Tuesday, 12 July 2011

The Macra Terror


  1. Starting with the slightly disturbing holiday-camp atmosphere, with the drum majorettes and tannoy singing "We're happy to work... happy to play..." this one starts out both weird and creepy. A heady combination indeed.

    Happy Songs: Check
    Holiday Camp Vibe: Check
    Brainwashing: Check

    This is basically The Prisoner, isn't it?

    It's an odd beast, this, with the first two episodes being all about the weird colony holiday camp, and then the final two about the mine and the Macra overlords. A bit of a jump, and I don't think the two halves fit together very well. They never feel like they're part of the same story.

    The Doctor says towards the end that "Bad laws were made to be broken." Oh, you lovable rational anarchist scamp, you!

    The story never really catches fire, for me, although I must say that I approve of Polly's sexy new haircut Very Much Indeed.

    And then they dance their way out of the colony at the end. Of course.

  2. And now late 60s Doctor Who does a kind of hippy take on 1984 and adds in monsters in the traditional manner - the result, for me, is a kind of genius. I absolutely loved this story.

    As Piers says, the story basically splits into two halves but I don't find the difference as jarring as Piers. The holiday camp colony first half does have a genuine creepiness that is superbly realised - have happy trippy jingles ever seemed quite this threatening? Well, maybe in "The Prisoner" but I think that aired a few months later so plaudits go to the production team and writer.

    These early scenes allow Troughton full range for both the comedic and dramatic sides of his talent to shine. Even in audio I can see - yes literally see - his smile as after the beautiful cleaning up he is given is spoilt and he returns to the slightly shambolic look that the Second Doctor cultivates so proudly. It's also a beautiful marker of The Doctors belief in free will, good or bad, which is so much the theme of this tale.

    It's nice to see Ben given a chance to shine as he falls victim to the colony brainwashing techniques and betrays his friends - a nice performance as his free will gradually returns and he is torn, mentally fighting to be who he is.

    Jamie is slightly underused - again as a result of his late addition to the cast - but he it's great to see him do the highland fling during an escape attempt. Polly does a nice line in screaming. And. yes Piers. her new haircut is mightily invigorating!

    The colonists are all well acted though probably lack a little depth compared to some other stories. On the subject of the the Macra it's hard for me to judge. On audio, they are extremely effective but in pictures I've seen they don't come across as well visually but I can only judge what I've experienced so I have to give them the benefit of the doubt.

    So, overall, I really, really enjoy this and I'm giving it 9/10.

  3. The sininster holiday camp is something not previously seen in Who, though a little reminiscent of the seemingly paradisical city of Morphoton from The Keys of Marinus.

    The scale of the Macra prop is huge but that actually makes it less dynamic. That said the glowing eyes beaming out of the fog are quite effective.

    The constant barrage of jingles playing in the base seems almost prescient with the prevalence of advertising now.

    There's some nice interplay between the regulars at the beginning and the conflict that comes from Ben's brainwashing is good fun but overall this story falls a little flat for me. The design is rather bland after the glory of the Moonbase and the big reveal of the Macra is, perhaps, undermined when you're watching a recon.

    Troughton is fantastic, as has become usual. Perhaps if the whole story wasn't BLOODY MISSING! and we could see more of the (Troughton) action it would engage us more.

    Enjoyable enough, but a hard story to love.

    Better than: The Savages
    Not as good as: The Underwater Menace