Rewatching... Doctor Who: The Macra Terror – Part 2

My continuing mission: to watch classic television exactly fifty years after original broadcast date...

"There is no such thing as Macra"


Saturday 18 March 1967

A lot of screaming this week. In this episode I mean, not from my vicinity (I'm brave, me). Possibly the screamiest episode so far in fact.

Something I neglected to mention last week is that we now have a swirly new opening title sequence, and it has the Doctor's smiling face fading into view. Me like. A new emphasis on the title character perhaps, unlike with the first Doctor who, more often than not, remained on the sidelines, getting involved in events more by accident than design. This Doctor feels more like a hero, on a mission, with his own personalised title sequence, a comforting smile for the little ones behind the sofa.

So on with the plot. The Doctor and Medok crouch out of sight as the big crab monster approaches. Medok freaks out and when some guards approach and gives himself up, along with the Doctor, Medok refers to the monster as a Macra. Interestingly, that word features in the title of this story. There was no mention last week so I wondered what a Macra is and what Terror it might instill.

Meanwhile the Pilot is dictating to his secretary. I note that like Earth, this planet is also home to sixties dolly bird secretaries. The Pilot is played by a pre-moustache Peter Jeffrey in his typically smooth style. It seems as with all good civilisations that the two most important things in this colony are hard work and gas.

The Doctor and Medok are brought to see the Pilot. Medok is covering the Doctor, claiming he had been recaptured by him and has done nothing wrong. Incredibly, and naively, the Pilot buys this story so the Doctor is immediately released... You'd think this was a rather obvious deception!

Great how the Doctor pretends to be in awe of the surveillance equipment but what he's really doing is sussing out how it works so he can later sabotage it! He's a cunning one, this Doctor.

So apparently my speculation last week about this being an Earth colony was correct. It was founded many centuries ago by people from Earth. After the Doctor departs we hear the sinister voice of the controller insisting that the travelers "must begin to think like members of the colony". The voice is then broadcast to the travelers' cubicles, and starts to rant about there being no such thing as Macra.

A rare thing for Doctor Who: we see the Doctor's companions sleeping. But their sleep is being induced by hypnosis, and they are receiving subliminal messages, instructions, as they sleep. The sort of pacifying, brainwashing instructions instructing them to conform, that one sees a lot of in this sort of 'Orwellian' science fiction tale.

It doesn't work on Jamie, though. He's either too primitive, too clever or too Scottish, so all he hears is an "evil voice". The Doctor has been busy and sabotages the transmission points at each of the beds. Ben reacts furiously, as he's well and truly brainwashed now, and there's a bit of a scuffle, before he runs out, reports the Doctor and fetches Ola. The Doctor is to be taken away for 'correction'.

Polly's cross with Ben for turning on the Doctor and she leaves to find him and Jamie. Ben follows her, calling out. This bit as he stalks her through a building site is creepy, and he seems to have lost his Cockney accent under hypnosis, which adds to the creepiness.

He catches up with her but a Macra appears and tries to drag Polly away. This seems to cause Ben to overcome his conditioning and he fights it off with a plank of wood. Polly is rather hysterical during this scene, but let's be honest, you would be too. Just as they think it's over, another one appears behind them. "They're all around us!" Polly shrieks.

The Doctor has discovered that even the Pilot is being brainwashed, and he deactivates his circuit too. Ben and Polly arrive, and Ben is back to his brainwashed state again. How did they escape the Macra that were surrounding them? Ben calmly states "There are no such things as Macra".

The Pilot switches on the big screen with the photo of the controller, and his voice claims that Polly hallucinated the Macra. Jamie and the Doctor insist on seeing the controller rather than the photo and surprisingly, he obliges: it's a shabby old man! "This is your controller" says the voice. So that wasn't the voice of the controller after all. The old man doesn't look very 'in control' and must be a huge disappointment to Polly (see last episode). Just as we recover from the shock of his true appearance, he's attacked by a giant Macra claw!

That was all very exciting, lots going on, lots of drama, monsters, shrieking and a couple of surprises. I enjoy stories where friends turn traitor, Michael Craze got some decent scenes as Ben, and really my only criticism is that I don't think much of Polly's new hairstyle!

Nick Brown
Nick Brown

I've embarked upon an open ended mission, pretending to travel back in time and watch classic television on (or close to) the fiftieth anniversary of original broadcast date; getting a sense of the context, the magic of that first viewing.

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Rewatching... Doctor Who: The Macra Terror – Part 2