IAN STEWART BLACK
THE SPIDERMEN, THE INSECT-MEN & THE MACRAS
'THE MACRA TERROR' AUDIO CD (ISBN 0-563-47756-3) RELEASED IN AUGUST 2000.
In the far future a group of humans is living an idyllic existence on a distant planet. Their colony is run like a gigantic holiday camp and nothing seems to trouble their carefree existence.
When one of them claims that thE colony is being invaded by hideous monsters, no-one takes him seriously. But the Doctor’s suspicions are immediately aroused.
What is THE terrible menace that lurks at the heart of this apparent paradise? Why are the colonists unaware of the danger that lies before their very eyes? And what is the Macra Terror?
ALL FOUR EPISODES ARE MISSING.
The Macra Terror
11TH MARCH 1967 - 1ST APRIL 1967
I received a copy of the updated Loose Cannon reconstruction of this serial from Steve Hatcher (co-ordinator of Derby’s Whoovers and author of the Big Finish short stories Ante Bellum and The Touch of the Nurzah) as part of a huge goody bag that he kindly put together for me. Amongst some rare Big Finish freebies, signed photographs, and even a copy of Hatcher’s superb unpublished Venceremos, I noticed a humble-looking VHS tape labelled “The Macra Terror”. In the past, I’d always listened to the BBC Radio Collection’s CDs whilst flicking through the telesnaps available on the BBC website roughly in synch with the soundtrack. With Loose Cannon’s wonderful reconstruction, however, I could simply sit back and watch four episodes of classic Who that I thought I’d never see.
The first thing that struck me about The Macra Terror was the superb quality of the soundtrack, not only in the literal sense but also in terms of the atmosphere that the outstanding incidental music creates. In the same way that clowns can be disturbing, the incessant jingles that are littered throughout this story paint a very sinister picture in the mind. The nameless planet on which the TARDIS lands is like a gigantic version of a 1950s’ holiday camp; all sunshine, dancing and “rah rah rah”. As the story progresses, hints of the dystopian society lurking underneath become more and more evident, until it’s clear that the colonists’ seemingly idyllic existence is anything but. They are controlled by a constant bombardment of drugs, hypnotism and even some good old fashioned propaganda. They are controlled by the Macra, the crab like creatures that the time scanner detected at the end of The Moonbase.
“There are no such things as Macra!”
The TARDIS crew each enjoy a fair share of the action here. Whilst Jamie and Polly are cast in more traditional roles - Jamie as the action man, Polly as the screamer - Ben succumbs to the controlling influences around him and spends the majority of the story torn between what he perceives to be his loyalty to the colony and his loyalty to his friends. This creates some interesting dilemmas for him, particularly in the second episode where he has to decide whether or not to save Polly from the clutches of a Macra – a creature that his conditioning assures him does not exist. It’s fitting, then, that in the end it’s is Ben who ultimately saves the day, freeing the colony by blowing up the gas pumps which produce the gas which the Macra need to survive.
“Bad laws were made to be broken…”
I particularly like how Black portrays the Doctor in his script, the Time Lord more the manipulator than the instigator here, reminding me very much of Sylvester McCoy’s much later portrayal. Interestingly, The Macra Terror also reminded me very much of one of my favourite Sylvester McCoy serials, Graeme Curry’s superlative satire The Happiness Patrol, and some other little touches brought many other future stories to mind. For instance, having the Controller’s true face hidden behind a youthful photograph reminded me of the Borad in the Colin Baker story Timelash. It seems that for a lost and often overlooked story, The Macra Terror is certainly an important and an inspirational one.
The quality of the reconstruction itself is superb. Loose Cannon have, for the most part, combined John Cura’s telesnaps with the existing soundtrack, and where necessary added narration in the form of subtitles. Moreover, they’ve also woven the few surviving clips seamlessly into the production, and, just to give it a really polished look, added little effects like moving gas and flashing lights to the telesnaps. It may not be way the serial was originally intended to be seen, but it has got to be the closest that we’ll ever get to it short of animation. Loose Cannon deserve a lot of credit for putting so much painstaking work into restoring these classic stories; it must be a true labour of love, and it’s one that is greatly appreciated.
Copyright © E.G. Wolverson 2006
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