Number : Season 18, serial 2 of 7.

Which One : Cactus faced Doctor duplicate.

Cast : The Doctor : Tom Baker
Romana : Lalla Ward
K9 MK-II : John Leeson (voice)
Lexa : Jacqueline Hill
General Grugger : Bill Fraser
Lieutenant Brotadac : Frederick Treves
Deedrix : Crawford Logan
Zastor : Edward Underdown
Varis : Colette Gleeson
Earthling : Christopher Owen

Written By : John Flanagan and Andrew McCulloch

Produced By : JNT

First UK Broadcast : 27 September – 18 October 1980.

Length : 4 x 25 minute episodes.

Plot : Meglos involves the titular villain – a sentient Zolfa-Thuran cactus plant; assuming the form of the Doctor. To steal a worshipped dodecahedron crystal back, from neighbouring world Tigella; to use its power – to destroy planets.

Whats good : Tom Baker plays an evil and menacing duplicate of himself. His cactus look. Meglos. Production values are visibly increased for the better. Jacqueline Hill (Barbara) returns – as a different character.

Whats bad : Chris Bidmead’s real science-guff.

Review With Spoilers : The snappily named Meglos, feels like it is missing a; “The tyranny of…” or “The Menace of….” title prefix but works better, without one. Meglos as a story does work, for one simple reason; Tom Baker.

Baker is really good at playing off-the-wall, evil and menacing characters. It was his bread-and-butter before he took the role of the Doctor. So to play both the Doctor and push the envelope, as an evil version of the Doctor; must have been fun – for him.

Prior to Who, Baker’s turn in 1968’s TV play Rasputin about the Russian mad monk, won lots of plaudits. Baker last did this kind of evil Doctor turn – in The Invasion Of Time and he was good – in that too.

For a doppleganger episode, there has to be a scene where both real and duplicate are together; whilst the other characters attempt to establish which-is-which, by questioning them – until one is caught out. It’s kind of an unwritten rule, Meglos has such a scene near the end.

The evil duplicate of the Doctor. Meglos intends to liberate a worshipped Dodecahedron crystal from Tigella and return it back to Zolfa-Thura. Where, Meglos intends to use the crystal-energy to power a planet-destroying device.

“Well, that’s the problem with doppelgangers – you never know – who’s who!” The Doctor

There is a notable step-up in the quality of the special-effects, in Meglos – too. Due in part to a nifty new device called ‘Scene-Sync’. Which allows – a real scene to be inserted into a model shot and for both images to be panned around, at the same time.

Scene-Sync is most noticable, in the scenes on Zolfa-Thura, at the huge planet-destroying device; near the end. It allowed a sense of epic scale to be shown (which Who usually doesn’t achieve) and be interacted with, on the screen – for the first time. Without the associated cost, of building it – for real.

Tom Baker’s cactus make-up (which happens when Meglos’s contact with tbe duplicate Doctor – is momentarily lost) needs a mention aswell, as it was pretty memorable-looking and must have meant, a few hours in the makeup chair for Baker.

Another first in the series, happens in Meglos, also. Former First Doctor companion; Jacqueline Hill – returns in a different role to Barbara. This time, playing Tigellan Priestess Lexa. She also gets killed – probably at her own request (all of the guest stars want to die in Who!).

With new head script-editor Chris. H. Bidmead – in charge this season, some of that real unexplained science-guff which Bidmead advocates, is starting to creep in here. In this, it’s the Tardis which gets trapped in a “Chronic Hysteresis Loop”, or “time-loop” – as the rest of us call it.

Meglos works as a story. It’s original and bold, in terms of the main baddie being an immobile cactus plant (and Tom Baker on form here). Such a refreshing change, from yet another man-in-a-monster-suit.

????⚪ (4/5)

Old Doctor Who

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