søndag den 15. marts 2009

Who Review #22 - the Daleks' Masterplan

Only three of the twelve episodes exist from this epic Dalek story. (ep. 2, 5 and 10)

This story saw actor Nicholas Courtney make his first appearance on the show, as Space Agent Bret Vyon. Courtney has had a long standing relation to Doctor Who in his other role as Lethbridge-Stewart of UNIT. (Only recently, he reprised that role in the spin-off series "The Sarah Jane Adventures.")

Vyon is on Kembel, investigating the disappearance of Marc Cory. His fellow agent, played by Brian Cant of "Play Away" fame, is exterminated by a Dalek. He meets the Doctor and forces him to take him back to the TARDIS. Vyon is immobilised in a magnetic chair while the Doctor looks around. Katarina, who believes she is making a journey to the heavans, looks after the injured Steven. The Doctor discovers Cory's body and the tape he made; furthermore, he sees Daleks. They welcome a new ally: Mavic Chen, Guardian of the Solar System.

The Doctor and co. form team up with Vyon. Returning to the Dalek base, the Doctor disguises himself as Zephon, one of the Dalek allies, in order to enter the base and sit in on another conference of the Daleks and their fellow plotters. Here he discovers the Daleks have finished a time destructor weapon; all it requires is a core of the element Taranium, which is supplied by Chen. Zephon raises the alarm and in the confusion the Doctor manages to steal the Taranium core. Katarina, Steven and Vyon have hijacked Chen's spaceship and, with the Doctor making the ship in the nick of time, they all take off.

The Daleks use remote control to force the ship to land on penal planet Desperus and send a force after the Doctor and co. They manage to repair the ship and take off but not before a convict calls Kirksen has boarded. He holds Katarina captive in the airlock and demands the ship be taken to Kembel. Katarina pushes the hull door button and the two are sucked into space, much to the horror of Vyon, Steven and the Doctor (and no doubt many kids at the!). The Doctor says, rather movingly

"She didn't understand... She couldn't understand. She wanted to save our lives. And perhaps the lives of all the other beings of the solar system. I hope she's found her perfection. We shall always remember her as one of the daughters of the gods. Yes, as one of the daughters of the gods."

We see her body float away in space.

Back on Earth, Chen declares that Vyon is a dangerous traitor and that he, and accomplices, must be killed on sight. The ship crash lands at an experimental station and Security Agent Sara Kingdom (played by Jean Marsh) is ordered into action. She kills her brother, Bret. The Doctor and Steven hide in a room but find themselves teleported to the planet Mira, along with Sara and some test mice. The body count rises as the dastardly Daleks exterminate the possibly hostile mice. Sara is told the truth and begins to help the Doctor. They take a Dalek ship, which is forced to land back on Kembel. Steven makes a false Taranium core, getting enveloped in a force field, and the Doctor bargains with Chen and the Daleks - he will hand over the core outside the TARDIS. The Daleks shoot Steven, destroying the force field around him. The three nip off and land in London.

Episode 7 (The Feast of Steven) is totally unrelated to the Daleks' Masterplan; it was a Christmas Day episode. The Doctor sees someone in a Police Station and says he has seen his face before, recalling the market place in Jaffa. (It was the same actor from the Crusades.) The TARDIS takes off again and the crew rush out to save a girl about to be cut in half by a saw, only it's a film set. As they run about, captions appear like in a silent movie. The entire pointless and very silly episode ends with William Hartnell looking at the camera and wishing the viewers a happy christmas. They don't make Xmas episodes like this any more...thank gawd! (Although certain of the New Who specials are as vacuous....)

Back on Kembel, Chen and the Daleks realise the core is a fake. The Daleks order a time machine from Skaro. The TARDIS appears for a short while at a cricket ground as it tries to shake off a chasing craft. (It's a quick piss take of sports commentators - and they haven't changed in 44 years!) Landing on the volcanic planet Tigus, their persuer turns out to be the time meddling monk (again played by Peter Butterworth). He wants to maroon the Doctor as revenge by jamming the TARDIS lock. The Doctor uses light from Tigus's sun and his special ring to re-open the TARDIS. They leave an infuriated Monk. Meanwhile, the Dalek time machine sets after the TARDIS, which has materialised in London on New Years 1966, when episode 8 was broadcast.

The action moves on to ancient Egypt. The Daleks exterminate the Egyptian guards. The Monk also arrives and is forced to work for Chen and the Daleks. The Daleks take Steven and Sara prisoner. Chen wants to use them as bargaining chips for the taranium. They make an exchange; the crew get take off in the TARDIS and the Monk makes a getaway in his TARDIS.

They head for Kembel - the Time Destructor is ready for use. All the allies have been locked in a cell by the Daleks, who no longer need them. Sara and Steven release them, including Chen. At first they think the Daleks have left but they have an underground base. Chen takes Sara and Steven captive as he seeks to gain power for himself. By now, he is completely mad and even believes he is the ruler of the Daleks. They exterminate him. The Doctor activates the Time Destructor and uses that and a Dalek as a shield backs out with Sara and Steven. Sara runs back to help the Doctor, whilst Steven enters the TARDIS. They are pursued by the Daleks. The time destructor begins to have terrible effects. Sara ages to death before the Doctor's eyes; he collapses. Steven rushes out and finds Sara's skeleton on a Kembel that has now become a desert world. The Doctor and him make it back to the TARDIS. The Daleks try to destroy the time destructor but are destroyed themselves by it. Finally, the taranium core burns out.

The solemn duo take in the scene and depart.

After a promising start, the Daleks' Masterplan just runs flat and gets terribly drawn out and boring. It was too long, with lots of padding and some very unnecessary scenes. They could have lopped it down to at least seven or eight episodes,. Part of the problem may also rest in the change of writers halfway: Terry Nation wrote ep.1-5 and 7 whilst the remainder was written bt Dennis Spooner.

The council of allies was a bit weak as the Daleks didn't even need them. Also, a pet hate of mine in science fiction, they all looked ridiculous. There is this daft idea that aliens should look exotic; the Mos Eisley scene of Star Wars - A New Hope is another example. They are just stupid to look at. The best aliens are those which require a little thought about evolution and planetary physics and chemistry. It's no surprise that Giger's Alien is my favourite sci-fi film monster; it is a fantastic bit of art but also based on animals on Earth. (Insects are great inspiration for aliens.)

Putting gripes aside, this story was a first: companions were killed. Both Katarina (Adrienne Hill) and Sara's deaths were pretty gruesome too. Katarina was quickly written out as the production crew just didn't see her character working in the show. Sara was a stop gap. This is the companion problem I was mentioning. Peter Purves is still excellent as Steven in this. Right at the end of the next story a companion would join the crew, the gawd damn awful Dodo Chaplet.

Courtney was great as Vyon and Butterworth equally so as the Monk, who has never appeared again in the show. The late Kevin Stoney was nice as the cold and calculating Chen; having him go bonkers in episode 12 though and ordering daleks about was shame.

The Doctor's reaction to Katarina's death is one of those memorable quotes from the Hartnell era.

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