The BBC announced today that the sale process for Television Centre has begun. Whatever the commercial arguments, this is a sad day for a generation who grew up with Television Centre at the heart of their collective popular imagination, though part of the existing structure is likely to survive as part of the broadcasting business in some form. The retreat of the BBC sprawl from Wood Lane has already begun, with the move of BBC Worldwide from Woodlands, just north of Westway, where the flags of Radio Times and Doctor Who once flew, and one wonders if the BBC logos have already been removed from the road signs further down Wood Lane.

In the meantime, this film is a record of the construction period made to inform BBC staff; it has a haunting, concrète soundtrack from the BBC Radiophonic Workshop (John Baker?), provides glimpses of the buildings demolished to allow Television Centre to be built (mainly associated with White City stadium, I think, but including the old Wood Lane station on what was then the Hammersmith branch of the Metropolitan Line), and shows those curved corridors (built, it's said, because in those convivial days few BBC employees could walk in a straight line) taking shape, as well as the statue of Helios being elevated into place.

Last night, not being able to sleep, I put on the first part of Meglos, picked up on DVD in Sainsbury's sale. I hoped to be able to challenge conventional wisdom and like the story, remembering being mildly impressed when I last watched it about sixteen years ago; but my tastes and expectations have changed. Edward Underdown's Zastor is meant to be impressive, but the actor seems faded and unwell and is unable to convey the charisma of leadership the script requires of him, or the insight needed to animate Zastor's description of the Doctor as someone who "sees the threads that bind the universe together, and mends them when they break" - there's barely any sense of understanding there, just an actor saying lines. As it is Zastor, supposedly the authoritative mediator between factions, is overshadowed both by Crawford Logan's Deedrix and (of course) Jacqueline Hill's Lexa. Furthermore, given how central the Dodecahedron is to the story - the Deons and Savants argue over its origin and function, Meglos wants it - it's practically a character in its own right, and it's a colossal omission that we don't see it early in the story. The marginalisation of the Doctor and Romana, stuck in the TARDIS for the entire story, is difficult to assess without taking into account one's prior knowledge of the producer's and script editor's antipathy towards the characters; at times the camera seems at war with Tom Baker, panning away to avoid Baker's visual gag indicating that he last met Zastor when the latter was a lot younger, and picking up every frailty.

It's by no means all bad, though. Scene-Sync is used well to depict the arrival of General Grugger's spacecraft on Zolfa-Thura. Christopher Owen's Earthling is someone in whom the audience should feel they have a stake. His lack of a name decharacterises him, though I suppose this reflects Christopher H. Bidmead's interest in the Everyman figure to whom things happen rather than who controls events, a model into which he tried to force the Doctor. Terrance Dicks's move in providing him with a name and backstory for the novelisation was well-judged, though. Similarly Owen's credit in the closing titles distracts from his performance as Meglos, condescending, vain, glorying in his absurdity; there's something eerie still about the cactus-skin of the Meglos-possessed Earthling, and I found the effect the most disturbing aspect of the episode back when I watched it aged nine (nearly ten!) in 1980, seemingly the only loyal viewer in my class as everyone else had defected to Buck Rogers. From part one, I suspect that there's nothing wrong with Meglos that a better sense of how to write dialogue, how to structure a story, and how to cast guest actors couldn't cure.


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