Doctor Who: Meglos DVD

Thursday, 13 January 2011 18:46

Doctor Who has a very critical audience.  They know what they like, and what they don’t, and “Meglos” has become one of those stories that suffers from setting teeth on edge from just reading its logline: Tom Baker’s Time Lord gains a doppelganger when a walking man-size cactus takes on his features.  See what I mean?  It’s always going to be an uphill struggle from that point on.

Emerging as the second story from Season 18, Tom’s swansong run, it’s something of a throwback to previous Baker seasons, with K-9 actually having some sort of function in the plot, and Romana getting a few good set-pieces into the bargain (although fighting off planet-bound beasties ain’t exactly a pièce de résistance!).  When all else fails, you can definitely say there’s a lot of fun in this story.

Doctor Who - Tom Baker in Meglos on DVDAnd so, to the plot ... Zastor, leader of the planet Tigella, rules a divided people. Savants and Deons are irrevocably opposed on one crucial issue - the Dodecahedron, the mysterious source of all their power. To the Savants, the Dodecahedron is a miracle of science to be studied, observed and used to benefit Tigellan civilisation. To the Deons, it is a ‘god’ and not to be tampered with.

When the power supply begins to fluctuate wildly, the whole planet is threatened. However, the Tigellans cannot agree how they should deal with the problem. Zastor welcomes the arrival of The Doctor, and invites him to arbitrate. All does not go to plan, as the Deons are suspicious of the Time Lord - and perhaps they might have good reason to be so.

This is a battle of science with superstition, where religious beliefs are seen as dysfunctional. Meglos, from the planet Zolfa-Thura, the aforementioned cactus, can bodysnatch at will, and is a whizz at time loops – we see The Doctor, Romana and K-9 playing one scene over and over – a good idea on paper, but gets tedious very rapidly until they work a way out of it.

Meglos also has the Gaztaks, a group of panto-villain mercenaries, at his disposal. Even comedy icon Bill Fraser has trouble wringing any plausibility out of his character of General Grugger the Gaztak!

Extras on the disc include the following:

  • Commentary (in stereo). Participating are actors Lalla Ward and Christopher Owen, co-writer John Flanagan, and composers Paddy Kingsland and Peter Howell.
  • Meglos Men (18’ 10”) – long-time writing partners John Flanagan and Andrew McCulloch revisit some of their old London haunts and catch up with Doctor Who script editor Christopher H Bidmead at his home to discuss their only story for the series.
  • The Scene Sync Story (12’ 03”) – “Meglos” used a pioneering process called Scene Sync in the creation of many of its shots, in which a robotic camera moving over a model set followed the movements of a studio camera photographing the actors in a bluescreen set. This allowed the two to be composited together into a single image. This documentary looks at the technology behind this precursor to today’s virtual-studio productions. Adding their expert knowledge to proceedings are visual effects designer Stephen Drewett and studio cameramen Peter Leverick and Roger Bunce.
  • Jacqueline Hill – A Life in Pictures (13’ 46”) – actress Jacqueline Hill was one of the original companions to accompany the Doctor in his early adventures, and returned to the series to play Lexa. This featurette looks at the life of the actress who tragically died young from illness. Reminiscences come from husband Alvin Rakoff, original producer Verity Lambert, and actors William Russell and Ann Davies.
  • Entropy Explained (4’ 53”) – Dr Phillip Trowga of the University of Westminster looks at the principle of entropy, key to the plot of “Meglos”, and manages to almost make the science behind it cool and fluffy.
  • Photo Gallery (4’ 17") - Production, design and publicity photos from the story.
  • Isolated Score – the option to view the story with the music soundtrack only – great for doing your own “MST3K” version.
  • Coming Soon - a trailer forthcoming DVD release “The Mutants”.
  • Radio Times Listings in Adobe PDF format.
  • Easter Egg – Textless versions of the opening and closing titles (found off from the ‘Audio Options’ in ‘Special Features’).

All in all, this isn’t the epic train wreck that many fans have it down for – there’s far worse in the Colin Baker era to wave a disapproving finger at, and some stuff from the Peter Davison and Sylvester McCoy tenures, too.  As has been the case on many an occasion with 2Entertain’s Who releases, the extras on this DVD actually make a good case for giving the story a second chance.  Advice to fans that have some memories of these episodes is therefore to watch the extras first – it will bring something to your re-viewing experience of the actual shows themselves.

“Doctor Who: Meglos” is out now on DVD, with a running time of 85 minutes approx, a ‘U’ certificate, and a RRP of £19.99 – or get it for less at


Last modified on Thursday, 10 May 2012 16:37

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