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23 August 2016 @ 08:20 pm
The Randomiser: Meglos  
I've always confused Meglos and The Creature from the Pit which, it must be said, I've always assumed was just me. But halfway through Meglos tame layman noted it was "very like" Creature from the Pit as well. While John Nathan-Turner attempted to put a very different stamp on the show, Meglos feels very much like a leftover from the Graham Williams era, and in particular one of the less loved stories.

It's not just similar to Creature from the Pit in general tone, it has a jungle planet, a high profile female semi-antagonist, comedy ruffians (whose humour is more hit than miss) and a fourth episode that goes off on a bit of a tangent (though not as much of one).

Its production is better than that of Creature from the Pit, but that sadly isn't saying a great deal and it has a joyless feel to it (possibly because Tom Baker was ill (if I recall events correctly) and possibly because it is a Graham Williams' style story being produced by JNT). Tom Baker should be unstoppable in the double role of the Doctor and Meglos but instead is strangely muted. It doesn't help that the Doctor doesn't actually manage to get out of the Tardis until episode 2, making the whole of episode 1 feel like set-up.

The casting of Jacqueline Hill (who had played Barbara back in the original Tardis crew) is the kind of stunt casting JNT was keen on but this case seems oddly ill-conceived in retrospect - not famous enough to bring in casual viewers and fandom and general geek culture wasn't anything like as high profile in the 1980s (though JNT was an early show-runner to recognise the value of playing to the fans) - and, for whatever reason, she doesn't really dominate in the way you would expect as the celebrity cast member.

All in all, it's not terribly good. It's not out-right bad in the way that The Creature in the Pit is in places, but it fails to be particularly good in an retrospect.

This entry was originally posted at http://purplecat.dreamwidth.org/205615.html.
daniel_saunders: Leekleydaniel_saunders on August 23rd, 2016 09:41 pm (UTC)
I'm going to lynched for this, but I thought, Erato aside, Creature looks much better than Meglos. Meglos's jungle looks really shoddy to me, as bad as the one next year in Kinda, which seems to take a lot more flak.

I certainly find it a lot less fun as a story than Creature. It's a perverse achievement that this story makes a walking cactus impersonating Tom Baker seem dull. As you say, it's a bit like a Williams era story, but without the wit and joi de vivre that made that era fun.

I vaguely recall that JNT came to regret casting Hill, on the grounds it was distracting, although, frankly, I would be glad of any distraction when watching this. One of a tiny group of Tom Baker stories I find more or less unwatchable.
louisedennis: Doctor Wholouisedennis on August 24th, 2016 08:42 am (UTC)
You are right that there are one or two lovely bits in Creature from the Pit which have nothing equivalent in Meglos. Without watching them exactly side by side it's hard to make a direct comparison, but my memory is that the direction in much of Creature is verging on the amateur where it is at least competent, if lifeless, here.

I'm not sure I'd describe Hill as "distracting", but I did wonder if she was the kind of actress more accustomed to forming a balanced part of an ensemble, than stealing as much of the limelight as she could and that didn't maybe fit as well with a show that had become a lot more over-the-top since her day.