Written by Ian Stuart Black
Directed by John Davies
Nowadays when a politician utters a sentence from their mewing filthy gobhole, most peolpe’s first reaction is to try and count how many lies it contained. This is of course impossible, since you can’t count to Infinity. Even a small infinity. Even, confusingly, Countable Infinity. But the widespread realization that people who actually want to be in charge are probably cunts wasn’t always around. It’s pretty damn old, don’t get me wrong, but it comes and goes. The second world war had given the world some proper old fashioned Bad Guys to really fucking hate, and as a result people had rallied behind the forces of good, and those leading them enjoyed a level of trust that was higher than average. But by 1967 that trust was waning and the old suspicion was beginning to return. The Doctor had always been a pretty anti-authority sort of guy, but never more overtly than in The Macra Terror.
Ian Stewart Black had already well and truly proven his leftist credentials and ability to weave a sophisticated point into a Doctor Who story with The Savages. Though the anti-propoganda/general anti-authority message in The Macra Terror is somewhat more simple it is nevertheless a well structured story and satisfying viewing (listening). Importantly, unlike me, it doesn’t paint all authority as out and out villains, with the Pilot being more of a spineless goon than a bad person.
The villains are very much the Macra themselves. Personally, I love the Macra in this story, They never directly communicate, never even talking directly through a puppet spouting some cheesy bullshit “this is the voice of the Macra” noncery. despite this, they are clearly highly intelligent creatures, at least on a par with humanity in the brain department. The idea of a highly intelligent monster with whom we have no direct way of communicating takes an extraordinarily gifted writer to pull off, but when it works it is terrifying in a way that is hard to describe. Thankfully, Ian Stewart Black is easily good enough to pull it off*. The end result is the polar opposite of the completely un-scary self obsessed monologuing villain, and is significantly more satisfying.
If you though I used to get a bit gushy about William Hartnell then brace yourself, because I have a lot to say about Patrick Troughton, and I’m pretty sure none or it is bad. He is, as he always is, marvelous in this story. It’s not often that he lets people see his intelligence, but the childlike innocence and delight he displays when figuring out some of the colony’s closest guarded intelligence is spectacularly charming. His companions get to play to their strengths as well, with Jamie in particular getting to shine, at one point literally dancing his way out of trouble.
There is an argument that if you want to make a serious point about something, don’t make it by writing about giant crabs running around a Butlins. The Macra Terror shows this argument to be made of tissue paper and gobshite. Having watched it, I think that every story should involve oversized arthropods and space holiday camps at some point. Or package holiday tours, which is what the villain in the next story is. Find out just how evil they can be, in The Faceless Ones.
*Russell T Davis probably is too, when he’s not spewing mawkish bollox all over a script, so the fact the he “de-evolved” (not a thing) them into brainless wee shites in gridlock made me pretty angry.