. And he just sounds deadpan in his delivery. But the whole idea is creepy enough to give it to it.

      And the music is a great point. I didn’t mention it in my post, but the cheerfulness and the little tune that played every time the controller spoke just amplified the dystopic vision of it all. I think this story was very well constructed and would look awesome in a moody or noir shade that contrasted with happiness and (likely) cleanliness of the Colony. It has its problems, of course, but it’s one I would have liked to have seen as a complete story rather than reconstruction.

      Jacob

  3. 5 peg
    10.January.11 at 9:21 am

    glad to hear that you finally watched a show that you liked, hope the next two are as awsome as this one was. dancing and being happy is my number one goal, yikes maybe i am being talked to at night also, wouldn’t it be nice to have the world all dancing, singing, and being happy! someday i feel it will happen.

  4. 6 Stephen
    5.April.11 at 2:04 pm

    Rather fond of The Macra Terror myself. It has just enough of an offbeat premise to keep me entertained. So sad that it only exists in audio form.

    Any idea when you will be tackling “The Faceless Ones”? It is another odd one, but it sets up a new direction for the show, and if you are getting bogged down in these Season Four stories, especially with so many episodes missing, I hope you will push on so you can get to the so-called “Monster Season” that was Season Five.

    • 7 jacob1480
      5.April.11 at 10:20 pm

      Stephen,

      Thanks for the comment!

      I have actually already started watching the Faceless Ones about 5 times. But I haven’t made it past the 4th episode. I am enjoying it, but I just haven’t chosen good times to watch. My delay in watching has been due to having to complete my preliminary exams for my doctoral degree (almost there!), but I have every intention of carrying on, hopefully soon!

      Jacob


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About These Adventures

This blog exists to document my trip through over 30 seasons of the British science fiction television show Dr. Who. Prior to beginning, I had never seen a single episode of Dr. Who and will be learning the show's mythology and experiencing it all for the first time. I began sometime in July of 2009. Hopefully it doesn't take me over 30 years to reach the end.

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