Blurb: When an assassination follows the first demonstration of a deadly new weapon, it appears that an alien race has fired the opening salvo in a new war – a war… for peace.
But is that truly their intent? The Doctor is unsure. The answer lies deep in the heart of a distant country. A place where a man might be a hero or a traitor. Where a man has to face the menace… of the Mega.
Format: Limited-cast audio drama with narration. Adapted from an unmade television script. Published by Big Finish Productions and released December 2013.
Setting: Earth: The countries of England and Golbasto. UNIT dating makes the precise chronological placement of this story iffy but it's during the second year that the Doctor is with UNIT, which I would place in 1971.
Continuity: This story takes place between The Claws of Axos and Colony in Space. It is just as possible that it takes place between Colony in Space and The Daemons, but no later. There are several references to what happened at the Nuton Power Complex (see The Claws of Axos). The Master is referenced and it's clear from the conversation that he has not yet been caught (see Terror of the Autons, The Mind of Evil, The Claws of Axos, and possibly Colony in Space).
Canonicity Quotient: I don't buy that the Brigadier would have opened gas on British citizens no matter what the justification. Alien menaces are one thing but the Brig was not only a soldier he was a moral man. There's also some embarrasingly modern sensibilities layered onto this story, like having Jo rail against the Doctor at the sheer thought of driving while talking on a phone. There's also the creation of the nation of Golbasto, an eastern block nation that isn't a Soviet Satellite and appears to have a ruling monarchy. I also don't understand how the British created a gas that targets specific chromosomes without alien help. 0.80
Discussion: The Mega is the final installment of Big Finish's Lost Stories range of Doctor Who audios. This range makes audio dramas out of script submissions or story outlines that were never made into serials. The Mega is the only Lost Story that Big Finish has produced for the Jon Pertwee era of Doctor Who. I'm not sure if that's because it's the only submission that they've gotten their hands on from that era or if it's the only one with Jo, since they obviously can't do any audios for stories featuring Liz or Sarah Jane.
The Mega is based on a script outline submitted by Bill Strutton, the man who wrote The Web Planet and was submitted while season 7 was on the air, so the characters of Mike Yates and Jo had not yet been created. It seems strange in a way to include this story in the range for that reason as the actors playing Jo and Mike are the only ones available to Big Finish to bring the story to life. Their parts had to be greatly expanded to make the story work, but if it's a way of giving us another Pertwee era story then I am fully behind it. Truth to be told, if this had been produced for season 8, Terrence Dicks would have had to work with Bill Strutton to include the new regulars anyway so it's not a bad thing that author Simon Guerrier does the same thing. A little more annoying are the changes made to the script that Terrence wouldn't have done. This ranges from the major to the minor. An example of the former is the removal of an actual country and the creation of a made up nation, Golbasto. One of the things that's really great about the Pertwee era is that sometimes it feels like a political spy thriller. They always used real nations because it gave the viewers at home a touchstone to the actual world politics of the age. The Mind of Evil and Day of the Daleks are just two examples of this. Bill Strutton apparently used a real country in his story but writer Simon Guerrier and producer David Richardson decided that for some reason this couldn't be used, I suppose under some fear that if somehow the nation in question heard this story it would declare war on the U.K. over not being portrayed in a favorable light. The very notion is ridiculous. First of all, the story takes place in the 1970's and therefore any Cold War type conflicts would simply be historically accurate. The second issue is that based on the story's context it's really only two possibilities as to what nation Strutton used in this one - East Germany or The Soviet Union. Neither of these nations exists anymore, so why can't they be portrayed in a negative light? It makes no sense at all. What makes even less sense is the idea of a nation in the eastern block that has a ruling monarchy and apparently no ties to the Soviet Union. Yet, it seems to view the entire "West" as its enemy. My suspension of disbelief is immediately shattered by this. It makes no sense for such a thing to exist. The story is also littered with minor "modern" references that seem annoying like Jo chastising the Doctor for using a phone while driving a car. I'm sorry but that's just not something that someone would have questioned in the 1970's. Even now it seems insane that people should be dissuaded from doing this, and it's only because we've now had years of empirical evidence showing us that there is a large subset of humanity who are incapable of accomplishing both activities at the same time.
The main story nugget behind The Mega is ok. The conceit is that the nation of Golbasto has gotten ahold of alien technology that allows them to watch anyone, anywhere, and at any time as well as to be able to disintegrate anyone, anywhere with the touch of a button. The technology. The King of that nation wants to use the technology to use the technology to surrender to him, so that he can institute a world government run by people he considers enlightened enough to run their various territories. He is a conflicted man who hopes that his goals can be won peacefully but believes that the use of force will result in a greater good so he is prepared to use it. I was going to say that the story didn't fit well into season 8 as that was the season where every episode used the Master but I was happy to see them give the story a little twist towards the end to bring it in line with that season. I assume that if they had gone forwards with this story in season 8 the whole thing would have been vastly rewritten to include the Master as a more direct negotiator between the nation in question and The Mega, but as Roger Delgodo isn't available to record they were only able to use the character in passing. Still it does help the story fit in better with the era and it did make me smile. I also liked the moral quandary that was given of whether or not it was acceptable to use deadly force on rioters or protestors even if some aspects of this were not used to the best advantage of the story.
The downside on this one is that it drags immensely. It's not the fault that it's a 6-parter. Farewell Great Macedon, The Masters of Luxor, and Lords of the Red Planet were all six part stories and none of these dragged to the extent that this one did. The story feels very padded and likely should have been a four-parter. The music seems to have been lifted from the narrated video version of Shada and it just doesn't fit the story at all. Indeed there's one point where a Mega is trying to kill the Doctor and Jo and the whole scene sounded like the Kraag trying to kill the Doctor and Chris in Shada. It sounded very inappropriate for the era. The necessity of beefing up Mike's part means that the UNIT cast acts incredibly bizarre. Benton believes that the Doctor has turned traitor and Mike is the one that has to set him straight, a scene that almost certainly would have been reversed on the TV series. The Brigadier orders Yates to use gas on a bunch of rioters and Yates has to turn in his resignation instead of accepting the order. I am positive that it would have been the Brigadier turning in his resignation rather than complying in a televised version of this. The Mega seem to have one of the poorest motivations in all of Doctor Who. They simply want to improve things and have a very one-track mind on how this can be accomplished. It's so one-track in fact that when the King of Golbasto starts having second thoughts he has to blow them and him up because that's the only way to stop them. It feels like kind of a cheat ending that just causes everything to end abruptly but by that point you're just grateful that the thing ends. There's also this bizarre thing about a gas that the British develop that can target specific chromosomes but no explanation is ever given to where it came from. You keep expecting that the Mega somehow gave it to the British to provoke the conflict and give Golbasto it's reason to attack but that never comes up and I don't know if this is a problem with the original storyline or the adaptation but it seems to make no sense. Another thing that I don't like is that the story necessitates that the UNIT cast remain separate from the Doctor for almost the entire story so we get very little interaction between Jo and Mike, which is one of the main things that I wanted to hear in this one.
One thing that I will say on the positive side of The Mega is that Katy is still fantastic as both Jo and the Doctor. You always know that it's not him but her Pertwee remains a great evocation of his manner of speaking even it sounds a little to scratchy to be the man himself. Franklin is doing a wonderful job of reviving Mike Yates as well. His Brigadier has improved since The Rings of Ikiria and his Benton is still that same portrayal, which I think is great. I hope that with the Companion Chronicles range also ending that Big Finish at least gives us a season of third Doctor stories every now and then. I imagine seasons of stories with Katy and Richard and filled out with a larger cast. I hope that may over time they can even coax John Levene in to start with them so that we're just missing the Brigadier and the Doctor.
Final Rating: 6/10
Recommendation: The Mega is long, really long. I don't know if the storyline was always a mess or if it just became a mess in the process of adapting it and making so many anachronistic and inappropriate changes to the storyline. There are things to like about it and I can see something similar actually being made in season 8 but this version just doesn't work. Separating Mike and Jo may have been necessary in the original story but it doesn't win it any points for those of us who wanted a revival of their onscreen chemistry. I would definitely skip this one.