C034 The Macra Terror

Browse Classic Who reviews


Team building, space crabs and this one time at band camp

The Second Doctor and his companions, Polly, Ben and Jamie (aka PB&J) encounter some of the most content-to-be-slaving-away-their-lives workers ever in this serial of Classic Doctor Who, as they arrive on a human colony in outer space.

The people there, albeit cheerful and musically inclined, are hiding a dark secret – to a degree even from themselves.

One of them, Medok, is not pleased at all, however. He claims to have seen giant, terrifying space crabs creeping and crawling across the compound, although depending on whom you ask, he’s just delusional and in need of “treatment”, just like anyone else who happens to have seen space crabs.

Considering that the last serial, The Moonbase, ended with Doc and PB&J seeing a giant claw on the scanner, it’s probably not that big a surprise that Medok is in fact the only person around who’s not suffering from delusions.

In any event, it is now up to our intrepid protagonists to liberate the colonists form their happiness.

The Macra (spoilers: space crabs) would later return to Doctor Who in the David Tennant episode, Gridlock, where instead of lumbering, manipulative behemoths, they were just CGI shellfish. Check out the pics here below for comparison!

And here’s the intro interview with Terence Lodge who played Medok that is referenced in this review:

The Macra Terror (0) – Intro by ZarbiOverlord

Here's what we think




Here's what you think

6 Responses to “C034 The Macra Terror”

  1. Steven | @sgamer82

    In “The Macra Terror” the TARDIS gang arrives at the Stepford Colony to save it from gas monsters. As with most completely lost episodes, I’ve experienced it via the audiobook narrated by Anneke Wills (Polly).

    The highlight of this serial for me comes from that I think this is the episode where Jamie McCrimmon starts to really show his stuff as a companion. While re-listening to the audiobook to do this review, I counted more than half a dozen instances of Jamie being the one who took action or showed the most common sense. My personal favorite such instances being Jamie being the one able to resist the colony’s brainwashing while Ben falls victim to it and Polly gets an assist from the Doctor.

    Ben was the one mostly in distress as he struggled against the control of the Colony and Macra. Though it was nice to see Ben pull out of it mostly on his own. It didn’t feel like Polly had as much to do this time around, but with Jamie getting some belated spotlight I don’t mind that too much.

    The Doctor was more clownish than serious this time around.What probably got the biggest chuckle out of me was his deliberately getting into a machine to make a mess of himself and upgrading his score from a ten to an eleven..

    This original version of the Macra were an interesting foe, in that they maneuvered almost entirely behind the scenes. They had reached the point where they pretty much had the humans ready to destroy themselves to make the planet habitable for themselves. It’s rather sad to see them become mindless creatures we see in “Gridlock.” The Colonists provided most of the antagonism, and it was just a bit disturbing at just how mindlessly they would follow the orders of the Controller’s portrait.

    The story itself wasn’t particularly standout to me. There wasn’t really anything in it that grabbed my attention in any big way. This is balanced by the focus on the characters, particularly Jamie. My ultimate rating is going to be a 3.6.

  2. I don’t know when you’ll release Wirrn Dawn, so I’ll intro myself again. My name’s Chris and I’ve watched all new and classic episodes. I have tried other DW review podcasts, but I like your approach the best.

    The Macra Terror starts of as the Doctor, PB&J being welcomed and manicured in the merry old land of Oz. Then there’s the big head that says nothing substantial, but everyone seems happy enough to hear from him. And Polly is sure to be the next Beauty President, which as an American, myself, doesn’t sound that far removed from how we normally elect our figure heads. They appeal to the masses. A wicked witch, Medok, is tormenting all the peaceful people. Then as the serial progresses we get to see that Oz is in fact the Orwellian world of 1984 with it’s thought police giving “treatments” to people who are not “like the rest of us.” The controller’s insistence that Macra don’t exist and the “sleep treatments” are all very thought police. Then we get some science fiction from the Macra attacks in addition to the political satire. I’m a little annoyed at how strong the Macra are later on in the series…yes Ponken they return. It grabs Polly and doesn’t immediately cut her in two. Ben is able to get it to get the Macra to release her. I like the effects associated with the Macra. The reconstruction and Colin Baker’s narration (in my version) help to show how truly frightening they would have been to 1960’s viewers. I also love how something so big and powerful as the Macra is shown to be intelligent and conniving and the people are more like mindless drones just doing what the “queen bee” says.

    The fact that Jaime is less susceptible to the sleep treatments than Ben highlights how strong minded he is, which makes him a truly great companion, despite being from Earth’s past. Jamie is one of my top 5 companions of the all of Doctor Who and this serial is where he started to really come into his own.

    This serial is entertaining and thought provoking throughout. It is one of my favorites. The only thing that doesn’t sit so well with me is Ben’s internal struggle with his conditioning. He’s basically useless until the very end, when he saves the day. I give The Macra Terror 4.3 out of 5.

  3. Peter Zunitch

    My first copy of this was so worn that I couldn’t see a thing that was happening most of the time. The latest recons available raise the bar tremendously.
    The Macra are a fun enemy and the story is well planned. It’s nice to have a monster that while intelligent, is more instinctual than wise. Though I think it’s hard to write an effective story for such a character that isn’t repetitive of the same theme, I would have liked to have seen a few more stories with them in it (David Tennant’s “Gridlock” was a great revival and reimagining of them).
    The story’s a little slow though, and the side stories seem more like tangents than supporting plot. The public performances harken through the ages to Peter Davison’s “Four to Doomsday”, which I feel handles such things much better, integrating them into the story rather than taking you out of it.
    There are some great explorations of everything from mind control to social pressure and manipulation to slavery. I feel the sets were a little drab this time around though, leaving no background eye candy to look at most of the time. My vote for most missed footage would have to be either the mine scene with the escape, or the scene where they call the controller on the viewscreen and we see he is being manipulated. The latter though is only because I was confused there. Ultimately I would have loved to have seen more of the Macra in all their low-budget terror.
    Recommended script improvements would be to change the overall pace of the story. A little slower and normal at first before finding out something is amiss. Then at the same time as they (Ben), starts turning against one another and “believing” in the colony, there should be a greater emphasis on the horror/suspense aspect, with people traversing the darkness full of monsters. This story screams for some noir lighting. 2.3

  4. Paul Fauber @wordsmithpaul

    PONKEN, I’ve decided to take notes as a stream of consciousness as I listen to your podcast and edit them later into a short commentary.

    In addition to Loose Cannon, there are audios narrated by Colin Baker, which I’ve heard, and a more recent one narrated by Anneke Wills. Not audio books, which would be someone reading Target novelizations, but more like radio plays using the actors’ voices from the television performances.

    First, at the end of the previous serial “The Moonbase” the Doctor uses the infrequently used “time scanner” which is used so infrequently we never see it again. Our story was also the first to use the title sequence with Patrick Troughton’s face and the familiar theme music.

    When the story begins, Ben and Jamie’s capturing the first person they meet is unusual, like being on the side of “law and order”. The Doctor is made uncomfortable by the kindness of the colonists and breaks the whacko his companions caught out of prison to hear more about the crab monsters he has been raving about. The Doctor’s curiosity nearly gets him and the escaped alleged lunatic killed when they meet one of the crab monsters.

    The next conflict has to do with whether the crab monsters exist. The Doctor thwarts the colony’s brainwashing attempts on all but Ben, who denies having seen a mosnter despite being attacked at the end of ep 2 iwth Polly. The confict comes to a head when the Controller, man in charge who appears young and hansom on screen is reveled to be old before he is hauled offscreen by a monstrous claw, spoiling the illusion.

    Now, the travelers are put to work mining a gas essential to the monsters. The Doctor though is busily thinking about what is happening and doing calculations which soon cover the walls and floor of his work area, to the colonists dismay. Ben is fighting the mind control while the others work toward escape at the Doctor’s direction. We can now see, given the colonists’ glee at working for the monsters they deny exist, how Orwellian the colony is, despite how happy it all seem to everyone the Doctor has not influenced. Ben comes free from the mind control and blows away the technology that keeps the monsters alive so the colonists can carry on as before voluntarily, though without needing to mine the gas essential to their monstrous macra masters.

    I’ve read this serial described as a communist parable, but considering the Doctor works agaisnt the will of the collective the entire time, I’m not sure I can say I agree. The colonists are free at the end, they’re just so accustomed to their way of life, freedom has not sunk in. One hopes they realize its benefits before constant dance contests kill them all.


Leave a Reply

XHTML: You can use these tags: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>