The Macra Terror

Doctor WhoIn the future, the Doctor, Jamie, Ben and Polly arrive at a human colony, whose people find them just as they catch up with a refugee named Medok. Medok is treated like a criminal, and even as the colonists show the time travelers their miraculous machines, Medok warns of creatures that stalk the colony. The Doctor later sets him free, much to the consternation of the colony’s leaders. He follows Medok to a construction site outside the colony, where he discovers enormous, crab-like creatures called Macra. As the Doctor’s friends sleep, a hypnotic voice extolls the virtues of obeying the colony rules; when they awaken, Ben betrays the Doctor to the colony authorities. Polly flees and Ben pursues her, but once they catch a glimpse of the Macra, even Ben can no longer deny that this colony is under the control of aliens. Jamie escapes into a shaft where the colonists mine a poisonous gas that none of them can breathe – but the Macra can breathe it, and they’ve seized control of the colonists’ minds to ensure that their supply of gas continues. But the Doctor can convince the innocent colonists of none of this.

Order this story on audio CDwritten by Ian Stuart Black
directed by John Davies
music by Dudley Simpson

Guest Cast: Peter Jeffrey (Pilot), Graham Armitage (Barney), Ian Fairburn (Questa), Jane Enshawe (Sunnae), Sandra Bryant, Karol Keyes (Chicki), Maureen Lane (Majorette), Terence Lodge (Medok), Gertan Klauber (Ola), Graham Leaman (Controller), Anthony Gardner (Alvis), Denis Goacher (Control voice), Richard Beale (Broadcast voice), Robert Jewell (Macra), John Harvey (Official), John Caesar, Steve Emerson, Danny Rae (Guards), Roger Jerome, Terry Wright, Ralph Carrigan (Cheerleaders), Linda Reynolds (Pilot’s secretary), Paul Phillips (Scientist), Nina Huby (Girl)

Broadcast from March 11 through April 1, 1967

Note: The master tapes of this story were destroyed by the BBC in the early 1970’s, and only select clips remain intact.

LogBook entry & review by Earl Green

Review: Yet another Troughton-era episode lost to the ravages of (1) time, and (2) whoever purged the BBC archives, The Macra Terror has gained slightly more interest for me in hindsight due to the bizarre reappearance of the Macra in 2007’s new series episode Gridlock. I’m was curious as to how they’d appeared before, especially with the tenth Doctor’s claim that they had devolved, so here I am watching The Macra Terror.

Truth be told, I’m not sure they’re really used any differently as villains here as they are in Gridlock – in both cases, they’re all but incidental to the plot, the engine that keeps the human guest characters acting strangely. (How strangely, you ask? Just wait until you get a load of the “cheerleading” session in episode 4!) Though they seem to be forcing the humans to do their bidding here in their first appearance, what I wasn’t totally clear on by the end of the story was how this came about. If anything, the Macra in Gridlock are more proactive – they’re still lurking down in the noxious gases, sure, but once you’re down there with them, they’ll do you some damage. In The Macra Terror, our heroes practically have to walk into pincer range to actually be in danger. How these critters took over a whole human colony without winding up as the stars of the 3,987th season of The Deadliest Catch is a bit baffling, frankly.

A little more refreshing is that Ben gets brainwashed and turns his back on the Doctor and the others; setting up a nice contrast, the simpler (and still new to the TARDIS) Jamie doesn’t fall for the subliminal reprogramming at all; once he realizes on a gut level that something’s wrong with the colonists, Jamie throws his lot in with the Doctor regardless of the risks, and even giant crabs can’t dissuade him. Character development was haphazard in these days of the series, but with hindsight, one can see why the Doctor valued Jamie’s company so much in later stories, even after Ben and Polly’s departure.

One last note – the fan-made reconstruction of this story is outstanding, with enough animated effects and extra touches to help elevate it beyond a mere slide show. Sure, it’s no professionally-animated episode of The Invasion, but it’s lively enough to hold a viewer’s attention. The abundance of available photos from The Macra Terror is also a big help in bringing the story (back) to life. It’s the next best thing to having the original tapes back.