March 18th, 1967. The supertanker Torrey Canyon ran aground between Land's End and the Scilly Isles, contaminating 50 miles of French coastline and 120 miles of the Cornish coast, killing huge numbers of sea birds and countless marine organisms. Britain got its first glimpse of the twentieth's century's greatest free lunch recast as environmental ruination: economic progress at a price, sometimes a very visible and unpleasant price.
Doctor Who meanwhile was in the middle a run of stories that, coincidentally, had at its core the theme of technology and its discontents. 'The Moonbase' had showed an advanced Earth culture defeating a technologically superior life-form (with a little help). All the while, its own progress was taken for granted; 'The Macra Terror', a far cleverer tale, said that you couldn't and shouldn't.
We've all heard the stories of the Macra in the studio being less than terrifying but as an audio-only experience, the threat is very well captured, helped no end by Colin Baker's excellent narration. The plot is rather good too, a dystopian fantasy with an above average cast for the time, not without am-dram histrionics but with a splendid contrast between innocence and its manipulation.
To be honest, until 'The Macra Terror', Doctor Who Season Four on audio often drags. What this story has that its predecessors do not is that something a little bit different: quirky music, an alien foe that doesn't directly tell you of its intentions, a cast-regular going over to the other side and a general lack of lulls. Until this point, the stories were often unsophisticated. (It's a family show, what do you expect?) 'The Macra Terror' may sound lightweight but it isn't; it is the breezy veneer counter-pointing the hidden menace beneath that really elevates it.