Published on May 23rd, 2013 | by Joe Siegler1
034 The Macra Terror
The Macra Terror starts off with a guy named Medok evading guards in a society that seemed to be a 60′s attempt at “futuristic”. There’s no easing in to this story, it just “starts”. If we could see this properly, I wonder what this would have looked like, as the music played early on isn’t a whole lot like other incidental music of the time. As usual, the Doctor is introduced to the story by accident, when he materializes right when Medok is trying to evade the guards. And as usual, their random appearance when some local law enforcement shows up is how the Doctor gets snared into the story. Pretty common Doctor Who idea, that one.
The Doctor and his companions (three – an unusual thing even now) are taken into the compound, and more of the oddly cheerful music is playing. The Doctor addresses that by asking about the music – and the response is that “we regulate our day by music”. It’s an oddly weird feeling, especially given we can’t see this episode, can only hear it with a few pictures, it’s a weird dynamic for a story with “Terror” in its title. The society seems to be built around making people comfortable, with massages, things for toning up the muscles, etc.. The continuing odd feel comes from a disembodied head that addresses the people on a video screen (the concept reminded me of the Borad from Timelash).
The story is a pretty common one early on. The Doctor and his companions arrive, and are treated very nicely – the locals giving them all kinds of nice things. The slight difference is that the angle here seems to be based around “beauty products”. Massages, shampoos, things like that. All the same time, we get the escaped guy from before counterbalancing the “happy” stuff the Doctor and his companions are involved in. So it’s obvious where the story is going.
Patrick Troughton here does well, because it’s obvious even from just HEARING him that he’s doing what the Second Doctor does: seem innocent, non-offensive, yet still looking at and examining everything. It’s not until much later in the story that he becomes more forceful. I always liked the slow buildup of the Doctor in stories like this.
Interestingly, some of the patrol guards look a bit like the Bannermen warriors in the McCoy story of that same name.
The Doctor is captured with Medok when he discovers what ends up being the Macra, and when brought back for questioning, they tell the Doctor he’s free to go, and one of the overall character traits of every incarnation of the Doctor rears its head here. That being his inquisitive nature. Instead of caring about his own freedom, he wants to know what’s going to happen to Medok when given the opportunity to extricate himself. I can quite easily see any of the other Doctors doing this.
The higher up people in the colony try and bring the “strangers” (the TARDIS crew) under the same kind of control they exhibit over everyone else. Part of the training is him denying the existence of the Macra. “THERE ARE NO MACRA!” It’s all under the direction of the big disembodied face on the screen. If you’re familiar with the James Bond film On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, the sleep control in use here reminds me a lot of what Blofeld used to send his “angels” around the world with the nerve agent.
Things pick up about halfway through the story, and the “Terror” in the title feels more amped up, and for me makes the story more interesting. I’m not sure why the first part of this story didn’t hold my interest as much, but once the Macra were shown, it seemed more interesting to me.
Ben is now an “agent” of the mind controlled colony. At this point of the story, the really strange happy music from the beginning feels even more strange against the context of forced labor, mind control, and disembodied heads that control everyone. A lot of time is spent with an underground gas work party, during which time the Doctor manages to work out what the colony is actually doing, which is pumping out gas from the mines which the Macra need. Shortly after this Medok is attacked by a Macra, leading to the full reveal of the Macra to Jamie.
When the Macra made a surprise cameo appearance in the Tenth Doctor story Gridlock, and it was said they used to be a big deal, I always wondered about The Macra Terror and how it tied in. So at this point, I’m wondering how (if at all) we’ll get to see the “glory” of the Macra. When the Macra are fully revealed for the first time, there’s no motive or anything else other than them being a “lumbering monster”. Or at least the one we saw menacing Jamie. I did enjoy these parts, felt more “traditional” to Doctor Who stories of the time, with corridors, monster drama, running around, the Doctor having that “Aha – I’ve figured it out” moment… From there, everything starts breaking down, control isn’t as “controlling”, and things are not as they were at the start of the story – again a familiar concept.
The resolution of the story was spent with the Doctor’s usual brand of interference in releasing a society under control from someone else. There are, however, two scenes in episode 4 that involve Jamie dancing. I would have LOVED to have seen those!! In the end, it turns out the colony is saved by the Doctor’s meddling around and turning the administrators against “control”. Control was the Macra themselves, who manifested themselves as the disembodied head from earlier.
On the whole I can say I enjoyed the story, but the beginning was a bit slower than I would have preferred.