I wasn’t expecting the fourth set of lost television episode audios until next month, so I had a nice surprise earlier this week when they shipped ahead of schedule. I have wanted to see “The Macra Terror” ever since I saw “Gridlock” for the first time, but I was disappointed to learn shortly thereafter that the first (and only other) appearance of the Macra is among the missing, but now I’ve got me chance to at least listen to it. Allons-y!
The Second Doctor, Jamie, Ben and Polly arrive on a planet with a society that for all the world appears to me to be a cross between The Village and Emerald City. The colony’s inhabitants all seem happy and contented, but it soon becomes clear that they are being controlled, brainwashed by giant crab-like creatures and insidious propaganda broadcast by the Macra’s human agent, the Controller. The populace is forced to mine a deadly gas essential for the Macra to survive, but fatal to humans.
On the one hand, “The Macra Terror” is a straightforward BEM story, but on the other, it can also be seen as a subtle social commentary on indoctrination and propaganda. Whether it succeeds or not depends on what one expects from one’s Saturday tea-time children’s show. Some have dismissed writer Stuart Black’s attempt at social commentary as pretentious, but I like stories which can be interpreted on multiple levels, so any comparisons to Kafka and Orwell are welcome interpretations as far as I am concerned, although perhaps Tim Robins said it best in Doctor Who: An Adventure in space and Time: “If you want to attempt a subtle story, it’s best not to include large, alien crabs rampaging around a holiday camp!”
I seem to recall finding the novelization of The Macra Terror particularly interesting. I shall have to dig that one out and look at it again.
I liked the scene where they flipped the Macra onto its back and it fell onto a geyser... next thing, BOILED CRAB for dinner! (Oh wait... wrong movie.)
UPDATE: I have listened to “The Faceless Ones” but just simply haven’t had time to type up a reaction.
I’m three episodes in to “The Evil of the Daleks” and am thinking I may want to do a more in-depth summary (similar to the ones I do for Dark Shadows), which would entail listening a second time and taking notes. Problem with that is, I like to listen to these in the car while driving to/from work.
More “Doctor Who Reactions” to the lost TV episodes coming soon!
Got the animated version of this story on DVD. An interesting watch, a story from an era of the program that I don't know very well. Poor Polly doesn't get to do much in this.
The animation is very good-looking, but I didn't find it as gripping as The Power of the Daleks. The holiday camp element came through less strongly than I expected. When I had a quick look at the photosnap reconstruction I found a sequence showing the travellers enjoying its amenities that the cartoon omits. It may be there are other skipped sequences: I haven't watched the rest.
I have Ian Stuart Black's novelization of this, and there's a scene like you describe in it.