It’s time for the one and only Third Doctor lost story: The Mega. Told across six parts and featuring the full UNIT crew, the story could’ve been a lost classic for my favourite era of the show. Sadly it’s a good example of the occasional really dull and overly long stories you used to get in the era. It’s not a total lost cause or anything, but this could’ve stayed lost and I wouldn’t have been all that bothered…
“This is a warning. Your aggression cannot go unchecked. The West must disarm. We will make you disarm.”
When an assassination follows the first demonstration of a deadly new weapon, it appears that an alien race has fired the opening salvo in a new war — a war… for peace.
But is that truly their intent? The Doctor is unsure. The answer lies deep in the heart of a distant country. A place where a man might be a hero or a traitor. Where a man has to face the menace… of the Mega.
*spoilers appear from here on out!*
If this was shrunk to four parts it could’ve been really great. The UK military have created a programmable killer gas that can selectively kill people of a certain race or heritage, and The Doctor, Jo and Yates soon arrive to attend the demo, obviously outraged (well, Yates less so, the thought of a war with no losses on his side sounding preferable to the current state, but still not 100% on board) The general who shows off this technology is vaporised in his car by The Mega, a race of aliens who wish nothing more than peace across the globe… or they’ll kill everyone. Makes sense! The Doctor and Jo find out that The Mega are hiding out in a small European country and so pretend to defect in order to get closer to the situation, much to the Brigadier’s distress.
While The Doctor and Jo are getting captured, escaping, recaptured across a castle-filled European landscape by the country’s leader Prince Cassie, the UNIT crew end up having to try and make their way through a full-scale London riot after the Prime Minister is vaporised on TV. There are some really good scenes with Yates being told to unleash the gas and battling with his moral compass, and the Brigadier wondering if his old Scientific Advisor really has left them. Eventually The Doctor convinces Cassie that the Mega actually want to rule the planet once peace has been created, and he sacrifices himself to take them down as Jo and The Doctor escape in a biplane they repaired during their adventure. The Prince was interesting as well, he first seemed generic and evil but really he did want to create world peace and just had the “nerve” to kill a few high-ranking people until it was achieved. Overall it would be a really fun four-parter, and very on-point for the time period. Alas…
I’ll also mention that despite there being only four actors/actresses in Katy Manning (Jo Grant, The Doctor, narration), Richard Franklin (Capt. Mike Yates, The Brig, Benton, narration), Bo Poraj (Prince Cassie, plus others) and Derek Carlyle (The Mega, plus others), the story really comes to life. With the possible exception of Franklin’s Benton having a bit too thick of a country accent, they all work well enough with the “advanced audiobook” format. Obviously retroactively it would’ve been great if this was done full cast with the current Third Doctor Adventures crew, but they weren’t to know!
Wow, they really couldn’t be bothered here. Generic UNIT soldiers make it on the cover, but not any of the new characters or aliens?
It’s funny that I’ve just found out this was written by the same man who brought us the First Doctor snoozefest “The Web Planet”, as this is similar in its slow pacing (though nowhere near as bad) The start is a very slow reveal of one Mega, then the middle two involves mostly The Doctor and Jo running between a modern castle and a dilapidated one, then Episode 5 is mostly the old captured / recaptured stuff before a reasonably pacey final act. Like I said in the “Good” part it’s really annoying because I actually feel that the plot is good, but it certainly drags. I knew that going into this second listen, so I split it up over three mornings, which helped keep the concentration at least, but still…
While I understand it to a certain degree, the twist right at the end that it wasn’t the Prime Minister who was killed on TV but instead a double seemed like a copout, and the way he hand-waved the poor sap you got zapped was… well, probably accurate for a politician, but whatever.
While not a bad, obviously, I’ll put here how crazy in scope this story was, to the point where I have to assume that was why it was turned down. Sets would have had to include the regular ones, a conference hall, the riotous streets of London, two separate castles, one of which has to have an old biplane in it (that later gets used!), and The Mega themselves are said to be extremely tall with swirling vortexes for heads. Good luck achieving THAT with 70s technology!
Not much! The Brigadier mentions the Silurians (early Third Doctor TV story “and the Silurians”) while Benton mentions Cybermen in the sewers (Second Doctor TV story “The Invasion”), but other than those passing mentions, this doesn’t connect with anything.
The Mega is technically a good story, and it’s brought to life well with the cast and format, but it’s definitely a few episodes too long. While I believe the TV era holds up extremely well, there are a few stories that suffer a similar fate, so if the scope were dialled way back I could’ve seen this being one those unfortunate exceptions. I guess that makes this one of those Lost Stories that are correctly of the time but sadly in the wrong way…