Skip to main content

The voices are here to help us. They are our friends.


Doctor Who
The Macra Terror: Episode Three


The post-cliffhanger events at least resolve one question from the previous episode. With the Doctor, Polly and Jamie dragged off to work in the Danger Gang (“They’re condemned to the pit!”) and Ben agreeing to spy on them, order is reasserted.

Control: You will forget all that happened.
Pilot: Yes, Control.

This is a particularly good episode fro Troughton, and he has a couple of encounters that lift what would be otherwise a rather run-of-the-mill installment. He’s on witty form, reacting with disdain to a particularly poor rhyme (“The man who wrote that should be sent to the Danger Gang, not us.”)

Jamie: Well, you don’t send a lassie and an old man down to dig.
The Doctor: Old? What do you mean old? I’m not old, Jamie.

Anyone know “Come On, Eileen”?

Reunited with Medok, who has a Number Six-like resistance to conditioning (“They threw me out of the Correction Hospital. Apparently I’m a hopeless case”), the Doctor is persuaded to remain in mine control room as a supervisor (“Ah… I would have liked a mask”). Which is a convenient device to allow him to get up to no good, but not an entirely convincing one; why exactly is a supervisor needed when Officia is there (John Harvey, Professor Brett in The War Machines)? It also grants him an opportunity to chip away at Ben.


The Doctor: Hello, Ben. Oh. Don’t go. Come in, don’t be afraid.
Ben: I have nothing to be afraid of.
The Doctor: No, of course not. It’s not your fault you betrayed your friends.
Ben: The voices tell me what to do.
The Doctor: The voices may not be right, Ben.
Ben: I do what I am told.
The Doctor: Yes, I know. That’s why you’re here, isn’t it? To spy on me. What does Control want to know this time? Can’t you answer me? You know, Ben, this is very unlike you.
Ben: I don’t know what you mean. It is my duty.
The Doctor: It’s hard for you to struggle against the voices, isn’t it Ben?

Troughton’s kind but authoritative voice in this exchange is striking, and it’s a point in favour of the characterisations here that Ben’s recovery is spread over the course of two episodes. Later he will admit to the Doctor that he observed Jamie take Officia’s keys but did nothing about it, and then goes to inform the Pilot of this. He doesn’t suddenly revert to normal, but continues to obey Control even when questioning it.


Another winner is the conversation between the Doctor and the Pilot. The characterisation of the latter is a model of subtlety. He’s neither signposted as a good guy or a bad guy until the last episode, with only Ola’s sadism providing a contrast and a suggestion that he is a reasonable man. Pilot finds that the Doctor has written sums all over the wall (for which gives himself 10 out of 10, written after the calculations).

The Doctor: Ooooh! You did give me a turn!
Pilot: Where did you find it?
The Doctor: What?
Pilot: The formula.
The Doctor: In my head. You know…
Pilot: Don’t lie. That is a secret known by only three people in the Colony.
The Doctor: And you’re one of them.
Pilot: Naturally. And you’re not asking me to believe that in a few moments you have been able to work out a formula that has taken out combined computers years to perfect?
The Doctor: It does seem rather a tall order. Hmm-hmm!
Pilot: Yes. Of course. I know what you’ve done. You’ve broken into our secret files, haven’t you?
The Doctor: I wouldn’t know how to do that. Take a look.
Pilot: Well, you must have seen the document. That’s the exact computation.
The Doctor: Really? Huh, well in that case (he alters the mark to 11 out of 10).

On Pilot’s demand, the Doctor throws water over the calculations with the latter then noting that there’ll be an almighty explosion if the altered sums are followed (“X to the power of Y has dribble into two threes and six”)


Events in the mine are less engrossing, certainly in audio form. This is the second time in three stories that companions have been set to work mining, and on both occasions they don’t hang around long to get dirtied up. Jamie nabs Officia’s keys and makes a break for it, to be followed by Medok. Polly, who doesn’t make a great show of things generally in this story, whimpering and moaning a lot, stays initially to help Medok then fails to accompany him when he makes a break for it. Not much chivalry being shown by anyone there. It seems a bit mean to have Medok survivive brainwashing only to be pincered to death by a malignant Macra.

A darling ensemble.

The increasing hysteria of the voice of Control is one of the most amusing aspects of the later episodes, particularly as its flustered state sees it continually dropping vital information (no one is to go in or near the old shaft, which results in the question of why that is.)

As mentioned, Ben goes to see the Pilot. He’s not there so he ends up talking to Sunae.

Ben: I’ve got these voices in my head. Sometimes I just think I’m having a bad dream.
Sunae: The voices are here to help us. They are our friends.
Ben: That’s it. What about my friends?

The final section is taken up with Jamie trapped with a monstrous Macra while the Doctor tries to work out a means to help him. He realises that gas is being pumped into the old shaft to revive a Macra trapped in there, rather than as a means of killing Jamie.


The Doctor: The Macra have come to the surface of this planet and not found sufficient gas in the atmosphere. So they’ve had to get somebody to pump it up from down below.

Getting trapped does suggest that maybe the Macra are morons, with only the ability to latch onto humans’ intelligence to use against them. They are compared to germs and bacteria in the final episode, but it isn’t clear how literal this is intended to be.


Not quite up to the level of the first two episodes, with more of an emphasis on action and scares than the mechanics of the Colony. But Troughton is magnificent, and the alienation of Ben continues to be a stand-out plot point. 

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

She writes Twilight fan fiction.

Vampire Academy (2014)
My willingness to give writer Daniel Waters some slack on the grounds of early glories sometimes pays off (Sex and Death 101) and sometimes, as with this messy and indistinct Young Adult adaptation, it doesn’t. If Vampire Academy plods along as a less than innovative smart-mouthed Buffy rip-off that might be because, if you added vampires to Heathers, you would probably get something not so far from the world of Joss Whedon. Unfortunately inspiration is a low ebb throughout, not helped any by tepid direction from Daniel’s sometimes-reliable brother Mark and a couple of hopelessly plankish leads who do their best to dampen down any wit that occasionally attempts to surface.

I can only presume there’s a never-ending pile of Young Adult fiction poised for big screen failure, all of it comprising multi-novel storylines just begging for a moment in the Sun. Every time an adaptation crashes and burns (and the odds are that they will) another one rises, hydra-like, hoping…

Well, we took a vote. Predator’s cooler, right?

The Predator (2018)
(SPOILERS) Is The Predator everything you’d want from a Shane Black movie featuring a Predator (or Yautja, or Hish-Qu-Ten, apparently)? Emphatically not. We've already had a Shane Black movie featuring a Predator – or the other way around, at least – and that was on another level. The problem – aside from the enforced reshoots, and the not-altogether-there casting, and the possibility that full-on action extravaganzas, while delivered competently, may not be his best foot forward – is that I don't think Black's really a science-fiction guy, game as he clearly was to take on the permanently beleaguered franchise. He makes The Predator very funny, quite goofy, very gory, often entertaining, but ultimately lacking a coherent sense of what it is, something you couldn't say of his three prior directorial efforts.

Right! Let’s restore some bloody logic!

It Couldn't Happen Here (1987)
(SPOILERS) "I think our film is arguably better than Spiceworld" said Neil Tennant of his and Chris Lowe's much-maligned It Couldn't Happen Here, a quasi-musical, quasi-surrealist journey through the English landscape via the Pet shop Boys' "own" history as envisaged by co-writer-director Jack Bond. Of course, Spiceworld could boast the presence of the illustrious Richard E Grant, while It Couldn't Happen Here had to settle for Gareth Hunt. Is its reputation deserved? It's arguably not very successful at being a coherent film (even thematically), but I have to admit that I rather like it, ramshackle and studiously aloof though it is.

I can't explain now, but I've just been murdered.

The Avengers
5.21: You Have Just Been Murdered
Slender in concept – if you're holding out for a second act twist, you'll be sorely disappointed – You Have Just Been Murdered nevertheless sustains itself far past the point one might expect thanks to shock value that doesn't wear out through repetition, a suitably sinister performance from Simon Oates (Steed in the 1971 stage adaptation of the show) and a cartoonish one from George Murcell (1.3: Square Root of Evil) as Needle, of the sort you might expect Matt Berry to spoof.

Never compare me to the mayor in Jaws! Never!

Ghostbusters (2016)
(SPOILERS) Paul Feig is a better director than Ivan Reitman, or at very least he’s savvy enough to gather technicians around him who make his films look good, but that hasn’t helped make his Ghostbusters remake (or reboot) a better movie than the original, and that’s even with the original not even being that great a movie in the first place.

Along which lines, I’d lay no claims to the 1984 movie being some kind of auteurist gem, but it does make some capital from the polarising forces of Aykroyd’s ultra-geekiness on the subject of spooks and Murray’s “I’m just here for the asides” irreverence. In contrast, Feig’s picture is all about treating the subject as he does any other genre, be it cop, or spy, or romcom. There’s no great affection, merely a reliably professional approach, one minded to ensure that a generous quota of gags (on-topic not required) can be pumped out via abundant improv sessions.

So there’s nothing terribly wrong with Ghostbusters, but aside from …

Anything can happen in Little Storping. Anything at all.

The Avengers 2.22: Murdersville
Brian Clemens' witty take on village life gone bad is one of the highlights of the fifth season. Inspired by Bad Day at Black Rock, one wonders how much Murdersville's premise of unsettling impulses lurking beneath an idyllic surface were set to influence both Straw Dogs and The Wicker Mana few years later (one could also suggest it premeditates the brand of backwoods horrors soon to be found in American cinema from the likes of Wes Craven and Tobe Hooper).

He mobilised the English language and sent it into battle.

Darkest Hour (2017)
(SPOILERS) Watching Joe Wright’s return to the rarefied plane of prestige – and heritage to boot – filmmaking following the execrable folly of the panned Pan, I was struck by the difference an engaged director, one who cares about his characters, makes to material. Only last week, Ridley Scott’s serviceable All the Money in the World made for a pointed illustration of strong material in the hands of someone with no such investment, unless they’re androids. Wright’s dedication to a relatable Winston Churchill ensures that, for the first hour-plus, Darkest Hour is a first-rate affair, a piece of myth-making that barely puts a foot wrong. It has that much in common with Wright’s earlier Word War II tale, Atonement. But then, like Atonement, it comes unstuck.

Dude, you're embarrassing me in front of the wizards.

Avengers: Infinity War (2018)
(SPOILERS) The cliffhanger sequel, as a phenomenon, is a relatively recent thing. Sure, we kind of saw it with The Empire Strikes Back – one of those "old" movies Peter Parker is so fond of – a consequence of George Lucas deliberately borrowing from the Republic serials of old, but he had no guarantee of being able to complete his trilogy; it was really Back to the Future that began the trend, and promptly drew a line under it for another decade. In more recent years, really starting with The MatrixThe Lord of the Rings stands apart as, post-Weinstein's involvement, fashioned that way from the ground up – shooting the second and third instalments back-to-back has become a thing, both more cost effective and ensuring audiences don’t have to endure an interminable wait for their anticipation to be sated. The flipside of not taking this path is an Allegiant, where greed gets the better of a studio (split a novel into two movie parts assuming a…

I think World War II was my favourite war.

Small Soldiers (1998)
An off-peak Joe Dante movie is still one chock-a-block full of satirical nuggets and comic inspiration, far beyond the facility of most filmmakers. Small Soldiers finds him back after a six-year big screen absence, taking delirious swipes at the veneration of the military, war movies, the toy industry, conglomerates and privatised defence forces. Dante’s take is so gleefully skewed, he even has big business win! The only problem with the picture (aside from an indistinct lead, surprising from a director with a strong track record for casting juveniles) is that this is all very familiar.

Dante acknowledged Small Soldiers was basically a riff on Gremlins, and it is. Something innocuous and playful turns mad, bad and dangerous. On one level it has something in common with Gremlins 2: The New Batch, in that the asides carry the picture. But Gremlins 2 was all about the asides, happy to wander off in any direction that suited it oblivious to whether the audience was on …

Whoever comes, I'll kill them. I'll kill them all.

John Wick: Chapter 2 (2017)
(SPOILERS) There’s no guessing he’s back. John Wick’s return is most definite and demonstrable, in a sequel that does what sequels ought in all the right ways, upping the ante while never losing sight of the ingredients that made the original so formidable. John Wick: Chapter 2 finds the minimalist, stripped-back vehicle and character of the first instalment furnished with an elaborate colour palette and even more idiosyncrasies around the fringes, rather like Mad Max in that sense, and director Chad Stahleski (this time without the collaboration of David Leitch, but to no discernible deficit) ensures the action is filled to overflowing, but with an even stronger narrative drive that makes the most of changes of gear, scenery and motivation.

The result is a giddily hilarious, edge-of-the-seat thrill ride (don’t believe The New York Times review: it is not “altogether more solemn” I can only guess Jeannette Catsoulis didn’t revisit the original in the interven…