Liverpool Sound and Vision Rating 8.5/10
Cast: Colin Baker, Nicola Bryant, John Benfield, Neville Watchurst, John Banks, Susan Brown, Toby Longworth, Alex Lowe.
One of the reasons Doctor Who worked in the classic series and continues to do so in the modern age, is because the people behind it were not afraid to be politically adventurous, to put in a story line that will rock the minds of certain bodies, institutions and Government to its core; it might not be as damning as television series as Death on the Rock, A Very British Coup, Hillsborough or Edge of Darkness but in its early evening television slot way it was just as hard hitting and made the viewer think about humanity’s place in the world and the political agenda it found itself in.
The values held by some should never be seen as being part of the whole, that to say whaling for example, the hunting down of sentient creatures for its meat, to almost wipe out an entire species to use as oil, food or even sport, is acceptable just because your government says that it is good for the economy; when you bring the spectre of money into anything, not only does it taint the argument, it adds a feeling of distaste to the mouth that is not easily wiped away.
In the Doctor Who Lost Stories episode The Song of Megaptera, whaling is very much at the heart of the issue encountered by The Doctor and Peri, an episode that still resonates decades after it was initially written but never aired by the B.B.C. and one that highlights the damage created by corporations in search of the percentage and the lives they control by doing so.
This particular episode shows the other side of the romance captured by Herman Melville in Moby Dick, a book so beautifully written and yet so devastating in its depiction of the dismemberment of a whale, and yet still manages to evoke feelings of anger of the betrayal we have inflicted upon the world, our place at the so called top table of existence only gained by managing to destroy our souls in the process.
Pat Mills’ story is one of resolved revulsion, wrapped neatly in a story that digs at the bones of human frailty and stupidity, of our greed in the face of overwhelming desire and need. It is a story that allows Colin Baker’s Doctor to really accentuate the revulsion at the thought of a creature dying for profit and a species dying to make one.
The Song of Megaptera is a story that truly would have fitted in with the age, and one that still resonates across time and tide; it reasons we have learned nothing, that people in high positions of so called power will always scoff at those who have another being’s interests at heart, that they will do anything to continue practices that should have died out decades ago.
Ian D. Hall