Written by Terry Nation
Directed by Douglas Camfield
The Doctor, searching for medication to cure Steven’s blood poisoning, arrives on the planet Kembel, where he discovers Security Agent Bret Vyon and an army of Daleks!
“If it’s brain and brawn versus brain, I’ve got you beaten from the start!”
We open with a reprise of The Doctor, Steven, and Katarina after leaving Troy. We reestablish that Vicki is gone and Steven was injured in the escape and his wound is growing infected. Apparently The Doctor doesn’t have the medical facilities to cure Steven, which seems rather odd when you think about it too much. Regardless, The Doctor needs to find medication or Steven may die.
It is now that we return to the planet Kembel. Remember that? Varga plants and Marc Cory? Apparently someone noticed he was missing, and Agent Bret Vyon has been searching for him. Somehow, he ended up on Kembel, presumably a crash. His partner is injured and they are trying to get off the planet. Both men seem to know about the Dalek invasion force, but they haven’t found Cory’s body or the recording he made. Vyon is forced to leave his partner behind and he soon stumbles upon the TARDIS. He manages to get access to the ship by stealing The Doctor’s key, but foolishly leaves the key in the door so The Doctor can merely follow him in. The Doctor and Steven restrain Vyon in a magnetic chair (one of The Doctor’s inventions, it seems). Steven then passes out once more. The Doctor leaves the TARDIS so he can investigate a city he found in the jungle (that sounds familiar). Vyon gives Katarina some pills that will cure Steven, thus solving that particular dilemma. The Doctor discovers Daleks in the city. Cue cliffhanger.
The Dalek Master Plan is a Terry Nation epic. We’re going to be here for a while. For the most part, I remember enjoying the story (it is an improvement over The Chase, even if it does recycle some of the material), but it does start to drag in the Dennis Spooner-penned episodes. This episode is a good start, however. The tone and atmosphere of Mission to the Unknown is recaptured here. This episode is fast-paced and even more exciting now that The Doctor has been added to the mix. The title is somewhat ominous, however. This will be the third time I’ve “watched” this serial, and by the episode eight or so I usually feel that the story is a nightmare. We’ll see if it holds.
One thing that makes this story rise above the usual Dalek stories of this era is that The Daleks are only one villain. Mavic Chen is the other major villain of the piece. Mavic Chen is the Guardian of the Solar System and he is masterfully played by Kevin Stoney. Yes, we have finally got to a Kevin Stoney story. He is one of my favorite actors to play Doctor Who villains. He has great presence, here established by his amazing voice. Chen is merely introduced in this episode, established as the Guardian of the Solar System, then established as a traitor allying himself with The Daleks. We’re in for a ride.
Last, we have Nicholas Courtney as Bret Vyon, another actor with a great voice and presence. While he is a secondary character here, he will reappear later in the series in a much greater and memorable role.
So far so good. This episode is engaging, perhaps re-treading too much material due to the four week interval between Mission to the Unknown and this. Enough new material is added to create renewed interest. We shall see if it holds up.