THE DOCTOR WHO RATINGS GUIDE: BY FANS, FOR FANS

The Roundheads
Timelash
BBC
The Macra Terror

Episodes 4 'The Macra, they're in control!'
Story No# 34
Production Code JJ
Season 4
Dates Mar. 11, 1967 -
Apr. 1, 1967

With Patrick Troughton, Michael Craze, Anneke Wills, Frazier Hines.
Written by Ian Stuart Black. Script-edited by Gerry Davis.
Directed by John Davies. Produced by Innes Lloyd.

Synopsis: The Doctor, Jamie, Polly, and Ben arrive at a holiday camp of the future, whose leaders are being controlled by the silent, omnivorous Macra.

Note: An audio release narrated by Colin Baker is available from the BBC Audio Collection. Loose Cannon Reconstructions offers a telesnap reconstruction of this story. Audio recor dings and telesnap reconstructions of this story are available at Missing Doctor Who Reconstructions & Audios.


Reviews

Another Great Missing Troughton Story by Tom May 1/6/98

The Doctor: "Bad laws are made to be broken!"
The Macra Terror is an immensely likeable romp that has certain similarities to later Doctor Who stories such as The Happiness Patrol and The Sunmakers in that it is basically the story of a society gone wrong, one that preaches happiness and gratification, yet has a parasite at work at it's core.

The characters, Medok, The Pilot and the regulars are played to perfection, and thankfully the Macra itself is kept in the sidelines, in a similar, but slightly less effective manner than was later used with Fury From The Deep's monster. Another crucial factor for the success of Doctor Who stories is in the incindental music. Here, the music is again terse and sinister, in keeping with other Troughton stories. What is a little different about The Macra Terror is that there is more than just a little humour (watch out for the scene where the Doctor is smartened up) counterbalancing the drama. Ian Stuart Black in this respect predates Robert Holmes and adds significantly to the overall eclecticism of Seasons 4 to 6.

It has to be said that Patrick Troughton was amazingly consistent and perfect in his portrayal of the Doctor, and is great here. Ben and Polly are believably good, as is Jamie, one of the best companions. The colony is created studiously, with suitably garish tunes cropping up irregularly, and the direction is generally spot on.

I watched this story via the Reconstruction, and I can say it's one of the best. There's no other way to get a better idea of such stories than by viewing these great videos, and The Macra Terror I am pleased to say, seems to have stood the test of time well.

Typically Doctor Who in it's focus and production, I'm sure that The Macra Terror would be hailed as a classic if rediscovered, although it does suffer a little from the occasional Doctor Who syndrome of the first half of the story being better than the last. Aside from this, I can't overstate that The Macra Terror is superb. 8.5/10


A Review by Stuart Gutteridge 3/1/01

The Macra Terror has perhaps the dubious honour of being the first Patrick Troughton tale to feature a monster. Greatly enjoyable because it sees Troughton reaching first base with his portrayal of The Doctor and sets the tone for what was to follow, but also in its use of the companions as Polly is kept in the background and Ben is given a share of the limelight for once. The supporting characters work well particularly Medok and the holiday camp "things aren`t what they seem" atmosphere helps as does keeping the titular Macra partly hidden as it loses it impact when seen in its entirety. All in all, the best story of Season Four and one of Patrick Troughton`s classics.


They're In Control! by Pat Lynch 12/7/01

There is a very odd thing that happens to Doctor Who stories. 60's stories to be exact and Troughton stories in particular.

We all know that Mr Troughton's era is shamefully under-represented in the archives. Power of the Daleks? Sorry sir, no episodes. Fury From The Deep, can't help you, nothing there mate. Highlanders? Nah, it's all gone...

The problems actually start when odd episodes turn up. The Enemy Of The World, for instance. Episode 3. Many have watched, few have praised. The Enemy Of The World is really a cracking story but the surviving episode does not do it justice. Similarly The Space Pirates. Episode 2 is, shall we say, not a fan favourite. Once again, it's not that bad a story. OK, it's not great, but it certainly is far better than it's orphaned episode would suggest.

For some reason, stories that have a lone episode often disappoint. The Macra Terror is not like that however. All its episodes are missing presumed dead yet it wouldn't matter if any one of its episodes turned up. We wouldn't feel let down. Because quite frankly there isn't a bad episode in it.

By now Patrick Troughton is as comfortable in his role as Paul McGann was in his borrowed shoes. He oozes confidence in every scene he's in, like Tom Baker he truly was born to play The Doctor. The companions too are on top form. Fair do's Polly is a bit of a screamer, but she gives her all in one of the best cliffhangers the series has ever seen. Namely Episode 2 as she cries out, "They're in control!". Fair curdles the blood, I tell you. Jamie seems to spend the entire story in a constant state of mistrust in contrast to Ben (a great performance by Michael Craze) who's mind has been influenced by the voices in his sleep.

Of the supporting cast Peter Jeffrey must be given special recognition. Despite being the pilot of the colony he is a good man, always fair in his dealings with both The Doctor and friends and the other colonists. It's a very strong performance which may remind some viewers of Martin Jarvis' tortured Governor in Vengeance On Varos.

The story is an unnerving one. The colony is being slowly taken over by giant crab-like creatures brain-washing the colonists. One suspects that, visually, the Macra themselves were not the most convincing part of the production. However the concept of these creatures effectively eating away at the colony is one which could keep you up at night.

The story has it all. A creepy tale, humour in exactly the right places (Jamie doing the Highland Fling!), and a classic cliffhanger. True Episode 4 seems slightly rushed, but that's a minor point.

One day these episodes will be rediscovered, they all will you know, and with commentary by Frazer Hines and Anneke Wills it would be a cracking DVD!


Highly thoughtful by Tim Roll-Pickering 6/12/01

Based on the Loose Cannon reconstruction.

This story is one of the most deceptive so far in the series' run. It starts off in an innocent manner, showing a happy colony but gradually reveals this to be the result of manipulation by controlling forces. This sees some of the strongest uses of mind control and propaganda in the series, resulting in a story that is either a light weight tale let down by the singing and dancing and the limited appearances of the monster or a highly thoughtful and deep sighted adventure, depending on how far the viewer looks at the story.

Ian Stuart Black's script is strong with few let downs bar the odd reference to 'insects' (left from before the monsters were changed). The colony is presented as one of happiness where everyone wants to fit in and enjoy themselves. However the Doctor is, true to form, anti-fashion and anti-conformist as shown early on in the scene where he emerges from a machine immaculately presented and immediately roughs himself up. As the story progresses he takes action to undermine the influence of Control, whilst at the same time discovering just what it truly is. In doing so he must deal with Ben, who has come under the influence of Control and is now prepared to undermine the others' efforts to escape.

The Macra have traditionally been let down by the photos that exist showing one in clear light, but in the censor clips they come across as truly scary and never fully visible. Unlike many of the other monsters in this period of the series their sole aim is to survive in an increasingly hostile environment. This makes them stand out, as does their non-humanoid status or limited civilisation. They are a good monster for the story but are truly part of the story and should never be brought back.

The human characters are mixed, with Peter Jeffrey (The Pilot) providing a strong performance but Terence Lodge (Medok) and Gertan Klauber (Ola) are both weak. The regulars all put in good performances, particularly Michael Craze who benefits from Ben having a significant role in the story for once.

The resolution of the story is a little fast, and so consequently difficult to understand in either audio or reconstructed form, but it shows just how dependent the Macra truly were on the humans for survival. The ending is a little light weight, showing a very similar scene to the start of the story rather than a true indication of how the colony has been freed and changed but otherwise The Macra Terror is an interesting story that stands up to repeated enjoyment. 8/10

This is the very first Loose Cannon reconstruction and so is a little less refined than later stories. Using the telesnaps, censor clips and cine clips for this story it successfully combines the images and soundtrack to make it seem truly frightening and at the same time understandable - something the BBC Audio release fails to do so due to the visual nature of the story. There are a few minor errors, such as the closing credits which both include the audio recordist and reconstructor and bill Patrick Troughton's role as 'The Doctor' rather than reproducing the original credits had, but otherwise this is a strong first reconstruction. 8/10


A Review by Sam Swash 25/12/06

The Macra Terror is an extremely good story which is one of my favourites. Unfortunately this is another one of those stories that have been lost and I was not around when it was televised. But I did purchase the audiobook and found it extremely enjoyable. It is slightly similar to The Sunmakers, which is also one of my favourite Doctor Who stories.

The incidental music in this story was great; it really adds to the story and makes it that little bit better. I believe that Ian Stuart-Black should have written more Doctor Who adventures, as I thoroughly enjoyed the three stories he wrote, this being my favourite. The stories he wrote were quick, tense and extremely good to read.

The regulars performed well, especially Michael Craze as Ben, who put in a superb performance. Peter Jeffery was particularly good in his portrayal of the colony Pilot and put in a strong performance. Terence Lodge wasn't as good as Medok but still he put in a respectable performance. Although other fans have said that Gertan Klauber's performance as Ola was poor, I think that he performed the harsh, tough character well and I particularly liked the character Ola.

One of the reasons I like this story so much is because the way that the colony ends up being so fake, from at first thoughts looking like a happy holiday camp to being the secret workforce for huge underground crustaceans. Something that helps you enjoy this story even more is the way in which the Macra really relied on the colony for survival. Although the Macra didn't really look the part, the way they were kept in the background was clever, being used minimally to great effect.

All in all this is a hugely enjoyable story. 9/10.