BBC HomeExplore the BBC
This page has been archived and is no longer updated. Find out more about page archiving.

24 September 2014

BBC Homepage

Entertainment Cult

Contact Us

The Macra Terror

Production Code: JJ

First Transmitted

1 - 11/03/1967 17:50

2 - 18/03/1967 17:50

3 - 25/03/1967 17:50

4 - 01/04/1967 17:50

Plot

The time travellers visit a human colony that appears to be a happy place run along the lines of an enormous holiday camp but has in fact been infiltrated and taken over by a race of giant crab-like creatures - the Macra. The brainwashed inhabitants are forced to mine a gas toxic to themselves but vital for their oppressors' survival. Ben at one point comes under the Macra's malign influence and turns against his friends. He eventually regains his senses, however, and under the Doctor's guidance destroys the gas pumping equipment, thus killing the Macra and restoring the colony's freedom.

Episode Endings

The rebellious colonist Medok looks on in disgust and the Doctor in amazement as a Macra appears in the moonlight in a ruined building...

Polly realises with horror that the Macra are in control. The Pilot summons Ola and a guard and angrily orders that the prisoners be taken away. Polly cries out again that 'The Macra are in control!'

Jamie is trapped in a mine tunnel as two Macra approach...

The Doctor is horrified on learning from Ben that the colonists want to make him their next Pilot. Determined to avoid this fate, he leads his companions away in a dance through the celebrating colonists.

Roots

The Time Machine.

1950s bug movies.

The Avengers episode 'The Master Minds' screened five months before.

The Prisoner - The Macra Terror foreshadows a lot of its imagery (Stuart Black, after all, was one of the creators of Danger Man and heard Patrick McGoohan's ideas on a number of occasions).

Echoes of B F Skinner and Franz Kafka.

Dialogue Triumphs

The Doctor : [To Polly] "It's just possible that you've been given a series of orders while you've been asleep. You know, "Do this", "Do that", "Do the other thing". My advice to you is: don't do anything of the sort. Don't just be obedient. Always make up your own mind."

The Doctor : [Interrupting an argument between Ola and the Pilot.] "Oh, come now, we can't have bad temper and differences of opinion in this happy-type colony! Say you're sorry, Ola. Say you're sorry, Pilot."

Control Voice : "This is an emergency! Control must be believed and obeyed! No-one in the colony believes in Macra! There is no such thing as Macra! Macra do not exist! There are no Macra!"

The Doctor : "You can't arrest us now we've given ourselves up!"

The Doctor : "Bad laws were made to be broken"

Dialogue Disasters

Pilot : "The colony is in the hands of grotesque insects!"

Controller : [The Controller echoes Stingray] "Stand by for action!"

Continuity

Medok seems to have named the creatures 'Macra', or heard the name from rumour, but the word catches on. The creatures are variously called insects, crabs and huge bacteria, and we never learn anything of their origins or organisation. The gas they depend on is like their own atmosphere.

Jamie does the Highland Fling to avoid his pursuers.

Location

The Colony on an unnamed planet.

Future History

The ancestors of the colony came from Earth many centuries ago, and they retain the title of 'Pilot' for their leader.

Trivia

This story is the first to use a new title sequence incorporating an image of Patrick Troughton's face, designed by Bernard Lodge and realised by Ben Palmer. The series' theme music was also rearranged slightly at this point by Delia Derbyshire, with assistance from Dick Mills.

Ken Sharp's sets are uniformly excellent.

The Macra seen to be in charge in the last episode is white rather than black (a scene for which the sole Macra prop had to be repainted).

The character Chicki was played by two different actresses. Sandra Bryant, who took the role for Episode 1, asked to be released from her contract so that she could accept another, more attractive offer of work. This was agreed, and so for Episode 4 (the only other episode in which Chicki appears) the part was recast, going instead to Karol Keyes.

Myth

The image of the Controller seen on the screen in the Pilot's office was a photograph of story editor Gerry Davis. (It was a photograph of Graham Leaman, who played the Controller.)

Goofs

When Medok is called to provide the Doctor's alibi, the Doctor tells the Pilot not to believe everything that Medok is going to say.

How the atmospherically challenged Macra could take control (even with the charming voice one seems to possess) is never explained.

Scenes such as the Macra standing around the old Pilot, threatening him and pushing a microphone in his face, are hard to imagine.

Fashion Victim

The Doctor's hair is styled by a grooming machine, as are his shoes: 'But who wants to see their face in a pair of suede shoes?' He throws himself into a muscle-toning machine to get messed up again.

Cast & Crew

Cast

The Doctor - Patrick Troughton

Ben Jackson - Michael Craze

Jamie - Frazer Hines

Polly - Anneke Wills

Alvis - Anthony Gardner

Barney - Graham Armitage

Broadcast Voice/Broadcast and Propaganda Voice - Richard Beale

Cheerleader - Roger Jerome

Cheerleader - Terry Wright

Cheerleader - Ralph Carrigan

Chicki - Sandra Bryant

Chicki - Karol Keyes

Controller - Graham Leaman

Control Voice - Denis Goacher

Drum Majorette - Maureen Lane

Guard - John Caesar

Guard - Steve Emerson

Guard - Danny Rae

Macra Operator - Robert Jewell

Medok - Terence Lodge

Officia - John Harvey

Ola - Gertan Klauber

Pilot - Peter Jeffrey

Questa - Ian Fairbairn

Sunnaa - Jane Enshawe

Crew

Director - John Davies

Assistant Floor Manager - Anne Faggetter

Costumes - Daphne Dare

Costumes - Vanessa Clark

Designer - Kenneth Sharp

Film Cameraman - Peter Hamilton

Film Editor - Eddie Wallstab

Incidental Music - Dudley Simpson

Make-Up - Gillian James

Make-Up - Jeanne Richmond

Producer - Innes Lloyd

Production Assistant - Chris D'Oyly John

Special Sounds - Brian Hodgson

Story Editor - Gerry Davis

Studio Lighting - Frank Cresswell

Studio Sound - Hugh Barker

Studio Sound - Gordon Mackie

Title Music - Ron Grainer and the BBC Radiophonic Workshop, arranged by Delia Derbyshire

Writer - Ian Stuart Black

Bottom Line - from The Discontinuity Guide

'Have fun while you can before they crawl all over you!' Attack of the crabs! A flawed, but interesting examination, of a peculiarly 60s psychosis.

Analysis - from Doctor Who, the Television Companion

The Macra Terror is on the surface a relatively straightforward tale about alien invasion and control of an apparently idyllic human colony. On consideration, though, it can be seen to have far deeper levels. Writer Ian Stuart Black later said that he had wanted to explore the idea of a substance being poisonous to one life form but vital to the survival of another. This is certainly apparent in the transmitted episodes. Perhaps even more readily discernible, however, are themes of indoctrination, propaganda and unquestioning obedience to authority. This has caused some commentators to draw not unreasonable parallels with weighty literary sources such as Kafka and Orwell - the televised addresses of the Controller being likened to those of Big Brother in the latter's Nineteen Eighty-Four, for example. Others, however, have taken the view that this attempt at social comment falls rather flat, and that the story comes across as being simply pretentious.

It is also undoubtedly true that The Macra Terror's more serious aspects are somewhat undermined by the presence of the Macra themselves, which tends to take it into traditional monster mayhem territory. Having said this, the Macra, although neither the most interestingly characterised nor the most convincingly realised of monsters, are undoubtedly a very creepy concept, making for a number of extremely suspenseful scenes - particularly in the earlier parts of the story when the viewer catches only the occasional, mist-swathed glimpse of them.

The story's production values are generally fine, and another plus point is that the guest cast (in keeping with the regulars) are all excellent, bringing to life some interesting and well-drawn characters. On the minus side, the denouement is perhaps rather less dramatic than it might be. That, though, is a relatively minor quibble.

All things considered, the story must certainly be adjudged a success - albeit, as Tim Robins suggested in Doctor Who - An Adventure in Space and Time in 1983, perhaps only a partial one: 'Doctor Who is a versatile programme. Doubtless the bizarre, the symbolic, the satirical can all be encompassed in its timeless theme. However, what The Macra Terror does show is that if you want to attempt a subtle story, it's best not to include large, alien crabs roving around a holiday camp...'

< The MoonbaseSecond DoctorThe Faceless Ones >

This episode guide is made up of the text of The Discontinuity Guide by Paul Cornell, Martin Day and Keith Topping, and Doctor Who: The Television Companion by David J. Howe and Stephen James Walker.

The Discontinuity Guide © Paul Cornell, Martin Day and Keith Topping 1995.
Doctor Who: The Television Companion © David J Howe and Stephen James Walker 1998, 2003.



About the BBC | Help | Terms of Use | Privacy & Cookies Policy