‘Doctor Who’ may be taking Christmas off this year, but fans just got an early present! Following on the heels of last month’s announcement that the Patrick Troughton-era story ‘The Wheel in Space’ would be coming to DVD with the missing episodes reconstructed with animation, the BBC has announced another classic serial will be receiving the same treatment.
This time around, it’s ‘The Macra Terror’. The serial, which aired in the spring of 1967, pits the TARDIS crew against the crab-like Macra (who have reappeared exactly once in the years since – in 2007’s ‘Gridlock’), and features the Second Doctor alongside companions Ben, Polly, and Jamie. Unlike ‘The Wheel in Space’, not one of the story’s four episodes is currently held in the BBC’s archive, though a complete audio recording does exist, alongside a handful of brief video clips.
The announcement is exciting news for ‘Who’ fans, not just because it means another title will be added to the library, but because it means these animated reconstructions are likely to continue. While that might seem like a given now, for a while it was anything but. The initial release of classic ‘Doctor Who’ on DVD had effectively been completed by the end of 2013, with the last intact story (‘Terror of the Zygons’) arriving on shelves ahead of the fiftieth anniversary celebrations that fall alongside a partially animated version of ‘The Tenth Planet’, with ‘The Moonbase’ (also completed with animation) due early the following year. The surprise announcement that ‘The Enemy of the World’ and ‘The Web of Fear’ and their spring 2014 release kept DVDs coming for a few more months, but the conventional wisdom was that everything that was worth releasing had been released. With one notable exception. ‘The Underwater Menace’ had been announced for a 2014 release with animated reconstructions of its missing episodes. However, it was delayed indefinitely, with the animation eventually being scrapped and the story being released with bare-bones telesnap reconstructions of the missing episode over a year after the originally announced date. This more than anything seemed to spell the end of classic ‘Who’ on DVD.
The release of a fully animated version of ‘The Power of the Daleks‘ in 2016 changed that, though it certainly didn’t seem that way at the time. Though there was hope among fans that the BBC would continue animating these lost classics, the general expectation was that ‘Power’ was a one-off, and their handling of the animated version of ‘Shada‘ didn’t do much to change anyone’s mind (though it was released in the UK in 2017, it would be another full year before it made it to American shores). That genuinely seemed like it would be it until the aforementioned announcement of ‘The Wheel in Space’. But now? Two animated releases have been announced in as many months. That can only be a good sign.
With all that said, it’s likely that ‘The Macra Terror’ is something of a testbed for the future of these animated restorations. We are, after all, talking about an animated version of a story that isn’t especially noteworthy except for being an early Second Doctor adventure. The Macra are a relatively obscure creature and as such less likely to generate the sort of interest (outside of die hards, of course) that an early appearance of the Cybermen or the Daleks would. And if they wanted to play it safe and release something they know would sell? Well, two of the most well-regarded Dalek stories are just sitting there, waiting for the animation team’s loving care. So if you want to see these animated releases continue, you best bet is to pre-order ‘The Macra Terror’, which you can do now on Amazon.
The release of ‘The Macra Terror’ on DVD, Blu-ray, and digital download is set for March 18, 2019. If you happen to be in London around that time, a special screening of the story is scheduled to take place at the BFI Southbank on March 16.
For more on this and other upcoming ‘Doctor Who’ releases as it becomes available, make sure to check back with ScienceFiction.com!