‘THE MACRA TERROR’
Please feel free to comment on my review.
Macra with the Second Doctor, Polly, Ben and Jamie
Here we go again with another ‘Doctor Who’ animated release on DVD and Blu-ray!
The first time I reviewed ‘The Macra Terror’ with Patrick Troughton’s Doctor was back in August 2017, based on the audio soundtrack releases and surviving footage at the time. Here I am again writing the updated review of the adventure based on the 2-disc 2019 animation version on Blu-ray.
It is fascinating to go back to these classic black-and-white ‘Doctor Who’ stories that are currently missing from the BBC Archives and review them again based on the brand-new animation versions. It’s very nice to do that and to see that more blanks are being filled in during Patrick Troughton’s era.
With that said, the release of ‘The Macra Terror’ animation version onto DVD/Blu-ray is a bit odd. For you see, the DVD/Blu-ray makers have placed more emphasis on the colour version than the black-and-white version. The colour version is on Disc 1 and the black-and-white version is on Disc 2.
I would’ve placed more emphasis on the black-and-white version as opposed to the colour version, considering the story was originally shown in black-and-white on TV back in 1967. The colour version can still come as a bonus feature. Even ‘The Power of the Daleks’ animation DVD/Blu-ray did it right.
For the sake of this updated review, I’m going to base my thoughts on the black-and-white version as opposed to the colour version. This is because I’m of the opinion that if you present something that was originally shown on black-and-white back in 1967, then that’s the true version than colour.
Now let’s talk about ‘The Macra Terror’. Do you remember the Macra monsters that appeared in the new series ‘Doctor Who’ episode called ‘Gridlock’? Well, here is where the Macra made their first TV appearance in ‘Doctor Who’ through the classic series! And I have to admit, it’s an impressive debut.
‘The Macra Terror’ is a thrilling four-part adventure by Ian Stuart Black, who previously wrote ‘The Savages’ and ‘The War Machines’ for the William Hartnell era. This adventure features Patrick Troughton as the Doctor with Anneke Wills as Polly, Michael Craze as Ben and Frazer Hines as Jamie.
As I’ve already indicated, ‘The Macra Terror’ is sadly one of the complete missing ‘Doctor Who’ adventures from the black-and-white days of the TV series. It’s such a shame that this story is completely missing as I was gripped into this adventure from listening to the audio soundtracks of it.
I’m glad the story has been fully animated onto DVD and Blu-ray and we can see how the Doctor, Polly, Ben and Jamie face the crab-like Macra. With that said, I don’t think the animation for ‘The Macra Terror’ is as great as ‘The Invasion’ animation episodes were. I still consider that to be superb.
The animation for ‘The Macra Terror’ doesn’t exactly match to the surviving footage of the story including the scenes where Polly and Ben get attacked by the Macra. The animation also feels cartoonier compared to other animation ‘Doctor Who’ episodes I’ve seen. It should not be the case.
The story opens in the animation versions with a recap of what happened to the Doctor, Ben, Polly and Jamie at the end of ‘The Moonbase’ with them seeing the Macra on the TARDIS’ time scanner. It doesn’t exactly match to what was shown at the end of ‘The Moonbase’ TV story which is really odd.
Like I said, some surviving footage exists from the story including ‘Episodes 2 and 3’. They were originally on the ‘Lost in Time’ DVD. Now the surviving footage can be found on the 2019 DVD/Blu-ray releases as well as the two versions of the TV soundtrack to enjoy. Yeah, let me explain that part.
When I heard ‘The Macra Terror’ via its audio TV soundtrack on CD and download in 2017, I heard two versions of it. This includes the 1992 version with linking narration by Colin Baker (of all people) and the 2012 version with linking narration by Anneke Wills. I found the 1992 version to be very odd.
The 1992 version was first released on audio cassette before it got re-released on an audio CD in 2000. I was baffled by this version of the audio TV soundtrack. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy listening to Colin Baker on audio, especially through the many Big Finish audios he’s made as the Sixth Doctor.
But the fact that Colin Baker read the linking narration for ‘The Macra Terror’ in 1992 makes no sense, as he had no involvement in the story whatsoever. I’m not sure if Colin Baker would recall reading the linking narration for ‘The Macra Terror’ in 1992 if I asked him at a comic con/convention.
Thankfully the story was eventually re-released on audio CD in 2012 as part of ‘The Lost TV Episodes: Collection Four’ box set with narration by Anneke Wills. This makes more sense here as I would’ve preferred either Anneke Wills or Frazer Hines to read the linking narration of this TV story.
When I first reviewed ‘The Macra Terror’ in 2017, I thought long and hard about whether to base my thoughts on the Colin Baker version of the TV soundtrack on audio CD or to purchase the Anneke Wills version on download via Audible. In the end, I decided to base my review on both versions of it.
It was so interesting and enjoyable to do at the time with listening to the two versions of ‘The Macra Terror’ TV soundtrack on audio together. Though after listening to the two versions of ‘The Macra Terror’ TV soundtrack on audio, I found the Anneke Wills version superior to the Colin Baker version.
This is because Anneke Wills’ narration is more detailed and helpful compared to the Colin Baker version. The soundtrack had also been re-mastered and it’s the same again for the 2019 DVD/Blu-ray release. I’m glad the two versions of the TV soundtrack on audio are on the DVD/Blu-ray to compare.
Going back to the surviving footage of ‘The Macra Terror’, I did find it exciting to watch especially when Polly and Ben got attacked and chased by Macra itself. Seeing those scenes made me wonder if children were actually scared of this stuff in the 1960s. It didn’t feel the same way with animation.
Yeah I know, the Macra monsters back in the 1960s were pokey and didn’t look impressive as they were back then compared to the Macra in the animation version that do look scary and intimidating. But all the tension seemed to be gone from watching the animation version of the surviving footage.
Anyway, the story takes place on a futuristic human colony world that the Doctor, Polly, Ben and Jamie visit. No name is given to this colony world which is unusual, but it seems that everybody is happy and all is perfect. The Doctor gets suspicious and he and his friends discover more in the tale.
Eventually, the Doctor soon discovers that the colony’s inhabitants are being controlled and indoctrinated by the menacing crab-like Macra. The Macra are able to control their minds and want to have a special kind of gas in order to survive. Can the Doctor and his friends defeat the monsters?
There’s a sense of propaganda and indoctrination throughout the story, especially when the humans are being ruled by the crab-like creatures and aren’t able or willing to realise it. This is depicted when the humans are forbidden to have seen the Macra and when cheerleaders sing ‘happy’ songs.
When I first heard this story via its TV soundtrack on audio, I was pleased to listen to it with the Macra in it after watching them in the new series TV episode ‘Gridlock’. I did find the Macra to be rather different in this TV story compared to how they were depicted in their new series TV episode.
Despite being crab-like, the Macra seem to be intelligent and capable of running the human colony. This is something that wasn’t depicted in the TV episode ‘Gridlock’. The Macra were mainly monsters lurking below in the gas-like fumes of New New York’s motorway. They only came at the last minute.
But of course, the Macra had devolved by that point and they were only dependant on the gases of the motorway in order to survive. In fact, one thing that remains similar to the Macra in both classic and new series version is their dependency of a special gas. This is something I remembered clearly.
In both listening to the TV soundtrack on audio and watching the animation version of ‘The Macra Terror’, I recalled the Macra were dependent on a special gas from watching the new series episode ‘Gridlock’. This is something that pleased me. I am glad the connection between the two was made.
Like I said, the design for the Marca in the TV version is slightly disappointing. I accept this was the 1960s and they had a limited budget, but the Macra do look poor in terms of design especially from watching the surviving footage. I’m glad they had a CGI makeover when they returned in new series.
I’m pleased in the animation versions that the DVD/Blu-ray makers kept to the original design of the Macra whilst also looking intimidating and didn’t make them look like the ones in the new series. And goodness me! The Macra are huge! When they tower over people, they really do tower over! 😀
The animation for the four TARDIS regulars as well as the supporting cast is spot-on in this animation version of the story. Despite ‘The Macra Terror’ not being as good as ‘The Invasion’ animation, the likenesses of Patrick Troughton, Anneke Wills, Michael Craze and Frazer Hines are good throughout.
Patrick Troughton excels as the Doctor in this adventure. This is of course takes place during Patrick Troughton’s first season as the Doctor when he took over from William Hartnell. By this point, he’s managed to find a balance in his Doctor that is comedic and serious at the same time which I do like.
I like how childlike the Doctor gets to be, especially to members of the colony. I also like it when he gets anxious once something pretty terrible is about to happen. In the story, the Doctor suspects all is not right with the colony. He notices this when one of the colony members, Medok, is on the run.
The Doctor tries to help Medok, despite coming across difficulties, by getting information out of him at the same time. This is so that the Doctor can find out what’s going on. Once the Doctor finds out what the Macra are up to, he informs the Pilot as he gets to show him what the monsters are doing.
Anneke Wills is equally good as Polly in this adventure. Polly gets a new haircut when she and the others visit the human colony. She does scream a lot especially when the Macra try to grab at her from behind. But Polly remains very brave and becomes anxious when Ben is not acting like himself.
In the story, Polly gets to have more scenes with Jamie as well as with the Doctor. Thankfully, she’s not subjected to the brainwashing techniques of the Macra since the Doctor comes in and saves her just in time. Polly does get anxious once she and her friends work down in the mines later in the tale.
Michael Craze is very good as Ben in this story. Unfortunately, Ben has a rotten time since he gets brainwashed easily by the Macra and believes he’s part of the colony and is happy to do their work. He betrays the Doctor once he sees him sabotage some of the brainwashing devices in their rooms.
This is a complete twist on Ben’s character, as he’s mostly reliable and loyal. It must have been a big acting challenge for Michael Craze in playing Ben differently. Ben however has good moments when he’s rescuing Polly from the Macra and he struggles to fight his way in breaking the Macra’s control.
Frazer Hines is great as Jamie in this adventure. Jamie has a stronger role to play in the story compared to his previous appearances in ‘The Underwater Menace’ and ‘The Moonbase’ where he was underwritten. Jamie has his own voice in this, especially as he speaks against the colony’s ideals.
It’s interesting that Jamie doesn’t get affected by the brainwashing devices when he, Ben and Polly share the same cubicle. Jamie questions the existence of the colony’s Controller and is protective towards Polly in this. I enjoyed it when Jamie gets to show off his ‘Highland Fling’ dance in the story.
Peter Jeffrey guest stars as the Pilot in the story. This was way before Peter Jeffrey guest starred as Count Grendel in ‘The Androids of Tara’ with Tom Baker. I was delighted to hear Peter Jeffrey in this classic ‘Doctor Who’ story with Patrick Troughton. He’s superb as the Pilot who is the colony’s leader.
The story also features Terence Lodge as Medok, the man who sees the Macra and nobody believes him. Terence would later star in some ‘Doctor Who’ stories with Jon Pertwee including ‘Carnival of Monsters’ and ‘Planet of the Spiders’. It’s interesting how he reacts to the Doctor trying to help him.
There’s also Gertan Klauber as Ola, who is the tough chief of police on the colony world. At first, Ola applauds the Doctor, Polly, Ben and Jamie for stopping Medok when they arrive via TARDIS. But he becomes ruthless especially when obeying the Controller and is given a short time to be colony leader.
Graham Leaman guest stars as the Controller, who is seen briefly on screen once being attacked by a Macra in the surviving footage of the story. In fact, the Control Voice is by Denis Goacher and is the representation of the Macra talking to the human colony. The Control Voice on screen is interesting.
In the animation version, it’s simply a static face that doesn’t talk when the Control Voice is speaking. I assume it’s a photograph. I also assume this is the same for the original TV version too. When the Control Voice speaks, it gets agitated when things go wrong and it goes way over-the-top.
I’m surprised the colonists didn’t question that their beloved Controller is simply a static face and not showing any emotion. The times when you hear the Control Voice getting angry is pretty amusing when you watch it in the animation version. I did make fun of the face when I watched it. 😀
Incidentally, this story features the first appearance of the 1967 titles sequence to be shown for the remainder of the Patrick Troughton era of ‘Doctor Who’. Whilst the William Hartnell theme music stayed before it changed into the Patrick Troughton one, the 1967 titles sequence is very impressive.
The DVD/Blu-ray special features are as follows. On Disc 1, there’s the colour version of the story. There are also episode reconstructions on the first two episodes of the story with and without linking narration by Anneke Wills, based on the 2012 audio TV soundtrack release. There’s also a bonus mini-episode which I assume is a preview of the animation version of ‘The Wheel In Space’. 😀 There is also animation test footage; animatics; an animation gallery and a teaser trailer for the story. There’s also a DVD/Blu-ray audio commentary with Frazer Hines, Terence Lodge, Anthony Gardner (Alvis), Maureen Lane (Majorette) and director John Davies, moderated by Toby Hadoke.
On Disc 2, there’s the black-and-white version of the story. There are also episode reconstructions on the last two episodes of the story with and without linking narration by Anneke Wills, based on the 2012 audio TV soundtrack release. There’s also the 1992 audio presentation of the story read by Colin Baker himself, the surviving footage of the story and a behind-the-scenes film that does seem to be similar to the ‘Follow That Dalek’ feature on ‘The Chase’ DVD and is narrated by Mike Tucker. There’s also a censored scene of the story; a compilation of the 1967 titles sequence and a photo gallery of the story. There are also PDFs which can be accessed via Disc 2 on the computer including camera scripts, studio schedules, floor plans, etc. I’m disappointed there wasn’t a making-of documentary included for ‘The Macra Terror’ DVD/Blu-ray release. It would’ve been nice to see that.
‘The Macra Terror’ is a thrilling and an exciting story from the Patrick Troughton era of ‘Doctor Who’. It’s a shame the story is missing from the BBC Archives, but I’m glad there’s an animation version of it for us to enjoy. I hope one day the actual TV story will be found soon with the four episodes intact.
It was very interesting to experience this story both on audio and in animation form where the Macra made their first TV appearance in ‘Doctor Who’, having seen them already in the new series. I wonder what the Macra would look like should this tale be found and whether they’d be impressive.
‘The Macra Terror’ rating – 8/10
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