Friday, 18 February 2011

The Macros written by Ingrid Pitt & Tony Rudlin and directed by John Ainsworth

What’s it about: The TARDIS materializes on the USS Eldridge, after the Philadelphia Experiment has gone disastrously wrong. Most of the crew are dead, the ship is disintegrating, and the Doctor soon realizes that the problem comes from another dimension… As they attempt to find a way to get the ship home, the Doctor and Peri visit the distant planet Capron and meet its tyrannical ruler Osloo. But the search for a possible solution only creates increasingly dire problems. Osloo's horizons have been widened – and space and time are hers for the taking…

Softer Six: What a shame that the last episode of the Lost Season sees the sixth Doctor at his most mundane, especially after the material he has been given this year. It’s not bad, per se, just a little traditional, a little normal. Any clue is important for the Doctor. Peri spars him the embarrassment of wasting a regeneration on a rusty staircase. He looks like an entertainer is his jacket. He mentions Planet of Giants but he’s more familiar with the TARDIS controls these days. Why does Peri always doubt him? ‘I’ll let you know as soon as I’ve won them over…’ and completely fails to do so and needs Peri to help him out. He doesn’t carry passengers. Peri thinks he’s the best. The Doctor has no interest in weapons and finds them rather tedious. In his experience it is best to tell the truth, if they don’t believe you then it’s their fault.

Busty Babe: Oddly it feels far more climactic and conclusive season finale for Peri. The Doctor sometimes reminds her of her stepfather, he never knew where he was either. They are supposed to be going to Baltimore so Peri can let her family know she is okay after she disappeared from Lanzarote. After listening to her whistling the Doctor can see why Peri went into botany rather than taking to the stage and after listening to her sparkling rendition of ‘row row your boat’ you have to agree with him! How many scrapes has Peri helped the Doctor out of now? She is always in trouble with him and she’ll always look after the Doctor. Peri has been on Androgum lunch menus, escaped from Ice Warriors and Tractators and been in more prison cells than she can count. It’s never a peaceful life with the Doctor. Why doesn’t she return home? She’d be bored, this is the most exciting time of her life, travelling with the Doctor is just incredible. Different planets/species/times…what could ever compete with that? Peri sometimes thinks she will be travelling with the Doctor until she is old and grey. One lifetime is not long enough to see the whole universe. The Doctor is the brains and Peri is the low cunning! One day Peri will write a guide to the galaxies best prison cells and how to escape, she’ll be rich!

Sparkling Dialogue: There may have been some good lines but I was too busy drowning under the platitudinous garbage that spewed from Osloo’s mouth! I did quite like: ‘Its beautiful’ ‘Most beautiful things usually are…’

Great Ideas: The sailors going round and round like a stuck record on a ship and green rust is eating through the ship. The USS Eldridge was a destroyer that was subjected to invisibility experiments in Philadelphia Bay, 1943. The ship vanished and the government was blamed and the official explanation was that it was renamed and given to the Greek Navy. The Doctor, however, believes it is wedged between dimensions. He and Peri are repeatedly watching the events that happened just before the ship vanished. The ship is trapped between a large and small universe and the micro universe is drawing on their energy supplies as a power source. A world within a universe within a universe! The interface is an unstable rift that they have harnessed for their energy supplies and looks like the aurora borealis. The people of Capron were happy and prosperous until their leader met Osloo; she seduced him and their people and became very powerful. She wanted the Presidency and had her husband banished and her competitors for the position unexpectedly vanished. Peri starts to crumble away to nothing, a micro in the macro universe. If the ship reappears it will be in 2010 not 1943 and the story touches on what could have been a very interesting avenue here, their families assuming the crew was dead and them returning home – I would loved to have been able to have explored, you know real drama. Peri and the Doctor head back to Washington to put a stop to the experiment which temporarily perks the interest but this turns out to be another blind alley that goes nowhere (except back to Osloo and her camp theatrics). The Doctor gives Mrs Tessler the most important message her husband will ever have and prevent a major catastrophe. Osloo manages to get on board the TARDIS with her armed guards, a potentially gripping idea that lacks any tension.

Audio Landscape: The creaking, clanking hull of the Eldridge, the ocean heaving, chugging engines, crowd scenes, humming insects, squeaky prison doors, water dripping in the cell, hover craft, Peri’s ageing hands marching jackboots, the deck disintegrating, the ship finally meeting its maker.

Musical Cues: There’s an exciting countdown in episode one complimented by some exciting music and I really enjoyed Osloo’s grand fanfares – the music is far more pleasant than anything she has to say!

Isn’t it Odd:
· Not a fault of the story itself but The Macros has many similarities to other Doctor Who stories that made the clichéd plot feel even more familiar. Firstly the opening where Peri and the Doctor are not able to interact with the crew brings back memories of The Space Museum, the time loop and the mystery of the missing ship feels as though it is lifted straight from Carnival of Monsters and the conclusion that sees the tyrant become an infant so they can bring her up again properly feels awfully like both The Leisure Hive and Boom Town.
· There is a sudden, inexplicable change of location in episode one to the Micro universe which could have been quite exciting but the story makes no effort to explain where they are or what is going on so its more like a big questions mark amongst the Philadelphia material.
· Perhaps Ingrid Pitt remembers too much about her experience on The Time Monster, the fanfare and theatrical speeches on Capron are unpleasantly reminiscent of the Atlantian scenes of the former story.
· There are far too many unconvincing American accents…
· Why didn’t they take advantage of the fantastic opportunity of creating a miniaturisation soundscape on audio? Nothing at all is made of this potentially gripping idea.
· I honestly cannot remember a soporific, more prosaic character than Osloo in a Doctor Who audio for a long time. ‘If there is another world out there it must be found and conquered!’ – why? What is her motivation? Does she just want to conquer…because? ‘My glorious Empire is about to expand!’ – she has a dreadful line in trite science fiction dialogue. ‘Get them! Take the craft! You are no longer of use to me! I did not give the command!’ – oh ¤¤¤¤ off you one-dimensional non-entity! ‘I’d like to see the source of my power!’ she cried, like all nonsensical villains. ‘Get used to fighting the mighty Osloo or perish!’ ‘I’m taking over!’ she says of the Philadelphia Experiment…what the hell? She knows nothing about our world! ‘I have my men and they have their guns!’ – the cry of all cowards! ‘You will take them to this planet Earth Doctor and they will claim it in my glorious name!’ Turns out she will never have enough power…she will always want more! Turning her into a baby is a blessed relief because it means the ranting clichés end…
· Peri is such a silly ass rushing out of the TARDIS in a moment of character assassinating tension – it’s the first genuinely twattish thing she has done all season! Plus the solution feels far too easy making you wonder why they bothered for any over reason than that a cliffhanger was necessary.
· Osloo just happened to be waiting for the TARDIS when it came back to Capron, which is very fortunate otherwise she wouldn’t be able to hijack the ship and drive the (lack of) tension in the last episode!
· One of the characters is called Bundth which sounds awfully like ‘Bumf’ that leads to some hilarious moments in the second episode where Osloo orders him ‘Bumf! Torture him! Bumf! Show him what you’re made of!’
· ‘It has nothing to do with you!’ the Doctor tells Osloo of the Philadelphia Experiment and he’s perfectly right. The stories in the Micro and Macro universe completely fail to gel; they have nothing to do with each other and are linked very tenuously. Osloo heading to the Macro universe and barking orders sees these two worlds colliding unconvincingly and to undramatic effect.

Standout Scene: Despite the fact that it makes Peri look like the biggest US dunce until President Bush, the cliffhanger manages to be a gripping moment thanks to John Ainsworth’s strong direction and some great music.

Result: Listening to extras on this story it is really disappointing to hear that The Children of January was originally supposed to end this run because it would have made a far more impressive job of it! Much like the first season of Jago & Litefoot this is a disappointingly unclimactic ending to what has been a fantastic season of stories. What we have here is two disjointed plots that are brought together without finesse with the emphasis on the least interesting strand (the events on Capron). Irritatingly the story keeps offering potentially exciting avenues (heading to a micro world, the sailors returning from he dead, the Doctor and Peri trying to stop the experiment) but fails to follow up on them and all roads lead back to Osloo who is one of the most useless characters to ever turn up in a Big Finish story. She’s every crackpot villain the show has ever produced, every corny line, all the lack of motivation and craving power for its own sakes we have been subjected to over the years mushed into one cringeworthy, empty baddie. There are some lovely directional touches, the music is fine but the tension is sorely lacking in this uncomfortably plotted and ill-characterised finale: 4/10

Buy it from Big Finish here:

No comments: