by Mark Greig
'Meglos' is best remembered for the fact that its main bad guy is a cactus. A cactus! A shape-shifting cactus at that. Meglos isn't even a cactus-like creature, he's an actual cactus. In a freakin' plant pot, for Rassilon's sake. Which does beg the question of how he managed to survive all this time when he can't so much as push a button.
This is another dull story where too much time is wasted on scenes where characters stand around shouting out Chris Bidmead’s trademark incomprehensible technobabble. Instead of all that wonderful witty banter we used to get when Douglas could be bothered to type, we have characters staring off into the middle distance and saying things like "Chronic Hysteresis" or "Dodecahedron" in an overly dramatic fashion.
'Meglos' is four episodes of pointless and agonising filler, but with about 10 minutes worth of plot scattered about. The Doctor and Romana spend the entirety of episode 1 inside the TARDIS repairing K-9. The whole episode. Things don't improve much in episode 2 as our heroes find themselves stuck in a time loop. Time loops are great for comedy, not so much for drama, especially when the solution makes you go "huh". Episode 3 is full on doppelgänger hi-jinks as Meglos tries to steal the thing, while the Doctor looks confused as people start arresting him for stealing the thing. Tom Baker, once a formidable presence of uncontrollable enthusiasm, comes off as bored half the time and only slightly less bored the other half. When he's playing Meglos he tends to ham it up a bit. Oddly, the only time he seems like his old self is when he's acting against himself.
Meanwhile Romana seems to be reliving her experience with the metal bandits from 'Creature from the Pit' as she wanders around the fake jungle set being molested by plant life and outsmarting Grugger and Brotadac (a task Jo Grant could've done with ease). In the right hands, say Robert Holmes, these two could’ve been a memorable double-act. Instead they're just a pair of hairy imbeciles you wouldn't trust to change a light-bulb let alone help take over the universe.
When we're not forced to watch robot dog repairs on repeat, we have to endure the petty bickering of the scientific Savants (who for all their technical skill have yet to invent a decent haircut) and the religious Deons. It's your standard science versus religion rabble, which basically boils down to this:
Notes and Quotes
--Jacqueline Hill (Lexa) also played the First Doctor’s companion, Barbara Wright. This is the only time in the show’s history that a former companion has come back to play a different role (as far as I’m concerned Sara Kingdom doesn’t count). The way her character is killed off (shot by one of Grugger's goons for no apparent reason) is just pathetic.
--Romana being attacked by the planet is like the school play version of Day of the Triffids.
--At the start of the story Romana is still wearing her seaside costume so it is reasonable to assume this story takes place right after 'The Leisure Hive'.
--Isn't dropping a great big stone on people very messy? You'll get blood and guts everywhere. And who is going to clean it? Not the priests I can tell you.
--Seriously, those are some bad haircuts.
--This is one of only two multi-part stories to feature all credited cast members in every episode, the other being the First Doctor story 'The Edge of Destruction'.
--Bill Fraser only agreed to take the role of Grugger on condition the character was allowed to kick K-9. His request was granted.
--I wonder if Meglos is a distant relation to the Vincochi from ‘The End of Time’.
The Doctor: "First things first, but not necessarily in that order."
Zastor: "Some fifty years ago I knew a man who solved the insoluble by the strangest means. He sees the threads that join the universe together and mends them when they break."
One out of four caryophyllales.
Mark Greig has been writing for Doux Reviews since 2011. More Mark Greig.