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The Macra Terror (TV story)

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The Macra Terror
Cower
Novelised as: The Macra Terror
Doctor: Second Doctor
Companion(s): Ben, Polly, Jamie
Main enemy: The Macra
Main setting: An Earth colony, the future
Key crew
Writer: Ian Stuart Black
Director: John Davies
Producer: Innes Lloyd
Release details
Story number: 34
Number of episodes: 4
Season/series: Season 4
Premiere broadcast: 11 March - 1 April 1967
Premiere network: BBC1
Format: 4x25-minute episodes
Production code: JJ
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The Macra Terror was the seventh story in Season 4 of Doctor Who. With this serial, the opening sequence used since the first episode were updated, now including a photo still of Patrick Troughton's head appearing and disappearing in the titles. It was the first story to feature the lead actor's face in the opening title sequence, a tradition that would carry on to the final episode of the classic series and return with The Snowmen in the revived format.

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.

The colony's inhabitants have been brainwashed by giant, crab-like creatures — the Macra. Insidious propaganda, broadcast by the Controller, forces the humans to mine a gas that is essential for the Macra to survive, but fatal to them.

The colony must be saved — but how? The Doctor and his team are up against it, particularly when Ben falls under the influence of the Macra. Can he be rescued from their evil clutches? Can the gas pumping equipment be destroyed, getting rid of the Macra for good?

Plot

Episode 1

A drum majorette and a futuristic band rehearse for a festival performance. The Pilot of the colony compliments Barney, the band's leader, but their idyllic conversation is disrupted when Medok, another colony member, bursts through half-crazed and escapes outside. Ola, the Chief of Police, and several guards pursue him. Ola explains that Medok has "refused treatment ." The Pilot is suddenly deadly serious; Medok must not get away. In the wilderness outside the colony, Medok takes cover in rocks To hide from the oncoming guards. As they pass him the TARDIS materialises and the Doctor, Ben, Polly and Jamie tentatively step out, wary of the huge claw they saw on the Time Scanner. Medok attacks, but Ben and Jamie subdue him as Ola and guards arrive. They tie up Medok. Ola thanks them for apprehending their convict and welcomes the strangers, inviting them to meet their Pilot, who will want to thank them for their help.

As the music chimes, signalling a work-shift change, the Pilot offers his gratitude to the strangers. He sends them to the Refreshing Department. Jamie hangs back, suspicious, but follows with Polly. As they arrive, a picture of a man appears on a large screen and a friendly, commanding voice welcomes them. The Pilot explains this is the colony's Controller, then takes his leave as Barney offers the four travellers the hospitality of the Department: shampoos, clothes cleaning, beauty treatments etc.

As Ola roughly accompanies Medok back into the colony, Medok's old friend Questa sees him. Questa has heard he's been seeing things. Medok corrects him: there are things, horrible creatures coming out at night. The Controller announces a reception to welcome the strangers. Questa asks Medok to join in like he used to. As Medok spews more dangerous talk, Ola drags him away.

At the prison, the Doctor manages to break into Medok's cell and talk to him. He's curious about what Medok has seen, but Medok is suspicious of this stranger. He mentions creatures he has seen at night that crawl over the ground Medok takes his chance, pushes the Doctor and escapes. An alarm bell sounds and the Doctor explains his actions to the Pilot and Ola. Ola wants to send the Doctor to "work in the pits", but the Doctor is saved by his ignorance of colony laws and the fact that he caught Medok in the first place He casually mentions people crawling over the colony to Ola, who warns him his talk might end him up in the hospital "for correction". The Pilot is eager for the strangers to learn more about the colony. He tells Ola to bring them to the Labour Centre. En route, they pass though a construction area where new homes are being built. The Doctor spots Medok hiding in the site, but says nothing.

At the Labour Centre, the Commander informs the work force of the escaped prisoner. The travellers ask about the work being done, but the answers are vague: they tap and refine gas, but can't describe what they use the gas for. Suddenly two workers stagger in with "gas sickness". Ola and Questa brush it off, saying the work must be done. Polly is surprised and doubtful, then notices the Doctor is gone.

The Doctor has slipped away to find Medok back at the construction site and questions him more about the creatures he's seen — giant insects with huge claws. Others have seen them too, but they get locked up in the hospital. Another alarm sounds and Medok sends the Doctor back. The others are relieved to find the Doctor, as curfew is announced. Barney shows the travellers to their sleeping cubicles in the Refreshing Department but as soon as it is quiet, the Doctor slips out to find Medok again. As he does, the Commander informs the colony that all people seen out of their sleeping compartments risk their lives. As Ola and the guards patrol, the Doctor evades them and finds Medok. They hole themselves up in a half-completed house. They seem surrounded, but the Doctor finds an escape hatch. While he helps Medok escape, Medok spots one of the crab-like creatures below them.

Episode 2

Medok is excited to have seen the creature with the Doctor, thinking he can prove he wasn't "seeing things". His shouts bring Ola and the guards to them and Ola completely dismisses their claims. He brings the Doctor before the Pilot.

The Pilot sees the Doctor individually. While the Doctor is impressed with the colony's technology, especially a piece of equipment that allows him to see the whole of the colony, the Pilot questions him about his "crime". The Doctor starts to explain why he believes Medok, but Ola interrupts to report that Medok swears the Doctor was trying to make him give himself up. The Doctor is released back to the Refreshing Department, and Medok returns to the hospital for another round of treatment. The Controller commands that the strangers be given "the advantage of high-powered adaption" within their "deep sleep" to prevent any further criticism from them, making them more like other obedient colony members. The Pilot sets about this process.

Jamie, Ben and Polly are already being brainwashed in their sleep. Jamie sleeps fitfully and the thinking patterns do not take hold. He awakes and tries to alert Ben to voices he thinks he hears, but Ben argues him down, quoting passages from the brainwashing and saying that they will need to work in the morning.

The Doctor arrives at Polly's cubicle and overhears her brainwashing. He shorts the circuits controlling this, which wakes Polly up. He makes her promiseto disregard anything she may have dreamt about and ensure she always makes decisions carefully. The Doctor rushes off to Ben and Jamie's room and disconnects the machinery, but Ben is angered, saying it is an insult to the colony. He gets into a scuffle with Jamie but eventually leaves and reports the Doctor's crimes to Ola. The Doctor and Jamie are taken away.

At the hospital, the Pilot is lamenting that Medok's treatment is failing and he'll probably have to be sent to the pits for life.

Meanwhile, Polly angrily leaves the cubicles after arguing with Ben and runs to the construction site to avoid him. Ben follows and captures her, violently dragging her back towards the cubicles Polly spots something in the distance and screams. She describes it as a creature like a large crab with huge claws Ben sees nothing and is dubious until he spots something himself. A huge claw grabs Polly and Ben fights it off. After a while, the creature retreats After the release of Polly, they soon find themselves surrounded by Macra, but their nimble legs let them escape back to the colony.

The Pilot confronts the Doctor about his actions, but the Doctor is proud of them. Seeing the Pilot also has a nerve circuit attached to his rest cubicle, the Doctor fuses that, too. Ben and Polly are also brought before the Pilot. Polly tells their harrowing tale, asking Ben for confirmation Ben denies seeing any creatures, much to the consternation of Polly The Doctor is convinced Ben has been brought under the evil influences at the heart of the colony. He and Jamie ask pointed questions regarding the Controller which start to get even the Pilot thinking about the true motives of his leader. This eventually forces the "Controller" to appear in person. An old, dishevelled man is put on the screen. He can barely speak and does not have the voice of the Controller; however, he is clearly a much older version of the man portrayed as the Controller on screen He is suddenly grabbed by a claw and pulled away. Polly screams that the Macra are in control.

Episode 3

The Doctor, Jamie and Polly are condemned to pit labour in the "danger gang". The Controller orders the Pilot to forget what he saw on the screen. The Pilot orders Ben to keep an eye on his friends.

The three prisoners are brought to the pithead, where Officia is in charge. He recalls their shift leader, who turns out to be Medok. The Doctor is left at the pithead to be supervisor. Jamie and Polly are given masks and sent down. While the Doctor studies the controls, he spots Ben and talks with him. Ben is completely under control and the Doctor comments that this is very unlike him.

There is soon a gas strike and the workers connect a large cable to stop a leak. Medok tells Polly and Jamie that the gas is lethal and no-one knows what it's used for. Meanwhile, the Doctor is working out some calculations on the wall and is very pleased with his work. The Pilot finds him and accuses him of stealing a secret formula, but the Doctor has worked it out on his own. The Pilot insists that he erase his work so that no-one sees it.

The workers probe for more gas. They never stop. Jamie finds a door and Polly comments that it's very new and strong. Officia meddles in some of Medok's work and gas erupts in his face. Jamie uses the opportunity to steal Officia's keys. Ben sees this and helps Officia out of the shaft. Jamie and Polly worry that Ben saw the theft. Jamie uses the keys to enter the strong door, but Polly is called back by Medok to work.

An alarm sounds and when Polly tells Medok that Jamie has escaped, he follows him, leaving Polly. Officia realises his keys are gone and Ben suggests he must have dropped them. While Medok searches for Jamie, he is attacked by a Macra. The Controller forbids guards to be allowed into the old shaft (where Jamie and Medok have gone). Ben reveals that he knows it's Jamie who's escaped and he saw him take Officia's keys. When the Doctor asks why he didn't say anything, Ben says he's having trouble thinking straight. The Doctor is pleased that he's fighting for control of his mind. However, Ben still leaves to report it.

Jamie discovers Medok dead, then finds a very still Macra in front of him. The Doctor is trying to analyse the gas and is not having success. Ben cannot find the Pilot, but when the Pilot is not in his office, his conditioning continues to break down.

When Ben reports to the Pilot, the Controller orders gas diverted into the old shaft, intriguing the Doctor. The Doctor tries desperately to figure out how to help Jamie. As Jamie coughs and splutters, the Macra comes to life and moves towards him.

Episode 4

Jamie slides into a rock crevice, but it won't protect him long. The Doctor tries to work out how to reverse the gas flow and does so by confusing and tricking Officia into revealing which controls to manipulate. Officia tries to get help, but the Doctor has the keys now and locks the entrance to the pithead.

In the old shaft, the oxygen inflow makes the Macra slump, allowing Jamie to escape. Ola and his guards arrive outside the locked door. The Doctor and Polly escape into the mine, locking the heavy door behind them before the guards can follow. They find a pipe room and follow the shaft deeper.

Jamie pries open a grating and wriggles into a cupboard back in the colony. Outside, some sort of cheerleading practice is taking place. Jamie almost escapes, but is seen by the leader and mistaken for an auditioning dancer. Jamie shows them the Highland Fling and flings himself out the door — right into the arms of Ola and the guards. Ben, still struggling, identifies him, and Jamie is taken away. Ben is clearly regretful.

The Doctor and Polly happen on the Controller's chamber and see that, indeed, the Macra are in charge. They inhale the gas and issue orders. They need the gas to live and use the humans to mine it for them. The Doctor and Polly decide to take the risk of telling the Pilot and trying to bring him to see the truth.

Ola and the Pilot argue. Ola criticises the pit operations, allowing the strangers to escape and endanger the colony. The Doctor and Polly come right in, of their own free will. The Doctor greets everyone and tries to reconcile the two men. Jamie is horrified they've walked into a trap. The Doctor persuades the Pilot to go with him, despite Ola and the Controller's attempts to intervene. The colonists are frightened by the Pilot's disobedience. Polly and Jamie prepare for the worst. Ben's conditioning seems to have worn off, but they realise Ben is gone.

The Doctor takes the Pilot into forbidden territory. Officia is horrified at what he sees and Ola is given command of the colony by the Controller, who sends all guards to the pithead. The Pilot sees the truth and the Controller screams that they must be destroyed. When they return to the pithead, the Doctor and the Pilot are arrested and, with Polly and Jamie, returned to the pipe room under orders of Control. The building is to be cleared in four minutes.

Gas is vented into the pipe room. The Doctor and his friends begin to succumb to the poison. Outside they hear a knock — it's Ben! The Doctor tells Ben to switch on inflow and outflow together and throw a lever. There is an explosion. It destroys the Macra in their chambers and in the mines.

The colony celebrates its freedom from Control and the Pilot publicly thanks the strangers and decrees a dance festival be held every year, with the winners receiving the Stranger's Trophy. Ben tells his friends they intend to make the Doctor the next Pilot, so they join in the celebrations and dance their way out of the colony and back to the TARDIS.

Cast

Crew

References

  • The ancestors of the colony came from Earth many centuries ago and they retain the title of "Pilot" for their leader.
  • The song "Chromophone Band" is playing when the Doctor and his companions arrive at the colony and when the Macra are defeated.

Story notes

  • This story is the first to use a new title sequence incorporating an image of Patrick Troughton's face, designed by Bernard Lodge and realised by Ben Palmer. A new arrangement of the theme tune was also produced by Delia Derbyshire with assistance from Dick Mills for the title sequence. Due to a production error it was not used until the following story.
  • This story had the working titles The Spidermen, The Insect-Men, and The Macras.
  • Sandra Bryant, who played Chicki in episode one, asked to be released from her contract so she could accept another, more attractive offer of work. This was agreed to by Innes Lloyd and so, in an unusual move, the role was recast for episode four (the only other episode in which Chicki appears), going instead to Karol Keyes.
  • Richard Beale is credited as 'Broadcast Voice' for episodes one and three. For episode two, he is billed as 'Broadcast and Propaganda Voice' on-screen and as 'Broadcast and Propaganda Voices' in Radio Times.
  • John Harvey (Officia) is erroneously credited as 'Official' in Radio Times for episode four.
  • The Macra returned to Doctor Who forty years later in TV: Gridlock. To date, this marks the second longest interval between consecutive appearances by a character or alien race in franchise history, only overtaken by the Great Intelligence.
  • The Macra seen to be in charge in the last episode is white rather than black, a scene for which the sole Macra prop had to be repainted.
  • All four episodes are missing, though some clips on 16mm black & white film and 8mm cine film survive. The audio of the entire story is available.
  • In A History of the Universe and aHistory, this story is arbitrarily dated to 2366 (it's in a time when Earth's colonies are remote, and the level of technology isn't very high).

Ratings

  • Episode 1 - 8.0 million viewers
  • Episode 2 - 7.9 million viewers
  • Episode 3 - 8.5 million viewers
  • Episode 4 - 8.4 million viewers

Myths

  • The image of the Controller seen on the screen in the Pilot's office was a photograph of story editor Gerry Davis. (It was a photograph of Graham Leaman, who played the Controller.)

Filming locations

Production errors

If you'd like to talk about narrative problems with this story — like plot holes and things that seem to contradict other stories — please go to this episode's discontinuity discussion.
  • In episode two, a music cue enters too early, and has to be hastily be faded out. This occurs at the point when the Broadcast voice insanely insists "There are no Macra!"
  • The Macra's top claw is longer than the bottom, but when it grabs the Controller they are now the same length.

Continuity

to be added

Home video and audio releases

  • All four episodes of this story are missing from the BBC archive. However, some clips of moments removed by the Australian censors as being too violent for Antipodean broadcast survive. These are available on the Lost in Time DVD box set.
  • The soundtrack of this story was released on cassette, with linking narration by Colin Baker, on 6 July 1992. The same narration by Baker was used with a higher-quality, remastered version of the soundtrack on the first CD release, 7 August 2000.
  • A new linking narration by Anneke Wills was recorded and released with the soundtrack in the box set Doctor Who: The Lost TV Episodes - Collection Four, released on 2 February 2012.

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