A story taken from Tom Baker's final season playing The
Doctor, Meglos is solid four-part story that stands the test of time
well. Revisiting some common themes
(religion vs. science as well as a villain impersonating The Doctor)
manages to avoid feeling stale through the use of some nice (if a bit
special effects and creature makeup that actually looks very good. While it does have some flaws that keep it
from the top tier of Who stories, the adventure is well worth watching.
While giving K-9 a tune up, The Doctor and Romana receive a
call from his old friend Zastor, the leader of the planet Tigella. He's like The Doctor to come and settle a
dispute between the two dominant factions of his world, Deons (a group
fanaticals) and the Savants (the scientists of the planet who are UFO-styled wigs to prove they're
intelligent). The Deons worship the
Dodecahedron, a multi-sided object that they feel is a gift from their
while the Savants believe it's a technological device and have actually
harnessed its energy to power their civilization. When
the power being used from the device
starts to fluctuate and become unstable, the Savants want to study the
further to discover a solution to the problem while the Deons say it's
The Tigellans aren't the only ones interested in the Dodecahedron
however. On another planet in their
solar system, Zolfa-Thuran, lives Meglos the last survivor of his race. Looking like a giant cactus, Meglos has hired
a motley band of space mercenaries to take him (in a human body that
pirates provide) to Tigella. There he
takes transforms into an exact replica of The Doctor in order to
city and steal the Dodecahedron, which just happens to be a device of
infinite power that will allow Meglos to rule the universe.
In order to ensure that the real Doctor doesn't show up,
Meglos traps the two Time Lords in a time-loop, a trap that makes the
inside repeat the same few seconds over and over for eternity.
This is a bit of an odd story in several ways, but it
manages to come together nicely and make a story that's definitely
the sum of its parts. The first thing
that noticeable is that The Doctor and Romana are missing from the main
for the entire first episode. Trapped in
the time-loop, the recite the same lines over and over and don't do
else. The solution to the time-loop trap
was idiotic in the extreme, even for Doctor
Who, and the villain is a giant cactus that recited the memorable
"Well observed, General Grugger. I'm a plant!" Added
to that, the two main mercenaries are
used as comic relief for the most part.
Sounds like a receipt for disaster, right? Surprisingly
enough the show manages to pull
it off and create a solid show out of these less than desirable parts.
Part of the reason that the story works is because of the
good effects. Special effects started to
become cheaper and easier to create in the early 80's and Doctor Who
take advantage of that fact. They
superimposed actors over miniature sets to create the giant shields of
Zolfa-Thuran and even managed some camera movement in those scenes,
that was a bit tricky to pull off back then.
The highlight of the show, effects wise, are the creature
the Meglos/Doctor hybrid. Amazingly
simple (they used gloves and a molded mask) the result is very
aides the story quite a bit. With all of
the times that I've berated the monster effects in Doctor Who, I'm glad
able to praise them for a job well done.
The acting is very good across the board too. Tom
Baker is right in the zone on this story,
getting a chance to act up a bit as Meglos while reigning in his
when he's The Doctor. In the previous
season Baker had a tendency to play his role a bit over-the-top, but
the case here.
There's also a great guest star that will please long-time Who
fans. Jacqueline Hill, the actress who
Barbara Wright one of The Doctor's very first companions returns to the
as Lexa, the leader of Deons. She does
an excellent job, avoiding vilifying her character (as happens with
many of the
religious leaders on Doctor Who) but
still making her unwavering in her faith and an imposing figure. Her performance really makes the show, and it
would be a lesser adventure without her.
The mono soundtrack has been cleaned up and is very
good. It is nice and clear with no hiss
or background noise to take away from the story. Being
a mono track, there's really not much
more to say about it.
The full frame video has been cleaned up by the Restoration
Team and it looks good. The
colors are solid though out and the level
of detail is decent. The image is very
sharp, with more definition than most of the adventures from this ear,
fans are sure to be pleased.
Another great set of extras are included with this
show. First off is a commentary track
with actress Lalla Ward, actor Christopher Owen, co-writer John
composers Paddy Kingsland and Peter Howell.
I usually enjoy the commentary tracks on Doctor Who and this one
exception. It's lively with some nice
anecdotes thrown in.
As far as video extras go, the first one is Meglos Men which brings
together the writing team of John Flanagan and Andy McCulloch who
about their contribution to Docotr Who mythology, and (eventually) meet
script editor Christopher Bidmead. It's
a nice 15+ minute look at the writing process which I found engaging.
up is The Scene-Synch Story, a very nice overview of the special
system used to generate the shields of Zolfa-Thuran, among
things, in this story. This documentary
looks at how the effects were generated as well as giving a history of
system and showcasing some other notable productions where it was used.
The guest star in this story is celebrated in Jacqueline
Hill - A Life in Pictures a 14 minute look at the late
actress. It's a wonderful tribute to a
person that was well loved throughout her life.
that isn't enough, there's also a five minute lecture on thermodynamics
entitled Entropy Explained.
In addition there is an 'info-text' option for each
story. This is something that the other
Who releases have and I'm a big fan of them.
This pop-up text options allows viewers to read about the
schedule, changes between various story incarnations and the final
learn about the history of the supporting actors. It's
well worth watching, though it can be
distracting so watch the story without it once.
extras are wrapped up with an isolated music score, a photo gallery, and
the usual Radio Times listings.
A solid story that has some nice touches, not the least of
which is the return of Jacqueline Hill to the series, if only for this
adventure. With some above average SFX
and make effects (for Doctor Who) and
a story that plays out better than it sounds, this is a good outing. Recommend.