Number : Season 18, episode 2 of 7.

Which One : Cactus faced Doctor.

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 parts.

Plot : Meglos involves the titular villain – a 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 returns.

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 specials effects, in Meglos – too. Due in part to a nifty new device called ‘Scene-Sync’. Which allowed 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 set of epic scale to be shown and 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, 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 “timeloop” as the rest of us call it.

Meglos works as an episode. Its 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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