-were you looking for dreamcrabs? well DREAM ON - you'll never see this story because the BBC shitheads deleted it. hope you enjoy lame photo reconstructions.
The Mark A’ Terrah is the seventh story of Season 4 of the programme Of The Doctor Who and features the Second Doctor, Ben, Polly and Jamie facing some poisonous-gas-breathing giant crabs called “the Macarena” - awesome! Although audio recordings, still photographs, and clips of the story exist, no complete copies of the episodes themselves are known to have survived. Well shit.
Wait, “Macra”... where do I know that from? Wait, I got it: Gridlock, that brety gud RTD episode, where some giant crabs breath smog and eat entire vans of people because those crabs are like the size of swimming pools, unlike the merely tractor-sized crustaceans here. Way to ruin a call back, RTD.
This story is marked by the first change made to the opening titles since the series had begun. For the first time, the face of a cosmic hobo was incorporated into the "howl-around" graphic patterns. “Howl-around” is a fitting description for this reconstruction; so is “howling chaos.” Yes, I sat down with my bag of Cheetos and watched a reconstruction, unwarily feeling incapable of waiting for someone to finally find the actual goddamn episodes surviving in some lone and time-lost BBC outpost, perhaps forgotten in some bleak foreign desert blasted by constant gusts of sand-enriched winds, or nearly overgrown by the unchecked and claustrophobic vegetal explosion of an unnamed jungle. Watching this reconstruction, I’ve learned three things:
- “It was horrible, horrible!”
- The human mind is a fragile thing, especially where giant crabs are concerned.
- The story’s interesting enough, but gets a bit draggy in the fourth episode.
Part One & Two: Encroaching Sense Of Dread Edit
Most of the time the picture quality looked like it had been recorded at the "slow setting" onto some very fragile VHS tape in 1983, rendering everything a nebulochaotic morass of high contrast yet diversiform black and white inchoate blots - favoring the soul-crushing black over the white, as the author’s name “Ian Stuart Black” might suggest. It had, in short, degraded a pleasant enough Doctor Who story into a horrific reconstruction of The Begotten, hideous to observe and impossible to forget no matter how one might wish to (if not as dull as The Begotten anyway). The writhing, twitching (and new, see above) opening titles of part one gave way to some creepy stills of a smiling marching band, the strange pulsing of the soundtrack bleeding into a murky merry-go-round musical score. Trying to fight back my urge to flee, I did not turn off my screen but continued to watch so that I might catch the occasional helpful description added via scrolling titles (“Crawling towards them out of the darkness is a huge, crab-like creature. A claw reaches out...”) to explain what the hell was going on during those long dialogue-free stretches entombed inside this screaming terror of the nearly abstract black and white pandemonium.
The story itself comes across as The Prisoner crossed with Brave New World, if mankind was being controlled by some lurking, giant nocturnal crabs rather than their need to conform and obey (more likely than one might guess!) and sounds as if it was recorded inside of an empty coffee tin. I found the claustrophobic atmosphere of the story (and sound) actually magnified by the reconstruction's condition, if I might sing in praise of my tormentor. Patrick Trofton’s friendly voice was a welcome relief at first, but soon even that calming effect was lost amongst all the formless beepings and blurry whalesong-like electronic dronings of the colony and its crabs; further, seeing Pat's face reduced to just more blighted spatterings of Rorschach ink against the starkly blaring white further fed my sense of unease.
The Doctor, Jamie, Ben and Polly have found themselves in a future human space colony not unlike a demented summer camp, whose bureaucratic structure and morale-boosting music is dedicated to the mining of a gas they have no use for; no one’s sure why, but it’s vitally important they mine it. They’re happy enough doing so - you could say they’re having a gas even, ha ha - but the question of why appears to have no answer… maybe this social pariah Medok knows? Later, The Doctor and Medok (“No, me doc, you guest star…”) go, dangerously, exploring in the dark and find the stuff of nightmares...
Someone who keeps speaking on the colony’s radio sounds like Arthur C Clarke, another avuncular figure from science fiction’s history whose presence should have helped calm me but instead only seemed to feed my growing sense of dread. “THERE ARE NO MACRA! MACRA DO NOT EXIST!” Did I imagine those words as well? Was I asleep and dreaming of monstrous crabs looming at me out of the darkness or was it real, do they really, improbably, exist? Or did I but imagine them completely? But the Doctor saw them, he said so, I heard him say it! He’ll back me up, I’m sure of it! “THERE ARE NO MACRA! MACRA DO NOT EXIST!” I found I’d written the phrase “enforced happiness” in my notes - it’s definitely my handwriting - and yet I have no memory of committing this phrase to paper nor why I might wish to.
By the end of part two, Ben has been brainwashed, Polly attacked by a Macra and the colony’s Big Brother figure revealed to be Andy Warhol - who is then suddenly kill by a giant claw on TV while everyone watches. Good. There was also some fitful, fluttering nods of actual live film clips here and there, no doubt taken from some less-damaged stretches of surviving footage, and all the more creepy for their fluttering black vellicatings. And I begin to wonder: was The Macra Terror lost or destroyed on purpose, to hide these sinister creatures from the knowing light of the modern world? What if the Silence were giant crabs instead of humanoids in jelly-soaked suits wearing mod ties? And what other frightful abominations might yet lurk in other reconstructions, other lost episodes? Had the BBC done mankind an immense favor by erasing these stories from Doctor Who forever, were their loss a blessing in disguise?
Part Three: The Qliphotic Cheeto Edit
I could swear I hear a fart at 1:28 in part 3 just at the end of a line of dialogue, can I trust my senses any longer? My mind and body appeared to be acclimatizing to the reconstruction The images, though still somewhat strange in their immobility, held no fear for me now and were even gaining clarity as shades of grey swam up from the Stygian darkness to wash over the scenes and give startlingly life-like impressions to the ghostly, still forms. I could make out faces now, varying facial features and even rudimentary expressions. It’s as if their world was slowly growing more distinct as mine began to fade into an encroaching darkness around me, unnoticed at the time. Where were my Cheetos? Remarkably, no more written descriptions appeared before my eyes; instead, I "heard" a disembodied voice enunciating such pronouncements inside my head, as if the reconstruction had somehow gained control of my mental faculties in order to more perfectly impart the Doctor’s tale to me. The voice’s tone was moderate and even enough, yet the fact that it seemed to be inside my head caused me no little discomfort, but in a distracted sort of manner, I was literally unable to tear my eyes away from the screen. Utterly transfixed now, I watched as part three journeyed deep into a gas mine beneath the ground of this colony, and deeper into mystery…
The gas was revealed to be deadly, so of course, it’s for the pestilent Macra themselves who live parasitically off the human colony like “a disease.” At this point quite lost my concentration on the programme and shrieked when I mistook a Cheeto in my hand for a severed human finger, leaping quite from my chair all in a fright. My heart’s pounding failed to recede after I quickly ascertained I must have been hallucinating, that it was just a Cheeto, but for that ghastly moment I was sure I held a detached human finger and nearly put it in my mouth. My god but reconstructions are an abomination no man should let suffer to live and yet I could not look away, as if in a deep trance.
Part Four: The Danse Macabre Edit
As part 4 neared, I could swear that I could make out the hulking dark crab-beings of the story’s title in the dense swirling fog that seemed to envelope the rest of my viewing-room and I felt as if I might pass out, succumbing to the terrifying sight of such ghastly creatures. Jamie found himself trapped between two of the repulsive crab beasts, but the extant files for this story relate there was but one prop constructed (later painted white, as if to white-wash its inhuman truth from our consciousness), so who knows what manner of camera trickery was used to film that scene? I say with much relief that mankind shall never know that answer unless by some horrific turn of fate these episodes are someday unearthed. Near the end of the story, the worst possible thing that can happen comes to pass: the Doctor and his friends are being gassed with the poisonous gas. Happily, Ben redeems his previous brain-washed betrayal by throwing a simple lever that defeats the crabs and, desperate to avoid being appointed the colony’s new Number One, it all ends with the words “The Doctor and his friends dance their way out of the colony...” which seemed to make a sort of cosmic sense or transcendental logic at the time to my addled mind - how could it have not ended but with a dance?