In time, it would be nice to think that Meglos will be released in a special boxset featuring The Enemy of the World and The Massacre as well. The connection is of course obvious – every story features the actor playing the Doctor playing the role of the lead villain as well! Until we discover whether the omnirumour is true however, instead we get to enjoy the new lease of life that Patrick Troughton and Tom Baker got to enjoy in their outings when playing villains.
Now I must be frank – Meglos is nowhere near as good as The Enemy of the World – but it is still an enjoyable adventure, and one that I really looked forward to getting hold of on DVD. Let us skate past the awkward fact that the villain, the eponymous Meglos himself, is basically a cactus, and instead enjoy the fact that this cactus takes on the form of Baker’s Doctor. Disguise donned, he steals a valuable relic from a society that has the predictable division of scientists and priests, and then plans to use it for the equally predictable aim of galactic domination.
What really makes the piece is some wonderful acting by Tom Baker as Meglos (less so as the Doctor – as with Jon Pertwee in his last season, you can really tell by this point that he’s lost interest), and especially by Lalla Ward as Romana – she is thoroughly charming as she misleads and confuses a gang of mercenaries. Less wonderful is the reappearance of Jacqueline Hill, famous for playing Barbara, in the role of the High Priestess. She undoubtedly hams it up in the role, but it does not take many cries of “Thanks be to Ti!” before you’re rolling your eyes in exasperation.
Meglos is certainly not iconic viewing by any means, but I found myself appreciating the story in between my amusement at Romana’s escapades and embarrassment at the overdone religious zealotry. There are traces of the Douglas Adams wit in the dialogue, and while Tom Baker’s awkward trip doesn’t get better with many viewings, the scene of he and Romana caught in a time loop in the TARDIS is genuinely excellent and intriguing. So long as you don’t set the bar too high, this is not a story that will disappoint you … which in the pantheons of ‘damning with faint praise’, I have to grant you, is up there!