The Mega

Posted in Audio by - August 10, 2017
The Mega

Released December 2013

With the final instalment of The Lost Stories, ‘The Mega,’ Big Finish finally turns to the final era of classic Doctor Who it had not yet revisited, that of Jon Pertwee’s beloved Third Doctor. When a demonstration of a new weapon leads to an assassination, it appears that the first attack in a new war has been launched. But as events lead the Doctor to foreign territory, this heralded war for peace may not be quite as honourable as it may at first seem.

The original idea for ‘The Mega’ comes from the mind of Bill Strutton who also penned ‘The Web Planet’ during William Hartnell’s era. However, whereas that earlier story was an ostentatious display of whimsy built around a strong heart, ‘The Mega’ is very much grounded in the grim reality of an Earth that is so prone to violence and self-inflicted harm. The opening sets the scene perfectly as Captain Yates must drive his team through a crowd of protestors to reach the presentation of an intelligent gas weapon that can surreptitiously and instantly kill anyone who gets in its way with discrimination. As Britain and the entire world begin to collapse when live assassinations are aired, UNIT struggles to maintain a semblance of order and control while the Doctor and Jo break command and visit the seemingly magnanimous Prince Cassie in his native land.

‘The Mega’ is notable for pushing characters to extremes that were never approached in the television series. With the Brigadier under investigation, the Doctor’s actions crossing into treason, Yates ordered to gas the population, and society becoming more riotous by the moment, each character is giving meaningful work to do as the tension continues to escalate slowly but naturally over the course of its six episodes. It’s not completely surprising that a decent portion of the story is devoted to a repeating capture and escape narrative and the pacing does somewhat stall at times while a new revelation is awaited, but the overall sense of political intrigue and questionable morality of the foes is superb, especially as the Third Doctor confronts the enemy with full righteous fury that evokes the very best of Pertwee’s very upstanding incarnation.

As with all of the early era entries in The Lost Stories, one of the main companions is tasked with performing as the Doctor, and that duty falls on Katy Manning’s shoulders here. This choice by its very nature means that there is not a true sense of verisimilitude as the Doctor speaks, but she clearly manages to distinguish the character from Jo, and the fond affection she had for her late co-star shines through with the enthusiasm and small quirks she delivers. On the other hand, she is magnificent at recapturing the youthful tones of Jo Grant, and the close relationship these two leads shared is abundantly clear throughout the story. Richard Franklin also does wonderful work as he returns to the role of Captain Yates, and he does well with the rest of the UNIT members as well, giving a surprisingly resonant performance as the Brigadier in particular. Bo Poraj and Derek Carlyle round out the small cast, and they help give credence to the tremendous scope of this story, especially as the mysterious but powerful Mega become known.

Fans of the Third Doctor era will find that ‘The Mega’ hits upon just about every common theme and motif from Pertwee’s era, delivered as a loving tribute to such a fondly remembered era. While it doesn’t perfectly utilize its extended running time and does sometimes lag with its pace, its heart and message are well-intentioned, and the overall performances and production are superb, creating a strong closure to this intriguing range and a great re-entry into the Doctor’s time with UNIT.

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