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“Fun for all”: The animated version of the Doctor Who serial The Macra Terror (1967, 2019)

As an avid Doctor Who viewer since the first episode on 23rd  November 1963  I  almost certainly watched “The Macra Terror”, aged 11, on its original broadcast March to April 1967, but I have no recollection of it whatsover. Which means that I got to this watch  the serial as though I was seeing it for the first time which was  a real pleasure.

“The Macra Terror” was one  of the many Doctor Who serials that was wiped by the BBC  in the 1960s and early 1970s.  Home video was just a distant dream, even  on Tomorrow’s World:  drama of any kind  were very rarely repeated so there was no notion at the BBC  that anybody in the future would want to see these programmes again.

The era in which Pat Troughton played the Doctor from 1966 to 1969  was particularly  hard hit because of this policy with 14 serials either  partly or wholly missing at one time. Fortunately some of  those are now available  to us once again, either because they turned up abroad (where they had been  sold decades ago to foreign broadcasters) in the case of the “The Web of Fear” and “The Enemy of the World” or  because they have been turned into animations using the original soundtrack which  forunately have survived. This was done in the case of “The Power of the Daleks”, the first serial in which Pat played the Doctor  for the first time, and which was wholly missing, The DVD was released at the end of 2016, 50 years after ist first broadcast. Now “The Macra Terror” from 1967  has also been animated  – in colour.

In an interview  published in Doctor Magazine (536) to coincide with the release the director Charles Norton said, “It’s not a reconstructuion of the original – it’s a new production of the story. The existing set designs and things like that are really more of a starting point than an end destination” while Adrian  Salmon,  who storyboarded the production, said, “We decided not to refer to the original  shooting script, but rather cast a fresh eye over the performances in the audio.”

The story  begins in the Tardis  with the Doctor  showing his three companions, Polly (Anneke Wills), Ben ( Michael Craze) and Jamie (Frazer Hines) a device known as Time Scanner which  looks into the future. Suddenly a large claw fills the screen.

On landing the travellers find themselves  on a human colony planet (how and when this colonisation happened is never discussed). At first glance this appears to be a space age Butlins with a drum majorette leading a parade as the travellers arrive, while there are constant exhortations from louspeakers: “The colony needs you” and “Fun for All.”. The Pilot (Peter Jeffrey), is in day to day charge,  but orders are received from the Controller (Graham Leaman) whose image  is seen on screen only,  like Big Brother.

This is your Controller speaking. There is no need for alarm. You may all continue your work and play confident that the best is being done for you…. Now, return to your work and play with fresh heart and renewed energy.

The travellers receive a friendly welcome and  are offered steam baths,  beauty treatments etc.  The Doctor even has his suede shoes polished.  All fine.

But the Doctor is already suspcious after an encounter with  Medok (Terence Lodge),  a  colonist who claims  that there are creatures that come out at night.  Soon we too will learn the truth about the colony –  and who is really in charge.

One  of the key  themes of the story  is how dissenting voices are treated by a society. In the case of the colony there is a Corrections Unit and also sleep-machines which brainwash Ben into  conformity for a time with their re-iterated messages;

The sleeper must relax and believe. Everything in the Colony is good and beautiful. You must accept it without question. You must obey orders. The leaders of the Colony know what is best. In the morning when you wake up you will be given some work. You will be glad to obey. You will question nothing in the Colony.

The Doctor  asks the Pilot: “Why do  you want to make everyone the same?” Why indeed.

To my eye this is a better animation than  “The Power of the Daleks” . If you are purist you can watch it in black and white, rather than the colour.

“The Macra Terror” was not the greatest story  of the Pat Troughton era  but it is still a welcome return.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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