Timestamp #111: Meglos

Doctor Who: Meglos
(4 episodes, s18e05-e08, 1980)

timestamp-111-meglos

 

Time loops have momentum problems.

Time loops have momentum problems.

Time loops have momentum problems.

Annoying, right? So why did the showrunners think it would hold my attention without irritating me?

In the TARDIS, the Time Lords are repairing K9. Romana puts the TARDIS into a hover over the planet Tigella to avoid any sudden movements during the procedure, and the Doctor reminisces about his last experience on the planet. We’ll see this again.

On the planet below, a transformer blows resulting in a severe casualty for a community that lives below ground. They are the Savants, and are in conflict over an item called the Dodecahedron, a sacred item for the Deon sect of their culture, and the religious leader named Lexa refuses to let them touch it, enter the power room where it resides, or venture above ground. Stuck in the middle of the impasse, Zastor, the leader of the community, sends for the Doctor.

Two notes: First, Lexa looks familiar. It’s good to see Jacqueline Hill again, and she is just relishing this role. Second, the Savants share the same hairstylist as Prince Adam of Eternia and the Romulan Sela.

On a desert world, a ship lands to reveal a party of bounty hunters, including a Clark Kent-style human in a business suit. The human is stunned, and this crew brought him to the world for a reward. A mysterious structure rises from the sand, revealing a door which the party enters. Beyond, they meet Meglos, a giant sentient cactus and the only survivor of the planet. Meglos tasks the bounty hunters with stealing the Dodecahedron, which he claims was constructed on the desert planet and is far more powerful than the Tigellans realize. As Meglos and the human are placed in adjacent chambers for some kind of procedure, the bounty hunters scheme to steal all of the valuable technology within, but Meglos traps them in the structure and forces them to execute his plan. The procedure transfers Meglos into the human, notably changing the human’s skin into something more cactus-like. Meglos then traps the Time Lords in a time loop and assumes the Doctor’s identity. They set course for Tigella.

Time loops. Why did it have to be time loops?

Lexa finally relents and allows the Doctor to visit, but only if he swears allegiance to the Deons. Zastor is upset with the decision, but errs on the side of diplomacy when the bounty hunters ship arrives and the Meglos-Doctor inspects the city. Meglos-Doctor takes the oath, and then sells them on the idea that it is too dangerous for anyone but him to inspect the Dodecahedron. Shortly afterward, Meglos-Doctor steals the Dodecahedron.

The Doctor and Romana break the time loop (thank the maker) by repeating the events within the loop, setting up a destructive interference pattern. They then proceed to Tigella and head for the city, but Romana is waylaid by some bell plants and K9 is sent to find her. The Doctor arrives in the city as his arrest order goes out, stumbles into some guards, and is taken prisoner.

K9’s power runs low, so he returns to the city. Of course, without the Dodecahedron to power it, the city shares a similar fate. Meanwhile, Romana follows a trail of scorched vegetation to find the bounty hunter ship only to encounter the crew and an overacted order to kill her. Romana stalls them by promising to lead the crew to her ship, parading them in circles through the jungle, and snaring them in the bell plants.

While in hiding, Meglos struggles to keep the Clark Kent human in check. In Superman III-style – okay, okay, but that bomb of a movie has its moments – it is fighting his control.  After the Doctor convinces the Savants that he is the victim of a doppelgänger, Meglos kidnaps engineer Caris and convinces her to follow him. As the Doctor and Zastor investigate the Dodecahedron’s whereabouts, the Deons stage a revolution and send all of the non-believers to the surface. Lexa keeps the Doctor and prepares him for sacrifice.

On the run from the bounty hunters, Romana finds K9 stranded in the undergrowth. She barely makes it inside the city and is trapped in the airlock, but she’s safe from the bounty hunters for a moment before they break down the door. As Meglos is plagued by the human he absorbed, Caris takes him hostage, but he breaks away and joins the bounty hunters outside the city. Romana joins forces with Caris to search for the Doctor, who is about to be crushed by a giant stone. They find Zastor and Deedrix, and the four rush to the power room just in time to prevent the sacrifice.

Meglos and the bounty hunters return to Zolfa-Thura, the desert planet from earlier. The Doctor wonders why they would go there until Romana reminds him of the screens on the surface. They head for the TARDIS, and a dying bounty hunter takes a shot at Romana. Lexa steps in front of the bolt, giving her life for the Time Lords and ending Jacqueline Hill’s roles with the franchise. In all seriousness, that woman was such a class act.

When Meglos buries the Dodecahedron inside the perimeter, the screens amplify its power into a Death Star-type of superweapon. Since Dantooine is too remote to make an effective demonstration, the bounty hunters choose Tigella as the test for their new tool of terror. The Doctor leaves Romana, K9, Caris, and Deedrix with the TARDIS as he attempts to stand in for Meglos and stall the countdown. The bounty hunters decide to capture Meglos and operate the weapon themselves, and they end up capturing both the cactus and the Time Lord. Trapped in the same cargo hold, the Doctor informs Meglos that he changed the target’s coordinates to Zolfa-Thura. Meanwhile, the rest of the travelers rescue the pair, presenting an opportunity for Meglos to abandon his humanoid form and slither away.

The travelers and the sacrificial human run for the TARDIS, which has a bit of trouble dematerializing but finally does so before Zolfa-Thura is disintegrated. The Time Lords return everyone to their proper places, but the Tigellans will have to live on the surface now since the Dodecahedron was destroyed. As they get ready to take the Clark Kent human home, they get an urgent message: Gallifrey needs their help.

You know, I enjoyed this one. Except for that stupid time loop sequence that consumed most of the first episode. Carve that out and restore the momentum, and this serial could have sung.

Instead, it merely meets the average.

 

Rating: 3/5 – “Reverse the polarity of the neutron flow.”

 

UP NEXT – Doctor Who: Full Circle

 

 

 

 

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2 thoughts on “Timestamp #111: Meglos

  1. Love Jacqueline Hill, but you knew that.

    I’ll just say that IMHO this is the low point of season 18, so hopefully you’ll like the rest far more.

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