Posted in Episode by - February 03, 2017

Aired 27 September – 18 October 1980

‘Meglos’ has something of a mixed reputation among fans. Aside from taking an obvious detour from the underlying arc of entropy and decay and featuring a somewhat more upbeat tone than other stories of the season, there is an open question regarding whether or not ‘Meglos’ was intended to be an homage of sorts to what has come before as it takes clichés and familiar concepts to more absurd extremes than is usual. Even with a dubious-looking megalomaniacal plantlike villain, itself an oft-used plot device, ‘Meglos’ manages to capture the spirit of Doctor Who effortlessly without ever trying to truly do anything new.

At the core of ‘Meglos’ is a debate between science and religion as Tigella’s rival factions of the scientific Savants and the religious Deons dispute the truth of the Dodecahedron, the former viewing it as an immensely powerful source of energy and the latter viewing it as something much more spiritual and directly related to their god, Ti. Although the confrontations do sometimes turn into scenes full of far too much bellowing and far too little substance, the acting on both sides is sufficient enough to overcome some clunky dialogue and costuming choices to give the debate a needed sense of earnestness. Of course, ‘Meglos’ is famous for casting Jacqueline Hill, formerly Barbara Wright alongside William Hartnell’s First Doctor, as Lexa, head of the Deons. Lexa is hardly a realist by any means, but Wright gives a stunning performance in a somewhat straightforward role and makes her noble sacrifice at the end utterly believable.

While those two conflicting sides have enough merit to warrant further exploration, the villainous Meglos as initially presented sadly falls flat on nearly all fronts. Completely megalomaniacal with delusions of grandeur but absolutely no depth or reasoning for his dastardly deeds, Meglos quickly turns into a parody of a villain. Likewise, the supposedly dangerous plants that attack Romana and her pursuers at one point in the story are so obviously fake that no amount of acting can save those scenes, resulting in telling moments where the men involved slowly give up their struggle and walk away while Romana is temporarily reduced to an unintelligent parody of herself as a source of cheap comedy.

The plantlike components of the story suffering so miserably is especially disappointing since there are some genuinely good moments throughout ‘Meglos,’ again giving credence to the discussion behind the intent of the story. There is an authentic sense that the set is much larger than it actually is, giving a grand sense of scope to proceedings. More importantly, Tom Baker does excellent work while distinguishing Meglos’s imitation of the Doctor from the Doctor himself, and both the script and the actor do well in subtly intimating that this incarnation of the titular hero is starting to get on in age a bit. Baker is able to jump between wide-eyed hysterics and subtle poignancy easily, and he takes full advantage of the dual roles to give a truly tremendous performance full of excitement and energy as he delightfully explores a much darker persona.

‘Meglos’ is not full of incredible ideas or even a notable menace before Baker is tasked with becoming involved in the darker machinations, but the supporting actors generally save rather stale roles as written and Baker truly does given a wonderful performance that far exceeds anything ‘Meglos’ could otherwise have hoped to achieve. And even if it may not be a standout serial of Tom baker’s tenure or even of this season, ‘Meglos’ certainly does have enough redeeming factors that its frank flaws are not enough to doom it.

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