March 19: The Macra Terror Episodes 1 & 2

No episodes of The Macra Terror exist, so back to the soundtracks...

Look!  A new title sequence!  Still howlround graphics, but now Patrick Troughton's face is included -- along with a new serif-font version of the show's name.  Exciting stuff!

So writer Ian Stuart Black has given us a similar sort of set-up here as in The Power of the Daleks: we have an isolated Earth colony with something horrible lurking at its heart.  But while The Power of the Daleks had its enemy in plain view, here there's just a suggestion of something horrible.  On the surface in fact the colony seems quite pleasant, with people acting contentedly.  There are some awful cheery songs playing to motivate people (drawn, it seems, from British holiday camps, where holidaygoers would go on a strict regimented vacation run by relentlessly cheery hosts).  But there's one person, Medok, who's not buying into things, because he's seen something horrible ("Have fun while you can, before they crawl all over you!" he memorably yells at one point).  What's interesting is that the Doctor is immediately drawn to Medok and seems to find him more trustworthy than those running the colony -- perhaps not surprising, given how thuggish chief of police Ola is, but on the other hand the Pilot is perfectly friendly and reasonable; yet it's Medok that the Doctor believes.  It turns out he's right to, as there is something horrible lurking at the heart of things: something terrible with glowing eyes.  And here we have to wonder if the actual video was as dark and murky as the telesnaps, or whether you could actually kind of make out what you were looking at.

A Macra attacks Polly. (The Macra Terror Episode 2) ©BBC
Episode 2 shows the colony attempting to assert control over the Doctor and his friends.  He's arrested with Medok and forced to explain his actions.  Medok covers for him (although the Doctor doesn't seem thrilled by this -- it looks like he wanted to have a direct confrontation with the Pilot about what he'd seen), so the Doctor is set free.  But the Controller of the colony (issuing orders from a video screen with a still image) doesn't want dissent, so he orders that the Doctor and company be hypnotized into supporting the colony and not asking questions -- after all, "There is no such thing as Macra!  Macra do not exist!"  The treatment doesn't work on Jamie, and the Doctor is able to stop it before Polly succumbs, but it's too late for Ben.  So one of the regulars has been hypnotized and is working against the Doctor -- something that hasn't happened since The War Machines (also by Ian Stuart Black).  But he doesn't get much of a chance to betray his friends; he gets Ola to come and lock the Doctor up for tampering with the colony's equipment, but then Polly runs off to find him with Ben chasing after, and they encounter the Macra -- and we get a full view of these strange crab-like monsters (assuming the end of episode 1 really was as unilluminating as it seemed).  But when Polly tries to explain what she's seen, Ben can't quite bring himself to back her up.  This leads to the Doctor accusing the Pilot of having a fake Controller, and they insist upon seeing him -- after which we see an old, uncertain man menaced by a giant claw...  You'd think the Macra would know better than to show themselves so blatantly (or even let the real Controller be seen at all), but I guess when you need a cliffhanger, logic is thrown to the winds.