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The Macra Terror

The Doctor, Polly, Ben and Jamie visit a human colony to find that its inhabitants are being brainwashed by crab-like creatures – the Macra!

Scratching beneath the surface of Doctor Who’s most fascinating tales…

There is no such thing as The Macra Terror. The Macra Terror does not exist. Or, at least, it hasn’t been seen since 1970, when it received its final airing in Zambia*, with all film copies of the story missing presumed destroyed. That was before I was born, so this Fact of Fiction is an exercise in reconstruction, trying to find out all there is to know about a story with very little extant production paperwork or material.

The main thing that has struck me is how extraordinarily last-minute the whole production was, with the decision to make the monsters giant crabs being taken after the scripts had been delivered. At this point one would normally then say ‘the scripts were hurriedly rewritten’, but that doesn’t appear to have been the case at all, with the directions – and the dialogue! – making repeated references to giant insects! In addition, it’s clear from the soundtrack that the cast – particularly Troughton, Hines, Jeffrey and Klauber – reworked pretty much all of their dialogue during rehearsals, while it’s clear from the telesnaps that the director, John Davies, did not stick particularly closely to his camera script.

But after going through every line of the camera script, every second of the soundtracks, every telesnap and every clip, I feel as though I’m about as close to knowing The Macra Terror as it is possible to get. It’s clear that The Macra Terror was a fantastic story, with terrifying visuals and even scarier ideas. It doesn’t make much sense, but in a way, it has a surreal, nightmarish, Brothers Grimm logic which makes it even more frightening. And, remarkably for a story not seen since 1970, its influence has echoed down through the years; obviously in Gridlock (2007), but also in stories such as The Happiness Patrol (1988), The Beast Below (2010) and, most recently, Smile (2017).

* Or possibly in 1974, in a school in New Zealand as a rainy-day treat.

Episode 1

FIRST BROADCAST: 11 MARCH 1967

Medok (Terence Lodge) stares into the distance, haunted by the sound of a pulsating heartbeat…

■ This opening shot neatly illustrates the difficulty of writing about missing episodes, because there is no reference to this opening shot in the camera script! If it wasn’t for the ‘telesnaps’ of the story taken by John Cura and the audio recordings made by Richard Landen and Graham Strong, we would have no way of knowing that this is how the episode began. So, while this feature will rely upon the camera script as a guide to how the episode looked, it should be understood that a camera script is only a plan… and plans can change.

■ Indeed, according to the camera script, the opening caption slides should appear over an opening shot panning up the drum majorette’s legs (it was the 1960s, after all), moving to a close up of her hand, a close up of her face, before tracking back through the crowd.

A drum majorette (Maureen Lane) leads a band at the entrance of a futuristic colony, watched by its Pilot (Peter Jeffrey) and Barney (Graham Armitage), a supervisor from the Refreshing Department.

■ The Pilot deliberately speaks in clichés, the first indication of an unquestioning, superficial culture: never say die, nothing succeeds like success, if at first you don’t succeed.

Medok opens Episode 1.

■ The camera script lists the cast in order of appearance, beginning with the Pilot and Barney, then continuing with Questa, Sunnaa and Chicki, implying they are also present in this scene.

■ However, as Chicki doesn’t appear elsewhere in the episode – she isn’t mentioned in the camera script, heard on the soundtrack, or in any of the telesnaps – the possibility cannot be discounted that the character did not appear. Although she is included in the Radio Times listing, at this point Doctor Who was being recorded so close to broadcast that it’s quite possible she could have been removed after the magazine went to press. The actress cast as Chicki, Sandra Bryant (who had played Kitty in 1966’s The War Machines), asked to be released from her contract to appear in Episode 4, so it may have been decided to simply delete the character. Alternatively, the fact that she had a part with no lines, action or coverage may have contributed to Bryant’s decision to relinquish the role!

“Have fun while you can, before they crawl all over you!”

■ Ian Stuart Black novelised his own story, which was published as Doctor Who: The Macra Terror by WH Allen in 1987. The novelisation was based on the camera scripts rather than the broadcast story, with Black taking the opportunity to rework some of the dialogue and add an introductory scene in the TARDIS in which the Doctor tells his companions to disregard what they just saw on the scanner. When they arrive and see the colony, Ben remarks that it looks like a holiday camp. The Doctor then somehow infers that the commandant of the colony is called a Pilot.

Medok runs out of the Refreshing Department, pursued by guards led by Ola (Gertan Klauber) and escapes into the wilderness.

■ According to the film schedule, the chase sequence featured Medok, Ola and three guards and was shot at the Portland Cement Works in Dunstable. The schedule is for 11 shots, which presumably correspond to the sequence outlined in the camera script: Medok tumbles down a scree slope then runs through puddles followed by the guards; we see him appearing in the foreground over a hump with the guards chasing him in the background, then there’s a low angle shot of the guards running towards us, with one of them jumping over the camera; then the TARDIS appears and Medok reacts. The schedule mentions a ‘Materialisation and dematerialisation of the TARDIS’ for Episodes 1 and 4, suggesting that its materialisation occurred on screen, and that at this point the plan was for it to be seen dematerialising at the end of the story (we don’t see it leave in the finished Episode 4).

■ The script refers to this area as a quarry, although it is never referred to as such in the dialogue. The script later mentions that Ola and his guards ‘step from the trees’ suggesting that the wilderness was originally intended to be woodland.

ESSENTIAL INFO

■ After writing The Savages and The War Machines, Ian Stuart Black was commissioned in November 1966 for another fourpart story under the title Dr Who & The Spidermen.

■ It was only after director John Davies began pre-production on the story that the monsters were changed to giant crabs. Or rather, one crab the size of a small car, built by Shawcraft Models at a cost of £500.

Lan Stuart Black.
MARCUS HEARN
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About Doctor Who Magazine

Contents include: • Exclusive previews of the next four episodes of the 2017 series of Doctor Who – The Lie of the Land, Empress of Mars, The Eaters of Light, and World Enough and Time. Plus, interviews writers Steven Moffat, Mark Gatiss, Toby Whithouse and Rona Munro. • Showrunner Steven Moffat answers reader's questions. • A look into how one of the original Ice Warrior helmets from the1960s has survived to the present day. • An in-depth interview with Jamie Mathieson, who reveals the secrets behind the writing of episode 5, Oxygen. • Part Two of the new comic strip adventure featuring the Doctor and Bill: The Soul Garden, by Scott Gray, with art by Martin Geraghty. • Reviews of the latest episodes, Knock Knock, Oxygen, Extremis and The Pyramid at the End of the World. • The Fact of Fiction delves into the 1967 story The Macra Terror. • Previews, book and audio reviews, news, the Watcher's column, prize-winning competitions and much, much more!
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