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Recap / Doctor Who S4 E7 "The Macra Terror"

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"This is an emergency! Control must be believed and obeyed! No-one in the colony believes in Macra! There is no such thing as Macra! Macra do not exist! There are no Macra!"
Control (protesting too much)
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The one where Jamie dances.

The TARDIS arrives at a human colony that seems happy enough but, as it turns out, the colonists are being mind-controlled by a race of giant crabs called the Macra. The Macra are using the humans to mine the toxic gases they need to survive.

Ben is affected by the Macra mind-control and starts to turn against the others, but the Doctor succeeds in breaking their hold and Ben destroys the gas-mining equipment, killing the Macra and freeing the colonists.

The Macra make their first and only appearance in the classic canon in this serial. The villains would be long forgotten, if not for their later return in the Tenth Doctor episode "Gridlock".

"The Macra Terror" is one of most famous "lost" serials; having only aired a single time before being wiped. In spite of this, it has achieved legendary status due to the Macra later reappearing in modern Doctor Who and generations of fans wondering how the devil did Doctor Who (a show notorious for its low budget) managed to make a story with GIANT CRABS as villains.The Answer?  Luckily, the audio of all four episodes survived and in 2019, it was released as a fully animated reconstruction on DVD. Ironically, it's the first reconstruction that's not a shot-for-shot recreation. Rather than do a shot-by-shot remake, the BBC used the animated format to effectively recreate the serial visually in a manner that the original serial's budget could not have achieved.

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Tropes:

  • Adult Fear: The story is an allegory for this. Turns out the "happy life" society is set up to brainwash you into thinking— and enforcing to others— that you need to toil uselessly for decades in a job that benefits no-one except shadowy horrifying masters, slowly weakening and dying in order to afford the privilege of getting a week at Butlin's, listening to foul electronic pop music, and getting some new clothes and haircuts. We all know Control is right, and we must obey!!
  • Art Shift: Whereas all previous animated projects simply took notes from existing footage and stage directions, the animators of this episode decided instead to essentially show what it would look like with the comparably higher budget the new series has. A stellar example is with Ben & Polly's first encounter with the Macra; due to the show's limited budget, the one and only Macra prop was only briefly seen, with clever cinematography used to give the illusion of there being multiple Macra in the area at the same time. The one visible Macra drags Polly to the ground, and keeps her pinned there until Ben beats it with a stick. In the animated version, we actually get to see the multiple Macra, with wide shots to clarify that yes, there are indeed more than one, and the Macra that grabs Polly hoists her into the air by the leg. Ben still whacks it with a stick, though. The animated Macra are also shown walking like conventional crabs rather than shimmying along the ground as the prop does.
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  • All There in the Manual: In A History of the Universe and Ahistory, this story is arbitrarily dated to 2366 (it's in a time when Earth's colonies are remote, and the level of technology isn't very high).
  • Big Bad: The Macra, specifically the one known as Control.
  • Brainwashed: Attempted on the Doctor and his companions, but only ends up affecting Ben.
    • Bedtime Brainwashing: The specific method of brainwashing attempted, mixed with a bit of pheromones for added effect.
  • Cassandra Truth: Medok, the colony's last dissident, spends all his time trying to convince people that the Macra exist and being dismissed as a madman. By the time everyone knows the truth, he's dead.
  • Crapsaccharine World: The story's setting is a society fashioned after a holiday camp.
  • Deadly Gas: Deadly to humans at least, but essential nutrition for the Macra.
  • Distressed Dude: Ben gets mind-controlled by the Macra and Polly has to snap him out of it.
  • Extra-Strength Masquerade: The Macra so brainwashed the human colonists that an Extra-Strength Masquerade was relatively easy — until the Doctor turned up.
  • Giant Enemy Crab: The Macra.
  • Have a Gay Old Time: The Doctor comments, "Well, this is gay," of the camp "happy worker" jingles broadcast over the Colony's speaker system.
  • Heel–Face Turn / Heel Realisation: The Pilot, after being convinced of the reality of the Macra.
  • Masquerading As the Unseen: The Controller of the colony is only ever seen as a picture on the video screen. Jamie eventually calls the colony's visible leaders out on the fact that they don't know if it's actually the Controller sending out messages.
  • Moral Dissonance: A number of fans have pointed out that this story depicts the Doctor collaborating with human colonisers to commit genocide on the indigenous sentient culture, who - whatever they may have done to the interlopers - didn't seem to pose an aggressive threat to the wider universe.
    • That said, a few lines in "Gridlock" claim the Macra had a good-sized empire before they devolved into mindless monsters.
    • Although it's an odd bit of Fanon that the Macra were indigenous to the planet in the first place. It's explicitly stated that they need to terraform the planet, changing its atmosphere in order for them to survive there because there wasn't enough gas in it for them when they got there, and the Doctor says that they take over societies like that of the colonists and destroy them from within. It's quite clear they were invaders from somewhere else.
  • Muck Monster
  • Names to Run Away from Really Fast: "The Controller" is not a reassuring name for the leader of a colony. Subverted as he's even more a slave than the rest of the colony.
  • Oh, Crap!: The Macra freak out when the Doctor has the Pilot on his side and is about to use the gas from their lifeline to blow them all to Kingdom Come.
  • Puppeteer Parasite
  • Security Cling: See the page picture.
  • Suspiciously Specific Denial: The quote at the top of the page.
  • Take That!:
    Ben: They got that bloke all over the place like a blinking politician.
    Pete: He is our controller. We are always pleased to see him. He brings us encouragement.
    Ben: Oh, he's not a politician then!
  • Title Sequence Replacement: The first one in the series debuts here. It's also the first to use the Doctor's face. Due to a production error, however, the sequence uses the 1963 version of the title theme throughout this serial rather than the new arrangement composed specifically for use with the new sequence; this error would persist into episode one of "The Faceless Ones" as well, with episode two of that serial being the first to use the 1967 arrangement of the title theme (which would continue to be used all the way until 1980).

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