Doctor Who is a strange television program.
The result of deep research and development in order to craft a polished children’s program that educated as well as entertained without pandering to the audience (imagine!) or relying on stock concepts (the nerve!), it has nevertheless gone through several changes. Despite series creator Sydney Newman’s insistence that there be no BEM’s (Bug Eyed Monsters), the program was only a true success after the screening of Terry Nation’s The Daleks. The program often varied from historical drama to science fantasy and even comedy, but the monsters kept viewers coming back, specifically the Daleks. This prompted the quest to recapture this success again (and the BBC would own the rights this time).
The first attempt at recreating the Daleks was the Mechonoids (often mis-spelled as Mechanoids), a line of robotic servants who lived in a futuristic city on the planet Mechanus. Space pilot Steven Taylor crash-landed on the planet and luckily found his way to the ‘White City’ where the man-eating fungus and plants could not thrive. There he became the prisoner of the Mechonoids. He was looked after, but not allowed to leave. Soon, he started to go a bit nutty (witness his excitement over his pet ‘mascot’ panda bear doll). With no inhabitants to look after, the Mechonoids became somewhat mad too and became aggressive. This was actually quite lucky as the Daleks invaded the White City looking for the Doctor and his companions and a battle for robotic supremacy erupted.
The Dalek/Mechonoid sequence is the high point of an otherwise light and silly adventure and was obviously very expensive. Armed with pincers and flame-throwers, the Mechonoids made short work of the Daleks, but the Frankenstein Monster and Dracula also had no trouble in that regard earlier on, so maybe these were reject Daleks…
The three Mechonoids were costly to build and only really functioned on the much more spacious Pinewood Studios. Toys were created, but with only a brief moment on screen, they became curiosities rather than rivals for the Daleks.
(vintage image from Skaro.org)
After only appearing in a single TV adventure, 1964′s The Chase, the Mechonoids (or Mechanoids) disappeared into obscurity, only resurfacing in audio format in the Big Finish drama ‘The Juggernauts’ and in the comic strips.
Just released in a stunning box set by Character Options along with two Daleks, the Mechonoid has finally been recreated in all of its awkward glory (complete with a flame-thrower arm!).
The set is available from Forbidden Planet in the UK and from Mike’s Comics in the United States.
But with the excitement over the revival of a classic monster, I challenge the BBC Wales team to recreate the Mechonoids for the 21st Century. I dare them, even!
I leave you with this amazing trailer for a third Doctor who feature film with Peter Cushing as the Doctor (and Christopher Lee as Dracula!).