power source - the Dodecahedron - is failing. It's Leader calls upon the Doctor's
However, on the nearby ravished planet, Zolpha-Thura, a band of galactic salvagers
form an alliance with a cactus-like lifeform, Meglos. Their first goal is to
stop the Time Lord from arriving on Tigella.
Aboard the TARDIS, the Doctor, Romana and K-9 are trapped within a time-looping
event - created by Meglos - with no known possibility of escape.
Is Tigella doomed without the Doctor's intervention and what are Meglos' ambition
for the planet?
DVD release - COMMENT
Immediately after the broadcast of its fourth episode back in 1980, DOCTOR WHO - MEGLOS was derided by fans as story that had little consequence, with acting that had more "ham" than a butcher's shop window, and special effects that made a BLUE PETER washing-up liquid bottle "show-and-make" project look like something from the STAR WARS film.
Nobody liked MEGLOS.
Except me. I liked it.
The story was politely simple, had surprising twist-and-turns, looked & sounded "glossy", and it had people walking from their spaceship across a planet to an array of screens. What more could a 14 year old want?
Thirty years later, re-mastered & cleaned-up using 21 st century technology, the story is ready to entertain once again a brand new legion of fans. And me. Again.
The commentary for the four-parter is provided by Lalla Ward (Romana), Christopher Owen (The Earthling), John Flanagan (co-writer), Paddy Kingsland (music composer for episode one) and Peter Howell (music composer for episodes two to four).
The commentary highlights.
On the iconic theme music, Lalla Ward: It's like (Marcel) Proust's MADELINE. It takes you back in time with this music. It's timeless.
On the development of storytelling in DOCTOR WHO's CLASSIC SERIES, Lalla Ward: Small children love them even though the technology has moved on.
On scotching previous fan rumours on story creation, John Flanagan: The concept of the time loop here was ours (co-writer, Andrew McCulloch) and not Christopher H Bidmead (Script Editor).
On Jacqueline Hill, Lalla Ward: A really lovely woman.
On direction from the series' Producer (John Nathan Turner), John Flanagan: We were under pressure not to have him (K9) in it.
On his forced alliance with the Gaztek "space pirates", Christopher Owen: I'm the only normal person there, I think.
On thinking of the story's villain, a cactus, John Flanagan: We wanted a supreme baddy. It kept sitting on the ledge staring at us. A gnarled Cactus. We couldn't have four episodes of that so we had to do something with it.
On the 1980's special visual effect model shot, Lalla Ward: That spaceship's having trouble taking it. Wobbly.
On differentiating musically between the "Meglos/Doctor" and the Doctor characters, Peter Howell: A vibroscope sound is used to identify the doppelganger.
On his "sound" colleague who created "special sounds", Dick Mills, Paddy Kingsland: He is the most credited name on DOCTOR WHO. He was there from the start.
On Tom Baker's characterisation of the doppelganger, Lalla Ward: More demonic than normal.
On the set design of Tigella, Lalla Ward: Pretty good forest for a studio. K9's going to get stuck on a boulder at some stage.
Lalla Ward revealed that she was to be a "wax-work" as part of the DOCTOR WHO EXHIBITION at Madam Tussauds, joining the two sculptures of Tom Baker (as the Doctor and as "Meglos/Doctor"). Unfortunately, there was a strike of its sculptors and the planned model was scrapped.
On her costume, Lalla Ward: I look like a Principle Boy out of a pantomime.
On seeing the internal struggle of the "Meglos/Doctor" as "the Earthling" tried to escape, Christopher Owen: I didn't rehearse that.
Lalla Ward: You can tell.
Christopher Owen: Thank you.
On seeing the "Meglos/Doctor" apprehend Caris, Peter Howell: We did two version of music for that scene. We did "Tango" music, and played it at the final mix as a trick on John Nathan-Turner. He didn't notice.
On the incidental music, Lalla Ward: When do you decide not to have any music?
Peter Howell: If the music is simply letting you what you know already know then you don't use it.
On casting of General Grugger, John Flanagan: That's Bill Fraser doing his Ray Winstone or Bob Hoskins.
On the filming of MEGLOS, John Flanagan: I'm glad we didn't get location filming. A gravel pit is always a gravel pit.
On Tom Baker's two-character performance, John Flanagan: Very subtle difference.
Lalla Ward: Tom didn't know what subtlety was all about.
The DVD EXTRAS are, for single disc release, are broadly entertaining and enlightening with the highlight being a fond (yet brief) documentary chronicling the work of Jacqueline Hill.
A LIFE IN PICTURES looks at the career of Hill, interviewing her family and close-friends (including Verity Lambert and William Russell) on how her career was all too brief but remarkable nonetheless. One interesting fact is that she could/may have "discovered" the acting skills of a relatively unknown Scottish actor, Sean Connery. It is interesting that there was no DOCTOR WHO convention footage of Hill; did she not attend any filmed convention in the 1970s or 1980s?
The writers of MEGLOS are reunited for a day only to be ferried around London (via Black Cab) revisiting their old "haunts". Andrew McCulloch and John Flanagan provide a interesting mobile essay of their acting and writing careers, meeting along the route Christopher H Bidmead who discovered the scriptwriters at London's THE KING'S HEAD THEATRE during a play "what we wrote". The pair admitted that writing MEGLOS was "a big moment for us. A DOCTOR WHO; our second only TV drama and a learning curve and challenge.
The writers reveal that the home where they wrote MEGLOS was later used as a location shoot for 1981's LOGOPOLIS. Their No 43 was used as Tegan's house.
They both commend Jun Hudson for the speedy updating of the Gaztek's costumes (originally designed to be more 18 th century pirate) and Tom Baker's subtle performance as the doppelganger.
THE SCENE SYNC STORY is, for a technology geek such as myself, fascinating and truly demonstrates that, even in 1980, DOCTOR WHO was once again ahead of it time when it come to adopting new ways of filming.
ENTROPY EXPLAINED examines the scientific principles of entropy, and I have to question "Why it is included on the MEGLOS DVD when the story did not refer to it?" Had the documentary been forgotten and had been left on the shelf when THE E-SPACE TRILOGY or LOGOPOLIS stories were released? Strange, and its inclusion on this release is like finding chewing gum on the sole of your shoe; irratating, you wonder how it got there and how can you get rid of it quickly.
The COMING SOON preview is for DOCTOR WHO - THE MUTANTS.
One valuable feature of DOCTOR WHO - MEGLOS is a Mark Aryes' re-mastered isolated incidental score originally composed by Paddy Kingsland and Peter Howell. If you do not own a copy of the 2002 BBC MUSIC release (DOCTOR WHO AT THE BBC RADIOPHONIC WORKSHOP) - featuring music from both MEGLOS and FULL CIRCLE - then it is essential to re-watch the story with just the music. Spellbinding.
With the release DOCTOR WHO - MEGLOS Tom Baker's final season is complete as DVD release. Probably, SEASON 18 (1980-81) is both my most memorable and favourite from the CLASSIS SERIES. The re-launch of the DOCTOR WHO brand initiated by the gloriously colour-laden THE LEISURE HIVE, the conceptual trilogy within E-Space, the politically astute tale on TRAKEN and the inspiring denouement for the Fourth Doctor after seven years on our screens.
Certainly, DOCTOR WHO - MEGLOS may not have its fans but I think that after re-watching it the story should garner more appreciation. Combining Baker's dual role subtle (and chilling) performance, the use of new (at the time) filming technology, and a plotline that does exactly what it says on the tin.
Don't be shy or embarrassed or even a Christmas "humbug", buy a copy and enjoy.
VHS release - COMMENT Spoliers
the aid of Satellite & Cable TV or 'pirated' copies
of DOCTOR WHO episodes, it has been over 22 years since I last
watched MEGLOS (The video recorder that the family rented from
GRANADA TV only arrived just in time for LOGOPOLIS); the anticipation
was palpable. Even moist around the seams.
As a devotee of Season 18 - ranking alongside Season 5 for its sheer breadth
and quality - MEGLOS represents one of the 'keystone' productions
of the 1980's, eclipsing the majority of the so-called 'Light Entertainment'
shows of Doctors Six and Seven.
After the very experimental, highly effective and challenging THE LEISURE
HIVE, this adventure adopts a well-worn (rather like Brotadac's coat
- re-used from CARNIVAL OF MONSTERS)
and comfortable approach to its storytelling.
Plot: The Doctor's help requested (intrigue), not being able to get there (jeopardy),
eventually getting there (resolution), getting into trouble (jeopardy) and trying
to get out of trouble (resolution). Simple but gripping. As is the concept of
having a piece of vegetation as the villain. Exquisite. Certainly, computer technology
today would have created a CGI of Meglos' transmutation into Earthling (and then
Gallifreyan) but the seismic effect would have been comparable.
It is in this production that (yet again) the DOCTOR WHO series
utilises a technological advancement that initiated a change in Television. MEGLOS contains
the first television use of a video effect (still, at this time, in its infancy)
known as 'Scene-Sync' - a primitive form of a now common event, called 'motion
control'. Allowing two cameras to view the same event independently (one viewing
live action and one viewing scaled models), and to 'act' in identical orientations
(moving up, panning left, tilting together in real time). This was unprecedented access
to new technology at the time, and it worked.
Moreover, the outstanding ensemble of make-up design (Cecile Hay-Arthur), vast
set-design (Philip Lindley) and rasping incidental music (Paddy Kingsland - episode
1 - and Peter Howell - episodes 2-4) ratifies a solid Terence Dudley direction
and a equally comfortable on-screen relationship between the Doctor and Romana.
Criticised for being 'bumbled', a 'disaster' and plainly 'bad', MEGLOS seems
overly criticised. It does have a fault. It's juxtaposition next to any of the
other productions in Baker's final season.
All are indelible, but it would seem MEGLOS a little less so.