Doctor Who and the Daleks’ Master Plan
November 1965 – January 1966
In the creation of Doctor Who, Sydney Newman was very insistent on several things, chiefly NO BUG-EYED MONSTERS. As many fans of the series would proudly tell you, the Daleks are responsible for the success of the program in 1963 leading to an unprecedented impact on families throughout the UK and later the world. Think Star Wars in the 1960’s only it was on TV weekly and you’d have a rough idea of how big the Daleks were. The first Dalek story was an adventure story set after the atomic war on the planet Skaro. The second Dalek adventure took place on Earth in the near future after the Dalek’s had triumphed over humanity. The Chase was a comedic romp across time and space ending with a battle between the Daleks and the Mechanoids… but the Daleks had surprisingly little screen time. After seeing how much money they earned the BBC, the order was given to have more appearances of the dreaded dustbins in Doctor Who, leading to a massive 13 part story, ‘The Dalek’s Master Plan.’
Running thirteen episodes in length this has to be the most ambitious Dalek adventure in Doctor Who history. It is heartbreaking that only three full episodes and a handful of clips are known to exist because all of the evidence states that this is simply the grandest of Dalek stories. So great was this story that a teaser episode (referred to as the Dalek Cutaway) entitled Mission to the Unknown was screened featuring a Officer Marc Corey of the Space Security Service surviving a crash-landing on the strange planet Kembel only to find that it is the staging post for a Dalek invasion. The Doctor and his companions are only hinted at in the last few moments as the TARDIS materializes in view but other than that this is all Daleks. Just imagine that! It must have made a huge impact on the viewers and felt terribly suspenseful. I have read the novelisation of Mission to the Unknown and watched a screen-cap version and from those few details it still blows me away. The crew of the crashed vessel are struggling to stay alive, some get infected by a plant that causes the victim to erupt in violent tendencies and after all that… the Daleks. After the rest of his crew have been killed by the Varga plants, Corey attempts to warn Earth of the impending invasion only to be cut down by a Dalek. In the distance, the representatives from an alliance of alien planets pledge to their support of the Daleks in their war against Earth.
Four weeks later, The Dalek’s Master Plan exploded on the screen. Full of wild alien races, space pursuit, ray guns and space craft of various design, this was space opera… done right. I brought up the concept in reference to Frontier in Space/Planet of the Daleks on how it can be done wrong but in this case it all works beautifully. The sense of high stakes is apparent in every episode and the fact that our hero is a bizarre old man with a walking stick just makes things that much more exciting.
When I first viewed Hartnell as the Doctor I was less than impressed. How was this wrinkled old man meant to stand against the alien menaces that plague Doctor Who? Imagine my surprise when I finally saw the raw power in the actor’s eyes. Hartnell was famous before Doctor Who for playing elder military sergeants and looking at his portrayal of the Doctor it is easy to see why. The ferocity in his face as he stands up to the many menaces in Doctor Who is so believable that it makes all other actors in the role pale in comparison.
To combat the Doctor, the villainous Mavic Chen is introduced played with aplomb by Kevin Stoney (also seen in the Pat Troughton adventure ‘The Invasion’). Chen is the Guardian of the Solar System and ultimate turncoat against humanity. He sells out the human race and forms an alliance of alien races determined to wipe out Earth. Chen is of course so devious that he plots to double-cross the Daleks and wrest control of a device that would make him the most powerful being alive. The Doctor steals the incredibly rare terranium core that powers the device and the Daleks give chase. Chen is so incredible as a villain, clicking his long evil nails and smiling devilishly hinting at later such characters such as the Master and Davros.
Joining the Doctor in this adventure is spaceman Steven Taylor, a astronaut from the future and Katarina, a slave girl from ancient Troy. I often refer to Ian Chesterton as the type of man fans would want to be as a companion and Steven Taylor as the kind of guy we’d end up being. He’s impetuous, clumsy and big-hearted. His bravery is real but he rarely has the smarts to back it up as Ian did. Katarina is on screen so briefly that it’s hard to have much of an opinion of her as a companion. Additionally, Space Security Service Bret Vyon lends a hand in stopping the Daleks, but he needs some convincing. Bret is of course played by Nicholas Courtney, later well known for playing the character of the Brigadier opposite all but the new series Doctors. After Katarina sacrifices herself we are also introduced to Sara Kingdom, a kind of Emma Peel with a raygun who also dies within this story.
While many hope for the retrieval of the majestic and sweeping historical adventure Marco Polo, secretly I pine for the discovery of The Dalek’s Master Plan. An adventure story that spans space and time and even includes the meddling monk… this is the kind of story that I yearn for. Until it is found, fans can check out the reconstructed version, novelizations (if you can find them) and the CD.