Doctor Who #156: The Macra Terror Part 2

"The Macra! They're in control!"TECHNICAL SPECS: Aside from a few dark clips, this episode is missing from the archives. As usual, a reconstruction was used. First aired Mar.18 1967.

IN THIS ONE... Ben gets brainwashed, but Polly spots a Macra. And then the Macra eat an old man on tv.

REVIEW: Is it a coincidence that Medok is the only character with a beard? How much of this conformity vs. individuality story is inspired by the hippie movement? While all the good little drones share in an illusion of happiness, only Medok and the Doctor hold the other point of view. Polly and Jamie join them, but Navy-bred Ben falls on the side of the State. With a little help from brainwashing/sleep therapy, but the other kids got it too and still managed to snap out of it. What's so effective about Ben's mind control - a Doctor Who cliché already, surely - is that he isn't turned into a zombie. He's himself, just with an opposing point of view. We know it's unnatural, and that information has been uploaded into his mind (Colony law and the name of certain creatures, for example), but he might have come to the same opinions all by his lonesome, given the chance (if not have gone through the same extremes to denounce the Doctor). The Doctor DOES think he always knows better and doesn't always confer with his companions, it's true! And there's nothing wrong with helping the colonists who have treated you to comforts and luxuries. That's just being a good guest! Though Ben has been conditioned to deny he's seen the Macra, his personality hasn't changed. And that's really off-putting and interesting.

The episode is quite creepy. What you think is eerie incidental music turns out to be eerie Macra mating calls. The few clips that have survived thanks to the Australian censors show real terror on Polly's face and a Macra attack in the dark, a dark deep enough to cause nightmares. Even the camera work turns it into the Blair Witch moment of its day. And then there's Control, a Big Brother portrait that gets frantic at the very thought of the Macra (they don't exist!!!). When they push for it, the heroes get to see a live feed from Control where the picture is proven to be out of date and the poor Controller a gibbering mess of a man who soon gets attacked by a giant claw. Again, palpable terror. I kinda understand Australia on these (and thank them for their low threshold for violence). My only real complaint is that the Macra would allow a live feed to Control and that they would murder a man for all to see. Although they may be counting on their powers of persuasion to make everyone forget anyway...

REWATCHABILITY: Medium-High - A terror-filled and atmospheric horror piece, both existential and monstrous. I'd like to go into my attic right now and find it in worn old film reel.

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