The Macra Terror
The Macra Terror was the seventh story in season 4 of Doctor Who. With this serial, the opening sequence used since the first episode was updated, now including a photo still of Patrick Troughton’s head appearing and disappearing in the titles. It was the first story to feature the lead actor’s face in the opening title sequence, a tradition that would carry on to the final episode of the classic series and return with The Snowmen in the revived format.
Episode 1 (Lost)
A drum majorette and a futuristic band rehearse for a festival performance. The Pilot of the colony compliments Barney, the band’s leader, but their idyllic conversation is disrupted when Medok, another colony member, bursts through half-crazed and escapes outside. Ola, the Chief of Police, and several guards pursue him. Ola explains that Medok has “refused treatment”. The Pilot is suddenly deadly serious; Medok must not get away. In the wilderness outside the colony, Medok takes cover in rocks to hide from the oncoming guards. As they pass him the, TARDIS materialises and the Doctor, Ben, Polly and Jamie tentatively step out, wary of the huge claw they saw on the time scanner. Medok attacks, but Ben and Jamie subdue him as Ola and guards arrive. They tie up Medok. Ola thanks them for apprehending their convict and welcomes the strangers, inviting them to meet their Pilot, who will want to thank them for their help.
As the music chimes, signalling a work-shift change, the Pilot offers his gratitude to the strangers. He sends them to the Refreshing Department. Jamie hangs back, suspicious, but follows with Polly. As they arrive, a picture of a man appears on a large screen and a friendly, commanding voice welcomes them. The Pilot explains this is the colony’s Controller, then takes his leave as Barney offers the four travellers the hospitality of the Department: shampoos, clothes cleaning, beauty treatments etc.
As Ola roughly accompanies Medok back into the colony, Medok’s old friend Questa sees him. Questa has heard he’s been seeing things. Medok corrects him: there are things, horrible creatures coming out at night. The Controller announces a reception to welcome the strangers. Questa asks Medok to join in like he used to. As Medok spews more dangerous talk, Ola drags him away.
At the prison, the Doctor manages to break into Medok’s cell and talk to him. He’s curious about what Medok has seen, but Medok is suspicious of this stranger. He mentions creatures he has seen at night that crawl over the ground. Medok takes his chance, pushes the Doctor and escapes. An alarm bell sounds and the Doctor explains his actions to the Pilot and Ola. Ola wants to send the Doctor to “work in the pits”, but the Doctor is saved by his ignorance of colony laws and the fact that he caught Medok in the first place. He casually mentions people crawling over the colony to Ola, who warns him his talk might end him up in the hospital “for correction”. The Pilot is eager for the strangers to learn more about the colony. He tells Ola to bring them to the Labour Centre. En route, they pass though a construction area where new homes are being built. The Doctor spots Medok hiding in the site, but says nothing.
At the Labour Centre, the Controller informs the work force of the escaped prisoner. The travellers ask about the work being done, but the answers are vague: they tap and refine gas, but can’t describe what they use the gas for. Suddenly two workers stagger in with “gas sickness”. Ola and Questa brush it off, saying the work must be done. Polly is surprised and doubtful, then notices the Doctor is gone.
The Doctor has slipped away to find Medok back at the construction site and questions him more about the creatures he’s seen — giant insects with huge claws. Others have seen them too, but they get locked up in the hospital. Another alarm sounds and Medok sends the Doctor back. The others are relieved to find the Doctor, as curfew is announced. Barney shows the travellers to their sleeping cubicles in the Refreshing Department but as soon as it is quiet, the Doctor slips out to find Medok again. As he does, the Controller informs the colony that all people seen out of their sleeping compartments risk their lives. As Ola and the guards patrol, the Doctor evades them and finds Medok. They hole themselves up in a half-completed house. They seem surrounded, but the Doctor finds an escape hatch. While he helps Medok escape, Medok spots one of the crab-like creatures below them.
Episode 2 (Lost)
Medok is excited to have seen the creature with the Doctor, thinking he can prove he wasn’t “seeing things”. His shouts bring Ola and the guards to them and Ola completely dismisses their claims. He brings the Doctor before the Pilot.
The Pilot sees the Doctor individually. While the Doctor is impressed with the colony’s technology, especially a piece of equipment that allows him to see the whole of the colony, the Pilot questions him about his “crime”. The Doctor starts to explain why he believes Medok, but Ola interrupts to report that Medok swears the Doctor was trying to make him give himself up. The Doctor is released back to the Refreshing Department, and Medok returns to the hospital for another round of treatment. The Controller commands that the strangers be given “the advantage of high-powered adaption” within their “deep sleep” to prevent any further criticism from them, making them more like other obedient colony members. The Pilot sets about this process.
Jamie, Ben and Polly are already being brainwashed in their sleep. Jamie sleeps fitfully and the thinking patterns do not take hold. He awakes and tries to alert Ben to voices he thinks he hears, but Ben argues him down, quoting passages from the brainwashing and saying that they will need to work in the morning.
The Doctor arrives at Polly’s cubicle and overhears her brainwashing. He shorts the circuits controlling this, which wakes Polly up. He makes her promise to disregard anything she may have dreamt about and ensure she always makes decisions carefully. The Doctor rushes off to Ben and Jamie’s room and disconnects the machinery, but Ben is angered, saying it is an insult to the colony. He gets into a scuffle with Jamie but eventually leaves and reports the Doctor’s crimes to Ola. The Doctor and Jamie are taken away.
At the hospital, the Pilot is lamenting that Medok’s treatment is failing and he’ll probably have to be sent to the pits for life.
Meanwhile, Polly angrily leaves the cubicles after arguing with Ben and runs to the construction site to avoid him. Ben follows and captures her, violently dragging her back towards the cubicles. Polly spots something in the distance and screams. She describes it as a creature like a large crab with huge claws. Ben sees nothing and is dubious until he spots something himself. A huge claw grabs Polly, and Ben fights it off. After a while, the creature retreats. After the release of Polly, they soon find themselves surrounded by Macra, but their nimble legs let them escape back to the colony.
The Pilot confronts the Doctor about his actions, but the Doctor is proud of them. Seeing the Pilot also has a nerve circuit attached to his rest cubicle, the Doctor fuses that, too. Ben and Polly are also brought before the Pilot. Polly tells their harrowing tale, asking Ben for confirmation. Ben denies seeing any creatures, much to the consternation of Polly. The Doctor is convinced Ben has been brought under the evil influences at the heart of the colony. He and Jamie ask pointed questions regarding the Controller which start to get even the Pilot thinking about the true motives of his leader. This eventually forces the “Controller” to appear in person. An old, dishevelled man is put on the screen. He can barely speak and does not have the voice of the Controller; however, he is clearly a much older version of the man portrayed as the Controller on screen. He is suddenly grabbed by a claw and pulled away. Polly screams that the Macra are in control.
Episode 3 (Lost)
The Doctor, Jamie and Polly are condemned to pit labour in the “danger gang”. The Controller orders the Pilot to forget what he saw on the screen. The Pilot orders Ben to keep an eye on his friends.
The three prisoners are brought to the pithead, where Officia is in charge. He recalls their shift leader, who turns out to be Medok. Medok demands they have a supervisor and the Doctor and Polly squabble over who should go. Jamie casually suggests that the Doctor may be more “useful” up top. Jamie and Polly are given masks and sent down. While the Doctor studies the controls, he spots Ben and talks with him. Ben is completely under control and the Doctor comments that this is very unlike him and that he should keep out of Jamie’s way as he will be less forgiving
There is soon a gas strike and the workers connect a large cable to stop a leak which causes one of their team to collapse. Medok tells Polly and Jamie that the gas is lethal and no-one knows what it’s used for.
Meanwhile, the Doctor is working out some calculations on the wall and is very pleased with his work. The Pilot finds him and accuses him of stealing a secret formula, but the Doctor insists he has worked it out on his own. The Pilot orders that he erase his work so that no-one sees it.
The workers probe for more gas. Jamie finds a door and Polly comments that it’s very new and strong. Officia meddles in some of Medok’s work and gas erupts in his face. Jamie uses the opportunity to steal Officia’s keys. Ben sees this and helps Officia out of the shaft. Jamie and Polly worry that Ben saw the theft. Jamie uses the keys to enter the strong door, but Polly is called back by Medok to work. An alarm sounds and when Polly tells Medok that Jamie has escaped, he follows him, leaving Polly.
Up top, Officia realises his keys are gone and Ben suggests he must have dropped them. When Officia leaves, Ben confesses to the Doctor that he knows Jamie took the keys but doesn’t know why he didn’t tell Officia. The Doctor says this is because he is recovering, but Ben leaves to tell the Pilot.
While Medok searches for Jamie, he is attacked by a Macra.
The Controller forbids the guards to be allowed into the old shaft (where Jamie and Medok have gone).
Jamie discovers Medok dead, then finds a very still Macra in front of him. He throws a piece of rock at the inert creature. It opens its eyes briefly but remains chiefly inactive.
The Doctor, now joined by Polly, is trying to analyse the gas and is not having success.
Ben cannot find the Pilot, but when the Pilot is not in his office, his conditioning continues to break down, especially when another worker mentions the word “friends”. The Controller orders gas diverted into the old shaft, intriguing the Doctor. The Doctor suggests that maybe the gas isn’t to kill. He theorises it is to keep something else alive. The Doctor tries desperately to figure out how to help Jamie. As Jamie coughs and splutters, the Macra comes to life and moves towards him. He flees but is soon met by a second terrifying creature.
Episode 4 (Lost)
The Doctor tries to work out how to reverse the gas flow but fails to understand the equipment. The Doctor then enters the pit head and fiddles with some equipment, which tricks Officia into revealing which controls to manipulate. The Doctor sets his plan into action by causing oxygen to flow into the shaft. Officia tries to get help, but the Doctor has the keys now and locks the entrance to the pithead from the outside.
Down in the shaft, Jamie slides into a rock crevice, but it won’t protect him long. The Macra manage to grab Jamie and extract him from the crevice, which causes a mini-landslide. As they are about to grab him, the oxygen inflow causes the Macra to slump, allowing Jamie to escape.
Control immediately sends Ola and his guards to the locked door to return the gas to the shaft. The Doctor and Polly hurriedly escape into the mine, locking the heavy door behind them before the guards can follow. They find a pipe room and follow the shaft deeper, despite Polly’s reluctance.
Ola manages to open the door to the pit head and return the gas to flow into the shaft.
Luckily Jamie has escaped the shaft by prying open a grate and wriggling into a cupboard back in the colony. Outside, some sort of cheerleading practice is taking place. Despite his best efforts, Jamie is seen by the leader and mistaken for an auditioning dancer. Jamie shows them the Highland Fling and flings himself out the door — right into the arms of Ola and the guards. Ben, still struggling, identifies him, and Jamie is arrested. As he is led away, Ben is clearly regretful.
The Doctor and Polly hear the voice of the Controller and make their way towards the chamber and see that, indeed, the Macra are in charge. They inhale the gas and issue commands. They require the gas to survive and are entirely dependent on it, using the humans to mine it for them. The Doctor and Polly decide to take the risk of telling the Pilot and bringing him to see the truth.
In the Pilot’s office, Ola and the Pilot argue. Ola criticises the pit operations, allowing the strangers to escape and endanger the colony. The Doctor and Polly come right in, of their own free will. The Doctor greets everyone and tries to reconcile the two men. Jamie is horrified they’ve walked into a trap. The Doctor persuades the Pilot to go with him, despite the Controller’s wild and panicked attempts to intervene. The colonists are meanwhile frightened by the Pilot’s disobedience. The Pilot tells Ola to mind his own business and accompanies the Doctor. Polly and Jamie prepare for the worst. Ben’s conditioning seems to be wearing off, but they realise Ben is absent.
The Doctor takes the Pilot into forbidden territory through the pithead. Officia tries to stop them, to no avail. The Controller gives Ola full leadership of the colony and sends all the guards after the Pilot. By this time the Doctor and the Pilot have got to the chamber, allowing the Pilot to see the truth. The Pilot vows to kill the Macra, whilst the Controller screams that the Doctor and the Pilot must be destroyed. The humans double back to inform the colony. When they return to the pithead, the Doctor and the Pilot are arrested and, with Polly and Jamie, returned to the pipe room under orders of Control. Under orders from the Controller, the building is to be cleared for four minutes.
Hearing this very specific time Polly and her friends wonder what is going to happen to them until they realize gas is being vented into the pipe room. The Doctor and his friends begin to slowly succumb to the poison. Outside they hear a knock and realize it must be Ben. He has been hiding in the pit head, seeing that something like this may happen. The Doctor rapidly explains to Ben how to switch on inflow and outflow together and throw a lever. The Controller threatens Ben, explaining that that it will destroy all lives — even human lives. Ben hesitates for a second but then pulls the leaver, triggering an explosion.
Later the colony celebrates its freedom from the Macra. The Pilot publicly thanks the strangers and decrees a dance festival be held every year, with the winners receiving the Stranger’s Trophy. Ben discreetly tells his friends he has heard that it is the colony’s intention to make the Doctor the next Pilot, so they join in the celebrations and dance their way out of the colony and back to the TARDIS.