Friday, 22 July 2011

34: The Macra Terror - Big Brother Is Watching. But He's More Crustacean Than Custodian.

Written by: Ian Stuart Black.
Companions: The Doctor, Ben Jackson, Polly, Jamie McCrimmon.
Monsters/Villains: Macra.
Brief Synopsis: Huge crab-like Macra have infiltrated a human earth-colony and are secretly enslaving the colonists.
Rating: 4.5/10.

The first Doctor Who titles to include the actor's face.
We launch into this one with a freshly rearranged theme and a brand spanking new title sequence featuring Patrick Troughton's face; a motif that would reoccur for the rest of the classic series Doctors to come.

FUTURISTIC GORDIE ACCENT (which sounds somewhat the same as a present-day Gordie accent would sound): Day 9,000,035 in the Colonist Holiday Camp. The Colonists are gathered in the reception room, enjoying a band and a group of Majorettes parading past when Medok, who is up for eviction this week, comes running in chased by Ola and his guards. Todays challenge: apprehend Medok. The prize: a number of beauty treatments.

Okay, so it's not exactly Big Brother, but there is a clear tie here. The Colony is run by an unseen all-powerful Controller. A colonist called Medok is on the run, he is hiding as the TARDIS materialises near by. When the TARDIS' occupants emerge, Medok attacks Jamie, but with the aid of Ben the two overcome him, just as Ola: the Chief of Police and his guards arrive. They describe Medok as 'one of the last patients in the colony.' They tie him up and take him away and the Controller sends out a message thanking the Doctor and co for apprehending Medok. 

They also meet the second in command of the colony, the Pilot, who thanks them and leaves them in the capable hands of Barney, who is some sort of beauty therapist, I think. He offers them steam baths, beauty treatments, massage, sunlight and moonlight treatment, and sparkling and effervescent sprays. He offers a slightly offended Doctor to get his clothes cleaned. Polly asks for a shampoo, and the two gentlemen get massages from a bevy of beauties. The Doctor goes into a machine which cleans his clothes whilst still on his body and tidies his hair. He emerges perfectly tidy and clean. Unhappy with his new smart appearance the Doctor enters a workout machine, leaving him messy haired and with his clothes crumpled. Barney says that Polly is the most beautiful girl in the colony and will surely be voted beauty president; whatever that may be. Jamie and Polly learn that the colonists work to tap and refine dangerous gases that the colony in some way relies on.

The Doctor getting clean.
FUTURISTIC GORDIE ACCENT: Day 9,000,036 in the Colonist Holiday Camp. The three new housemates are in the Spa. Having won the daily challenge they receive some beauty treatments and the Controller announces that they will hold a reception to welcome them. It will be fun for all!!

The Doctor with Medok.
They lock up Medok, threatening a return to the hospital for correction for spreading rumours about terrifying creatures that prowl around the colony at night. The Doctor picks the lock to Medok's cell, freeing him so he can speak to him further about these sightings. The Doctor slips out during the Controllers enforced curfew and finds Medok who tells the Doctor that these creatures look like giant insects or crabs. A few have seen them, but they get locked up in the correction hospital. A patrol is sent to find Medok and told to shoot to kill. Hiding in a building under construction, Medok and the Doctor try to escape the guards but catch a glimpse of a huge crab like creature. Macra.

The guards find them and take them before the Pilot. The Doctor looks to be in serious trouble but Medok makes a statement saying that the Doctor was trying to get him to give himself up. The Pilot thanks the Doctor for bringing Medok to justice. The controller appears to the Pilot merely as an image on a screen and orders that the Doctor and his friends are to be given the advantage of high powered adaption at once. Stating, that they must begin to think like members of the colony, using processes called deep sleep and thinking patterns. He starts out quite calm but builds into a mad frenzy. "We cannot have criticism from these strangers. The process will begin immediately. Control must be believed and obeyed. No one on the colony believes in Macra. There is no such thing as Macra! Macra do not exist!! There are no Macra!!"

The Controller, as he appears as a static image.

FUTURISTIC GORDIE ACCENT: In the rest cubicle Ben, Jamie and Polly are sleeping, when they start to hear voices: "Everything in the colony is good and beautiful, you must accept it and obey orders. The leaders of the colony know best. You will be given work and you will be glad to obey. You will not resist the sleeping gas. Breath deeply. In the morning when you awake you will obey."

Jamie awakes and recalls hearing the voice, whereas Ben is unaware and says they have work to do tomorrow. The Doctor enters Polly's cubicle. He examines the wall and finds a wire, he fuses it and causes a small explosion. Polly wakes up and the Doctor says he thinks she has been listening to some bad advice. The Doctor rushes to Ben and Jamie. The Doctor fuses Ben and Jamies' wires too and explains that they are like nerves tapping the subconscious of the human brain. Jamie and Polly don't seem to have been affected by the hypnotic voice but Ben turns against the Doctor, calls Ola and tells him about the Doctor breaking the wires. Ola takes the Doctor and Jamie to see the Pilot.

Ben under the colony's control, betrays his friends.
Polly goes to find Jamie and the Doctor. Ben follows her and they both see a Macra. Ben denies seeing it as his conditioning is too strong. Polly is grabbed by a huge claw. Ben tries to free her causing the Macra to eventually releases her and move off. Two more Macra arrive but the pair manage to escape.

Peter Jeffrey as The Pilot.
The Doctor and Jamie are with the Pilot who is also under control. Ben arrives, with Polly, but denies having seen Macra. The Doctor questions who the Controller is. The picture of "the controller" vanishes and they see the real controller, who is old and dishevelled. A voice orders him to tell the strangers to believe and obey. He tries to comply, but a Macra claw comes on to the screen and drags him away. The Pilot orders the Doctor, Jamie and Polly be taken away to the pit.

The real controller gets clamped.
FUTURISTIC GORDIE ACCENT: Day 9,000,037 in The Colonist Holiday Camp. The Doctor, Jamie, Polly and Medok are in the mines. They have broken the rules and are being punished by being put in the 'Danger Gang.'

The group are placed under the control of Officia, the mine supervisor and grouped with the danger gang, who do the dirty work in the mines, and go where the gas is worst. The Controller orders the pilot to forget all he has seen. The Pilot orders Ben to follow his friends and report on them. Polly, Jamie and Medok go down into the mine, whilst the Doctor takes the supervisory job. In the mines, Medok, Jamie and Polly help the other miners to stop a gas leak. Officia gets knocked out by some gas and Jamie takes his keys. No one seems to know or question what the gas is used for. Ben arrives and sees Jamie go through a locked door to the old mine shaft. An alarm sounds, announcing that Jamie has escaped and Medok goes to find him. The claw of a Macra grips Medok and throws him to the ground. Ben witnesses Jamie's 'treachery,' but doesn't report it. Jamie discovers a dead Medok and comes face to face with a Macra.

FUTURISTIC GORDIE ACCENT: Medok becomes the first colonist to be evicted.

Meanwhile the Doctor is trying to discover the nature of the gas. The controller orders that gas shall be diverted in to the old shaft. And it's then that we learn that the gas is not intended to kill Jamie, but to energise the Macra. The gas fills the old shift, Jamie coughs and splutters and the Macra begins to recover and moves toward him. He tires to escape but another Macra appears and corners him.

Jamie hides in a crevice of rock, while the Doctor manages to reverse the gas flow and causes oxygen to flood into the old shaft allowing Jamie to escape. The Doctor has Officia's keys and locks the door so the guards cannot enter. The Doctor and Polly unlock the door to the mine shaft, enter and lock it from the inside.

Jamie finds a way out of the shaft but ends up in the middle of a rehearsal of cheerleaders. They mistake Jamie for a dancer. He shows them a highland fling and in an attempt to escape, flings himself out the door. But Ben, who is still fighting his conditioning, shows up and identifies Jamie.

The Doctor and Polly spy the White Macra in control.
The Doctor and Polly hear the voice of control and discover a white Macra in the control room sucking in gas. The Doctor describes the Macra as parasites, who feed off the colony, like germs in the human body. 

Ola takes command.
Meanwhile, Ola goes to see the Pilot and criticises his leadership. The Doctor and Polly freely give themselves up. Control orders everyone to return to work, but the Pilot disobeys orders. The Doctor takes the Pilot to the old shaft, where he learns the truth. Control places Ola in command. Ola captures the Doctor, Pilot, Jamie and Polly and follows Control's orders to place them in the pipe room and to clear the building for four minutes.

FUTURISTIC GORDIE ACCENT: Day 9,000,038 in the Colonist Holiday camp. The Doctor, Pilot, Jamie and Polly are in the pipe room. The room begins to fill with gas and just when they think that hope is lost they hear a knock at the door. 

It's Ben and he's broken his conditioning. The Doctor instructs Ben to activate both inflow and outflow of gas simultaneously, causing an explosion which destroys all Macra.

FUTURISTIC GORDIE ACCENT: Everyone in the Colony is celebrating their freedom from control, the Pilot publicly thanks the strangers and decrees that a dance festival will be held every year, with the winners receiving the Stranger's Trophy. 

Ben tells his friends they intend to make the Doctor the next Pilot, so they join in the celebrations and dance their way out of the Colony and back to the TARDIS. This is a lovely closing metaphor for the Doctor's approach to life: he flees responsibility, but dances away.

A fairly unimpressive Macra.
This is one of the only times I'll say this, but I actually think this story is probably better with just audio. The little we can see of the Macra clearly shows that the budget couldn't stretch to properly realise these beasts. Fortunately they do make a wonderful return in full CGI, during the Tenth Doctor's tenure, in the episode: Gridlock. Slightly different, as they had fallen into an evolutionary decline and were no longer sapient but predatory they were larger, but unintelligent and lived in the lowest levels of New New York. I'd like to float a theory as to how this evolutionary downturn came about: The Macra could easily be responsible for creating the abomination that is Big Brother. Now, if that were true, could you really say that you were surprised they lost their minds?

Macra how they were intended to appear.
Join me next time for the legendary Malcolm Hulke's first contribution to Doctor Who in The Faceless Ones.

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