Song of Megaptera is one of the more interesting Lost Stories in terms of its history. It started off as a Fourth Doctor TV script, then was reworked into a Fifth Doctor script that would’ve seen Turlough debut as a person living inside the giant whale (more on that in a bit…) and then finally reworked as a Sixth Doctor story for Season 22, before being dropped. So this story’s creation was a long time coming, was it worth the wait? In short… No, not really…
Deep space in the distant future, and Captain Greeg and his crew are hunting mile-long Space Whales on a vast harvesting ship. By pure accident, they also capture the TARDIS.
The Doctor and Peri must use all their wits to survive. But what is the creature running loose in the ship’s bowels? And can the Doctor save Megaptera before its song is extinguished forever?
*spoilers appear from here on out!*
Space Whaling…. You’d think we would’ve learned, am I right?
The Song of Megaptera is a classic Sixth Doctor TV story in that it was quite dull, some of the characters were just shouty clichés and I’m sure the special effects would’ve been quite bad… so in that sense this at least lived up to the “Lost Story” moniker… Whether you think that’s good or bad is up to you!
The setting of a large space whaler ship trying to capture a large Space Whale is fun, if not on the generic eco-friendly message-y side of things, which admittedly “save the whales” was all the rage when the script was written, and it is a good message, obviously! The Doctor and Peri arrive on the ship after saving the large space whale from being targeted meant the TARDIS was out-of-sorts. This leads to a bunch of capture-escape-recapture, and some fun scenes of The Doctor claiming to be the head of a freelance eco-saving group, all before The Doctor and Peri make their escape… into the inside of the whale itself. You see The Doctor figured out that the reason the whale couldn’t escape the ship is because it’s time sensitive and the TARDIS is throwing it off, so he takes the TARDIS inside the whale to put them on the same time streams.
Inside the whale is a weird group of crazy people who shipwrecked inside the creature and have formed a society, many year passing but them never aging due to the effects of the space whale they dubbed “Megaptera”. During this time a member of a natural space whale hunting species called the Toothoid (played by John Banks) was found on board the hunting vessel, a “Caller” that could track the whale in space and time. It helps Captain Greeg (John Benfield) track the whale, while neither The Caller of Greeg trust each other. The Doctor and Peri escape the crazy whale people and the dying whale itself the hard way (no, through a blow-hole, not its arse…) and are greeted unwelcomely by both Greeg and The Caller, but they both naturally meet sticky ends as most Who villains do, and the rest of the Space Whales fly to safety.
The characters are straight out of the poorer 80s Who stories. Captain Greeg is extremely one-dimensional in his angry villainy, just wanting to land a Whale on his final voyage, even if it kills some innocent people in the meantime. His second in command Stennar (Neville Watchurst) is the nicer of the two, he may be okay with hunting innocent Whales but when human lives come into the equation his opinion changes. It’s all so the two can argue back and forth in “humourous” fashion, but their dialogue could’ve been created by a A.I. bot it’s so generic. The same goes for the crazy Whale people, they all sound like every other crazy culty people you’ve ever heard in this sort of setting (as in isolated, somewhat homicidal community, not specifically people living in a Space Whale…) These aren’t awful things or anything, it’s just… average, which when combined with a not-all-that interesting script just makes for a dull time.
I tell you what WAS really bad though was the ship A.I, who after being infected by a computer virus of The Doctor’s design started speaking like a hippie, which was a little bit funny, but then when it was fixed it started talking like a modern gamer… actually, scratch that, started speaking like how someone who isn’t familiar with modern gaming lingo THINKS a modern gamer sounds like. Given this is supposed to be a lost story from the 80s made it even worse as it took me out of the story because mentally I thought to myself “this stuff wasn’t around then!”. I wouldn’t have even thought about it if it was a regular Audio Drama, but for the Lost Stories I want them to sound as close to how they would’ve been like had they been made, and this poor attempt at a late 2000s angry gamer wasn’t…that. Or funny.
So while the framework was fine, and it had one or two good set pieces, the actual story was either dull, full with really generic character archetypes or had a really bad “A.I. gone wrong” comedy… Not a great combination overall…
The streak of creepy original monsters on these covers continues! (and ends, for the record…)
The main connection here is the Eleventh Doctor TV story “The Beast Below”, which also features giant space whales. That’s it though!
The Song of Megaptera is a pretty plain story with one or two good ideas peaking through. It’s not worth the dull characters and poor attempts at comedy though, it’s not a Lost Story that I’m upset it wasn’t made, it’s not even so bad it’s funny talking about it like Mission to Magnus, it’s not worth talking about because it’s just… dull. Oh well!