Doctor Who — The Daleks’ Master Plan

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Season 3 – Episode 4 – (1965-1966) 
Doctor: 1 – William Hartnell
Companions: 
StevenKatarina (Katarina dies), Sara (Sara joins and dies)

Let’s talk about Katarina; the new companion joining from ancient Greece, played by Adrienne Hill. She was a problem. Accounts vary but things centre around the idea that she was potentially intended to be a long term companion until the writers realised that being from ancient Greece meant that she wouldn’t understand any contemporary moments that might be functional yet minor within the plot. Katarina had to go… We’ll get to it.

Before I even get to the plot – this review is going to be complicated… In a way, The Daleks’ Master Plan is the focal point of so many events: There are firsts, lasts, departures (both behind and on the screens). The show is changing and this is a great place to discuss it. Inflated post time… Into the plot…

After Steven was poisoned in Greece, The Doctor is hoping that they will materialise somewhere that they can find aid. The materialise on Kembal, the planet from Mission to the Unknown. As discussed in the previous post, Verity Lambert, the much admired first producer had left, leaving John Wiles in charge. He was not happy, particularly as Verity had commissioned a mammoth 12-part Dalek story in the middle of a 10 story season; this was going to devour the budget. He wasn’t the most popular figure either after axing Maureen O’Brien’s character, Vicki… Let’s see how this has a knock-on effect. So as The Doctor hunts for help we have two other plots to follow.

Mavicchen

Mavic Chen (Guardian of the Solar System in the 42nd century) has allied with the Daleks to betray the solar system. We’ll discover more on this, of course but we begin to see him (and he’s in yellow-face!) Also, finally, we get a conclusion to Mission to the Unknown, with two space heroes coming to find out what happened to their lost astronaut. The key fellow here is a man called Bret Vyon – He’s played by an actor called Nicholas Courtney who most Doctor Who fans will recognise as playing The Brigadier. If you’re not a fan, he will become one of the most important names in Doctor Who.

So here are our plot threads and it turns out things don’t go to plan! The Doctor goes to find help, is accosted by Bret, who knocks him out, steals his key and breaks into the TARDIS. Steven comes around through plot convenience and disables Bret. The Doctor re-enters, restrains the man and goes exploring again. Bret manages to talk Katarina around by offering help. He administers medicine to Steven and this heals him, meanwhile the Doctor discovers the Daleks.

The MacGuffin[1] is a mineral known as Taranium. Part 2 has The Doctor stealing this, which turns out to be the power source of the Dalek weapon. The plot comes together with, more or less, Bret forcing our group to get involved in the conflict. The Doctor infiltrates a meeting with the Daleks to find out he should take the MacGuffin. Then the Doctor, companions and Bret steal Mavic Chen’s ship. Episode 3 has them on the run with knowledge that the Daleks want to capture them and the crash on a prison planet. A convict stows aboard and after take-off, he holds Katarina at knife point. Bret navigates the ship (episode 4) to jerk both the prisoner and Katarina into an airlock… Everyone pleads but Katarina opens the airlock and blows herself and the convict into space. She’s dead.

The plot continues and they land looking for help but of course quite a lot of it is a trap. Mavic Chen is supposed to be representative of the solar system and his working with the Daleks is a secret. So the earth soldiers are pitted against each other, either fighting the revealed Daleks or supporting Chen… Chen’s soldier, a woman called Sara Kingdom, kills Bret but this gives The Doctor and Steven a chance to run. They reach a room with a teleporter but Sara finds them and all three are teleported. (I could cry because there is so much more plot to go. I beg you stick with me.)

It turns out Sara is Bret’s sister and she killed him out of loyalty to Chen, but the Doctor and Steven niggle at her conscience. They are on another planet now. The plan is full of great, vicious… invisible… aliens who pursue them. The Daleks are also pursuing so the invisible aliens attack the Daleks instead. We now have hark-backs to The Chase. The Daleks have space-time travel and The Doctor, Sara and Steven hijack their ship, which is pulled back to Kembal. The Doctor makes up some fake Taranium to fool the Daleks and promises to deliver this only at the doors of his TARDIS. The handover goes well and they dematerialise and land in a polluted place. Most stories would finish here but no… We’re at the half way point (episode 6 just finished).

Right. Behind the scenes came Christmas and the general consensus was that the viewership would not be watching with any great interest. Episode 7 was basically a bizarre interlude that vaguely followed the plot but didn’t at the same time. They materialise on Earth in the 1960s but at a movie studio. They give the police the runaround. The reassure Bing Crosby that he will be a success and they get back into the TARDIS and toast to Christmas… Oooh and then the infamous moment. The Doctor turns to the camera and wishes a “Merry Christmas to all of you at home”. They then leave Earth.

Back in with episode 8 and the Taranium betrayal is discovered by the Daleks and then want to follow The Doctor and co… Our group are then flying through space and time and being pursued by an unknown follower… So they land in the middle of a cricket match… followed by escape to a volcanic planet. The scanning device that detects pursuit in flight reads negative but The Doctor comments that this means that the follower has landed with them… The follower is not the Daleks though but an old friend. The Monk from The Time Meddler. So the Monk, out for revenge, disables the TARDIS lock and runs away. No worry of course, because The Doctor reflects sunlight of the right sort of star onto the lock to undo the Monks mischief… erm right… ok…

steve

Home Stretch! Everyone lands in Ancient Egypt and The Doctor attempts to fix the lock on the TARDIS. It all gets a bit complicated as the Daleks, the Monk and the Doctor’s team are all trying to circumvent each other. The Monk is caught by the Daleks and made to swear alliance. The Doctor is a step ahead and sneaks aboard the monks TARDIS, breaking the chameleon circuit so the Monks TARDIS resembles a police box… he also steals a directional unit from the Monks TARDIS and this is VERY important.

So it all gets a bit complicated and everyone is after their own thing but finally the Doctor uses the directional unit to return to Kembal (it’s a good idea to be able to specify where he wants to go this one time). I just want to get to the end. The Doctor tells his companions to wait in the TARDIS and Steven does but Sara doesn’t. The Doctor sneaks into the Dalek base and actually activates the Dalek doomsday weapon by putting the Taranium into it. The weapon is a “Time Destructor” it simply causes vast amounts of time to flow for everyone.

He scares the Daleks with its use and then activates it anyway on his escape. Unfortunately Sara has come back for him. The Doctor is already known as a longlived alien. Sara is not. The whole planet goes through years and years of aging and Sara tries to help the Doctor but literally ages to death and it’s horrific and gorgeous as a concept.

 

As time passes, the Daleks whither and die too and so ends the final Dalek story of Hartnell’s era and boy is it a whopper. It’d be unbeatable if it weren’t for the two that followed…

The Doctor and Steven sadly leave Kembal… everyone’s dead… everything is dark… goodnight kiddies….

The show understood the darkest side of the Daleks and they really tried to capitalise. Everyone dies and arguably it won’t be this dark again. 

This story takes 5 hours, most of which has to be seen through audio and reconstruction. If you’re a Doctor Who fan it’s a must watch – if you’re not up for that, wait for Steven and Doctor to come out of this because this is dark…. I love it but boy is it dark….

 

[1] – MacGuffin is a term that basically means plot-causing-item. The one ring is an example of this in The Lord of the Rings. It can be parodied, a la Monty Python and the Holy Grail, with the eponymous grail. This plot device is subject to severe abuse.

Favourite Quotes:

  • The Doctor: Here’s a toast, a happy Christmas to all of us.
    Steven: The same to you, Doctor, Sara.
    The Doctor: And incidentally, a happy Christmas to all of you at home!

Score:

9/10 (Daleks used to fine potential – best? no – thats to come)

Next time:

The Massacre in Paris… Everyone dies again…. For Gods’ sake…. But they’re  big events and it should be done again… Kill, kill, kill…. and then be sad…

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