Mission to the Unknown
The Daleks' Master Plan
|Dates||Nov. 13, 1965 -
Jan. 1, 1966
With William Hartnell, Peter Purves, Adrienne Hill, Jean Marsh.
Written by Terry Nation (episodes 1,2,3,4,5,7)
and Dennis Spooner (episodes 6,8,9,10,11,12).
Script-edited by Donald Tosh. Directed by Douglas Camfield.
Produced by John Wiles.
Synopsis: The Doctor and Steven have their hands full as they elude the Daleks
after stealing the Taranium Core, the power source for the Daleks' ultimate
weapon: the Time Destructor.
"Counterplot" and "Escape Switch": Fragments of a Classic by Carl West 9/4/98
Episodes 5 and 10 of The Daleks' Master Plan can be seen on that BBC Video gem of gems Daleks: The Early Years. Even though these episodes are mere portions of the complete 12-part epic, they are very delightful to view on their own.
My favorite character from these episodes is Jean Marsh's Sara Kingdom, a character who is even more enjoyable to watch if you are a fan of Marsh's excellent 1970's series Upstairs Downstairs. Peter Purves seems very good in the role of Steven, particularly the way that his robustness and courage complements William Hartnell's rather frail Doctor. It's interesting to see how the show seemed to focus more on other characters, plot, and atmosphere during Hartnell's era since the elderly First Doctor didn't really have as much of a dominating presence as his successors. Kevin Stoney as Mavic Chen is fun to watch- particularly if you have seen him in The Invasion- although his strange make-up job in this story comes across as being a little funny.
It's great seeing the Daleks being portrayed as the evil "gods of Doctor Who" as they seemed to be considered during Hartnell's era. Peter Butterworth's Monk is rather delightful too- compared to other renegade Timelords, the Monk with his mild, almost jovial nature seems much more akin to the Doctor or Drax than to, say, the Master. My favorite scene from the existing episodes is that wonderful, almost surreal scene in which the Doctor, Steven, Sara, and the laboratory mice are teleported from Earth to Mira.
Daleks: The Early Years tape also features a great surviving clip from Episode 4 in which we get to see Nicholas Courtney in his early Who appearance as Bret Vyon. This particular clip happens to been the scene where Katarina dies, and Steven's horrified reaction to this is unforgettably dramatic. For those of us who might have a hard time accepting the Target novelizations or the telesnap reconstructions as adequate replacements for the lost stories, it's very nice to have some of the rare Hartnell and Troughton episodes made available via BBC Video.
A Review by Derek Jackson 20/8/98
I am a Canadian Doctor Who fan so it is difficult for me to get any videos of Doctor Who or to watch it on TV. My father told me all about the program, especially the Daleks. My first TV episode that I watched happened to be the last episode of The Daleks. I became hooked. I went to my local video store and I bought Daleks: The Early Years. I watched it and I saw episodes 5 and 10 of The Daleks' Master Plan. It was incredible.
The plot, the Doctor, Steven and Sara Kingdom were all great. The Meddling Monk in episode 10 was the star of that episode. Mavic Chen, played by Kevin Stoney, was an interesting evil character. I also liked the use of the Daleks: they posed a real threat to the Doctor.
I liked the way the Doctor was very angry in episode 10 when his friends are held prisoners by the Daleks, and he is forced to hand over the taranium to Mavic Chen. But my favorite scene has to be when the Monk lands on an ice world after the Doctor removed his directional unit and then the Monk yelled at the sky and promised to get the Doctor one day.
I became intent on getting the other episodes but I was disappointed to find out that they were lost. I tried to get the book version, but it is out of print. I did, however, found a Doctor Who script site and read the scripts for the episodes as well as The Power of the Daleks and Mission to the Unknown.
In conclusion, episodes 5 and 10 prove that The Daleks' Master Plan is definitely a classic Doctor Who story.
A Review by Stuart Gutteridge 26/10/98
As an epic Doctor Who story when Dalekmania was at its peak, The Daleks' Master Plan is best judged as a tale of two halves. It is a tale worthy of probably six episodes, but not twice the length; and this is why the early episodes work best. The scenes set on Kembel showcase the tense atmosphere, as the Doctor realises something is amiss. The subsequent escape from Kembel comes across as natural, but after a while the cast just seem to be going through the motions in a plot which is virtually identical to that of The Chase.
William Hartnell is superb here, being righteously moralistic and disgusted at The Daleks` actions. Peter Purves, as Steven, whilst out of the action for the early part seems to be enjoying himself, even if he does get very little to do other than be angry and upset over the deaths of his companions. The idea of Katarina as a companion was an interesting one, which was used as much as it could have been in the context of the story. To the credit of the late Adrienne Hill, she was played extremely well -- as was the part of Sara Kingdom by Jean Marsh, although it would have been more interesting if she remained tougher throughout, instead of gradually being softened.
The inclusion of Peter Butterworth`s Monk seemed somewhat superflous, the character deserving another story on his own against The Doctor, rather than struggling for screen time with the Daleks. This said, it was good to see the interaction between Hartnell and Butterworth working so well together. Kevin Stoney however steals the show, with his portrayal of the cold, calculating Mavic Chen. To be fair, the Christmas episode wasn`t really necessary either -- whilst providing a bit of light relief, it just seems out of place, and the scenes set in the film studio were less than enjoyable.
For the most part, however, The Daleks' Master Plan works, proving to be nothing less than entertaining.
A Review by Rob Matthews 8/11/01
Strange beasts, fans. Had this story turned up at any other point in the show's run, the producer, script editor and writer would all have been tarred and feathered for it. Think about it: the Doctor nicks the batteries out of a powerful Dalek weapon and goes on the run for twelve weeks. That's the plot. A couple of companions are killed along the way, the first of whom seems to have been put aboard the Tardis solely for this purpose. And an old enemy turns up for no real reason except padding.
The Daleks' Masterplan has plenty of good points - which I'll come to in a minute -, but its premise is too weak for anyone other than the hopelessly nostalgic to consider it a classic. It all hinges on the idea that the Daleks have constructed a doomsday weapon, the Time Destructor, which for some reason can only be powered by a mineral, Taranium, found exclusively on Uranus. The Daleks don't own any Taranium, and appear never to have owned any Taranium, yet have somehow built a device dependent upon it. This flaw might have been easier to overlook in a shorter story, but here that's all there is. With the Dalek's alliance of creatures from the 'outer galaxies' and Guardian of the Solar System Mavic Chen, one might have expected a bit more of a space opera, something happening other than the Dalek pursuit of the Doctor, a few more plot complications. But apart from a couple of squabbles between the hissing, whispering types that make up the Dalek's gang of allies, there's nothing really interesting going on. In fact, there's no obvious reason for the formation of this alliance at all. And at the end of the story, the Taranium core appears to become exhausted remarkably quickly, making you wonder how effective a weapon the time destructor would really have been.
So, quite a clumsy story really. But the good points are these -
The Daleks improve notably in the Dennis Spooner-scripted episodes. They're cunning and ruthless, at one point horrifying even Chen with their utter callousness. In one scene, one Dalek even 'whispers' to another behind Chen's back - something you couldn't imagine them doing in later years.
Chen himself. He's self-regarding and obtuse, becoming gradually more insane throughout the story and never realising what we - and Steven - can see coming; 'The Daleks don't make allies'.
Sara Kingdom makes a good companion, if a bit Avengers-like. In fact she was ahead of her time as perhaps the most capable of all the TV companions, so it's a shame she didn't stick around for long.
The final episode is superbly tense. The scene where Chen gives the Daleks an order and they all stand silent and impassive reminds me very much (or vice versa) of the similar moment with Davros in Genesis of the Daleks. Because a Dalek's features never change, there's something very chilling about it simply standing silent. And also because of that, it's very easy to picture. The death of Sara is shocking, even on audio (perhaps more so - I don't know how effective the special effects were), and her bravery very moving - 'The time destructor is affecting you'/'Do you think I don't know that?'. Very refreshing, too, for a sixties story to have the male companion stand on the sidelines twiddling his thumbs while the female takes the initiative and rescues the Doctor.
The Doctor's sadness as he takes his leave of Kembel is played to perfection by Hartnell. Remembered alternately for his irritability or his mischievous 'hmm'-ing, it's worth pointing out that he always came through with such scenes (think of his farewell to Susan or his haunting 'It's all over... that's what you said... No... It's far from being all over...' in The Tenth Planet'). Plus, I really like his 'And a merry Christmas to all of you at home' bit. In fact, it's the highlight of the Feast of Steven episode - which was a nice idea in a time when Doctor Who had about four thousand episodes per series, but was sadly abysmally unfunny.
(and Peter Purves compounds the mistake on the audio by narrating in a similarly awful 'comic' style).
Anyway, The Dalek Masterplan is mostly enjoyable - the more so for featuring the Monk, who really ought to have returned in Troughton's era. Twelve (or rather thirteen) episodes pass by surprisingly quickly, and the story has more than it's fair share of standout moments and characters. It's worth any fan's time.
(even if it is strange, now that we're so used to the idea of transmats, to hear the Doc get all excited about 'cellular dissemination'...)
A Review by Kevin McCorry 5/2/02
Having recently purchased the audio CD of this epic story, I've listened and relistened to it to an extent surpassing that with the other audio CDs. The Daleks' Master Plan has made an uncomplicated transition to audio format, all but episode 7, The Feast of Steven, as never once in the other 11 episodes was I unsure of the surroundings or the goings-on. Like a literary saga impossible to "put down", I found it impossible to stop inserting CDs into my DVD player.
In my estimation, this is the most successful of the Hartnell Dalek stories, encompassing many daring escapes over several alien worlds in addition to Earth. In contrast to The Daleks and The Dalek Invasion of Earth, this story is not limited to one planet, and unlike The Chase, the Daleks do not diminish in their stature as efficient, ruthless villains.
The intrigue of the conspiracy, Mavic Chen's wonderful deluded megalomania, and the deviousness of the Daleks gelled so much that only in the aforementioned episode 7 did I become restless.
Essentially, The Daleks' Master Plan consists of two halves, and had it survived on film might have been presented this way in PBS movie format.
The first half was essentially the Doctor discovering the Daleks' plan, eluding the Dalek pursuit by the use of contemporary means of space travel, and searching for people whom he could trust, eventually regaining the TARDIS at the end of episode 6. By this time, the Doctor has lost one companion and one ally while gaining a new TARDIS comrade in Sara Kingdom.
Katarina's death is a heart-wrenching moment. I must admit I was impassive to it when I saw it on the Daleks- Early Years videotape, but here after hearing Katarina's portrayal through four episodes on CD as she struggles to understand what is happening around her and simultaneously assists all of her newfound friends and voices her protest as resoundingly as Steven to Bret leaving the Doctor behind on Kembel, I truly felt for her character and, like the Doctor and Steven, lamented the senselessness of her demise. She did sacrifice herself to prevent the Doctor and co. from having to return to Kembel, but Kirksen would not have gained entry to the spar had the Doctor and Steven been more careful. This was the first time that the Doctor had failed to protect one of his companions, and though Hartnell's soliliquy regarding the "daughter of the Gods" is suitably poignant, there perhaps ought to be something more. I can only imagine how shocking it was to viewers in 1965. Never before had a companion been killed, and for it to happen so soon after Katarina joined the Doctor has a cruel irony about it. Strangely, I'm not as moved by Sara's death later on even though she was with the Doctor and Steven for a longer time.
Nicholas Courtney as Bret Vyon exchanging dialogue with Hartnell's Doctor is further reason why I enjoyed the CD so very much, and the scenes on Earth in Daxtar's office in which the Doctor detects Daxtar's treachery and Bret executes Daxtar flashed before my eyes so vividly that I could easily have been watching it on a DVD. And strangely enough, episode 5 was even more enjoyable on audio than seeing it on video. It and 6 are pivotal episodes in which Sara changes allegiances and the Doctor, her, and Steven outwit the Daleks and steal a Dalek spaceship and dupe the Daleks and Mavic Chen into accepting a fake of the Tarranium core so essential to the universe domination plans of the villains. The Doctor's scolding of Steven for an unauthorized experiment to power the counterfeit Tarranium is perfect Hartnell.
After the Doctor and friends escape Kembel in the TARDIS, the second half of the saga begins, with the superflous Christmas episode, which I found mildly amusing in the police station sequence and downright annoying in the movie studio.
Admittedly, the latter half of the story is not as involving and satisfying, that is until the Meddling Monk appears and spars with the Doctor with the Daleks ever looming. Episodes 11 and 12 are near perfect storytelling as we see the story reaching its end, with Chen, without the counsel of Karlton completely giving into his power-madness and failing to recognize that his Dalek allies are on the verge of exterminating him. When that scene finally comes, it is so very satisfying, which, I guess, is the surest sign of an admirable antagonist portrayal. The climax with the Time Destructor is ably narrated but being the most visual of the story's events is somewhat disappointing on audio (probably why I find it less affecting than Katarina's death scene) but I do like the premise of Sara, the newest companion, returning to assist the Doctor and succumbing unfortunately to the power of the machine. The fatugue and sadness by which the story closes is entirely empathetic. Never before had a Doctor Who story stretched out to this length and it was essential that the Doctor and Steven mention the people lost along the way.
I give this story highest praise. Quite possibly the best Dalek story ever and definitely Hartnell's. Only things I do not like are the hissing of Celation, one of the most annoying Doctor Who characters ever, perhaps second only to James Bree's interrogator in The War Games, and the pointless episode 7. Now, if only the remainder of the story could be found on film...
Not populist, but grim by Tim Roll-Pickering 27/2/02
Based on the BBC Radio Collection release.
The Daleks' Master Plan is one of the most difficult Doctor Who stories to review, not just because of its sheer length but also due to its extremely diverse settings and narrative. More so than most stories, it seeks to present a truly epic tale, ranging from planet to planet and time zone to time zone, giving one of the most varied presentations of the universe ever seen in the series. Drawing upon sources as diverse as the series' own The Chase, the James Bond movies and Z-Cars, the tale that emerges is one full of surprise that cuts new frontiers.
After the sending up of the Daleks in their last full story, The Chase, there's a return to form in this story with the creatures portrayed more ruthless and ambitious than in any earlier story. Their coldness is best demonstrated in the scene in the fourth episode The Traitors when the Black Dalek orders the destruction of Dalek pursuit ships for failure. The callous way in which they execute so many of their allies, even those such as Trantis who have contributed nothing to the immediate failure at hand, shows how little regard they have for non-Dalek life. But despite this excellent presentation, the Daleks are still overshadowed in this tale by the very human Mavic Chen.
Chen dominates the story immensely, helped by a brilliant performance from Kevin Stoney. He makes a fine contrast to the Daleks, demonstrating arrogance, ambition and insanity throughout the story and dominating every scene in which he appears. His speeches are strong, and Stoney's voice at times sounds vaguely like that of the former Prime Minister Harold Macmillan, showing some of the character's roots. Chen is the first 'supervillain' to appear in the series and a good prototype for later examples.
Although the alien delegates are used far less than Chen and the Daleks, they are memorable nevertheless and help to show excellent diversity rather than just being all humanoid. The return of the Monk is a surprise, but Peter Butterworth once again brings a strong performance and ensures that the character works as more than just a mere comic interlude to events. There are some more wonderful scenes between him and William Hartnell and it is a shame that the two were not reunited in a further story.
Equally memorable are the main characters aiding the Doctor, Bret Vyon and Sara Kingdom. The deaths of both Bret and Katarina in The Traitors are especially memorable since they show that good does not always automatically triumph over evil. The subsequent revelation that Bret and Sara are siblings is highly effective, although it is not developed as well as possible. Nevertheless both Nicholas Courtney and Jean Marsh give strong performances that bring their characters to life and make the audience feel genuinely sad at their deaths. Adrienne Hill is poorly used as Katarina, reflecting the character's doomed fate, but both Peter Purves and William Hartnell get some excellent material throughout the entire story.
The plot itself is strong and rarely noticeably drags by introducing successive menaces in a logical succession. The journey from Kembel to Desperus to Earth to Mira and back to Kembel again feels natural and it provides for numerous danger scenes that help to reinforce the fear as well as not over using the Daleks. The seventh episode The Feast of Steven does feel rather out of place however, and could easily be ignored from the plot. Indeed the following episode, Volcano, doesn't even refer to it at all. The Feast of Stephen is one of the worst victims of the archive purge, since more than most other episodes it is highly visual and thus difficult to follow on audio alone. It does contain some good moments however, such as the protracted chase throughout Hollywood, but it is really a standalone Christmas special (making the Doctor's infamous address to the audience at the end seem much more plausible than some have suggested) rather than part of the ongoing saga. Volcano also includes light hearted moments, such as the TARDIS materialising in the closing stages of a dull cricket match, but manages to maintain a strong sense of menace as the Daleks, the Doctor and the Monk all set to converge for the battle over the Taranium Core in Egypt. The final two episodes take us back to Kembel for the ultimate showdown, which sees one of the most imaginative sequences yet in the series as the Time Destructor starts working and affecting all around it. Once more there is a reminder of the grim nature of conflict as Sara is killed horribly and the story ends not in triumph but on a highly downbeat note about all the death and suffering. This is no lightweight tale to satisfy popular demand for the Daleks but an altogether grimmer affair.
The direction is strong throughout the entire epic, whilst the surviving visual material shows the design work in good order. This is a production that has had much attention lavished on it to produce a strong entry into the series' canon that still holds together even as an audio only adventure. 10/10
The audio release is notable for the bonus feature of unnarrated MP3s of all the episodes on the first disc and so it is possible for the purists to hear the episodes without Peter Purves' narration. The narration itself works well in most cases, but is unable to make The Feast of Steven easy to follow due to the nature of the episode. However the final episode Destruction of Time is easy to follow. All in all this is a highly effective audio release and well recommended. 10/10
It shouldn't work, but it does by Jason Thompson 29/3/02
The Daleks' Master Plan should not be as good as it is. It has a plot that can be summed up as "The Doctor discovers the Daleks are planning to conquer the Universe, so he steals a vital component of their ultimate weapon. The Daleks chase him around space, then time, eventually regaining the component. At the eleventh hour, the Doctor turns their ultimate weapon on them, wiping out the entire invasion force." Doesn't sound like much, does it? Additionally, what plot there is has holes you could drive a tractor through in places. Why do the Daleks have this great galactic council? No mention is made of what the representatives have actually contributed, apart from Mavic Chen. His contribution also seems suspect. How old is he supposed to be if he's arranged for fifty years to be spent mining Taranium? Did the Daleks contact him fifty years ago, then wait while he dug up the Taranium to power their ultimate weapon? Why design a weapon that relies for power upon something that can only be found on one of the planets they intend to conquer once they've got the weapon working? Wouldn't it be easier to just make a weapon that used a different power source? Great dramatic license is taken when, in episode eight, the Daleks test the time destructor, but in episode twelve the Doctor states it cannot be switched off and will continue to operate until the Taranium burns itself out. Why don't the delegates seem to be worried when the Daleks exterminate Zephon or Trantis? Where have the Varga plants gone in part eleven? How does the Doctor get into Dalek central control?
Despite all of these problems however, this tale is one of the best in the show's history. At twelve episodes you'd expect it to drag, but it doesn't. Apart from part seven, which was only intended as a one of Christmas pantomime episode (which is why I get so annoyed when I hear people say its rubbish when they're only hearing the soundtrack well out of the context of its original broadcast), only episode three seems devoid of plot development, apparently serving only to set up Katarina's death in the following episode.
That's another reason this story is unique and comes across as an epic; for the first time members of the TARDIS crew die! Katarina's death is done beautifully, especially as all we see is the reaction of the others. When Bret is gunned down less than twenty minutes later we begin to wonder if anyone is safe. In this story, everyone is against our heroes. In the whole twelve episodes they only find two allies, Bret and Sara (and her conversion to their side is well handled too, as she comes to believe them only because of their evident sincerity, rather than because she actually sees any material evidence [she's virtually on their side before the Dalek turns up at the end of part 5]). The Earth security force is out to execute them, the criminals on Desperus want to kill them and take the ship, the Monk is determined to have his revenge, and the ancient Egyptians want to incarcerate or execute them for profaning the temple of Pharaoh. Even the people they meet in episode seven seem dead set on making their lives difficult!
Kevin Stoney provides another factor that lifts this story out of the mire of excessive length and deficient plot that it should languish in. His portrayal of Mavic Chen is fantastic, and watching his arrogance grow as the story progresses is a real treat. His interrupting the Black Dalek in part six, and the Dalek getting more and more agitated as it tries to talk over him, is a sure sign to the viewer that he will soon overstep the mark, and his swatting aside the Dalek's eye-stick in part ten is brilliant and adds to that scene beautifully. Thank heaven that part still exists on film. His descent into insanity at the end of the story is quite disturbing as well.
The story is prevented from becoming dull not only by frequently changing location, but also by the inclusion of a break in the form of part seven (which makes me laugh out loud every time I hear it), the short interludes in part eight, and the arrival of the Monk, the first recurring adversary other than the Daleks. Peter Butterworth brightens up anything he appears in. His final shout that he'd get the Doctor one day is an indication of a rematch that sadly goes unplayed.
And finally, aptly enough, the climax is wonderful. After eleven episodes you're thinking that the end had better be good, and this story doesn't disappoint on that score. It takes the whole of the second half of the final episode, compared to some endings that feel as if they've been tacked on when the writer realised he'd run out of storytelling time. The Doctor's activation of the time destructor (which sounds great; that ticking noise is really eerie) is a desperate attempt to avert a desperate threat. Given that the entire Universe is under threat (a thankfully rare event in Who; just think how boring it would be if the Doctor was constantly saving the entirety of creation), and from a believably deadly source (unlike the explosion of one engine of one space station in Terminus), the ending should be epic, and it is. The Doctor very nearly loses his own life (and Sara does lose hers) to stop the Daleks. It's also worth noting that this is the first time in the show's history that he has taken a pro-active stand against something; previous stories always had him helping out because he was cut off from the TARDIS, or one of his companions was in danger, whereas here the whole group is together and the Doctor has already decided to stop the Daleks, rather than just leave, before they set fire to the jungle and cut off his escape.
All in all, this is a story that shouldn't work at all, but it does, and does it well too. It's such a great shame that ten of the twelve episodes are missing from the archives, but thankfully we can still enjoy the soundtrack.
Master Plan Magic by Nick Needham 13/7/02
Of all my Dr Who audiotapes or CDs, this is the adventure which I revisit most often. Why? Perhaps because the tale is pitched in a wonderfully magical medium between "barely convincing comic strip" and "atmospheric epic". Too much of the former, and I’d hardly want to listen to it. Too much of the latter, and I’d have to listen to it sparingly, only when in exactly the right mood. The genius of The Daleks’ Master Plan for me is that it strikes a golden mean which lures me back to plunge into it over and over again.
First, the comic strip elements. The plot is a mere runaround. Some events are, in the cold light of day, laughably unbelievable, like the pantomime ease with which the Doctor pilfers the taranium core in episode 2 and then the Time Destructor itself in episode 12. As for conquering "the universe"…. Well, there are a fistful more galaxies sparkling out there than the few that have delegates on Kembel. And is journeying between different galaxies really that easy? As for one dictator ruling a whole galaxy… On the other hand, admittedly some comments in the story hint that "galaxy" may be being used loosely to mean "sector of the galaxy", and that the "universe" is really our Milky Way. (For example, Mira is said to be in another galaxy, yet it’s within pretty easy travelling distance of Kembel, which in turn isn’t hugely far from Earth. Terry Nation did the same thing with "galaxy" in Blakes 7.) But whatever the "galaxies" are, would the leaders gather together unprotected in a Dalek stronghold? Whatever happened to the time-honoured role of the ambassador, representing a leader who is safely ensconced in his palace or bunker at home? Are Zephon and Trantis and the others such naively trusting fools, especially towards the Daleks? And the less said about The Feast of Steven, the better. It’s Carry On Up The Tardis and destroys the whole ethos of the unfolding tale. (Maybe it’s best to listen to it on its own on Christmas Days as a one-off.)
And yet together with this, like some rich light falling across a crude tapestry, comes the permeating "atmospheric epic" dimension. The early scenes on Kembel convey a real sense of danger and even glimpses of nightmare – the Vaaga plants, the death of Kert Gantry. Bret Vyon and Mavic Chen transcend their comic book personas and come to life, real characters stepping off the page (Sara Kingdom perhaps less so). The Daleks are ruthless manipulators and killers whose alienness is uncompromising. The Monk introduces a note of comedy into episodes 8-10 which I think blends humour with menace beautifully, rather as many a Troughton adventure did. Some of the minor human characters seem worthy of having longer stories written around them – Lizan, Karlton, Daxtar, Kirksen, Froyn and Rhynmal. And the death toll of the story is grim and unparalleled in Dr Who. Katarina’s demise has a feeling of sheer waste: one can only imagine the look on the Doctor’s face. Bret is gunned down with shocking abruptness just as we were getting to know and like him. And then Sara is snatched nastily away from us at the very end. It’s stretching a point, but we’ve suffered virtually the death of three companions in a single story. As Steven laments with bleak simplicity and a breaking voice, "Bret… Katarina… Sara!"
And so I’m lured back to The Daleks’ Master Plan time and again. I admit its faults; I enjoy its vivacity. And what better tribute could there be to any country or story than a desire to revisit it constantly?
"I will always remember her as one of the daughters of the Gods" by Joe Ford 18/12/02
First let me get my one complaint out of the way and that is how I would like to get my hands on the person who burnt this (and The Web of Fear, Fury from the Deep and others) and kept The Web Planet and The Chase and other such Doctor Who nightmares. I would tie them to a stake and shoot them into little pieces. You see after reaching the twelfth episode of this story I was in almost in tears to think I would never see the visuals to this superlative story.
Patience is needed to follow this story to its conclusion but if you do the rewards are manifold. It is well known that the first six episodes penned by 'escapist action adventure is the way to do it' Terry Nation are the best. This time Terry deserves the praise because they are as wonderfully dramatic as everybody makes out. The initial scenes with Katarina aghast at her introduction to 'the Gods' is a bit awkward (and shows she would have been an odd character to keep around, Ms Hill's performance being a very nervous one) but as soon as we get to Kembel and the Daleks are revealed things pick up considerably.
What is so impressive about this first half is how (considering the shallow action adventure it really is) adult the tone is. The scenes on Desperus with the prisoners are genuinely scary with a real 'every man for himself' feel. The cliffhanger with Kirksen on board the Spar holding Katarina hostage in the airlock is about as graphic and gripping as Doctor Who ever got. It is a raw scene with all the actors selling it for everything its worth, Peter Purves particularly excels with his cries "KATARINA! KATARINA!" as she ejects herself into space to save the rest of them. Ooh it gives me goosebumps just to think about it. Hartnell's passionate response to her sacrifice matches and possibly surpasses his poignant speech at the end of The Massacre, and that's no small praise.
Nick Courtney (hey, its the Brig!) provides able support as Bret Vyon and I was extremely sad to see him killed off so soon. However the writers, obviously aware that this bitter, cynical character would be liked contrive an excellent reason for his demise. He is shot by Sara Kingdom, his sister and played by the ever wonderful Jean Marsh. Now this is one character who deserved to be a companion, she is rude, bolshie, smart and strong... and a renegade on the run too!
The plot is actually stretched very thin throughout the story. The basic run down is, the Daleks use Mavic Chen, Gaurdian of the Solar system, to provide a terranuim core for their time destructor. The Doctor, realising their evil plan, nicks the core and goes on the run with it. The Daleks send Chen after them. They eventually get it back after hopping from one time zone to another. Such a flimsy plot needs strong incidentals to back it up and the direction (judging by the telesnaps) and the terrific dialogue ("I've heard of a housing shortage but I never thought it was so bad that you'd have to spend Christmas in a police box!") and the superb performances keep you rivetted throughout.
The second half, starting with the comedy Christmas episode, does see things go off the rails ever so slightly. The Christmas episode is actually better than reputed and a well judged mixture of good nature and absurdity. And the Doctor saying "A merry Christmas to all of you at home" doesn't embarass, it's actually rather sweet. All the stuff in the Police station is quite funny and the running about on the film set (with the very funny scenes with the Doctor and the clown next to the TARDIS) are just what you need on Christmas day, not Daleks and terranium cores!!!
Even better are the ever so funny scenes on Tigus featuring the return of that pesky Meddling Monk! By this stage Sara and Steven already have a nice chemistry going on and Butterworth and Hartnell play up these scenes for every laugh. With all this talent involved you don't care that the writer (Dennis Spooner, a brilliant character writer) has forgotten the plot just to have a bit of a laugh! The Doctor's jabs at the Monk are brilliant.
Once things move to Egypt though the comedy sinks. It's all stupid accents and culture shocks and you really wish we could get back to the terranium plot. The one saving grace of these two episodes is Hartnell's brilliant negotiating skills in his sun hat. I love how he barks orders out at the Daleks, very funny.
I must mention Kevin Stoney whose performance as Mavic Chen is masterful, he conveys a sense of madness that is actually quite freaky trapped beneath that cool exterior. However I still maintain his Tobias Vaughn (of the classic The Invasion) is the stronger of the two. He holds together these Egypt based episodes well and adds a lot of weight to the twelve episodes. It would be a much weaker story without him.
Things twist into a new direction for the final two episodes and the plot with the time destructor is finally resolved. Sod Caves of Androzani part four, sod Genesis of the Daleks part six... THIS is how to round off a story in true style. All the scenes in the Dalek headquarters have an urgent atmosphere unparalelled in the series. It's not just a matter of staying alive for our heroes... once the time destructor gets its terranium core it is the lives of the whole Solar System at stake!
The last episode especially when the time destructor starts and reduces everything on the planet to dust is drama at its finest and certainly satisfying pay off for twelve episodes on adventure. I was horrified as Sara was aged to death and I was only listening on audio. I can only imagine the response of the viewers watching in 1966. The last few scenes with Steven and The Doctor musing over the death and destruction they've witnessed is a tear jerking coda to an excellent story ("What a waste. What a terrible waste.").
Throughout my love for William Hartnell increased tenfold. He gives a star turn as the Doctor, proving adept at both comedy and drama. There are so many standout Doctor scenes (especially as he threatens the Daleks in the last episode with the working time destructor) and I'm glad I took the time to listen to this just so I could remind myself how talented the man was. He has come in for some stick in recent years and I think it is entirely unjustified, his performances are majestic and I could listen to him all day.
(Technically) The longest story the show has ever attempted and it's a winner. It capatilises on the talents of Douglas Camfield, Dennis Spooner, Terry Nation, William Hartnell, Peter Purves (who is as excellent as ever as Steven) to superb effect. It manages to maintain its length and provide an excellent finale. And what's more it entirely justifies the mad Dalek-fever of the late sixties. For they are at their nastiest, evil and manipulative best.
It's a story to cherish. I just wish I could watch it.
A Review by Michael Hickerson 26/1/04
Epic stories and Doctor Who have never gone well together. The Key to Time saga started well, only to fizzle out in the end and The Trial of a Time Lord stands out as an epic that could have been but wasn't. So, it's interesting to look back to the early years of Doctor Who and look at the original epic story, The Daleks' Masterplan. Here we have 13 episodes of a story -- one that we would expect would be crammed full of drama, tension and excitement. Unfortunately, what you get is six episodes of plot stretched over 13 episodes of airtime and the overall story suffers as a result.
Certainly, one of the more intersting aspects of the Hartnell and Troughton years is to play "which lead is on vacation this week?" By this I mean, it's fun to be on the alert for when a lead character suddenly disappears for an entire episode at a time so that the actor could go on holiday. And we get that here with the very beginning of this story -- the look-in, Mission to the Unknown. It's the only story in all of Who history to not feature the Doctor or any of his companions. And, for the most part, it gets away with it, setting up the situation for us and giving us something to look forward to.
Then, four episodes later, we launch into the 12 episode epic that makes up The Daleks' Masterplan. You've got to give credit to the production team for making the entire story actually work -- given that the Beeb decried that the story would be stretched from six episodes to twelve and they've got a campy Christmas story in there (which adds nothing to the plot... believe me, you can skip episode seven and you miss nothing!) Early on, the story has potential, as we see Mavic Chen and the delegates who are plotting to bring about the destruction of the universe. The early political dealings and manuevering are intriguing enough and even though there's a bit of the tension of rushing around the universe in space ships, it actually seems to work well and keep the plot moving. However, about halfway through the story loses its focus and becomes a bit of The Chase rehashed. We get the Daleks finally getting their time machine and chasing the Doctor across time and space for the core of their time space visualizer. Episodes seven through ten are pretty much filler with some chasing in there and the Doctor and company barely staying one step ahead of the Daleks to keep the core from them. By the time we get back to episode 11 and the political groups, it feels so long since we've been there that it's almost difficult to get back into the rather intriguing political situation that had been unfolding earlier.
But while The Daleks' Masterplan may not work on a plot level, the epic length does accord some strengths to it on a character level. Certainly, this is not a good story to be a companion -- or even a potential companion. Bret Vyon and Sarah Kingdom -- both potential companions -- are killed off and Katarina who was introduced in the closing moments of the last story, comes to a gruesome end. In a lot of ways, this is a coming of age moment for Who since it makes it no longer safe to be a companion of the Doctor and magically protected from death. It makes the cliffhangers a bit more real and gives them more tension since anyone could die at any time.
But if there's one character who stands out, it's Mavic Chen. A lot of this has to do with Kevin Stoney and his superb performance. He's able to overcome a lot of hammy dialogue -- such as saying his name every five or so minutes -- and make Chen interesting. Indeed, he's not just a one-note villian, though he could easily be so. It's great to hear Stoney as the diabolical villain -- a role he plays to the hilt again later in The Invasion and then years later in the radio play the Paradise of Death.
But as it stands, The Daleks' Masterplan is an experiment that only succeeded halfway. Had it been only six episodes it might have been brilliant. Or maybe not. I'm not sure you could have the strong characters you get here with only six episodes.
Chalk up as an experiment that both succeeded and failed.
A Review by Richard Radcliffe 7/8/04
I looked at the price of the latest BBC Audio Collection release. Bit expensive that one, then I realized there were 13 episodes on there. I did my maths and worked out that it was better value than any yet released (cost per episode) - and so took it to the counter. I took it home and put the first CD on - the Doctorless, but still very good, Mission to the Unknown. Now onto the rest.
I always believe it is never a good idea to watch, or listen, to more than two DW episodes at a time. The best way is one episode at a time, but in this world of 45 minute sci-fi two episodes is good too. With a 12 part story this is even more vital. Listen to it all at once, and I'd say you had too much time on your hands! It surely cannot be the best way to ENJOY this story.
Dalek Masterplan is an epic - possibly the only epic that Doctor Who ever did, maybe The War Games is the only that comes close. But Masterplan moves about more and along more than The War Games. It embraces more worlds, it never drags. Apart from the Christmas episode (and this is okay in the context of the chase), the story reads as one whole - and to maintain the interest over one story for that length (we're talking over 5 hours here) really shows it to be a great story.
It was a story of its day too. There is no way it would have entered the schedule of any programme nowadays. But in the 1960s it was deemed a good idea - cash in on the success of the Daleks (even though this was the backend of their mass popularity), it was good for budgetary reasons too. It adapted too, in a way shows cannot do nowadays - the Christmas episode is the best example of this. The Christmas episode is rather funny in fact - much more than I expected - it's nice to see things not being taken seriously all the time. The funniest moment came an episode after though - the Oval cricket scene - now that was brilliant!
One way that the interest is maintained is the movement from world to world. The Doctor has the Taranium Core, the Daleks want it. The story is reminiscent of The Chase in this respect, but it's better than that. And so we move from Kembel, to Mira, to Tigus, with many stops on Earth in between!. Each world is sufficiently different from the last as to make a refreshing change, but each is essential to the stories flow.
Another way to keep the interest going is the vast array of characters introduced, which compliment the existing ones excellently. Mavic Chen is the big villain of the piece - he exudes nastiness and his manipulations are wonderfully selfish. Sara Kingdom is the best new character though. It really is a tragedy that she was killed off - but the shock of that death is part of the drama and appeal of the story. She comes across as strong, feminine, a brilliant character - we get nine episodes of her - I wanted 90 episodes. There's the James Bond type character Bret Vyon - pretty strange hearing Nick Courtney's voice at first - but you quickly can separate Bret from the Brig. The Time Meddler, the Meddling Monk, returns too, and Peter Butterworth is great - his banter with the Doctor really adds yet another great moment to a story full of them.
The star of the show is excellent. There is a great deal of urgency about much of this story, and the Doctor takes the responsibility well. He was never the archetypal hero, but there is something very noble about his portrayal - heroic certainly. The Doctor feels the need quite a lot to assert his authority, but we are left in no doubt who is running the show. William Hartnell could have benefitted from a few more takes at times, but the original still shines bright throughout. Companion Steven is strangely secondary. All the characters from the previous paragraph rise above him in the interest stakes - he suffers as the writer bypasses him, giving the best lines and action to Bret and then Sara. Katarina has to be the unluckiest character in all DW. She is continually included in companion lists - Adrienne Hill's name banded about - yet she joined right at the end of Myth Makers and dies three episodes into Masterplan. And she gets very little to do in those few scenes she is in! Doctor Who literally moved from the weakest companion to the strongest companion.
Dalek Masterplan is always enjoyable. It is so nice to have a story that is not rushed, but contains so much interest and action. Extra time here means extra entertainment - it's quickly become one of my favourites. 8/10
A Review by Finn Clark 4/5/06
Sticking out amid the four-parters of Season Three like a deep-fried baby in a vegetarian restaurant, Mission to the Unknown and The Daleks' Master Plan together are effectively a Dalek season smuggled into Doctor Who. Even overlooking the hiatus of The Myth Makers, they ran for thirteen weeks. That's more or less the running time of every Doctor Who season since 1982.
What's most impressive is that the pace doesn't flag. Doctor Who has four-parters which don't fill their running time. It's surprising to find a six-parter which does. However this epic starts with a bang and doesn't let up. Mission to the Unknown is a grim little prologue which ends with everyone dead, after which the main story hits the ground running. The stakes are high from the beginning, with the Daleks up to no good and the TARDIS crew fighting to save Steven's life from wounds sustained in The Myth Makers. That first episode has an urgency that most stories don't find until part three or four.
Terry Nation penned more than one Whoniverse-shaping classic, but more than any other story this is where he really spread his wings. His other tales are simple adventures. This creates an all-new universe in the year 4000 AD, still one of the most thorough and convincing in all of Doctor Who. To outdo it, you've probably got to leave the television canon. We see intergalactic alliances, planets across the universe and all the breadth, complexity and deviousness of the Daleks' plans in their TV21 comic strip that we never got to see on TV, except here. It's playing a different game from all the rest of the show, even the other famous marathons. The Invasion and The War Games are ordinary stories, but longer. The Trial of a Time Lord is a portmanteau contraption, the Doctor Who equivalent of Doctor Terror's House of Horror. This is none of those. It's different and far more ambitious.
I love the scale of the Daleks' plans and the fact that the script makes us feel their weight. Terry Nation really lets rip. It even does other things that Doctor Who never did. It pulls an Earthshock, and not just once! It kills Katarina. It kills Bret Vyon and makes his murderer the new companion, then kills her too. Unbelievable.
The three surviving episodes are fun, but out of context you don't feel the saga's full scale. On their own they're just three random episodes, although I'm particularly pleased that Escape Switch survived. You've got to marvel at the levels of ambition that led the production team to recreate ancient Egypt, and not even for a whole story but just for a side-step towards the end of one. It looks fantastic! Cleverly they set it at an unfinished pyramid site, which lets us explore lots of visually interesting construction work instead of just horizons, deserts and the occasional palm tree or camel. It's nice to see the Meddling Monk again too.
The funniest bit of the surviving episodes is seeing Mavic Chen dig his own grave shovelful by shovelful as he becomes ever more mad and arrogant. During his "I'll rule the universe" speech in Counter Plot, I actually called "dead man walking" out at the TV. He's a proto-Davros in many ways, giving the Daleks a back-up villain to flesh out their scenes, although to tell the truth I don't actually find Kevin Stoney particularly impressive in the role. He's hamming it up. Far more scary and intense is Maurice Browning, who acts him off the screen as his Peter Lorre-a-like sidekick Karlton. I love him! That bald head, those scary eyes, that intensity... I couldn't take my eyes off him. If you've seen Sin City, he's That Yellow Bastard.
The regulars are mostly great. Nicholas Courtney's iconic presence makes a difference too, although Bret Vyon isn't just an unshaven Brigadier. He's more desperate, more ruthless. However Katarina doesn't really work. The character's too passive and her dialogue's too stilted. She's an interesting experiment, but I can see why they dropped her. I don't blame Adrienne Hill, but Katarina ain't no Leela.
Oh, and Hartnell's panama hat makes him look like a pimp.
Episodes 7-10 are an entire four-parter in the second half where they bugger off and remake The Chase. It has comedy set-pieces by Dennis Spooner (e.g. the "TARDISes landing on the cricket pitch" sequence), Peter Butterworth as the Monk and of course the infamous Feast of Steven. For the latter, if nothing else again you've got to admire the production team's brass neck. Now that's what I call self-confidence. Understandably the tension lessens during these bits, although I loved Hartnell's evil smile as he faces down the Daleks at the pyramid in Escape Switch.
Even visually it's strong. There's some nifty model work on Kembel, while Douglas Camfield makes the Daleks look damn good! They're fantastic in black and white. You've got this extraordinary parade of aliens at the intergalactic conference, like throwbacks from an older age of cinema. 1930s Universal horror movies? No, further back. Their balletic and/or shambling body language, their make-up... it reminds me of nothing so much as Murnau's Nosferatu, followed by Tod Browning's Freaks when they thump the tables at the announcement of the Time Destructor. It's even more mind-boggling than Eccleston's alien parade in The End of the World. However, despite this, the Daleks are more alien and striking than all those freakazoids put together. I also like their variant arms, e.g. flamethrower, compass life detector.
The Daleks' Master Plan isn't just long. It's immense in every way, an epic unlike anything else in Doctor Who. Season Ten tried to recreate it with the back-to-back Frontier in Space and Planet of the Daleks, after which of course there's the staggering Davros arc, but as in so many things there's nothing else like the Hartnell era. Awesome.
Excess, yet it works by Clement Tang 9/3/13
It's amazing that this whole story is the second longest in the history of the show. The only difference between this and Season 23 is that this is so much better.
The plot is mostly the Daleks creating a time accelerator using Taranium as fuel, and the Doctor needs to get this Taranium away from them before everything degenerates. Nice idea, but it would've helped if it was just in six or seven parts to be less slow-paced. I mean, the Monk's appearance seems like a gimmick. Not really that necessary.
The acting from the cast is great, though. Adrienne Hill only lasted three and a bit episodes here, but you can really tell that she's struggling with everything around her considering her era. It's sad that Katarina died so early, but I think Sara Kingdom's death is worse. Jean Marsh is just fantastic. She's ahead of almost every companion in terms of time era, and you can tell she's a much better companion than Katarina. In fact, I would rather see her go further than let us watch Dodo Chaplet board the TARDIS.
The duo of the Doctor and Steven are just great. To this day, I'll never forgive the people who destroyed the films and made Steven very underrated. Come on, his acting is fantastic here. There's a reason why he's in my top ten companion list. And William Hartnell as the Doctor continues to shine in every one of his scenes in the story.
Only three out of twelve (or eleven if you don't count the Christmas episode) remain, which is sad considering this story is enjoyable to say the least.
A Review by Paul Williams 21/3/20
The Daleks' Master Plan fails to realise its vast potential, largely because the plot is insufficient for eleven episodes. I exclude The Feast of Steven as an irrelevant and unfunny - at least in the soundtrack - Christmas sideshow. The rest begins well and maintains tension until Dennis Spooner took over Terry Nation's ideas. Nation excels at worldbuilding, and here he gives us a future universe full of untold stories and interesting characters. The Daleks are back to their best, dominating an unsavoury alliance of warlords, dictators and politicians. They don't actually need any of them, apart from Mavic Chen, who provides the Taranium and then becomes expendable. Whilst the alliance fears and respects the Daleks, this is not reciprocated. The Daleks treat them all with contempt.
Nation's second skill is in developing characters. Chen is magnificent, until Spooner sends him into insanity. Bret and Sara are even better. Bret becomes an honorary companion, far more significant than Katarina, who, we can't really mourn because we didn't know her for long enough. Sara is a real companion, who quickly develops a rapport with Steven. The only issue is the speed with which she accepts the Doctor's story. Having just killed her brother for Chen, she changes sides before seeing the evidence. Her loss is lamentable, even on audio.
The problem with Spooner's contributions are twofold. First, they meander, with the TARDIS materialising during a cricket game and the crew being chased by the Monk. Whilst it's nice to see the Monk back, he doesn't belong in this tale. Secondly, the standard of the supporting characters, apart from the Monk, falls. The Egyptians are forgettable, the surviving delegates are less impressive, and the Daleks lose their cunning. Again, they leave the time travellers alone in their control room and are easily outwitted. Spooner does provide their best line. "One Dalek is capable of exterminating them all." This is immediately undone when they send a patrol with Chen. It's sloppy writing, far removed from the earlier drama.
As the longest story so far in this marathon rewatch of Doctor Who, the first in which companions die and the most detailed depiction of the far future, there is an epic feel but not enough material for the allocated time. It should have been six or seven parts, concluding when the Doctor first returned to Kemble.
Run you clever boy and remember me by Hugh Sturgess 17/11/21
This is a mighty and magnificent story.
This is taking the idea of the "Dalek epic", which was a routine feature of Doctor Who for its first four years, to the extreme: twelve weeks (thirteen counting the Doctor-less Mission to the Unknown) of a single Dalek story. Given that the Doctor does not appear in Mission to the Unknown, and effectively drops into this story out of The Myth Makers, The Daleks' Master Plan is more a pilot series for the Daleks' own TV show, rather than another instalment of Doctor Who with Daleks.
It's twelve weeks long, so yes in parts it does not merely lag but come to a complete halt. Episode seven, The Feast of Steven, is a sidestep in which the Daleks do not appear and instead the Doctor wishes the audience a merry Christmas. In episode eight, nothing happens. The two main plot lines are as follows: 1) the Monk tries to lock the Doctor out of the TARDIS but the Doctor easily fixes the problem and 2) the Daleks test out what they think is the taranium core of the time destructor, but it doesn't work. You could literally drop this entire episode and lose nothing important to the plot. The following two episodes are another sub-story about Egyptians, which serve mainly to find a way to get the Doctor and the taranium back to the Daleks' base on the planet Kembel in the days before he knew how to steer the TARDIS.
But despite the inevitable padding in a story as long as an entire season of modern Doctor Who, The Daleks' Master Plan moves with a near-constant, urgent energy. The TARDIS crew arrives on Kembel in a panic, with Steven critically injured and Katarina completely out of her depth. At the end of episode one, they are obliged to leave the safety of the TARDIS and spend the next eleven weeks running from the Daleks. Even the other protagonists of the story - Marc Corey in Mission to the Unknown and Bret Vyon - are introduced in very similar circumstances: trapped and under attack. The story throws the audience in immediately and doesn't let up.
The story is famously callous with its guest cast, introducing three pseudo-companions for the Doctor and Steven - the Trojan handmaiden Katarina, James-Bond-type Bret Vyon, Emma-Peel-ish Sara Kingdom - and killing them in turn. In the new series, each death would linger for some (quite a few) choice final words and stirring strings. Here, it just serves the constant, unstoppable narrative movement. Since the Doctor and his companions are always running, they can barely stop to mourn anyone, each character in turn being left where they fall.
It's grim, and in places so studiedly cruel to the audience that it occasionally feels unpleasantly cynical. The shock death of Katarina at the beginning of episode four has been remembered as one of only three times a companion has actually, definitively died. No doubt the show's creators would be delighted to know the death of a character who does essentially nothing, has no distinct character traits and has no useful skills, would leave such an impression - since her only purpose in the story is to provide that shocking death. Originally the idea was for Vicki, an actual, honest-to-God companion who'd been around for a few years, to bite the dust here, but the production team thought better of it. So they hastily invented Katarina - solely so a companion would die in episode four.
The cynicism of this is breathtaking. That they made her so utterly out of her depth that she sounds almost simple, and the other characters frequently talk as if she isn't there ("She doesn't really understand," Steven condescendingly says, in her presence, to Bret). This is like writing a puppy into the story solely to run it over with a truck. The scene itself is pretty harrowing. When she is grabbed by the frenzied convict Kirksen, Katarina gives a genuinely horrible, anguished, lingering scream, and later Steven shouts "you animal!" through the airlock door at Kirksen. Viewers at the time (The Daleks' Master Plan is 75% missing, though screenshots and audio for the entirety survive) were then treated to a lengthy shot of her lifeless body floating in space. The show wanted to have a companion - whom the series had already established as completely safe from harm - killed, and they committed fully to doing it in as shocking and casual a fashion as possible.
If Katarina's death is shockingly cynical, then Sara's death is apocalyptic. The Doctor's plan to stop the Daleks is to turn the time destructor, the weapon they have fought so hard to acquire, on them. Racing back to the TARDIS as the time destructor begins to do its work, the Doctor and Sara feel themselves ageing and weakening, as the verdant jungle of Kembel shrivels into dust before their eyes. Sara is dying and she knows it. And of course the Doctor can't help her. He barely survives himself. Steven rescues the Doctor, but it's too late for Sara, reduced to dust. The Daleks, their city and the landscape of Kembel itself are obliterated as time first rushes forward then races backwards. Only the TARDIS remains unaffected by the awesome power of the time destructor. Given that the final destruction of the Daleks and the wholesale devastation of Kembel could never be realised on a 1960s budget in a way that could live up to the premise, one almost hopes that the final episode of The Daleks' Master Plan is never rediscovered.
There is quite a lot of brutality in this story. In the wilderness era, Lawrence Miles put the third Doctor in an ostentatiously "brutal" setting in Interference (at least, he put the third Doctor on a Wild West planet and had everyone comment about how brutal it all was) in what was meant to be a marked contrast with the supposedly more innocent atmosphere of that part of the program. If The Daleks' Master Plan was a Missing Adventures now, we'd all assume the same logic was at work here. A sprawling cosmic epic with tons of casual death, starring William Hartnell? Radical revisionism! The moment that Bret Vyon (note: one of the Doctor's key allies) introduces himself to the Doctor by jamming a gun in his face and saying bluntly, "Give me that key or I'll kill you," has the same kind of jarring nastiness as Magdalena in Interference hurling scalding coffee into the Doctor's face.
So Bret introduces himself by threatening to kill the Doctor. Sara introduces herself by killing Bret - her own brother. The world they are killing to protect, the world the entire story is centred around saving - the Solar System of 4000 AD - is, from what we see, a highly regimented society filled with lots of gun-toting people in uniforms who do what they're told. In another story, this is the kind of regime the Doctor would want to overthrow, but here there's the unspoken calculation that anyone is better than the Daleks. The world of Bret and Sara adds a delicious acidity to the story; this is a dangerous society where anything other than instant obedience may get you killed. The fact that Marc Corey is said to have a "licence to kill" and Mavic Chen quotes Churchill gives it an almost subversive edge.
It's interesting that this is the third in a string of four stories (counting Mission to the Unknown) that ends in a massacre. The next one will literally be title The Massacre. John Wiles must have been trying to make some kind of point by taking the Doctor from the fall of Troy to the far future where he loses three of his friends, and then to the Massacre of St Bartholomew's Day. The ethos conveyed by this stretch of the series is so bleak it makes Eric Saward's run on the show look like Delta and the Bannermen. Quite what point Wiles could have been trying to make is unclear. Possibly it's the same as Saward's: that the universe is a dangerous place and if you show violence, it should hurt. If you can't change history, history should show you atrocities that make you feel sick. If you face the Daleks, you should see loved friends cut down mercilessly.
But it isn't just Wiles. It was Verity Lambert who oversaw Mission to the Unknown and Innes Lloyd produced The Gunfighters, which ends with a similarly bleak massacre at the OK Corral. As if recognising that the Doctor himself is about to die - Wiles wanted to force Hartnell out during his tenure but failed - the entire series has a faint sense of doom and decay about it.
Perhaps because its length and the return of the Daleks made the serial count as a big deal (it certainly received a lot of press attention at the time), everyone seems to be working twice as hard on this one. Virtually every episode has some small delight that shows a production team committed to making something great rather than just meeting a contractual obligation to show Daleks. Terry Nation isn't famous for his naturalistic dialogue, but there is an exchange between two bit characters in episode one that quickly and smoothly introduces Mavic Chen as a figure of great respect, establishes fortieth-century Earth as a utopian but vaguely totalitarian place and includes a host of background details that sketch out a world where real people live. Later, in the most pointless episode of the serial (Volcano, in which the Monk tries to break the TARDIS but fails and the Daleks try to test the time destructor and fail), Chen says that the Daleks believe the Doctor's human appearance is "just a disguise", an almost scary concept that I believe has only ever been picked up on in Dave Stone's Sky Pirates!.
In episode ten, Chen broadcasts his voice across the Great Pyramid of Giza in ancient Egypt so the Doctor will hear him. One Egyptian tells another that it is the voice of the gods, but the other knows better: the gods would speak words their people understood. It's a great line because it treats the Egyptians as smart people within their own frame of reference, not ignorant savages who can be fooled by advanced technology. Later, these spear-wielding primitives manage to trap a Dalek by piling stones up around its base.
One episode has the Daleks find an experiment involving mice and wondering if the mice are dangerous. The festive Christmas episode, The Feast of Steven, has the TARDIS briefly materialise on a cricket pitch and the commentators spend time wondering if something like it has happened before. While no one has ever produced concrete evidence that Douglas Adams saw either episode, he was a viewer as a child.
Even small parts are executed well. Maurice Browning's Karlton (Chen's second-in-command) is a terrifying goblin of a man who utterly steals episodes four and five from Chen. Peter Butterworth's Monk, the first villain after the Daleks to get a return appearance, is brilliantly funny. It's a layered performance, despite first appearances, as Butterworth manages to convey the sense that the Monk's foolishness and cowardice are something of an act that he enjoys playing - oddly prefiguring the camp of later incarnations of the Doctor and the Master. His antics certainly wind up his enemies: there's a hilarious moment when Chen loses his patience with the Monk and screams in his face to return the taranium core. His rapport with Hartnell is superb as well.
Obviously it isn't perfect. The outline of the Daleks' plan is rather obscure, given that it involves them assembling an alliance of the "outer galaxies" (a bizarre cast of delegates that is either hilariously ridiculous or wonderfully bonkers - a truly side-splitting scene in which these fearsome warlords react to an alarm by jumping on a table and making meep-meep noises may help you decide), only to then betray them and lock them up - what exactly did the Daleks gain from all this? The seaweed-headed Zephon tells Chen that the outer galaxies "contributed" to the alliance as Chen did with the taranium core, so maybe they all had some vital component of the time destructor, but this is never mentioned. Likely the scriptwriters simply forgot the details somewhere between episode two and episode eleven.
Equally, the fact that the Doctor spends two and a half months (for the viewers) trying to keep the taranium core away from the Daleks, only for the solution to be to give it to them, makes everything seem a little stretched.
Nevertheless, a story that took three months to tell and was penned by two separate writers holds together remarkably well. When Russell T Davies said that he wrote The Parting of the Ways in the spirit of the '60s Dalek epics where anything was possible, he was talking about this story, that crosses galaxies and millennia with a budget of next to nothing, depicts alien civilisations and massive invasion fleets with nothing but words, and depicts the Daleks as a uniquely dangerous threat in a way only the 1960s could. It's the only one of Hartnell's Dalek stories to be missing (partially as it is) from the archives, and seems to have lacked the iconic moments that got The Dalek Invasion of Earth remembered, so gets less attention than some of its stablemates. For mine, it's the best of the four, and is a genuine testament to what Doctor Who in its most technically limited era could aspire to and achieve.