The Macra Terror – Story #034

DW34

Jael’s Judgement:

Right away this reminds me of The Prisoner. Does that make me über-nerdy? I guess the difference is that I stuck with the Doctor through this entire adventure to eventually find out why this colony is odd and slightly disturbing at first glance. I do not think I have gotten through a season of The Prisoner. Isn’t it funny how in both cases extreme pleasantness and “happiness” is stressed, even though the population is basically a captive slave force.

Jamie knows there is trouble. He tells Polly to keep her eyes peeled and distrusts the voice that speaks while they sleep. But the real mystery to me is, what does Jamie look like when in the words of Polly he looked so “smashing”? Did they do something different with his hair?? Regardless I am liking him as a companion. Very reliable and loyal with a bit of a rebellious side.

Ben on the other hand, I am not a fan of Ben’s.

The messages in this story were not very subtle. Make up your own mind and do not be unquestioningly obedient. At least they are not bad messages. Oh, another subtle message, “violence will get you nowhere.”

The whole story I was wondering where they have these stupid recordings singing instructions and “inspiration” to the workers. Turns out the colony has its own version of a Glee Club. Oh joy. And similar to current day glee clubs, it is overbearing and extremely annoying. Yay.

  • Story Grade: B-

 

Tony’s Take:

I find reading my lovely wife’s reviews to be hilarious and confusing.  I shouldn’t be so confused, after all, she has told me that she does NOT want to grade the stories, but I cannot help it.  Maybe it’s the guy part of me, or maybe we are just that different, but I cannot understand how she “rates” these serials/stories.  Reading her review above, I would have expected a C-level grade at the very best, but somehow she is in the B-range.  “B-range” to me is significantly above average as a story, though not quite to the classic level which an “A” would garner.

Rebuttals to Jael’s Review:

  • The Prisoner?!  Nice reference, but we’ve only watched about 5-6 episodes of the series.  I’d say it would have almost been a badge of nerdery, but wait until completion to display that honor.  Now if you just meant The Simpson’s form of The Prisoner, I’ll let you display that proudly, though I have more pride in the fact that I converted you into a Simpsons fan.
  • Do you also see this as an early version of The Happiness Patrol?  I know that mentioning a 7th Doctor story would be incredibly out of order, but we’ve both seen it.
  • Your approval of Jamie is nothing more than a love of the Scottish accent and similar heritage of your ancestors in their Irish homeland (heck, they probably are intertwined, as I am sure they liked to mingle with one another).  As for smashing Jamie?  We’ll never know, since all 4 stories are lost to time.
  • You don’t like Ben?!  Shocking.  Maybe you just like Jamie too much. 😉
  • I do agree with your assessment of the subtlety in this story.  Being mindless slaves in order to be happy does not actually produce happy people, but just numb and distant shells of humans.
  • Your hate towards the Glee club makes me happy.  I am so thrilled that I am with someone who does not want to watch Glee.  Thank you.

As for my two cents?  This story has crabs.  Giant crabs.  I find it a bit hilarious and even ambitious that Doctor Who even tried to show these characters on screen.  Today we have special effects, incredible design/costume teams, and we still do not show everything on screen.  While nothing about the 1960s-era Who is completely believable (heck, most of Classic Who is under-budget, but that’s part of the charm), at least they pushed the envelop.  Much like the guys from Radio Free Skaro, I, too, would absolutely LOVE it if they produced a new-Who with a cheap budget and nearly 100% set/costume design, instead of graphics and tech wizardry.

Macra

It’s unfortunate for Ben and Polly’s characters that The Doctor and Jamie work so well together.  This is probably the reason why Jamie stays and the other two go in the not so distant future (OK, maybe the next story. *SPOILERS!*).

While a bit silly, I will not let the fact that this story is 100% audio bring down my grade…

  • Story Grade: B-
  • A bit of fun and your typical feel-good happy ending.  While not 100% the same, the giant bugs and Macra make it feel like Planet of Giants, which was quite enjoyable.

 

Thanks again to Patrick Troughton for the breath of fresh air.  It’s easy to see why Doctor Who kept building into the show that is so loved now with Patrick as the lead.  His appeal to children is obvious, and I wouldn’t mind being old if I aged like his character.

PS: Look out for the Macra in the new series episode “Gridlock.”

“Mission to the Unknown” – Story #019

DW19 + 21

Jael’s Judgment:

(Still not sure why Tony makes me give these grades. We looked back and my average is something like a B-. So right there, if a C is average, I am obviously not grading accurately.)

Alright, let’s get on with it.

This was an odd story. Only one episode and no Doctor. How many Doctor Who stories are there with no Doctor? The characters/voices got a little confusing for me. I wish we could have watched the story, but alas it was an audio only. I kept wondering what the Varga plants looked like.

Gardeners beware: While recently discussing the reoccuring adversaries of the Doctor with my brother, I realized how often plants evolve into threatening, sentient beings. Or other creatures are taken over by plants to become plant/animals. Never really the same types of beings, so they are not a specific reoccurring enemy. But man, watch out for those plants!

Overall, OK story. But probably not needed to understand future stories. I am guessing William Hartnell needed a break.

  • Story Grade: C+

 

Tony’s Take:

The first one episode story and the only one for MANY years.  We are used to one-parters in present day Who, and when they are a two-parter that means something special to us; so it’s strange to “see” such a short story early on and WITHOUT the Doctor.  This was a teaser (or something we may now call – albeit incorrectly – a prequel) to the upcoming story, “The Daleks’ Mater Plan”.

I don’t know that there is much to talk about, so here are some interesting notes about this awkward story:

From the TARDIS wikia:

Terry Nation wrote this episode partially as an attempt to develop and sell the idea of a Dalek television series divorced from the larger Doctor Who universe. The proposed series would have followed the adventures of the Space Security Service, an elite organisation tasked with hunting Daleks. This approach can be seen in short stories and comic strips written for 1965’s The Dalek Outer Space Book (cover dated 1966). An unmade pilot titled The Destroyers was written, but the series concept was never sold. The Destroyers was later produced as an audio play by Big Finish Productions.

Since the story “Planet of Giants” was originally meant as a 4 part story but was edited down to a 3 part story, this left a one episode hole in the contract with the BBC and Doctor Who production team.  The original cast (speculation here) already fulfilled their contract and were too expensive for the show, so they decided to take Terry Nation’s idea and do a one-off teaser for a future story.  Since they would use the sets in the 12 episode story, this meant that there was very little addition cost associated with the production.

With all of this said, William Hartnell is still credited as “Doctor Who” because his contract said he would have lead credits in all episodes, even if he did not appear.

Notes:

Varga plants only on Skaro, they take over the brain and tell you to kill and you become half plant.
Now to warn Earth of the Daleks coming.
I’d like to see this jungle set; wait, actually I wouldn’t, the sound is probably better than the props.
Cory is really infected by the plant, not good.
  • Story Grade: C
  • Short, very short.  This isn’t a bad thing, but a 25 minute episode of Doctor Who without The Doctor can only go so far.  This was a great initial run for the Tardisodes and “prequels” that we get today (even if they weren’t directly because of this fluke of a story).

 

Thank you, Verity Lambert.  This was her last story/episode as producer.  We Who fans owe her all of our thanks for bringing this show to us.  Without Verity, we would not have this show, plain and simple.  Thank you to the BBC as well, they broke the stereotypical mold by going with a young female to run a show.  I am sure that the conditions were far from perfect, and she was probably given Doctor Who because they wrote off the show, but you have to start somewhere.

Planet of Giants – Story #009

DW9

Jael’s Judgment:

I do not have a ton to say about this story. It wasn’t horrible. It wasn’t great. Thus the average grade of C, on the scale which my husband still makes me use under protest.

I am not really sure why Barbara didn’t inform the rest of the group immediately that she had come into contact with the pesticide…

I’ll tell you what did inspire me about this story, the props! Made me want to be a prop designer. Unfortunately I am unsure about the level of training this would take, especially now, 49 years later. Some if the scaling seemed to be off. I could definitely take care of that. Plus I think I could do a decent artistic job creating props and sets as well. Hmmm, maybe I should think about this as a future career. I am sure there are many career opportunities of this vein in the Midwest United States.

  • Story Grade: C

 

Tony’s Take:

Sorry guys, after the differing viewpoints on that nasty French adventure, we are back to agreeing with each other.  The grades are identical, and our high points are the same (props).  How crazy was Barbara for keeping the pesticide contact a secret for so long?!  Just tell them already!

If you want further detail, here are my notes:

CLOSE THE DOORS!  The TARDIS is acting up yet again.
For once, the mini model TARDIS comes in handy, it’s nearly actual size for this story!
Of course the best idea is to leave the ship to figure out what happened. Next step would be to split up… and there it happens!
The first giant, a giant worm, followed by eggs, and then an ant.
Reduced to an inch, but Ian has difficulty believing that, and he’s a time-traveler.
Ian’s great acting in the matchbox was AWESOME, Susan’s screaming was not.
Weird, didn’t know that Burn’s assistant, Smithers, was in this story.
Why would being smaller change the pitch what the tiny people are hearing?  Shorter people do not hear sounds differently than taller people. If anything, they may not be able to hear certain frequencies because of smaller ear drums.  They would probably sound squeaky, since they’d have smaller vocal cords, but they would also hear each other as squeaky.  Right?
Ian’s walk in front of the dead man was priceless.  Oh how technology has changed.
DO NOT LOOK INTO THE CAT’S EYES!
We are split up again, but we learned about Smithers and the killer, they are disposing the body.
Susan touched the poison wheat, oops, spoiled that one already.  Guess we have to see how it plays out; how will they save her?!
Susan passes out when seeing a giant bug, reminds me of someone close to me.  But at least she and Ian hear Susan once she wakes up.  The gang gets back together in the drain!
Episode 2 really went down the drain, literally.
Barbara, just tell them you are poisoned already!  Geez.
The old cork under the phone trick.  Is this the inspiration for ‘Honey I Shrunk The Kids’?
The screams in unison are priceless, it’s almost like a blooper take, they are almost cracking.
Well, The Doctor just went all pyro, “Nothing like a good fire?!”
The phone off the hook worked, especially when coupled with previous suspicion by the telephone operator.
I’m sure the prop department had fun making all of these giant props.
Glad we had the seed as a visual to see the TARDIS going back to normal size.
  • Story Grade: C
  • The models and props were pretty decent.  The story was nice and condensed (for the 1960s era Who), and the story had average twists and plot-line.

 

All the thanks go out to the prop design team.  Making a bunch of huge props to make the group look small was very well done.  Many times the scale and proportions were well off, but this was probably at the request of the director in order ensure that the actors look tiny, plus it’s just a TV show for kids.