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DVD Review

DVD cover

Doctor Who


Starring: Tom Baker
RRP: £19.99
Certificate: U
Available 10 January 2011

When the Doctor and Romana are invited by the rulers of Tigella to investigate their failing power source - the Dodecahedron - they are forced into a time loop by Meglos, who plans to use the Doctors image to steal it. Escaping the loop the Doctor discovers that the Dodecahedron has been stolen by Meglos and his mercenaries, leaving the Doctor as the main suspect...

Meglos was a four part story, part of season eighteen. The show was written by John Flanagan and Andrew McCulloch, directed by Terence Dudley. The story was originally transmitted between 27 September and 18th October 1980.

The stories from this season tended to deal with weighty matters of morality, ecology and religion, with mixed results. On Tigella the Dodecahedron has split the people into two factions, the Savants and the Deons, the former reveres the machine as an object of scientific study, whilst the former considers it as a god. I fear that the underlying discussion between religion and scientific endeavour would have been more successful if the writers hadn’t made the object of discussion so obviously a power source, making the Savants case look absurd, but then when such matters arose in Doctor Who invariably it was to build the case for science over religion.

The story was not helped by making the Doctor's nemesis a talking cactus. Meglos, the last of his people, plans to use the source as a weapon of destruction, but immediately the story runs into problems and not just the fact that the villain is a plant. Meglos, himself, lives in a base which seems designed for human use, which may explain why he needs his mercenaries to provide him with a human he can take over, but if this was the case who built his lab in the first place and how does a pot bound plant even use the communications equipment? Initial absurdities aside, Meglos picks up when Meglos turns into Tom Baker, giving Baker a rare opportunity to play both the hero and the villain.

Lalla Ward and Tom Baker turn out to be the shining points in an otherwise poorly written and acted story, which is not even saved by the return of Jacqueline Hill, in a part not really worthy of her talent. The direction is generally good and, for its time, there are some impressive effects, but the acting is generally lazy, even given the odd script.

The DVD comes on a single disc with a number of extras, including a full length commentary with Lalla Ward, Christopher Owen, John Flanagan and composers Paddy Kingsland and Peter Howell.

Meglos Men (18 min, 13 sec) wherein John Flanagan and Andrew McCulloch troll around London discussing the genesis for the story before meeting up with script editor Christopher H. Bidmead.

The Scene Sync Story (11 min, 05 sec) has visual effect designer Stephen Drewett and studio cameraman Peter Leverick and Roger Bunce discuss this early form of motion control special effect which linked camera moves over a model and that of the actor so that the two could be combined, with sometimes good results.

Jacqueline Hill - A life in Pictures (12 min, 57 sec) takes a retrospective look at the life and work of an actress who played an important role in Doctor Who’s early days, with contributions from husband Alvin Rakoff, Verity Lambert, William Russell and Ann Davies.

Entropy Explained (4 min, 54 sec) has Dr. Phillip Trowga of the University of Westminster discussing the concept of entropy, which plays a significant part in the Meglos story.

The extras are wrapped up with the usual picture gallery, option for isolated score, the Radio Times listings and the Coming Soon (The Mutants).

This is certainly not one of Who’s best stories, nor its best acted, but well worth a look, if only to see Baker play the villain.


Charles Packer

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