Episode 34: The Macra Terror


Episode 34: The Macra Terror
Second Doctor
Companions: Polly, Ben, Jamie
Written by Ian Stuart Black
Directed by John Davies
Wikipedia Entry

The Doctor and his companions visit an Earth colony in the future that is not what it seems.

I have discovered through my library’s online resources that many of the audio editions of the missing episodes are available for check out. I like reading the books but the hearing the story is more entertaining and I seem to retain the story more than from the book adaptations. Granted I’m stuck in traffic five days a week, so the audio presentation is a welcome relief to the horror that is the 405.

The story begins immediately after the end of The Moonbase in which Ben, Polly, Jamie, and the Doctor see the scary image of a claw on the TARDIS scanner. They land in the future, on another planet that has been colonized by Earth. Their visit contact with this new planet is with a colonist by the name of Medok, who is running away from the police. Medok is arrested by the Chief of Police who escorts the visitors to the colony. As the Doctor and his companions become accustomed to this new world, they discover that the colony is not what it seems. There are forces controlling the colony; forces that may not be human.

This was an entertaining story. I found myself yelling in my car as I listened to the adventure. (This is usually a good sign that I’m engaged in the story) It felt like an engaging radio drama. This is a rare case in which I’m glad that the episodes are missing because it was so engaging as an audio adventure. I’m wondering if I would have thought the episode cheesy if I had seen the Macra monsters. Sometimes leaving the imagination open to possibilities is more entertaining than the actual image presented. If you can find the audio edition, it would be worth the time and effort.


Episode 33: The Moonbase


Episode 33: The Moonbase
Second Doctor
Companions: Polly, Ben, Jamie
Written by Kit Pedler
Directed by Morris Barry
Wikipedia Entry

The Doctor encounters a threat from his past; a threat that forced his first regeneration.

After a rough landing, the Doctor and his three companions discover that they have landed on the Moon in the year 2070. As they explore the planet, they come across a Moonbase where the Earth’s weather is now being controlled. Jamie is injured so the Doctor, Ben, and Polly seek entrance to the Moonbase to take of their injured companion. (Jamie’s injury was created to help with his unexpected role of series regular. Jamie would later take some of Ben’s lines in later installments)

The Moonbase crew is dealing with a strange disease which causes the base to be quarantined. Those affected with the disease display their symptoms with an inky-substance under their skin; the first affected speak of a silver hand. As more crew-members are affected with this strange disease, the Doctor and his companions come to the realization that this disease might hide a darker, evil threat that the Doctor hoped to never see again.

Oh this episode was stellar. Everything about it worked. The acting, the direction, the set design; all of it was fantastic. Unlike, the previous episode in which the missing footage was replaced with just audio and photo stills, the missing footage here was animated and was a great improvement to the photo still method. There was news last week that The Power of the Daleks would be released in the near-future as a fully animated production. I can’t wait and I’ll be editing my original review afterwards.

Admittedly, there are silly moments in the episode. The hole in the Moonbase is fixed by a food tray? But it works for the story and the tension was wonderful. I wasn’t distracted by my phone or laptop while watching this program, which means it was fun. The Cybermen, a villain I genuinely enjoy, were creepy and I couldn’t help but wonder what it would have been like to have seen them for the first time, without any knowledge that they were the creatures behind the disease. That reveal at the end of the first installment was chilling as well as the cliffhanger at the end of the third installment.

And can we discuss the guest characters? They made sense in the context of the story. The Moonbase is managed by a man named Hobson, played by Patrick Barr. Normally, the manager of a doomed or failed mission is played as a bumbling fool, someone who doesn’t listen. While Hobson may have his faults, he’s a smart character. He’s there to protect the Earth but will look out for his crew in the fiercest way possible. Hobson plays off the Doctor incredibly well, which makes sense since the making-of documentary discusses Barr and Troughton’s friendship.

Overall impression? Great episode and a lot of fun. Worth the time and effort to seek out and watch.

Episode 32: The Underwater Menace


Episode 32: The Underwater Menace
Second Doctor
Companions: Polly, Ben, Jamie
Written by Geoffrey Orme
Directed by Julia Smith
Wikipedia Entry

It’s a race against time as the Doctor tries to save the world against a power-mad scientist.

This isn’t my favorite episode but it’s not the worst episode I’ve watched. What makes this episode extraordinary is that this is the first time I’ve actually seen Patrick Troughton in action since I’ve started this blog. I had watched The War Games ages ago but my impressions of his Doctor have escaped my memory. With The Power of the Daleks and The Highlanders, I had only heard Patrick’s voice or read about the Doctor’s antics in the written adaptations. Once he’s finally on screen, he’s wonderful and it made me giddy with joy while watching his performance. Anytime that Patrick was on the screen, I kept thinking of Matt Smith’s Eleventh Doctor; the bumbling actions that hid a highly clever personality. While Smith was inspired by other programs as well as Albert Einstein in the creation of his take on the Doctor but I can’t help but see the similarities between Two and Eleven.

Unfortunately, you don’t really see the Doctor in action until the second installment of this episode. The DVD has photo stills and an audio soundtrack for the first and last installments. The problem is that the audio doesn’t give you an indication of what exactly is going on. It was distracting and frustrating. I was able to fill in the puzzle during the second installment but it doesn’t flow well because of this confusion. I had to go back to the written adaptation, which was entertaining, to understand what exactly was going on.

The story begins with Jamie in awe of the TARDIS. As a man of the mid-1700s, he’s understandably wary of future technology. Unlike the First Doctor’s companion Katarina, Jamie handles the technology with ease and rolls right with and, sometimes, into the punches. The companions and the Doctor land near the ocean, on a volcanic island. When Ben, Polly, and Jamie start to explore, they find they are being followed. Polly is kidnapped with the Doctor, Ben, and Jamie captured shortly afterwards. They soon discover that they are in somewhere around Mexico, sometime in the early 1970s. Their captors are preparing their prisoners for a ritual sacrifice. These captors are survivors of Atlantis and still celebrate their old Gods. After some quick thinking, and quick talking, they are rescued from death by the mad Professor Zarloff. The Professor recognizes the Doctor’s intelligence and separates him from the companions. Jamie and Ben are to work in the mines and Polly is to become a fish person.

Circumstances change and the team is reunited by the third installment. Professor Zarloff’s designs to raise up Atlantis involve a plan to blow-up of the Earth. Naturally, the Doctor makes every effort to stop him.

There are many themes at play in these installments. There is a religious story mixed with the mad scientist story mixed with a conspiracy story mixed with a socialistic angle. It’s a tale that is everywhere. There’s even a scene in which the Atlantis fish people are seen swimming around the ocean. It felt like outakes of some B-movie version of Disneyland footage. It’s fun to watch but the overall story feels scattered. Zarloff is played over-the-top, which can be fun in a campy way but with everything going on at once, it’s overwhelming and underwhelming at the same time. Zarloff’s character would have been amazing in some 1960s American science-fiction film.

I did sit and watch the making-of documentary, which involved cast and crew interviews. This episode was originally meant to follow The Power of the Daleks but the scheduled director, Hugh David, thought the script was crap and publicly claimed that the budget was too much. There was a reworking of the script/broadcast schedule and The Highlanders was created to follow The Power of the Daleks with Hugh David directing that amazing episode. The Underwater Menace was pushed around until it was finally scheduled for after The Highlanders.

Patrick Troughton also thought the story was crap and the companions, now three instead of two, had lines cut to share with each other. Polly’s character, who had been a mighty force in The Highlanders (something I touched upon on in my last review), was written weak and not the strong, independent 60’s character she had been designed. I fell in love with Anneke Wills watching this mini-documentary, as she discussed why her character was created with this modern 60’s mentality. I had already loved Polly but the woman playing this fantastic character is a treasure. Sometimes writers are stuck in the past with no understanding of characters.

Overall, it’s not a bad episode but it’s still not the best. If there had been some editing of the story wherein the focus was on a smaller cast of characters, it might have been amazing. Patrick Troughton shines because he was a professional and made the best of what he had. Here’s hoping that this was a one-off thing and the rest of these adventures don’t follow this pattern.

Episode 31: The Highlanders


Episode 31: The Highlanders
Second Doctor
Companions: Polly, Ben, Jamie
Written by Elwyn Jones and Gerry Davis
Directed by Hugh David
Wikipedia Entry

The Doctor and his companions land in the aftermath of the Battle of Culloden; Scotland 1745.

Random note: Did you know that Diana Gabaldon is a Doctor Who fan and named her lead male character after Jamie? While I’m not a fan of Outlander, I thought the connection was fun. (I really tried to get into the book, but I wasn’t feeling it. I might try watching the show. With my crazed schedule of late, I’m not making any promises)

The story begins as the trio land in the aftermath of the Battle of Culloden, which was the final uprising of the Jacobite forces of Charles Edward Stuart, also known as Bonnie Prince Charles.

“A few hours previously, the largely Highland Scottish troops of Prince Charles Edward, better known as Bonnie Prince Charlie, had drawn up their battle lines against the English and German Army led by the Duke of Cumberland, who were fighting for King George. What was at stake was the entire future of the British monarchy.”

For more information about the Battle of Culloden, here is a bibliography list from Wikipedia.

As the story unfolds, Ben, Polly, and the Doctor land in a cold, wet land. Ben immediately recognizes the weather as English-like weather. The problem is that they don’t take the moment to consider that it might not be the same timeline they originally came from. When a ten-pound cannonball lands near them, the Doctor knows the TARDIS has landed in a battle. Ben and Polly believe it to be a reenactment happening and run off to investigate. The Doctor, the cautioned participant for once, follows to ensure their safety.

Meanwhile, fleeing the battle is the Laird of Clan McLaren, Colin McLaren along with his children, Alexander and Kirsty, and the clan bagpiper, Jamie McCrimmon. Colin has been injured and the group is looking for shelter, fast. They come across an uninhabited  cottage; a cottage that had moments earlier been discovered by the The Doctor and his companions. Confusion occurs on both sides. As Ben and Polly hail from London, the McLarens believe them to be the enemy. Ben and Polly are confused as to why someone would want to attack them, still not realizing that they are in the past. The Doctor is just trying to call everyone down. Eventually, the McLarens allow the Doctor to examine Colin and Polly and Kirsty go off to fetch fresh water. Ben foolishly sets off a musket, allowing the Redcoats, who are searching for rebels.

The Doctor, Colin, Jamie, and Ben are captured and place in jail instead of being hanged because of nefarious plot by Solicitor Grey, who is the Royal Commissioner of Prisons. Grey has been shipping prisoners to the colonies, specifically Jamaica and Barbados; an illegal act that Grey hopes will provide him with generous funds. Meanwhile, Polly and Kirsty have a run-in with a British officer, Lt. Algernon Ffinch. They steal his money and, later, blackmail him to avoid capture.

The story ends with the Doctor and Ben enabling the prisoners to fight against their captors. Kirsty and Colin sail away to avoid capture from the English. Jamie accepts the invitation to travel with the Doctor, Ben, and Polly.

The Highlanders is a fun time travel romp. The characters were fun and the use of history was great throughout the story. As someone who is not as familiar with British and Scottish history as she might want to be, the overall story didn’t feel dumbed down and left enough for me to understand as well as provide enough of a lure for me to explore later.

Polly continues to be amazing. She’s fun, feisty, and not afraid to be tough and feminine. There’s a fun balance of this modern woman with Kristy, who is the daughter of Colin McLaren, the leader of the clan McLaren. At first I was annoyed with Kristy because of the way she is presented in the narrative. It’s unfair to compare Polly’s modern mentality with Kristy’s 1700s mentality. This is what Kristy has been taught and I believe that she has never had an example in which a woman could stand and fight before Polly appeared. Granted, I should just get off my soapbox and not freak out about a Doctor Who adaptation, but it bugged me so hence the mention. Still, it was fun to read the interactions between these two women and it provided a nice break in the story.

Poor Algernon Ffinch. While I may have glossed over him in the story explanation, he was a fun character to discover. A fob and an idiot, Ffinch is fodder for the story, but it’s fun to see him fluster around Kirsty and especially Polly. He has a happy ending in the end but he was also a nice break in the more tenser portions of the story.

Overall, it was a very entertaining story. I still adore Ben and Polly and their interactions. I love this sassy version of the Doctor. And I love the introduction to Jamie, a character that would continue to travel with the Second Doctor until the end of Patrick Troughton’s run.

Jamie, suddenly afraid of the strange looking object, hung back. He was going with these strange people into something he only dimly comprehended. Where would they take him? Would he ver see his native glen again?

As he hesitated, Polly turned back and grasped his hand. “Don’t be afraid,” she said, “it’s much nicer inside than it is out. There’s so many wonderful surprises waiting for you, you’ll see.”

Jamie allowed himself to be drawn through into the small police box. The door closed behind him and he saw to his astonishment the large, hexagonal, brightly-lighted interior of the time machine.

Special Notes
On the Lost in Time DVD boxset there is a listing for some surviving Highlanders footage. When I went to watch it, there was barely anything.

Historical Mentions and Notes
This was the last time the series would focus primarily on historical events until the Fifth Doctor episode of Black Orchid. 

The Second Doctor is shown to be very fond of hats