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3.8 out of 5 stars54
3.8 out of 5 stars
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on 24 January 2011
Meglos, despite some of its negative points, is, in essence, a Doctor Who story that was before its time. It is a story that, at its heart, deals with the struggle between religion and science.

As a viewer, you can't help feeling a struggle off-screen as well. You almost feel the tug of war between the writers, the script editor and the director, as they fight it out to gain their own narrative. And what we're left with, through sheer luck, is a melding of the three, that essentially benefits the story in a way that no single party could have done on their own.

Once you get past the dodgy wigs, and the tiresome time loop scenes, there are many elements that make this a rather enjoyable story.

Tom Baker, nearing the end of his tenure as The Doctor, puts in a sterling performance as Meglos, not to mention the welcome return of Jacqueline Hill as Lexa who bookends her Doctor Who career here.

Then there is the truly fantastic make-up which makes the characterisation of Meglos even more villainous and believable. There are also some great FX shots in the story, combined with highly detailed models, that work together using the new Scene Sync technology - yet another example of the story being ahead of its time.

The DVD is rounded off with some excellent features that compliment the story.

The 'Commentary' features Lalla Ward (Romana II), John Flanagan (Writer), Christopher Owen (Earthling / Meglos) and Paddy Kingsland (Composer). John and Lalla seem to take turns guiding, but understandably, Christopher Owen tends to get lost in the background, and doesn't really seem to contribute much until the final episode. Peter Howell (Composer) joins the commentary for Episode Three and offers an insight into some of his cues, as well as providing a refreshing critique to his own work. All in all, a fairly run of the mill commentary, that could have really benefited from Tom Baker's presence.

'Meglos Men' is an 18-minute documentary that follows Writers; Andy McCulloch and John Flanagan as they retrace their steps into the past, into the genesis of Meglos. Checking out their old haunts, through to a modern-day meeting with Script Editor; Christopher H. Bidmead.

It's a fantastic little feature that is written, produced and directed by the fabulous Chris Chapman, who has risen the calibre of Doctor Who DVD documentaries to a whole new level.

'The Scene Sync Story' looks at how the pitfalls and limitations of Chroma Key gave way to research into the newly discovered Scene Sync technology - a process that ties two cameras together to pan in unison.

The eye-opening documentary shows us how Meglos was a test run for the process, which has evolved and can now be seen in many modern day film and television productions. The feature includes Interviews with Peter Leverick and Roger Bunce (Cameramen) and Stephen Drewett (Visual Effects Designer).

'Jacqueline Hill: A Life in Pictures' looks at the life of Doctor Who Actress, Jacqueline Hill (Barbara, Lexa). It's a wonderful tribute to the woman whom we all know from Doctor Who, but paints the wider, and to most of us, unknown picture of her life through to her untimely death. It was surprising to learn that Jacqueline was responsible for Sean Connery getting his first leading role, thanks to a suggestion to her Director husband, Alvin Rakoff. The feature includes interviews with William Russell (Actor), Verity Lambert (Producer), Alvin Rakoff (Director / Husband) and Ann Davies (Friend / Actress).

'Entropy Explained' is presented by Dr. Phillip Trowoga from the University of Westminster, and takes a scientific look at the running theme through Season 18 of Doctor Who - Entropy; the measure of disorder of a system. Picking through the laws of thermodynamics, it breaks down the technical speech into easy to understand explanations and situations.

The 'Coming Soon Trailer' features The Mutants, and isn't as well put together as previous trailers, too many fast cuts and no real energy behind the trailer music leads to it failing to really sell the story.

As with previous releases, there are the usual 'Radio Times Billings', 'Photo Gallery' and 'Production Information Subtitles', as well as an 'Easter Egg' that gives us a clean version of the final Fourth Doctor title sequence.

The extra content that we have here, is certainly of a high quality, but going on past form, it does feel a little feature-light. It was surprising to find no feature on the stunning make-up that gave this story such a visual impact, and Tom Baker's involvement, apart from the story itself is non-existent - despite being a Baker-heavy serial.

It is most definitely worth its retail price, with both 'Meglos Men' and 'Jacqueline Hill: A Life in Pictures' taking the main stage.
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on 25 January 2011
This a strange story idea where Meglos the Maniacal cactus, gets some mercenaries to help him in his plans to steal the Tigellan power source the Dodecahedron. As others have said it would fit in more with the style of the previous season's Douglas Adams' script edited tales than Christopher H. Bidmead's smart set ideas.
Meglos is an evil genius cactus (by our standards as the ability to make a decent sandwich would be genius by cactus standards). The mercenaries (good comic performances by Bill Fraser & Frederick Treves) steal him a human to merge with copying the form as his cactus form might attract attention (told you he's a genius).
He then turns himself into the Doctor's double having trapped the Doc in a time loop. Then both Dr & Meglos turn up on Tigella. There are interesting ideas in this like the idea that repeating actions voluntarily helps you break a time loop (great name for it "chronic hysteresis") and that the merged human and can break through Meglos' disguise and the original cactus form keeps coming through. Where it falls flat is the planet Tigella. There is no sense of this being a real place. The Doctor's pal Xastor (played as a rather depressed old boy by Edward Underdown) and the religious nut Lexa ( a good peformance in ann underwritten role by Hartnell companion Jaqueline Hill) are for want of a better way of putting it, the ruling party and opposition. When Lexa grabs power & then later Xastor takes it back, there is no sense of upheaval. Romana tells Xastor he really needs to be back and power and then he just ambles off down the corridor and reasserts himself.
Meglos's ability to track the Doctor through time & space, put him in a time loop and change form all suggest Black & White Guardian sized powers. It makes you wonder why he needs the help of some amateur mercenaries?
Tom and Lalla do their best with odd material, really bringing to life the time loop sequences in the Tardis-which as doing the same schtick over and over could easily have fallen flat. Tom makes less than you might expect of Meglos, relying on subtle shifts in performance such as being unsure what to do next when Lexa asks him as the Doctor to swear allegiance to Ti. He's a bit more shouty as Meglos but otherwise it's a shame the script is always clear on which one's who, as the performance would work in places for the audience to have to guess.
Not June Hudson's best costumes especially the run of the mill Tigelans who look like choir boys who've got some security work.
Direction and sets are good but not inspired.
Ther debut of scene-sync allowing more natural movement with CSO does improve the look of things.

Not a large haul of extras. A chummy and fun commentary if not one of Lalla Ward's best. She is joined by one of the writers & the human or earthling Christopher Owen amongst others. At the jokey idea that Tom Baker could have an identical twin Lalla is horrified. It's revealed the dodecahedron was to be the Pentagon but was changed for obvious reasons.

Meglos Men is an interesting arther than great hybrid, part interview/part making of. Writers Flanagan & McCulloch meet up and take a journey visiting old haunts such as the house in which the writing was done, places the theatre where the put on a play which impressed Bidmead and it all sparks off memories of the writing process. They reveal that the merecenaries were originally tough Lee Marvin types & pay tribute to Tom's acting. They visit Bidmead who has recently watched it again and is v positive about Meglos as a story.

The scene sync story tells us who and why this improved CSO process came to be used and which other shows it featured in. A nicely done short.

Entropy explained starts off impenetrable but soon starts to explain the concepts of entropy and heat death quite well. It really belongs on the Logopolis disc as that story has more to do with it.

Jacqueline Hill: A Life in Pictures gives us some detail of the lady behind Barbara benefitting greatly from the presence of friends/colleagues William Russell, Ann Davies and (via archive footage) Verity Lambert. But most of all the thoughts of her husband Alvin Rakoff paint a good picture. It's short and some more clips would have been good but much of her early work in probably in shows that don't remain in the archives. A worthwhile feature all the same.

The story is silly fun, extras are light and it's really a package for big fans of Tom Baker.
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on 17 January 2011
Well, what can you say about Meglos. Probably the lightest story and the comic turn of season 18, leading as it does to the more deep and serious e-space trilogy. Baker going through the motions both as the Doctor and Meglos. Already, the sparkle is going. It's almost as if Tom is preparing for his exit from the show...! The heart and soul is no longer in it! But it is good fun. The scene with Meglos (the cactus) and the Gaztaks (space pirates) in episode 1 is great, and the special effects are superb for 1980. Also, the concept of the chronic hysteresis is huge fun, although the escape is somewhat of a let down. Also, there are a couple of good cliff-hangers thrown in. However, the main problem with this show is that you just don't really care about either of the main protagonists on the planet Tigella. You warm to neither the scientists or the those that partake in the cult worship of the Dodecahedron. Not enough effort was made in developing the characters, or explaining more of their history. On the plus side, the extras are good, containing as they do a very fitting tribute to Jacqueline Hill.
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on 28 August 2011
This is a story which has grown on me over time. By no means a classic Meglos does however have much of interest. The return of Jaqueline Hill to Dr Who - former 1st Doctor companion Barbara - here playing a high priestess. Tom Baker gives an interesting performance as Meglos himself. And the sfx may be considered cheap by todays standards, but in 1980 there were few TV progrrammes, in the UK or US, who could achieve what the dr who production team did on such a small budget. Worth a look.
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on 14 March 2014
'Meglos', the second story from Doctor Who's eighteenth season, has rather a poor reputation which I don't think it deserves. The story is, admittedly, far from perfect but there's far more to like than dislike. Coming after an outstanding story like 'The Leisure Hive' this was never going to be considered as good.

Visually the story is rather impressive, especially the Zolfa Thura 'scene sync' scenes. Tom Baker's cactus make up/costume looks fabulous. There's some great incidental music from Paddy Kingsland (who scored the first episode) and Peter Howell (who did the other three). Howell's music for some of the Tom Baker Meglos scenes, in particular, is superb. The story is very well directed by Terence Dudley.

Tom Baker gives a decent performance as the Doctor but he positively shines as Meglos, bringing a real sense of menace and rage to the role. Jacqueline Hill (who played companion Barbara Wright from the first episode of Doctor Who in 1963 until 1965) is on fine form as Lexa. Bill Fraser and Frederick Treves are good fun as pirates Grugger and Brotadac respectively.

The main idea behind the story is the Doctor being impersonated by a cactus and, understandably, the writers struggle to bulk this thin concept out to four episodes. The Savants/Deons conflict on Tigella is just a generic science vs religion plot which isn't especially interesting. It is never explained where the Dodecahedron came from or why it is so powerful, which is irritating. Things go downhill towards the end, with Lexa being killed off for no apparent reason. When the action moves back to Zolfa Thura in part 4 you get the distinct impression that the writers are flagging.

Despite all the flaws, 'Meglos' remains a consistently entertaining story.

The special features include 'Meglos men', a fairly interesting 18 minute feature in which 'Meglos' writers John Flanagan and Andrew McCulloch meet up and discuss the writing process of the story while travelling around various locations in London from their past. They also visit script editor Christopher H Bidmead at his home to talk with him about their memories of working together. Bidmead in a hoodie and a baseball cap is a sight to behold.

'Jacqueline Hill- a life in pictures' is a very nice overview of the life and career of Hill. It includes footage from interviews with William Russell (fellow Doctor Who companion Ian Chesterton), Verity Lambert (Doctor Who producer, 1963-65) and Alvin Rakoff (Hill's husband) among others.

'Scene sync story' is about the scene sync technique used in the story. It's mildly interesting, but quite complex. 'Entropy explained' is a short feature which explains the concept of entropy, which was a recurring theme of Doctor Who's eighteenth season.
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on 17 January 2011
I recall being impressed by the punchier speed at which this story sped along when it was first transmitted. Now I find it ran too short by accident and despite padding - which I can see all too clearly but did not notice at the time - it stubbornly refused to grow.
So, is Meglos a deadloss? No, of course not. This everyday story of cactus folk trying to take over the universe has lots of witty bits; it has a Chronic Hysteresis by which small children can be kept busy for hours acting it out; it has great cactus make-up, and for veteran fans it has Jacqueline Hill - in colour.
The story is slight but I liked all the stuff where Meglos is being the Doctor and the stuff with the coat. Apart from the slightly dodgy special effects there is not much to dislike about the programme although the wandering round the jungle padding and the comedy heavies is tedious. The commentary has no great revelations and nor does the text but it is pleasant to spend time with these people and learn about how it came about. Similarly the short film in which the writers reminisce, though I thought this too short and more questions might have been asked of Christopher H Bidmead.
The sych film and entropy explained were interesting and of course for fans like me, and others I hope, the feature on Jacqueline Hill was interesting and moving. A pity we saw no clips from her appearance in `Tales of the Unexpected' where she played a bitchy American and from `Paradise Postponed' where she movingly portrayed a woman cheated on by her husband - but these were ITV shows so maybe that's why. Being in Doctor Who gives a kind of immortality and it is sad but surely true that despite her work in TV, film and theatre by now Jacqueline Hill would be forgotten by those who never knew her. But Doctor Who fans never forget, they keep memories of those they loved current and never stop appreciating them for what they did.
If you do not enjoy this DVD you may be right, or it may be merely that it is `beyond your comprehension'!
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on 12 December 2013
This is one of the best classic dr who stories ever, it has an amazing performance from tom who had to play both the hero and the villain, it deals with the complex issue of science vs religion, I really like the soundtrack and meglos is a great villain, he can shape shift, he's mysterious and he is a genius and the last of his kind. I'll never know why this was voted the 12th worst episode
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Coming only a year after Doctor Who reached record 16.1m ratings with City of Death, John Nathan Turner's first season as producer showed the downward trajectory that would be one of the hallmarks of his tenure when Meglos barely managed a quarter of that figure, with an equally dismal `audience appreciation rating.' Yet despite Turner being handed a seaworthy vessel and proceeding to drill holes in it below the waterline with bad creative decisions and dodgy casting in later years, it's not a bad little story even if the Doctor doesn't have much to do in the first episode, and what little he does he does repeatedly. Unfortunately it's a very undeveloped one, with both plot and character veering too often to the perfunctory and originality largely extending to the villain being... a cactus. A meglomaniacal plant has its possibilities, but there's the feeling that the Doctor had been here before too many times to find much to interest him and the central debate between science and religion - in particular a religion that has been built around unexplained technology whose priests don't want explained or explored - never gets off the ground.

There's one interesting bit of casting in having one of the very first Doctor's original companions from the very first episode, Jacqueline Hill, playing the high priestess, although she's not helped by having to share many of her scenes with Edward Underdown, who gives an embarrassingly bad performance - most of the time he doesn't even wait for his cues. But then maybe the general rushed feeling of the production was contagious - the four episodes are very short, with a lot of repeated footage from the previous episode to pad out the running time. It's not terrible, and you do get the chance to see Tom Baker turning into a cactus, but it has that treading water feeling that typified the Nathan Turner years.

Still, there's a decent selection of extras, as ever: audio commentary by Lalla Ward, Christopher Owen, John Flanagan, Paddy Kingsland and Peter Howell, featurettes on the story's actors-turned-writers (particularly engaging), the Scene Sync special effects technique used for the story, a layman's guide to Entropy (the uniting factor of that season's stories) and a tribute to Jacqueline Hill focussing on her tenure in the series as Barbara, as well as an isolated score, an extended theme tune (hidden away as an Easter Egg), stills gallery and on-screen production notes. Two-and-a-bit stars - one for the completists.
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on 28 January 2014
This is one of the stronger Baker Classics, and enjoyable to watch. This is another Baker one to add to my collection of Dr Who's between 1963-1989, Subtitles very helpful. Quality good. Couldn't get this on VHS in the past, so DVD is a welcome addition.
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VINE VOICEon 27 November 2010
Yes I know I shouldn't, but I rather like "Meglos". It's barmy enough to remain entertaining, despite having a plot that doesn't stand up to any scrutiny (why does Meglos specifically need an earthling, rather than any other humanoid from a closer planet?). And it does undercut any chance of creating a believable society by dressing all the Tigellan scientists in silly blond wigs so they look like extras from Buck Rogers (a continuing problem with 80s Who - check out the space pirates in capes and white jumpsuits in "Terminus").

The biggest flaw in "Meglos" is really that it's all rather inconsequential. Sandwiched in amongst the rest of Tom Baker's last season, which was clever, stylish and doom-laden (and occasionally over-earnest), this story is revealed to be frothy and frivolous, a throwback to the previous season but with a glossier sheen. But this is no bad thing, and at least a story about a megalomaniac cactus could never have delusions of grandeur. Some good points: Tom Baker gets to play the bad guy for a change. There are also some good FX for the time and ex-companion Jacqueline Hill makes a welcome return, this time playing a religious zealot, adding a touch of class to the proceedings.

Ultimately it's a bit of a hodge-podge as the flippancy of the previous year clashes with the new style, and some interesting ideas sit next to the usual Who-cliches (religion vs science; human sacrifice...). But it's kinda goofy fun, and as one reviewer has pointed out, all four episodes under-ran, which means it moves at a brisk old pace and doesn't outstay its welcome. Though it may not leave much of an impression either. Forgettable, throwaway fun.
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