THE DOCTOR WHO RATINGS GUIDE: BY FANS, FOR FANS

The Dalek Master Plan
BBC
Mission to the Unknown
aka. "Dalek Cutaway"

Episodes 1 'Victory!  Victory!'
Story No# 19
Production Code T/A or DC
Season 3
Dates Oct. 9, 1965

Written by Terry Nation. Script-edited by Donald Tosh.
Directed by Derek Martinus. Produced by Verity Lambert.

Synopsis: Space Secuirty Agents discover a hidden Dalek base on Kembel in the prelude to The Dalek Master Plan, which does not feature the Doctor or his companions.

Note: Audio recordings and telesnap reconstructions of this story are available at Missing Doctor Who Reconstructions & Audios.


Reviews

A Review by Stuart Gutteridge 19/10/98

With no TARDIS crew, this episode must have come as a shock to viewers, given what they had seen before and would see one week later. Mission To The Unknown does succeed, however, (due largely to the nation riding in the sails of Dalekmania) as it is an experimental episode and serves as an appetiser for the forthcoming Daleks` Master Plan.

The jungle sets of Kembel prove to be an effective backdrop to the action and Edward De Souza as Marc Cory is impressive, if perhaps typically macho, like so many male characters at the time. The first signs of the Daleks` plotting and scheming are obvious here, and they are especially effective in the conference room with the other delegates, proving they weren`t just machines, something that would be carried on into the Troughton era.

Production values are generally high as well, with the alien delegates and the jungle benefitting from a great use of imagination (especially with the make up and costumes). As for the aliens themselves, they are largely effective due to their design, costumes, appearance and voices, ably matching the sinister atmosphere which is present throughout the story. Whilst the incidental music is a little grating at times and often unnecesarily overdramatic, it doesn`t detract from the tale. This is only a minor quibble, as the remainder of the episode proves that the Daleks could`ve been popular in a show of their own, (as their creator Terry Nation believed at the time).


The Experiment Gone Right by Peter Niemeyer 1/9/01

Yes, yes, everyone knows how Mission to the Unknown is the only 22-minute serial in Who's history and that none of the regular cast appear and that the storyline isn't related to the following episode. But I wonder if everyone knows how good this episode is.

The official title is Dalek Cutaway. Before seeing it, I thought of it as Dalek Throwaway. How could such a meager piece of Doctor Who history entertain?

But it did. From very early on, Gantrey's desire to kill put me on edge. I could also feel Marc Cory's desperation to warn Earth of the Daleks' plan. Good stuff!

The Varga plants were wonderful enemies. They moved too slowly to catch you outright, but one prick from their thorns and you're done for. In fact, I found them far more menacing then the Daleks, who exterminate you in a few seconds and you're done for. With the Varga plants, it's a slow descent into homicidal madness. Awesome!

I really wish I could have seen this episode like viewers back in 1965 saw it. What was it like to keep wondering when the TARDIS would show up, and then realize that it wasn't showing up? What was it like to wonder what the whole thing meant when in the following week the Doctor and crew arrived not on Kembel but in Troy? Alas, I shall never know.

One Thing I'd Do Differently: I would like to have seen some familiar faces in the alien council. It would have been easy enough to throw in a Voord, a Morok, a Mechanoid (though I suppose this wouldn't have made sense if the Daleks were hosting the conference), or a Drahvin. And it would have been so cool to say, "Oh no! The Daleks are teaming up with the Voord!"

One Thing I Wouldn't Change: The sets of the Kembel jungle. Very eerie. It was one of the few hostile alien landscapes in Hartnell's day, and far more effective than the Mechanoid planet and it's muppet-esque fungus.


Doctor Cutaway leaves what? by Tim Roll-Pickering 26/10/01

This story is probably the single most bizarre in the entire history of Doctor Who. The Doctor and his companions don't appear (though William Hartnell is credited, presumably for contractual reasons), the lead character is a person never seen before who gets killed at the end and in recent years both the story title and production code have spawned huge arguments amongst fans and these disputes have received far more attention than the story itself.

The basic storyline is straightforward. It's not unusual in a Doctor Who story for there to have been an earlier 'lost expedition' that sought to find out just what was going on but disappeared and for the Doctor and companions to join a later search party, as happens in The Daleks' Master Plan. It is, however, strange for the viewer to get to see the lost expedition itself. It is highly debatable whether or not this is necessary for enjoying The Daleks' Master Plan but Mission to the Unknown provides additional exposure of both the planet Kembel and the Daleks' plans.

The main characters are Marc Cory and Gordon Lowery, played by Edward de Souza and Jeremy Young respectively. Of the two Cory is by far the stronger. The references to the 'Space Security Services' and 'Licensed to Kill' show the character's roots but Cory is a far cry from Sean Connery's portrayal of James Bond, being a far more desperate and downbeat agent who will take whatever measures are necessary to complete the mission. Lowery is weaker and clearly out of his depth in this environment, but Jeremy Young makes him believable. Barry Jackson has the much smaller role of Jeff Garvey but manages to come across as a believable possessed man.

Also on display are a lot of monsters, including no less than six different alien delegates, each looking distinctly different from the others, as well as many Daleks and the Varga plants. The Daleks are presented as a far more convincing threat here than in their last story, The Chase, with successive events showing them as a force to be reckoned with, whether Cory's explanation of his mission to Lowery or Malpha's speech announcing the beginning of the great alliance, and this bodes well for the larger story.

The story moves so fast that there is very little time to stop and miss the Doctor and his companions - which is fortunate although such an absence would not have worked had it been continued for another episode.

This story is a strong trailer for the later epic story, although why it was broadcast between Galaxy 4 and The Myth Makers rather than being held back until immediately before The Daleks' Master Plan is impossible to understand from a modern perspective. As a rough pilot for Terry Nation's later plans for a Dalek television series it is also a strong piece, showing how given strong scripting and a suitable environment the Daleks can carry a story themselves - as they did in many 1960s comic strips and books. Mission to the Unknown is all too short and leaves the viewer wanting more. 8/10

Loose Cannon have once again worked miracles given the small amount of material available for this story. No visual material existed for any of the three human characters so they've successfully created a whole series of composite pictures that are impossible to spot without knowing this. Some moving material from other Dalek stories has been successfully used to bring a little motion to the pictures and the whole thing is topped and tailed by Edward de Souza introducing the story and providing a few anecdotes. Also on the tape is 'Mission to the Unknown - Reunion', in which Edward de Souza, Jeremy Young and Barry Jackson sit down together to answer questions and reminisces. All in all this is a fine reconstruction and well worth getting. 10/10


Daleks go large behind the Doctor's back by David Barnes 28/7/02

Mission to the Unknown, as everyone knows by now, is the shortest television story in Doctor Who. Lasting only an episode, this story serves as a teaser for The Daleks' MasterPlan, a space epic in which the Doctor does a runner with a vital component from a super weapon and the Daleks chase him trying to get the component back. Mission to the Unknown is an often overlooked story, owing both to its short length, the absense of the Doctor and his companions and the fact the episode no longer exists visually. But with the bumper CD release of The Daleks' MasterPlan (which also contained Mission), we can finally judge the story.

With the Doctor, Steven and Vicki out of the picture, the roles of the heroes fall to two astronauts, Edward de Souza as Marc Cory and Jeremy Young as Gordon Lowery. Both of these characters are well thought out and played very convincingly. Marc Cory is a typical soldier, relunctant to show any emotion, especially fear (unless Daleks are involved.) Lowery is a lot less restrained, and one suspects he is most probably mad.

The third astronuat, Jeff Garvey, played by Barry Jackson, is a baddy from the start, for he has been stung by a Varga Plant (more on them later). Barry puts in a superb portrayal of a man losing his humanity as he is consumed by the Varga. Jeremy Young is also good when he gets stung, but Barry Jackson is the better out of the two.

The main villains are obviously the Daleks, but they are not alone in this story. For the Daleks have made allies with several delegates of planets or systems around the Universe. These alien delegates are not particulary well depicted as hardly any speak (although the bits where the aliens are required to show appreciation take a good step towards giving them different personalities). Indeed, the majority are not even named (John Peel gave them names in the novelisation: Trantis, green alien with tendrils hanging from his face; Gearon, a facless being with an egg shaped head; Sentreal, a tall alien, his face indistinguishable due to the chlorine fumes he breathes; Warrien, a creature that looks like a human; and Beaus, a strange half creature, half vegetable being). The only one of the aliens who really has anything to say is Malpha, played by Robert Cartland, who plays Malpha with a very craggy, throaty voice, which sounds very good (although this effect was ruined when Malpha was recast in MasterPlan and had a normal, booming voice).

The Daleks themselves are very true to form, and the voices are more mechanical than they were in The Chase. They obviously have some large scheme brewing but the listener only knows of their objective (complete take over of the Universe), not the means by which the Daleks expect to achieve it.

The Varga plants are a worthwhile addition to the series. They are a walking plant that have spines which, if they should prick the skin, turn a human into a Varga (whether this works with other aliens is not found out). The Vargas were so good that the concept was reused in several stories, most notably in The Seeds of Doom with the Krynoid and The Ultimate Foe (sometimes incorrectly referred to as Terror of the Vervoids) with the Vervoids.

The plot itself is thin; Marc Cory realises there are Daleks on the planet Kembel and attempts to warn Earth, but is exterminated before he can do so. But the episode is a very good trailer for the upcoming Dalek epic, as well as being a rather satisfying tale in its own right. 8/10


Better than I expected by Konstantin Hubert 23/7/04

Although not popular and rarely an object of debate among fans or even a point of reference, Mission to the Unknown holds a very special position in the history of Doctor Who for various reasons, most of which have been mentioned by the other reviewers. It is the shortest televised Doctor Who story, consisting of a single part (25 minutes), the only story that doesn't feature the Doctor and along with Deadly Assassin the only one that doesn't feature any companion. Moreover, Mission to the Unknown is the only episode, the storyline of which isn't related at all to the events of the subsequent episode, Temple of Secrets of The Myth Makers, and the last episode produced by Verity Lambert, the series' first producer.

The final reason concerns its function itself: it serves as the setter to The Daleks' Master Plan, the programme's longest tale (what a stark contrast resulted since the smallest tale spawns the biggest one). Because of those reasons, Mission to the Unknown acquired striking characteristics and yet before becoming familiar with it I used to overlook it, so that I was surprised when I found myself enjoying it and ready to admit its merits. Mixing elements of horror and science fiction and setting again the story in a bleak, hostile and uncivilised area, Terry Nation creates a decent prequel-advertisement to the mammoth serial.

The episode opens with a depiction of the most perilous planet Kembel, in the jungle of which are stranded a few Earthrmen, Marc Cory, Jeff Garvey, Gordon Lowery, whose spaceship has crashlanded and they are trying to repair it. Jeff Garvey has been stung by a lethal Varga plant and is being tormented by a lust to kill. Since the very first minutes an oppressive and dangerous atmosphere is presented, which will characterize almost every scene of the episode. This jungle atmosphere on Kembel is so well-made and effective that it thrills the viewer both visually and acoustically as it looks truthful and is animated with the sounds of the numerous creatures that dwell there. During all jungle scenes, several creatures are heard twittering or croaking or uttering other sounds and the result is undoubtedly wonderful, a chorus of animals that gives realism and vigor to the seemingly deserted landscape. The ambiance on Kembel is what impressed me the most because you feel that you are actually there, in the jungle. The settings of Planet of Evil are unbeatable but acoustically the ambiance on Kembel surpasses that of Zeta Minor, it excels and so I offer congratulations to George Prince and the production team in general for Kembel's awesome atmosphere.

The not explicit title and the jungle atmosphere arouse our curiosity: are we watching a Doctor Who version of Joseph Conrad's novella Heart of Darkness? Since written by Terry Nation, will the Daleks appear? When first transmitted in October 1965 fans of the series must have been fascinated with this episode and tempted to watch the continuation and surprised at the Doctor's absence. The Daleks show up spreading in no time death and destruction but prior to their appearance other monsters mark their debut, the Varga plants. Opulent in settings and especially in creatures, Mission to the Unknown with its horror atmosphere, action and suspensul outcome satisfies the average science fiction fan and since brief whets one's appetite to see the events that ensue. It unfolds in four different places, the jungle on Kembel, inside two spaceships, the Dalek one and that of the humans and the meeting hall, where the aliens are gathered and introduces a number of new creatures disproportional to its duration: the Varga plants and about four more races, of which Malpha, the grim humanoid figure with the bald, striped head stands out. Although the identity and powers of the alien races are not made known and although they don't accomplish their excessively ambitious long-term aims, they glorify with much optimism their alliance in the end. If I were familiar with all stories of the series, I would have known if Mission to the Unknown is the only story with a tragic, ominous, evil-triumphing ending or not.

Mission to the Unknown presents defects only, at least in my opinion, in terms of plot and characterization. Since its purpose was to briefly set the basis of a twelve times bigger tale the attention was focused on the production of an action-packed episode without much depth. The viewer shares Garvey's and Lowery's ignorance of the reason they are on Kembel. With the exception of the protagonist Marc Cory, no other man knows why they have arrived on the world of Kembel, which results in a truly ridiculous situation. After gunning down Garvey, the always calm and stoic Marc Cory reveals to Lowery for the first and last time that he is a Space Security agent and brought them on this place, which he calls the most hostile planet in the universe, because he had a vague belief that it might be an ideal seat of Dalek activity and by exploring the planet he would verify if his suspicions were right and if correct, try to uncover the plans of the Daleks.

Both sides are to be blamed: on the one hand, the two naive and pitiable companions, who accept to take part in a mission to the unkwown, the purpose of which they ignore, and on the other hand, the adamant and heartless agent Cory, who consciously brings his fellow humans on a very hostile, deadly place without informing them beforehand of the mission's purpose (there is no rational reason to conceal the purpose) and of the perilous environment they will go to and equally importantly without taking the necessary precautions to protect themselves from the various dangers! From his sayings we can infer that he is a Dalek expert and yet even after becoming aware of the existence of Varga plants on Kembel, he doesn't protect himself and his one companion, for example by wearing a tough armor, which the stings of those plants cannot penetrate. No sane and self-respecting person would ever be willing to dive in the heart of a highly dangerous area without the necessary equipment and assistance...

The gravely damaged spaceship, which crashlanded, dramatises the situation as much as it renders it still more laughable, because it involves an irresponsible man who brings himself and others to a very dangerous area on board of a badly functioning space vessel or on board of a vessel controled by an inexperienced, incompetent captain (if the captain only knew what planet his ship was heading for, he would have changed course or been much more careful!). We don't see the Earthmen exploring the jungle but trying to repair the spaceship and discussing, which isn't so fascinating or interesting.

The three human characters are one-dimensional: Garvey and Lowery are simply portrayed as victims of the Varga plants and of Cory, who leads them to hell and there kills them. So submitted to Cory Lowery is that when he learns the shocking truth, he doesn't resent nor curse Cory, doesn't get angry with him at all, as if he fears him or finds his inadmissible secret mission reasonable and acceptable. Cory himself is the literally dangerous, mentally ill agent, victim of the Daleks and of his own foolhardiness and carelessness. Edward de Souza animates him well, but I can't sympathise at all with his cruel, senseless like a robot, naive character, he displeases me. For Cory, the mission to spy on the Daleks and hinder their plans outweighs human life itself. The naivety of all of them led them to doom and this tragic fate seemed inevitable. The expressions "errare humanum est", "haste makes waste" and "a fool's errand" sum up their tragedy.

Some may wonder how Mission to the Unknown should be regarded: as the first part of The Daleks' Master Plan or as a separate, independent story? It has both a beginning and an ending (not a cliffhanger) and a clear aim: to reveal that the Daleks have allied with several alien races and together plan to conquer worlds or destroy them and thus lay the foundations of a new Dalek serial. The ending is somewhat childish, showing Malpha threatening to reduce galaxies to ashes and then the Daleks and the other aliens shouting enthusiastically "Victory, victory!" but it closes the story. It obviously leaves it in suspension however, so it is arbitrary to decide whether it is an independent one or part of The Daleks' Master Plan or both. John Peel novelised it and included its literary version (three chapters) in the novelisation of The Daleks' Master Plan, which means that it could be safely considered part of The Daleks' Master Plan. No matter how one regards Mission to the Unknown, independent or not, it isn't a great episode but one which was beyond my expectations and surely serves as a proper, original prologue to the longest-running Doctor Who serial.


A Review by Richard Radcliffe 1/8/04

The only "official" 1-parter in the history of the programme has just been released with the slightly longer Dalek Master Plan. It is really one superlong 13 part story. But seeing as it is classified as 1 part, 1 story - then I will review it thus.

It is an excellent prequel for the Dalek story to come. As a teaser for the upcoming special it whets the appetite well - which is exactly what it was supposed to do. The big surprise is that it did not lead straight into The Dalek Masterplan. It must have been quite a surprise, and for many a disappointment, to see Myth Makers follow it, and not have Masterplan for entertainment. I would wager that most people would have forgotten it, 4 weeks is a long time. It is only with our past referencing and listings galore that we can join the two, and we now can enjoy these things in their logical order.

The very fact that the episode is Doctor- and companion-less, makes it unique. It is hardly noticed though, as the drama that unfolds is riveting enough by itself. The small party of spies who arrive on Kembel, who have to tackle the vicious fauna - and succumb to a thorny grave. The group of monsters that have allied themselves with the Daleks. There is plenty of visual reference available too, so much so that you can imagine Verity Lambert standing with this group round the table. The calibre of the monsters on offer too are very good, considering theirs is a short appearance. These monsters look pretty good, but they are hardly well used.

Whether this sort of thing could be a series in its own right (ie Dalek only series) is a matter of opinion. I don't think so, 1 episode without the Doctor is a novelty - more than that and the interest would soon wane. An episode that was the result of there being so many DW episodes to enjoy, an extra slice of the DW universe - and the first side-step! Pretty good. 7/10


A Review by Brian May 11/7/11

Mission to the Unknown is an oddity for the classic series of Doctor Who, being only one episode long and not featuring the regular cast. For contemporary viewers, this must have been perplexing, although the presence of the Daleks would have been somewhat reassuring. However, the following week, turning up in Trojan times with no reference to this adventure at all might have had them worrying again (although attentive readers of the Radio Times would have been aware there was indeed more to come).

It's good to see the Daleks taken seriously again after the embarrassing antics of The Chase; in just the single episode, they are restored to their rightful position of competent evil. A downbeat, fatalistic tone prevails, not helped by the unsympathetic protagonists. While Marc Cory fulfils the hero function, he's rather cocky and smug; Gordon Lowery is more the audience-identification figure, but he's not given the chance to become too empathetic in his brief appearance. However, Edward de Souza and Jeremy Young are very good in their roles as ersatz regulars. The direction was undoubtedly polished thanks to the presence of Derek Martinus, while the stills of the conference attendees attest to imaginative costuming. As it was a different production block to The Daleks' Master Plan, the jungle set of Kembel probably wasn't the one used in the upcoming epic, of which we have visual evidence of its high quality. For this episode, we have no such record, so evaluating the design overall isn't possible. Here's hoping it was similar. (It's also a pity no images of the Varga plants exist; they would have been interesting to see.)

The only real problem with the story is the cheesy stock music. It's meant to sound moments of dramatic oomph, but these very same incidents are clear enough without this signposting. In fact, the total absence of music would have been much better. But that's a small complaint. This is a very good, moody, unique episode. 8/10