Timestamp #34: The Macra Terror

Doctor Who: The Macra Terror
(4 episodes, s04e27-e30, 1967)

Timestamp 034 The Macra Terror

First things first: I love the new opening with Patrick Troughton’s face in the vortex.

At first, I thought this was a Brave New World tale. It’s an R.E.M. dream of Shiny Happy People having fun, with tightly policed contentment and chemical treatments for those who don’t conform. Chew your soma, kids, because beatings will continue until morale improves.

This society is essentially a cult, with the blind faithful controlled by the Macra to mine the life-providing gas, and the Doctor is here to bring freedom to the enslaved humans. Of course, the travelers are introduced to the brainwashing so they can become part of the cult: Jamie does not succumb, Ben falls for it, Polly has to be convinced, and the Doctor continues to be his whimsical self. I simply adore his trips through the machines that first pressed his clothes, and then unintentionally messed them up again. This Doctor isn’t falling for it.

This Doctor also shows his scientific and mathematical brilliance in deriving the secret equation through examination of the evidence.

All of that said, I have negatives: The minor one is the music, which was really annoying. The major one was the resolution of  the story.

At its core, this story is really more about preserving freedom and abolishing slavery than it is about escape from possibility of death. Sure, freedom is essentially a moral positive and slavery is essentially a moral negative, but the result was the death of the captors instead of any kind of negotiation or compromise. The Doctor didn’t even try negotiation before stepping onto the path of killing the Macra for their crimes against the colony. Granted, such negotiations would have likely failed as they would with pretty much any dedicated cult leader, but I would have liked to see him try at the very least.

It just doesn’t seem like something the Doctor would do, and that knocked a decent story down to a semi-decent one at best.


Rating: 3/5 – “Reverse the polarity of the neutron flow.”

UP NEXT – Doctor Who: The Faceless Ones


The Timestamps Project is an adventure through the televised universe of Doctor Who, story by story, from the beginning of the franchise. For more reviews like this one, please visit the project’s page at Creative Criticality.






4 thoughts on “Timestamp #34: The Macra Terror

  1. I like that you compared it to Brave New World. I’ve always thought that it’s far more clever to have an oppressive regime where you convince the populace that you’re happy than the typical ones where the oppressed masses yearn for freedom. You’re right that the lack of negotiation seems off, especially from the writer who wrote The Savages last season. I think we’re dealing with an issue where in The Savages both sides were humanoid whereas in this one one side was a “monster”. It doesn’t make it right and it does go against the majority of Doctor Who (Galaxy Four comes to mind as a story where the humanoids where the villains the monstrous looking aliens were the bad guys), but I think that may have been Black’s thinking.

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