Working Titles: The Last Zolfa-Thuran, The Last Sol-Fataran, The Golden Pentangle, The Golden Pentagram, The Golden Star.
Starring: Tom Baker (The Fourth Doctor, Meglos), John Leeson (Voice of K-9), Lalla Ward (The Second Romana).
The Doctor is summoned back to the planet Tigella, where the population is divided along religious and scientific lines. Something is going terribly wrong with Tigella's main power source, the Dodecahedron, but before the Doctor can solve the problem, he is accused of its theft. The true culprit is Meglos, a shapeshifting Zolfa-Thuran, who intends to unleash the full might of the Dodecahedron upon the world.
When Christopher H Bidmead became Doctor Who's script editor at the start of 1980, he discovered that his predecessor, Douglas Adams, had left him with few workable scripts and little information on what writers to contact. Desperately in need of stories for the upcoming season, Bidmead turned to an actor he knew named Andrew McCulloch, who with colleague John Flanagan had begun pursuing scriptwriting opportunities. Enthusiastic about the possible commission, Flanagan and McCulloch put together a story idea called Meglos. Although producer John Nathan-Turner was not terribly impressed by an adventure he saw as rather standard fare, time was of the essence and consequently the serial was commissioned in early March. Although scheduled as third in production order, Meglos would be the season's second adventure broadcast; consequently, it would not require Matthew Waterhouse as new companion Adric, who had debuted in State Of Decay, the preceding story to be made.
As Flanagan and McCulloch's story headed toward production, it became The Last Zolfa-Thuran and then went through a number of alternate titles, before finally switching back to the original Meglos. This name was particularly preferred by Nathan-Turner, who was trying to move away from standard Doctor Who title practises. The tale's central artefact also changed its name and shape -- Flanagan and McCulloch's initial concept of a "Golden Pentagram" became the Dodecahedron, which it was felt would be a more visually interesting geometric shape to realise. One amusing in-joke included by the writers was the Gaztak character Brotadac; his name was composed as an anagram of "bad actor".
As he had done for State Of Decay, Nathan-Turner chose an All Creatures Great And Small colleague, Terence Dudley, to direct Meglos. A BBC veteran as director, writer and producer, Dudley had actually been asked to write for Doctor Who during its first season, though nothing had come of this. In the meantime, his work had included series such as Doomwatch and Survivors. Dudley was advised by his friend, director Alvin Rakoff, that Rakoff's wife Jacqueline Hill was trying to resume her acting career after a long absence. Dudley agreed to cast Hill in Meglos, an idea which proved much to the liking of Nathan-Turner, who knew that, before her retirement, Hill had played Barbara Wright -- one of the very first Doctor Who companions in the mid-Sixties. This would be Hill's final Doctor Who work before her death in 1993.
Serial 5Q was entirely studio-bound, being recorded in two three-day blocks. The first session began on Wednesday, June 25th, and the second on Thursday, July 10th. During this time, Tom Baker continued to suffer the same illness which had afflicted him throughout the season. Much of July 11th was taken up with special effects work involving a new process called Scene-Sync. A more advanced version of the ChromaKey (CSO) technique used on Doctor Who throughout the Seventies, Scene-Sync allowed more camera mobility than had previously been the case. It was virtually unused on British television, and was under consideration at the BBC for a major production called The Borgias then at the planning stages. Scene-Sync was therefore offered to the Doctor Who production staff, free of charge, by its suppliers for use as a test case. Fortunately, its inclusion in Meglos went relatively problem-free; the BBC would indeed eventually use it for The Borgias, although it and other ChromaKey-type technologies were gradually growing obsolete as computer-related processes (like Quantel, employed on The Leisure Hive at the start of the season) became more sophisticated.
Meglos would be Flanagan and McCulloch's only contribution to Doctor Who, although another story, Project Zeta-Sigma, was at one point planned to open Season Nineteen. They would go on to write for series such as Robin Of Sherwood. Meglos would help add to the programme's legacy however. On August 29th, waxworks museum Madame Tussaud's opened a new display called the "Doctor Who Experience", including statues of both the Doctor and his Meglos doppelganger. This made Tom Baker the only person to appear twice at the famed gallery.