Classic Capitology stops off this time at a real goofball of a story, Season 18’s Meglos. Conventional Doctor Who history has it that there were seldom fewer abrupt changes in tone over the course of 26 classic seasons than between Season 17, led by Graham Williams and Douglas Adams, and Season 18, led by JN-T and Christopher H. Bidmead. And while that is largely true, there are remnants from the schizophrenic Season 17 that remained.
There had to be a good deal of wreckage to be gone through from Shada shrapnel and the like when the new production team took hold, but there clearly some material in the pipeline which by necessity JN-T and CHB had to use to keep things moving along but which also bore the tonal marks of Season 17. The Leisure Hive bears some of these marks but it’s much more profoundly felt in Meglos.
Talking cactus? ‘Nuff said. The Gaztak space raiders, played with goofy charm by Bill Fraser and Frederick Treves, are pure Douglas Adams refugees. Trying to knock Meglos into shape had to be an arduous task and it shows. Not only does it underrun significantly for a four-part story, the carryovers from one episode to the next are amongst the most generous the Tour can ever remember, indicating just how little story there really was in Meglos.
But amongst the unaccountable pleasures hidden within Meglos is the (unique) return of Jacqueline Hill as Lexa. There have been other companions throughout both old and nu-Who who appeared in the series prior to their stint as a regular (Ian Marter, Peter Purves, and Freema Agyeman immediately come to mind), but only Jacqueline Hill appeared after, considerably after. There’s an unstifled bit of glee in the (too few) scenes between Hill and Tom Baker, a neat little short circuiting of the years.
The caps from Meglos are almost a pure add for the Tour. It now transpires there are very few stories from the whole of Doctor Who for which we don’t have some screencaps. Modern Recap-itulation returns with fiery intent next time. Let the trumpets blare!