098 – Volcano (The Daleks’ Master Plan Part 8)

Written by Dennis Spooner from an idea by Terry Nation
Directed by Douglas Camfield

The TARDIS is pursued through space and time by an unknown presence.  The Daleks try to activate the Time Destructor, with unfavorable results.

Monk: You haven’t heard the last of me, Doctor!  You haven’t heard the last of me!
On the TARDIS
Steven: If you ask me, I don’t think we’ve the last of the monk.

In this episode we see the return of the Dalek Time Machine.  Yes, the rehash of The Chase is hitting full stride.  But when you think about it, perhaps this isn’t so odd.  These episodes aired at a time when episodes were unlikely to be re-aired.  People who had seen The Chase may never see it again, so if they liked the story, that was it.  Completely rehashing or retelling a story is somewhat forgivable.  Granted, The Daleks’ Master Plan isn’t a complete reconstruction of The Chase, but many elements are similar, especially now that we have The Daleks chasing The TARDIS through time.  And Dennis Spooner is involved, so it won’t be quite as serious as it could be.

We have the return of The Monk, used to less effect here.  He is seeking revenge on The Doctor for trapping him in 1066, and decides to trap The Doctor on the planet Tigus, a newly formed planet that is still quite volcanic.  However, this plan fails as The Doctor uses his ring, which we learn has “special properties.”  It is a deus ex machina-Ring, possibly a precursor to The Sonic Screwdriver.  Certainly less marketable.

It is hard to see the inclusion of The Monk as anything other than an attempt to pad the story.  Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed The Time Meddler and really like Butterworth’s portrayal of the character.  Bringing the character back was a good idea, I just don’t know that bringing him back in this story was as good of an idea.  However, with The Monk now added to the mix, we have a third major villain (The Daleks, Mavic Chen, and The Monk) to be vanquished.  And the end is still very far away.

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097 – The Feast of Steven (The Daleks’ Master Plan Part 7)

Written by Terry Nation
Directed by Douglas Camfield

Doctor Who turns in its first Christmas Special and sets the bar fairly low.

It isn't Corona from the sun, but it will do.

“It’s a mad house!  It’s all full of Arabs!”

I’ll just come out and admit it.  I don’t really like this episode.  Now, in this episode’s defense, so much of it is visual and the comedy doesn’t translate well to audio.  The second half of the episode involves a chase between different Hollywood sets.  Peter Purvis is a good narrator, but he just can’t convey the comic timing of the visuals.  It also seems that this episode, as originally written by Nation, was severely underwritten.  Script Editor Donald Tosh had to rewrite to get it up to the broad cast time necessary for the slot.

The Feast of Steven was the first Doctor Who episode to air on Christmas.  As such, the story takes a break from Daleks and Mavic Chen to focus on a bit of frivolity.  The TARDIS materializes in 1960s England and there are hijink with the police who are quite shocked to find people coming out of one of their police boxes.  After getting back to The TARDIS, the characters materialize in an old saw mill with a woman being menaced.  They rush to rescue her, only to find they are on a movie set, and are quickly chased by security.  After a few more humorous scenes, The TARDIS crew escapes Hollywood, wish the viewers a Merry Christmas and the episode ends.

The tone of this episode is quite reminiscent of The Chase.  The concept of materializing somewhere dangerous or fantastic, only to learn it is quite mundane brings back memories of Journey into Terror and the abandoned carnival.  At least it wasn’t stretched to a full episode here.  Along the way, the Doctor Who production team is able to poke some fun at Hollywod actors and directors.

In all, a fairly insubstantial episode, one that has driven fandom crazy at the prospect of working the story into cannon.  Hartnell breaks the fourth wall, which is all in a bit of fun and really not a big deal.  This is television, after all.  It’s a nice gesture.  However, as episodes go, it probably does work better as a one-off special than as part of the story that continues on either side of it.  I don’t have a problem with the episode, per se, I just don’t enjoy it.

096 – Coronas of the Sun (The Daleks’ Master Plan Part 6)

Written by Dennis Spooner
Directed by Douglas Camfield

Escaping from the planet Mira, The Doctor, Steven, and Sara find themselves forced to land on Kembel and turn over the Teranium.

The Daleks unveil the Lime Obstructor!

“You make your incompetence sound like an achievement!”

Naturally, as The Daleks are about to kill The Doctor, Steven, and Sara, the Visians attack en masse.  The Doctor and his companions escape and manage to steal the Dalek ship.  However, their escape is short-lived when The Dalek Supreme, irritated at his underlings’ failures, takes over the pursuit.  He uses Dalek technology to pull the ship to Kembel.

Quite a bit happens in this episode.  The Doctor makes a fake Teranium core, Steven tries to power the core using gravity force, which almost kills him and creates a forcefield around him.  This comes in handy later in the episode when The Daleks shoot him.  Their beams have no effect on him, but they destroy the forcefield so Steven doesn’t die.  The fake core is given to The Daleks and The Doctor, Steven, and Sara make it to The TARDIS and escape.

Despite all this action, perhaps my favorite part is when Mavic Chen returns to Kembel.  The Dalek Supreme immediately lays in to Chen, lambasting him for his failure.  Chen make the case that he was merely trying to undo the failure that was originally the fault of poor Dalek security on Kembel.  He had, after all, made sure the fugitives were sent to Mira so The Daleks could collect them without suspicion falling on Chen.  The Dalek Supreme bristles at Chen’s excuse, but only until he is informed that The Daleks on Mira failed to recover the teranium and that they are now stranded on Mira.  Chen, seeing that the tables are now reversed, takes full advantage of the opportunity to chastise The Dalek Supreme, effectively shutting him up.  Gotta love Mavic Chen.

We are now halfway through this mammoth story.  On some level, I think it could have ended here or at least in the next episode.  We could easily have scenes where the fake teranium causes the time destructor to explode, destroying all life on Kembel.  Sara Kingdom could then be returned to Earth to become the new guardian, or she could join the TARDIS crew.  But no, we have six more episodes to go, and they are, in my opinion, some of the weakest of this story.  Hang in there, readers.  It’s all downhill from here.

Nicholas Courtney, 1929-2011

It is a tribute to the character and the actor that The Brigadier is such a popular figure in Doctor Who.  He appeared with five of the seven Doctors of the classic series as well as numerous Big Finish dramas and a guest spot on The Sarah-Jane Adventures.  The Brigadier was a man of principle and honor, willing to stand up to The Doctor when necessary or if he felt The Doctor was mistaken.  He is truly one of the few humans to earn the right to question the renegade Time Lord.

Nicholas Courtney’s first appearance in Doctor Who is the story I’m currently reviewing: The Daleks’ Master Plan.  He portrayed Space Security Agent Bret Vyon, a man investigating the death of fellow agent Marc Cory.  Vyon soon allied himself with The Doctor against The Daleks and Mavic Chen, only to be shot by his sister Sarah Kingdom.  Courtney later returned to Doctor Who in the Patrick Troughton story The Web of Fear.  This is his first portrayal of Alistair Gordon Lethbridge Stewart, a mere colonel in this story.  With The Doctor, Jamie, and Victoria, Lethbridge Stewart fought off an invasion of the Yeti in what many fans have theorized to be the catalyst for the formation of UNIT.  Lethbridge Stewart reappeared the very next year as The Brigadier and helped The Doctor fight off Cybermen invasion, which is one of my favorite stories hands down!

The Brigadier is primarily remembered as the commanding officer of the United Nations Intelligence Taskforce, or UNIT.  When The Doctor was exiled to Earth, he found a position as UNIT’s scientific advisor and helped The Brigadier protect Earth from alien invasions and other threats.

While many fans would have loved to see The Brigadier appear in the new series, it is not to be.  Nicholas Courtney passed away February 22, 2011, at the age of 81. He will be remembered fondly by many fans both due to the creation of one of the most memorable characters in Doctor Who and due to the fact that he was an upstanding gentleman in his own right.  He will be missed.

095 – Counter Plot (The Daleks’ Master Plan Part 5)

Written by Terry Nation
Directed by Douglas Camfield

Pursued by Sara Kingdom, The Doctor and Steven are accidentally transported to the planet Mira.

Blofeld hangs out in the background. Always learn from the master. Or in this case, Mavic Chen.

“There are small, white creatures inside.  They may be hostile.”

When you strip away the James Bond trappings, The Daleks’ Master Plan really shows similarities to The Chase.  Certainly, the tone is darker, but the plot centers around The Doctor and his companions being chased by The Daleks and Mavic Chen.  They are pursued to Desperus, Earth, Mira, and many more places in the upcoming episodes.  In truth, Terry Nation seems to enjoy these quest-type stories.  Keys of Marinus, The Chase, even The Dalek Invasion of Earth seems to have some amount of running around from location to location.

I must admit that The Daleks as a concept are running a bit thin at the moment.  Honestly, I find Mavic Chen a relief because he is more interesting to watch.  It is similar to personifying evil in Sauruman in The Lord of the Rings films even though Sauron is the ultimate evil.  We find the human mastermind much more fascinating, and in both cases this works.  The Daleks, despite being intensely popular, really don’t have much range, especially at the hands of Terry Nation.  They rarely seem capable of carrying a six episode story, and I think even Terry Nation realized this because he eventually created Davros.

Anyway, this episode sees The Doctor and Steven woo Sara Kingdom to their side in part through charisma, logic, and Sara’s guilt over killing Bret.  It turns out Bret was her brother.  This will make Christmas dinner awkward.  The arrival of The Daleks on Mira help cement her allegiance to The Doctor.

The Doctor, Steven, and Sara actually need the Daleks, however.  They were transported to Mira in an experiment involving matter displacement.  Their bodies were broken down to the molecular components, then transported and reassembled.  They are on Mira with no escape, at the mercy of The Visians–invisible predators.  The Daleks arrive just in time to save The Doctor, Steven, and Sara from a Visian, then capture them.  And the Daleks have shown just how cruel they are when they killed some innocent, white lab mice.

Finally, Mavic Chen has begun to give in to his ego when he realizes that the only reason he is part of the alliance with The Daleks is due to The Solar System’s knowledge of mineralogy.  The Daleks need the Teranium, thus The Daleks need Mavic Chen.  Perhaps Zephon’s words are rubbing off on Chen.

"Doctor, we seem to have wandered in to a holodeck!"

094 – The Traitors (The Daleks’ Master Plan Part 4)

Written by Terry Nation
Directed by Douglas Camfield

The attempt to escape Desperus takes an unexpected toll on The Doctor and other travelers.  Mavic Chen assigns a new agent to take down Bret Vyon and The Doctor.

Clearly related to Princess Joanna

“A lust for more power than he already has–Universal Power!”

This episode has quite the body count.  One would think Robert Holmes wrote it, if there were more humor.  However, the death that is most notable in this episode is that of Katarina.  She has the distinction of being the first companion to die.  Not only does this raise the stakes of the story, it also ushers in a new philosophy to the show.  It is no longer about observation and curiosity.  Our heroes are involved in whatever story they find themselves in, and they can be killed.

There were many possibilities for Katarina, a primitive who genuinely believed she was dead and found herself in this odd afterlife on her way to the place of perfection.  Katarina’s travels were cut short when she was captured by one of the prisoners on Desperus.  In an attempt to use her as a hostage to barter passage to freedom, Kirkson pulled her to the airlock.  Katarina hit the controls, and both bodies were ejected into space.  The story isn’t clear if Katarina knew what she was doing.  She may have been saving the rest of the crew, she may have just hit buttons thinking they would open the door for her.  It would have been an interesting journey to see her develop from Trojan handmaiden to full-fledged companion, but not that is not to be.

The other major death in this episode is that of Bret Vyon, killed at the hands of Sara Kingdom.  Kingdom is assigned by Mavic Chen to track down the Teranium core.  He tells her Vyon is a traitor.  Kingdom is cold, almost emotionless, and very good at her job.  Bret is looking for an ally, realizing that Chen’s part in the conspiracy means those close to Chen may also be involved.  Bret is forced to kill someone he trusted when he finds out that this friend was also a traitor.  Sara gets the upper-hand on him.  With Bret Vyon dead, The Doctor and Steven are on their own.

Back on Kemble, The Daleks are dealing with the rumblings of Trantis of the Tenth Galaxy, who believes Chen is positioning himself for power and that the Daleks do not see his duplicity.  He is wrong, of course.  The Daleks know Chen’s motives quite well.  But this squabbling among the delegates shows that the alliance is very fragile.  One member is already dead.  The rest will soon follow.

The story is growing darker as we progress.  The penal planet of Desperus was almost primal in its portrayal.  Four deaths marked this episode, and that doesn’t include the failure of The Dalek ship to capture The Doctor on Desperus, resulting in the deaths of the Dalek crew.  Terry Nation seems to be indulging his darker side here.  The show is still in transition, but it would seem the new production crew wishes to take it into darker territory.

093 – Devil’s Planet (The Daleks’ Master Plan Part 3)

Written by Terry Nation
Directed by Douglas Camfield

As our heroes attempt to escape the planet Kembel, they fall prey to The Dalek randomizer are forced to make an unpleasant stop.

“By doing nothing, we do everything.”

We finally leave the planet Kembel and begin the planet-hopping that will mark the rest of the story.  You could say The Chase is on.  Yes, I deliberately invoke the previous Dalek story because structurally, it is similar.  However, this isn’t Richard Martin’s version of The Chase, this is the Douglas Camfield version, and so far, so good.  We’ll address the similarities as they become more apparent.

First up, we have the fallout from Zephon’s capture in the previous episode.  There is a mini-trial, where The Daleks accuse Zephon of negligence by allowing The Doctor to apprehend him and steal the teranium core of the Time Destructor.  Zephon attempts to deflect his failure by pointing his fingers (or leaves) at Mavic Chen.  His defense is that the intruders were obviously from Earth.  As defenses go, it is rather weak.  The Daleks don’t buy it and neither do the other delegates.  Zephon is summarily exterminated for his negligence.  The Daleks then activate a device called “The Randomizer”, which disrupts the controls of the escaping ship, causing it to crash gently on the planet Desperus.  This is a penal planet, where convicts are abandoned.  The arrival of the ship with The Doctor, Steven, Katarina, and Bret does not go unnoticed.

As Steven and Bret work quickly to repair the ship, two convicts  (Bors and Garge) converge on the ship.  The Doctor and Katarina fix up a quick defense using a type of live wire and some sort of sci-fi energy that merely knocks people out rather than kill them.  Bret seems to think it is foolish to not kill the convicts, but The Doctor is on his high horse here.  We’ll see how that lasts in the next episode.

Oddly enough, the aspect of this story that kept distracting me was how The Doctor treated Katarina.  More than once he pointed out how she didn’t ask questions, she just watched and observed and did what she was told.  The Doctor seems to find her passivity refreshing in the face of Bret and Steven’s questions and suggestions of what to do next.  I think what kept me coming back to this is that she doesn’t seem to have much of a personality, which I find sad because I really want to like the character.  She seems sweet.  But due to her underdevelopment, I think that makes her harder to identify with or really warm to.  Even The Doctor doesn’t know what to do with her, but is thankful she stays out of the way.  She is the first companion to just . . . be there.  Quite the contrast to the headstrong Vicki.  With these thoughts in mind, I find it a shame that the next review won’t be up until Monday.  I want these thoughts to be fresh for the next episode because I will feel the need to elaborate on them.

And by way of setting things up, the episode ends with a scream.  The audio doesn’t give any sort of clue as to the reason.  But as we will find out, The Doctor’s scheme to protect the ship wasn’t nearly as successful as he initially thought.