The last of the Lost Stories is a real gem, and an oddity among the range: we’ve had tales from every era of the classic era bar one – the Pertwee years. That’s rectified with a vengeance by Simon Guerrier’s six-part version of Bill Strutton’s The Mega, which is narrated by Richard Franklin (as UNIT – all of them!) and Katy Manning (as Jo and the Doctor), with Bo Poraj and Derek Carlyle doing sterling service as every other part.
Guerrier has obviously had to do a great deal of embellishment to Strutton’s outline, and in DWM, he notes that he applied a formula which can best be summed up as WWTDD – What Would Terrance Dicks Do? It’s certainly paid off – there are many scenes in the story which feel as if they’ve been extracted from UNIT-era scripts and tales. There’s a flavour of The Mind of Evil, with the Doctor disparagingly looking on at other research; a little bit of The Claws of Axos; and even (for those with long memories and strong stomachs) a small taste of Mick Lewis’ controversial Third Doctor BBC Book, Rags. You can almost see how they’d have achieved the various effects (battles played out by watching radar screens; a missile that looks so like an eagle in flight that you could… use footage of an eagle in flight and no one would know the difference) and of course there would have been some of the infamous ITC-style back projection for the Doctor and Jo’s travels on the Continent.
Director Ken Bentley maintains a good pace throughout, so that, unlike some six-part stories, it doesn’t feel as if the material has been overly stretched. There’s a bit too much background music, perhaps, but that’s a small fault in what otherwise is an excellent soundscape.
Franklin and Manning both perform admirably: Franklin’s Brigadier gets more recognisable as the story progresses, although his Benton does seem to change point of origin both from John Levene’s performance and, indeed, from episode to episode. Manning’s Doctor evokes the spirit of Pertwee, with the occasional very individual pronunciation of certain words, while her voice jumps the octave necessary to recreate Jo.
The Lost Stories have been an interesting range, and all credit to producer David Richardson for providing such a selection from across the years. Of course, as with all groupings of Doctor Who stories, there have been peaks and troughs. Point of Entry, Farewell Great Macedon, The Destructors, and The Foe from the Future are all tales that I am sure I will revisit in the months to come (in some cases for a third listen), and it’s good that the range is going out on a high.
Verdict: A skilful evocation of the Pertwee era brings the range to a strong end. 9/10