The Macra Terror
This story is not known to exist in its original format
(4 black-and-white 25-minute TV episodes)
in its entirety.
|(Doctor Who Story No. 34, starring Patrick Troughton)
- written by Ian Stuart Black
- directed by John Davies
- produced by Innes Lloyd
- music by Dudley Simpson, with
John Baker (source), and
Wilfred Johns (jingles)
- 4 episodes @ 25 minutes each
Story: Ben and Polly are pleased to enjoy the good life
and holiday pampering offered to them by an idyllic society
on a colonized planet in the future, but the Doctor and Jamie
are more skeptical. Why are those who protest sent to
a mental correction center? What exactly is the "hard work" that
the colony's inhabitants so joyfully put their hearts and souls
into? What is their refined gas used for, if not for heating
or fuel? Is it true that giant crab-like creatures lurk and crawl
through the streets at night? Is it just colony propaganda that
there are no such things as "Macra"?
2-disc DVD Features include:
- Four animated recreation episodes (#1 - 4),
synchronized to the original television sound. (Colour & BW options)
- Alternate "telesnap" version - using telesnap photos by John Cura
and the story soundtrack with optional narration by Anneke Wills.
- Plus extra features:
- Audio commentary by Frazer Hines (Jamie),
Maureen Lane (Drum Majorette),
Anthony Gardner (Alvis),
Terence Lodge (Medok), and
director John Davies.
Moderated by Tobe Hadoke.
- surviving footage (2 min.)
- Behind the scenes at Shawcraft models (12 min.)
- alternate audio-only 1992 version, narrated by Colin Baker.
- bonus abridged recreation of "The Wheel in Space" episode 1 (10 min.)
- animation test & animatics
- photo galleries
- DVD-Rom: production paperwork
In-Depth Analysis Review
by Martin Izsak
WARNING: This review contains "SPOILERS", and is intended for
those who have
already seen the program. To avoid the spoilers,
read the Buyers' Guide version instead.
Writer Ian Stuart Black is back with another dystopia for the Doctor to
unravel. This one perhaps doesn't work quite as well as
"The Savages" (story no. 26)
in terms of the story making sense, because this time it must centre
on a monster, and the giant Macra crabs are not very fully developed
as a species with a credible backstory or motivation. How the
contrived situation on this Earth colony could have realistically
developed is something never satisfactorily answered on television,
however the plot is structured in such a way that you won't miss
that until the story ends and you realize that not all of the
questions raised were answered.
As a model of perfect happiness, the colony presented in this
story will not appeal to any but the most simple, tasteless, blind
followers. Their whole daily routine revolves around music, as
the colony's "Pilot" proudly announces, and it is probably the least
palatable sections that will stick out and leave the most lasting
impression on the viewer/listener. Much of Dudley Simpson's incidentals
backing tense encounters and possible encounters with creatures
are cheesy and random, sounding almost as though they are played on some
synthesizer organ with one finger, and as though
they were made up in the moment as the story was being taped live,
with awkward pauses as well, as though the musician was desperately
panicking to figure out what he should play next. This material
competes strongly for the honour of being Simpson's worst ever
for Doctor Who, and really doesn't work well for those scenes.
It's no wonder so many other directors preferred BBC library music.
Yet another musician was hired to produce "jingles" for the story,
which are even worse. Realistically
speaking, the jingles are more likely to motivate people into instant
passionate rebellion as they attempt to silence the vocalists.
This story, as scripted, needs music that will hypnotically
take you into states of contentedness and mindless submission
whether you intend it or not.
But instead of catchy tunes and jingles, we get revolting ones,
which really just makes "The Macra Terror" an unpleasant experience
for the viewer/listener.
"What about John Baker's `Time In Advance' track?" ask those
who, like me, enjoy listening to it on the
Radiophonic 60's Doctor Who CD. Yes this is a great and
appropriate piece of music for the story. Trouble is, its one
and only appearance in the finished TV episodes is very brief
and almost inaudible under a wash of dialogue surrounding
Troughton's antics in episode one. Had it been used front and
center and more often, like Mr. Simpson's music, it might have
a chance to weigh in better towards the story's ratings.
Alright, the music doesn't work (understatement), but what does
work in terms of dystopian brain-washing is the gas-hypnotization
of the colonists as they sleep, and episode two brings this front
and center extremely well. Not that the hypnotic voice is all that
great, but rather Michael Craze's performance, and the lines that
Black gives Ben in the script are what really sell the idea. Ben
wants to help the colonists out and do his fair share, that's all.
Very noble characteristic. Tough to argue against.
Music by Dudley Simpson and John Baker;
Sound Effects by Brian Hodgson:
Heartbeat Chase (Hodgson, 1:57),
Chromophone Band (Simpson, 1:56),
Controller Chimes (Hodgson, 0:10),
Musak - from "Time in Advance" (Baker, 3:19), and
Propaganda sleep machine (Hodgson, 1:08)
are available on:
Audio CD -
Doctor Who at the BBC Radiophonic Workshop
- Volume 1:
The Early Years 1963-1969
Find out more here.
Quality in "The Macra Terror" changes radically from scene
to scene, going from dramatically excellent to excruciatingly
bad throughout - a really decent Troughton adventure could be
salvaged from the original footage, IF the trash was edited out
and/or pared down, and the dialogueless action/suspense scenes
had their soundtrack overhauled. The bad stuff is worse than
"The Underwater Menace" (story no. 32),
but has virtually no impact on plot,
making it very disposable/replaceable. And what is left afterwards
is a fairly intelligent drama.
Ben nearly makes a disgrace out of his last fully-featured
adventure with the Doctor, but redeems himself at the last minute,
going out in all the glory of being the prime sidekick. Jamie,
whose simple straight-forward goodness is a major credit to him
throughout the story, winds up more as comic relief in the final
episode, though he gets no dramatic support from the cheerleading
idiots hamming themselves into lyrical redundancy in the rehearsal
The conspiracy of secrecy, combined with the fear of unknown
truths, are the true menaces of this adventure. As giant crabs,
the Macra are not really scary. As glimpses of unknown, behind
the scenes, string-pulling power-wielders, they are excellent
dramatic devices. It also sends an odd chill down the spine when
they panic and become desperate, as conveyed by the control voices
over the loudspeaker system - they are abandoning their
benevolent-seeming plans..... is some more deadly course of action
about to be taken up? There's some really good stuff in this
The story does wrap up a little too quickly, and the final
scene has nothing going for it with the time-travelers making
their exit by dancing to more gay music with the TARDIS nowhere
in sight, or in ear-shot for that matter. Indeed, this story
may belong, as does "The Savages", to the small collection of
Doctor Who stories in which no one dies, but the case is not
clear-cut. The ending begs for some explanations, but none are
given. As with
"The Three Doctors" (story no. 65),
there may indeed be
deaths, but none of these are confirmed. The deaths of some
Macra creatures are implied when warnings of danger are discussed
earlier in the final episodes, and the event later becomes a
split-second reality. What actually went down is left as a matter
All in all, "The Macra Terror" is a sci-fi social drama with
much potential, but lacking severely in many areas of execution.
Magyar: "A makra terror"
Français: (La Terreur des Macras)
Русский: "Террор Макра"
This story has been reconstructed in an animated form for 2019.
Click on the Amazon symbol for the location nearest you
for pricing and availability:
|DVD NTSC Region 1
for the North American market:
in the U.S.
|DVD PAL Region 2
for the U.K.
Coverage on The Macra Terror includes:
|Doctor Who: Lost in Time - Patrick Troughton
2 DVD discs
(also included in Lost in Time Boxed Sets)
More details & buying options for "Lost in Time" DVD's
- censor clips from episodes 2 & 3 (1 min.)
- 8mm off-screen clips from episode 3 (1 min.)
This audio CD set features the complete audio tracks of all
4 television episodes of this story, narrated by
actor Colin Baker (who also played the sixth Doctor)
to help listeners follow what used to be visual aspects
of the story. (This is the only story to reuse the
narration from the cassette version [see below] on
the subsequent CD.)
is playable in any normal audio CD player.
|Audio Cassette -
The Macra Terror
This earlier release of the audio
from the television episodes
is narrated by
actor Colin Baker (the 6th Doctor).
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