DW: The Macra Terror Review

DW The Macra Terror

A week after the Season 18 Blu-ray release and we get an even more anticipated HD release for Doctor Who: another fully animated missing story, in this case The Macra Terror! Yes, I never thought I’d see the day… would be an understatement, even after the release of Power. So how does the animated version stack up, and how is the story overall? Well…

Synopsis:

When the Second Doctor, Polly, Ben and Jamie visit a human colony that appears to be one big holiday camp, they think they have come across a truly happy place. Yet a shadowy presence soon makes them realise that the surface contentment is carefully controlled.

Note: Full Spoilers From Here On Out!

Cast of Characters:

DW The Macra Terror 4

Let’s start with THE classic image of the original Macra prop!

The Doctor (Patrick Troughton) – The Doctor, against his better judgement, has seen into his future and knows some horrid insect-like creatures await him and his companions as they arrive on a remote Human colony…

Polly Wright (Anneke Wills) – Polly still has the image of the creatures she saw of the screen before leaving the TARDIS in her head, the thought they’re out there waiting is enough to make her want to turn back…

Ben Jackson (Michael Craze) – Ben is taking everything in his stride, poking fun at both Polly and Jamie for being so frightened about potentially deadly crab-like creatures… maybe he should be a little less care free?

Jamie McCrimmon (Frazer Hines) – Jamie is still getting his TARDIS legs, having only recently departed from Earth’s past and now he’s in his second trip to the far future, though this time there are giant insect beasties!

Medok (Terence Lodge) – Medok is a member of the Earth colony and has found out the truth: there are such things as Macra, and they secretly rule over everybody!

Pilot (Peter Jeffrey) – The Pilot is in charge of the Colony, or at least most of it. He still takes orders from the mysterious “Control”, who only appears as a still image on-screen…

Chief Ola (Gertan Klauber) – Ola is the Chief of Police and takes great pleasure in his job, especially if its capturing runaways…

The Macra – The Macra are giant crab-like creatures that have managed to take over the Colony and control it from behind the scenes, forcing the humans to mine the deadly gas that sustains them…

and more!

The Good:

DW The Macra Terror 1

It’s probably fair to say that the original serial didn’t look quite like this…

The story is a simple but fun one. A remote colony that has turned their distant settlers’ wish to create a world based on happiness far too literally has come under the evil influence of The Macra, crab-like beings who use hypnosis to cause the humans not to see them, or wonder why they mine deadly gas only to pump it off somewhere random…

The Doctor and co. arrive and soon meet Medok, who has found out the truth. Cue lots of running around, Ben falling under the hypnosis, and several encounters with the titular Macra. It’s well paced and each of the companions get something to do, Ben with his “can he break free of the hypnosis” plot line, Polly at one point runs off and encounters several Macra at once, and Jamie escapes the gas mine and goes on a long adventure where he encounters several Macra and does a bit of a dance (that actually happens, that’s not a funny end to the sentence).

The Doctor does a lot as well, constantly tracking down Medok to learn more, talking his way out of several arrests and some funny scenes with some of the Colony scientists. In the end he informs a reformed Ben how to replace the Macra’s gas inflow with a deadly explosion, while nearly choking to death. Now that’s concentration!

As for the rest of the cast, well The Pilot is good in his “really nice guy who is far too trusting” role, especially when he sides with The Doctor, Medok is a good paranoid crazy guy who turns out to be neither, and then he’s just a good ally unlike he seemingly gets melted into goo, and Chief Ola is thoroughly unlikable. The rest are just blindly happy people, which does lead to some funny scenes, but they aren’t much to talk about.

The big question in terms of this release is the animated version, and I have to say I really enjoyed it! They’ve vastly improved the actual animation, and the faces are good too. They took some liberties, like the sets are far grander, and the Macra far more large, mobile and threatening than the painted up car-ends from the original serial, but that’s fine. Unlike when they fill in the gaps of partially missing stories, where you have to get the animation to look as much like what came before and/or after it as possible, all four episodes of Macra Terror are missing, so why not get a bit more creative. The photo recon is on the disc as well if that’s what you’re after, but this animated version is definitely what I’ll be going to in the future.

The Bad:

DW The Macra Terror 3

The classic scene with the Macra claw coming from the right to kill the old Control figure-head… is completely changed in the animated version…

The only bad I can think of in terms of the story is that Ola gets no resolution. The Macra promote him to Pilot and instruct him to kill the old Pilot and The Doctor and co., but when that plan fails we cut to the Pilot being the new Control and everyone living happily ever after. I would have liked a shot of Ola in handcuffs or looking unhappy or… something.

As for the animated version? Well, a certain portion of the fanbase are strongly against it due to the fact that for budgetary reasons they had to cut a 30 second gag about a machine that “cleans The Doctor up” and makes him look completely different, something that would have necessitated an entirely new model of The Doctor be created for sake of the 30 seconds. It goes without saying that it does no harm to the story. I was surprised that the classic scene of the Macra claw slowly appearing off-screen to choke the Control figure-head was changed into something more involving and dramatic. That’s one of the only actual clips we have of the story, so it stood out to me that it “wasn’t right”. Still, it’s an adaptation, and the new scene was still good, just different.

The Continuity:

DW The Macra Terror 2

Ola and two generic guards with their guns that, if memory serves, they never actually fire…

The only real continuity to speak of, beyond this picking up straight from “The Moonbase”, is 10th Doctor TV story “Gridlock”, which features the return of the Macra in a more simple-minded form.

Overall Thoughts:

The Macra Terror is a fun 2nd Doctor story, much more now I’ve seen a moving version of it. Much like Power of the Daleks, I feel like I’ve actually seen it now, even if this isn’t technically different from when I watched a photo recon with the same soundtrack in the background. There’s something to the moving images that makes it more enjoyable, to me anyway. At just four parts it’s an enjoyable two hours in front of the TV.

4 Star Watch

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