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12 June 2013

Will Brooks’ 50 Year Diary - watching Doctor Who one episode a day from the very start... 

Day 163: The Macra Terror, Episode Four

Dear diary,

No matter how much I've praised the way that the Doctor and his companions slip away un-noticed at the end of adventures lately, it's undeniably great to see them here enjoying the good feeling of their victory. The Macra are defeated (there were such things as Macra!), the colony is free, and they're holing a dancing competition to celebrate. Goodo!

The only thing is… I've gotten the impression throughout this story - and this episode in particular - that the Macra are the ones who provide for the colony. They use the humans to mine the gasses that keep them alive, and in return they give them food and shelter etc. Is their entire colony not going to collapse in on itself now that the main source of 'employment' is finished with? Maybe there's more to it that we just don't see in these four episodes, but it did leave me wondering about the future a bit…

I've spent a lot of time in this story talking about how scary the Macra can be if they're imagined in the right way, but the sight of them in the control room, operating machinery, could swing either way. On the one hand, it could be terribly sinister (the narration describes one of them using a giant claw to push a button, which could look quite effective), or on the other it could just look funny. And a bit naff, if we're talking about the Macra looking like they do in the tele snaps.

I also have to wonder what effect it has when it turns out that the Macra are the voice behind the Controller. In some ways, I rather like the idea that the Macra are more than just the creeping monsters they've been painted as throughout the story so far. But then once the lead crab had started talking, I couldn't help but picture him with a little pencil mustache and a monocle. Couldn't even tell you why (the voice certainly doesn't sound like it comes from a crab wearing a monocle), that's just the image that formed in my head. Far from being scary, it's actually quite amusing. I'm sure that wasn't the case on screen at the time, though!

That said, this is another funny episode. There's lots of humour involved from all parties. The aforementioned celebration at the end of the episode is good fun, with the Doctor and his friends dancing their way towards the exit and flinging themselves out of the door (after all, as Jamie explains, that's why they call it a 'Highland Fling'). The earlier scene in which Jamie is forced to dance in order to make his escape is just as brilliant, and it comes at the tail end of another scene (the cheerleaders chanting in unison) that walks a tight line between being sinister and being funny.

Perhaps the thing that I've enjoyed most about this episode, though, is Anneke Will's narration. Right from the word 'go' with the sheer zeal she puts into reading the story's title, in which she makes it sound like it should end with a big exclamation point - The Macra Terror! - you know just how much she's getting into this story. I'm ever so glad that this new version of the soundtrack has been put together. No matter how much I enjoy Colin Baker, I think the new narration, and Wills' performance, really does help lift the story up to a whole new level.

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