Monday, 25 April 2011

21: The Daleks Master Plan - A Race Through Time & Space For A Tin Can Filled With Uranus Or A Recipe For Disaster.

Written by: Terry Nation & Dennis Spooner.
Companions: The Doctor, Steven Taylor, Katarina, Bret Vyon, Sara Kingdom.
Monsters/Villains: The Daleks, The Monk.
Brief synopsis: The Doctor joins forces with Space Security agents Bret Vyon and Sara Kingdom to stop the Daleks from constructing their time destructor.
Rating: 5/10.

Well, that was a struggle.

Here is the recipe for The Daleks' Master Plan:


1 x Encouraging Prequel.
12 x Episodes (only 2, 5 and 10 exist in their entirety)
3 x TARDISes. (one of which is constantly breaking or being sabotaged while the crew try to find a quiet place to fix it)
1 x Taranium Core.
1 x Fake Taranium Core.
1 x Return of an Old Enemy.
3 x Companions Killed.
1 x Momentary Collapse Of The Fourth Wall. (Oops)
1 x Bonkers Christmas Episode.
Loads x Of Daleks.
A Whole Host x Of Random Alien Delegates.
1 x Power Mad Guardian of The Solar System.
2 x Steven and Sara razzling various people.
1 x Doctor. (who likes to wander off a lot)
1 x Time Destructor (that we never get explained)

Prepare the prequel to as an appetiser. Combine all ingredients in a mixing bowl. Separately prepare the bonkers Christmas episode. Only let the fourth wall collapse for a few seconds, or all fans will be lost from the final meal. Slaughter the three companions evenly through the process. Try not to loose the Taranium core in the mixture. Drop in the returning enemy, but burry it deep in the mixture to make sure to keep it a surprise. Allow the Guardian of The Solar System to simmer until totally insane. Cook for 5 hours! Allow extra time to fix any broken TARDISes. Sprinkle with random aliens, and serve in a Dalek dish, placing the Doctor on top holding the Time Destructor and leave to cool for 46 years. Appetising? I don't think so...

You could describe The Daleks' Master Plan as a twelve-part space-war epic, or as I prefer: A chase through time and space for a tin can full of Uranus. This was really hard to get through. It took me four days with breaks to watch it all. It kicks off with Steven still injured from the battle in Troy (god that feels like an age ago). He's worrying about Vicki, who stayed to become a famous romantic archetype who will be written about by Homer and Shakespeare. Lucky her, I don't think she'd have stood much of a chance in The Daleks' Master Plan; hardly anyone else does. The First episode is called The Nightmare Begins, and indeed it does. It actually starts off really well, and there's Nicholas Courtney as Bret Vyon - yay!!! He's investigating Marc Cory's disappearance. I still can't believe he's gone, what a wonderful chap. He of course goes on to play the Brigadier in later years to come.

Nicholas Courtney's first appearance in Doctor Who as Bret Vyon. 
Then we meet Mavic Chen, who has the all encompassing, vast, and somewhat awesome title: Guardian of the Solar System, but he's going on holiday? What kind of a guardian of anything takes holidays? Especially something as big as the Solar System? Stoney is wonderful as Chen. There's a pretty funny scene where where we see a couple arguing over what to watch. The husband wants to watch the mars vs. venus game, whereas the wife wants to watch Mavic Chen's holiday report. The wife wins out and we hear Mavic Chen mention the 3975 Non-aggression Pact, and saying that "we have had 25 years of peace." Making it the year 4000.

Mavic Chen Guardian of The Solar System. 
The TARDIS arrives on Kembel, where the Doctor, Steven and Katarina meet Bret Vyon. Initially they clash, but Vyon helps Steven to recover and they quickly form an alliance. We learn that Mavic Chen, Guardian of The Solar System, is in fact not on holiday, but has allied himself with the Daleks and the other delegates of the outer galaxies. The Doctor and Co go to the Dalek City and clobber Zephon, Master of the Fifth Galaxy. The Doctor plans to dress in Zephon's robes and to go to the meeting of the delegates. All is going well so far, I'm enjoying the reconstructions and the story is absorbing, then the Doctor manages to steal the Taranium Core; and it's all up hill from here. Steep. Very steep.

The Doctor and Co mesmerised by the Taranium Core. 
The Taranium core is a small metal canister filled with a full M of Taranium; a rare mineral found only on the planet Uranus. It has taken 50 years to mine just a very small amount. The Daleks need it to power their ultimate weapon, The Time Destructor. I must admit even after watching the whole thing I'm still not exactly sure what it does. I kept expecting a scene or a reveal where I find out what it does, but it never comes.

The Dalek base on Kembel.
Bret, Steven and Katarina steal Mavic Chen, Guardian of The Solar System's ship and leave with the Doctor. The Daleks force the ship to land on the prison planet, Desperus. This is the first of many desperate and unnecessary tangents we'll be forced to go on. Katarina really gets a raw deal, she get's treated so badly by everyone. She has no idea where she is or what's going on, and whenever she tries to ask, the Doctor fobs her off, with I'll explain later, etc. 

They manage to escape the prison planet but Kirksen, a convict, has stowed away on board. He emerges and grabs Katarina. He forces Bret to change the ships course from Earth back to Kembel. Kirksen takes Katarina into the air-lock. Bret wants to send them both out into space but the Doctor and Steven stop him. Then, bravely or perhaps totally by accident Katarina opens the outer doors, ejecting herself and Kirksen into space, and to their deaths. The Doctor's response to this is "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." She didn't understand because you didn't explain and hopefully you won't remember her as one of the daughters of Dogs, eh Doctor, hmmm? So that's one companion down, two to go.

Bye Katarina. We literally hardly knew you.
By this point I'm starting to wonder, why dont they just destroy the Taranium? Surely if they did that it's problem solved. I always get the feeling with Hartnell that he knows exactly what's going to happen because he's read the script. This gives the Doctor a kind of know-it-all quality. I wonder if maybe this error induced future actors who played the Doctor to do the same.

Mavin Chen, Guardian of The Solar System returns to earth and has his people alert the public that Vyon is a traitor and recalls all SSS agents to earth. The Doctor and co get to Earth and call on the services of Daxter a 'friend' of Vyon. However he tries to betray the Doctor and Bret. He let's slip that he knows about them having the Taranium so Bret kills him. People always seem to do that in early Doctor Who, betray themselves by admitting  some piece of knowledge they couldn't have if they weren't guilty.

TRAITOR: Oops, I shouldn't know that.

HERO: He must be a traitor!

Sara Kingdom, She's a bad-ass.
Then we meet Sara Kingdom, played by the returning Jean Marsh, who also played Princess Joanna in The Crusade. She is sent to apprehend Vyon, the Doctor and Steven. Sara kills Bret, who it turns out is her brother and heads off to kill the Doctor and Steven. That's two down one to go! Bye Bret. Sara finds the Doctor and Steven, and along with some rather cute, unsuspecting lab mice they get caught in a molecular dissemination experiment and transmitted through space to a strange planet called Mira. And here's tangent number two. At first they actually think the Mice might have taken them. This all feels very Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy suddenly. Steven even comes out with, "the mice couldn't have done that?" The Daleks arrive too late and in frustration exterminate the mice. 

A Visian being exterminated.
Sara learns that Mavic Chen, Guardian of The Solar System, is a traitor and joins up with the Doctor and Steven. So she killed her brother and then replaced him as assistant? That's pretty cut-throat. The Daleks find the Doctor and Co but won't exterminate them because they're carrying the Taranium. The invisible Visians, the sole inhabitants of Mira attack the Daleks, and the Doctor, Steven and Sara steal the Dalek Ship and escape back to Kembel. 

The Doctor makes a copy of the Taranium Core. Again, I'm thinking just destroy it. That would slow them down a bit for another 50 years until they mine some more. Steven energises the fake Taranium using gravity (Okay?) but nocks himself unconscious. The Doctor agrees to had over the 'Taranium' to the Daleks and Mavic Chen, Guardian of The Solar System, but only outside his TARDIS. Steven gives them the fake Taranium. The Daleks try to exterminate Steven, but he is unharmed. He has a sort of gravity force-field from when he energised the fake taranium. (Right?) They leave and the TARDIS materialises on a planet with a poisonous atmosphere. We then take a brief detour away from The Daleks' Master Plan and sanity for the single most bizarre episode of Doctor Who ever! Yes, even weirder than The Edge of Destruction. It's so odd I'm going to give it a different font to separate it from the rest of the blog. 

I give you, in courier new: The Feast of Steven.

The TARDIS is not on a planet with a poisonous atmosphere after all but has landed on Earth in the 1960's at Christmas. Just in case we haven't worked this out for ourselves two policemen are singing Good King Wenceslas and the whole thing is rather creepily underscored with unseen children singing Christmas carols. We are treated to such wonders as a policeman asking "It wouldn't be Father Christmas, would it?" When the Doctor is arrested. An odd cameo from Reg Pritchard as Man in Macintosh who has come to complain that "They keep moving my house. My Green House. It's the rebels!" When the Doctor sees this man he says, "Have't I seen your face before? That's it. The market place at Jaffa." Reg Pritchard previously played Ben Daheer in the Crusade, but why bring this up on screen? Steven ventures out of the TARDIS to look for the Doctor and dresses as a Policeman to attempt to free him. Sara comes out too and fixes the faulty scanner. Steven and the Doctor escape the police, and grab Sara and dematerialise. Steven asks "Is the Taranium safe?" (They still haven't destroyed it, fools!) to which Sara replies, "Oh yes, I'd forgotten about the Daleks." I'm not surprised love. As if this wasn't mad enough it gets worse. The TARDIS then arrives just at the climax of a girl being murdered by a crazed man with an electric hack saw. Oh no wait! They're actually on the set of a Hollywood movie at the early stages of film. 

Steven and Sara inexplicably rumble with the camera crew. There is also an Arabian Nights scene being filmed. Steven gets dragged off, mistaken for an actor. Sara is mistaken for a harem girl in the 'wrong' costume. The Doctor is mistaken for an expert in arabian custom and discovers Sara hiding in a chest on the set. The three get reunited and Steven aks, "Sara, where have you been?" To which she replies "I don't know. But a strange man kept telling me to take my clothes off." As is this wasn't crazy enough the Doctor adds "This is a mad house, it's all full of arabs!!"

The trio run through both sets again before escaping back to the TARDIS. It's clearly a comment on what Nation and Spooner thought of Cinema that the film crew in this episode are scarier than the Daleks. The Doctor gets out some wine to celebrate! It's Christmas after all. And the fourth wall comes tumbling down as the Doctor makes a toast. "Happy Christmas. Incidentally, Happy Christmas to all of you at home."

Delegate Celation/ Mr. Nerf.
Back to reality. Very slow. Long? Drawn out? It must be reality. There's an interesting scene in which Mavic Chen, Guardian of The Solar System, has a discussion with two of the other delegates. Celation, who looks likes he's covered in nerf balls and the less outrageous Trantis discuss time travel and the Doctor. Trantis' people are referenced as being on the edge of discovering the secrets of time travel, but Celation and Mavic Chen, G.O.T.S.S, aren't even close yet. They tell us that only the Daleks have mastered time travel. The Daleks and the Doctor. This could be disregarded as a pointless scene, but it adds to the Doctor's mystique, and raises his status. The Daleks begin to show disregard for their 'allies' and decide to test the Time Destructor on Trantis. Maybe now they'll tell us what it is? Nope. With the fake core it fails and then Trantis is exterminated. Whilst I was watching this Katie was listening in the background and she laughed so much at the following interchange between the Dalek Supreme and Mavic Chen, G.O.T.S.S, delivered with total sincerity by the marvelous Kevin Stoney:

DALEK SUPREME: The core is worthless! 

MAVIC CHEN: No, it can't be. It came from Uranus, I know it did! 

Trantis, the first delegate to kick the bucket.
Almost as a nod back to the insanity of the previous episode the TARDIS materialises in front of the score board of a cricket match and we get two commentators witnessing it. This is pretty funny but they don't seem too fussed when they see a police box appear and disappear before their eyes. The TARDIS is being chased, and we are meant to assume it's by the Daleks. The TARDIS is drawn to another planet, Tigus and materialises right by a Volcano. A door opens in a large rock and out steps none others than Peter Butterworth a.k.a the Meddling Monk. Meanwhile Mavic Chen, G.O.T.S.S, and some Daleks set off to find the Doctor. The Monk and the Doctor greet each other very politely; this is something that will continue when we later meet the War Chief and indeed the Master. The Monk wants revenge on the Doctor for trapping him in 1066, and to do this he... changes the lock on the TARDIS. Ohhhh too harsh maybe? 

The Monk's back. So that's good!
But not to fear the Doctor uses his ring to reflect the sun of Tigus onto the lock and uses his key and hey presto... this has worked... for some reason! And the TARDIS is off again and shows up on Earth again, this time outside the Houses of Parliament. We're only here long enough to hear the chimes of Big Ben, ringing in the new year before we're off again this time to the Pyramids of Ancient Egypt.

The Daleks finally catch up with the Doctor, but are attacked by the Egyptians. Then the monk shows up too and bumps into the the Daleks and Mavic Chen, G.O.T.S.S, and agrees to help them in return for his life. The Doctor gets inside the Monks TARDIS and changes it's shape until it too looks like a police telephone box. Steven and Sara inexplicably razzle Egyptians and then come across the Monk all wrapped up in bandages. He tricks them right into the sucker arms of the Daleks.

Once again the Doctor says he will hand over the Taranium if the Daleks free steven, Sara and the Monk, at the agreed location. The Doctor gives M.C.G.O.T.S.S, the real Taranium core, and escapes whilst the Daleks are attacked by the Egyptians again before returning to Kembel. Basically, exactly the same thing that happened before, except in Egypt on Earth, with Egyptians, and it's the real core, instead of Visians on Mira, and a fake one. 'Cause that idea was so good it was worth using twice. In the same bloody story. The Doctor steals the Monk's directional unit and the Monk ends up on a planet of ice, stuck wandering through time and space just like the Doctor. Steven takes the risk and activates the TARDIS controls, using the Monk's directional unit to get them to Kembel to stop the Daleks. It works, but the directional unit burns out. Shame.

The Doctor wanders off again.

The Daleks use M.C.G.O.T.S.S, to distract the delegates, who rebel against him, he even kills delegate Gearon. We then learn unsurprisingly that the Daleks plan to kill all the delegates. Instead they get imprisoned. It seems like the only reason the Daleks have formed this union is to stop the delegates from attacking them and to get the Taranium from Uranus.

Some of the Daleks 'Allies.'
Steven and Sara free the delegates and they all depart for their home planets to form a force against the Daleks, all except for M.C.G.O.T.S.S, who's ship explodes. Steven and Sara follow a lone Dalek to a metal door in a cave. 

We quickly learn that our mate Chen isn't dead and he forces Steven and Sara in to the cave. M.C.G.O.T.S.S is for some reason still loyal to the Daleks; what a fool. He's clearly in denial. He can't except it; The Daleks have ditched him, their alliance has ended. He tries to kill the Dalek Supreme, but his gun has no effect. The Daleks are ordered to take him away to exterminate him, but he runs leaving Steven and Sara alone with the Dalek Supreme. The Doctor is lurking in the shadows. Mavic Chen, Guardian of The Solar System is finally exterminated. Awwe. Sad face. In the confusion the Doctor activates the Time Destructor, stalemate again because the Daleks won't fire at him. The Doctor and Co exit using a Dalek as a shield. The Doctor forces Steven and Sara to return to the TARDIS. Steven does so, but Sara goes back for the Doctor, and boy is she gonna regret that!

Sara rapidly ageing.
The Doctor is still carrying the Time Destructor which somehow causes Sara to age, and the jungle of Kembel starts to decay. The pair reach the Tardis but the Doctor is ageing too, he drops the Time Destructor. Sara tries to get to it but ages too much, falls and turns to dust. And that's three, another one bites the dust, or rather turns in to it. Steven runs out to get them. Kembel has turned into a desert wilderness. The Time Destructor is apparently running time forward, until Steven presses a button and it starts to run backwards. He helps the Doctor inside the TARDIS. The Daleks show up and try to shoot the Time Destructor, but they have no effect and the Dalek creatures fall from their casings, returning to embryonic form and eventually also turn to dust.

A while later the Doctor and Steven exit the TARDIS to discover that the core has burnt out. The Doctor says that Sara helped to destroy the Daleks, and without her this wouldn't have happened. Steven simply laments, "Bret. Katarina! Sara!" 

And it's over. 5 hours later. Wasn't that delicious. Well, mostly, no! In the heart of The Daleks Master Plan is a half descent story, shame it's muddled up with another chase motif al a The Chase. The length of this story should make it feel epic, should make it feel like a lot of time passes to really show the audience a whole war. But it doesn't. It just feels so bloody long. I spent the whole time wondering why they didn't just destroy the Taranium. The answer is, because if they did, the story would only be a four parter. There are some delectable highlights and some sumptuous moments, but I can't help but think this could have been a fairly alright story had it been a five parter instead of twelve; and what a bloodbath. In the whole history of Doctor Who only four of the Doctor's companion characters have been killed and three of those are in this story!

I hope you've enjoyed reading this blog it took about a day to write. I hope it doesn't take as long to read. I wish anyone luck who attempts The Daleks' Master Plan recipe, but I must warn you it certainly is a recipe for disaster.

Ironically, join me next time for a more jolly tale, The Massacre. Steven watch out mate, you don't stand a chance...


Anonymous said...

If the Doctor had destroyed the Taranium then he wouldn't have had anything to bargin with when the Daleks finally caught up with him. Think of it this way:-

Dalek: You are our prisoners. Return the Tarranium Core.

Doctor: We can't do that. We've destroyed it.

Dalek: If you do not return the Taranium Core, we will exterminate your male companion.

Doctor: But I'm telling you, we don't have the Taranium anymore.

Dalek: Exterminate.

(Steven dies)

Dalek: If you do not return the Tarranium Core, your female companion will die.

Doctor: Killing Sara will achieve nothing. I tell you, the Taranium has been destroyed.

Dalek: Exterminate.

(Sara dies)

Dalek: This is your final chance. Return the Taranium Core, or we will exterminate you.

Doctor: But I don't have it. We destroyed it.

Chen: Wait! Perhaps he speaks the truth.

Dalek: Or perhaps he is lying.

Chen: There is only one way to know for sure.

Dalek: Agreed. Take the Doctor back to Kembel. We will torture the information out of him.

Chen: And if he dies, or is found to be telling the truth?

Dalek: Then you, Chen, will mine more Taranium for us.

(Result. The Doctor is tortured to death, and the Daleks go on to conquer the universe.)

Anonymous said...

Well said. You certainly have a good point!

Corby Kennard said...

So, just finished this one, and I agree with you, it was a slog. There were definitely some good parts, but it largely felt forced and unnecessary.

Thank you, though, for the run down of The Feast of Steven. I watched that one late at night and, frankly, thought I must have been hallucinating. I was going to re-watch it, but after your description I realize I don't have to.

I'm really enjoying these blogs. Good work!

Alan Stevens said...

Back during the time of the classic series no one wanted to be put on Doctor Who, as it was seen as primarily for kids and worked on by people who were just starting out in their careers. As a result, writers, directors and producers who where put on the show reacted in one of two ways. They either rose to the challenge as a means of proving themselves, or they did the least amount of work possible. “The Daleks' Master Plan” is clearly a case of the former, and the reason for this was because the story had been, in part, suggested by BBC's Managing Director Huw Wheldon, and so they knew he'd be watching, and he was someone they wanted to impress.

As a result, “The Daleks' Master Plan” works on two levels. The first, as a way of keeping the kidydwinks happy, is spectacle. So we have Jungle, desert and volcanic planets, a whole variety of new aliens to look at, dashing space soldiers and big battles with the Daleks. However, underneath all of this you've got multiple plot-lines that twist and turn like a corkscrew, while making various allusions to, and draws parallels between, WWII and Cold War politics, Norse mythology and the Christian Bible's Book of Revelation.

The problem is that to a modern day audience, brought up on crap CGI, if you're not interested in strong characters, fun dialogue and political/religious subtext, then you're going to find “Master Pan” a bit of a slog, because most of the visual spectacle has been lost.

Anonymous said...

Have you finally unveiled your secret identity? Is you Alan Stevens of Magic Bullet and Kaldor City fame that has left all of these hilarious and well informed comments?

Alan Stevens said...

In your review you say, “The Doctor and Co get to Earth and call on the services of Daxter a 'friend' of Vyon. However he tries to betray the Doctor and Bret. He let's slip that he knows about the Taranium so Bret kills him. People always seem to do that in early Doctor Who: 

TRAITOR: Oops, I shouldn't know that.

HERO: He must be a traitor!”

First of all, I can’t recall any story prior to “Master Plan” where this kind of scene occurs. Secondly, what proof do we have that Daxtor is indeed a traitor?

After Daxtor’s initial appearance, the story cuts away to another scene taking place in Chen’s office, and when we return to Dextor, it is clear that Bret, Steven and the Doctor have been explaining things to him. Therefore, how do we know that the Doctor, or one of the others, didn’t mention the word “Taranium” off camera?

It’s true that Daxtor does go on to wrongly attribute the naming of the device to the Doctor when he says in his defense, “why you, yourself, mentioned it when you said how Chen handed the stuff over,” but the Doctor’s actual statement “and then he gave a rather pompous speech of self-satisfaction and handed over the core of the Time Destructor to the Daleks,” implies that the function and properties of the core have already been explained to Dextor. Therefore, it is quite possible that the Doctor (who can’t even remember Dextor’s name correctly, at one point calling him “Baxter,” and who states openly before Dextor turns up that they might have walked into “an ambush)” has made a serious mistake, and has accused an innocent man.

Even if we assume that Dextor is indeed working to help capture the Doctor and co, this still doesn’t mean that he’s a traitor, but rather that, like Sara Kingdom, he’s been got at by Chen and told that it is Bret who has turned traitor and is now in league with two enemy agents.

Finally, the story the Doctor tells Dextor about how Chen wishes to help the Daleks “capture, or destroy the Solar System,” is again, totally wrong., in that Chen’s real motive is actually, through clever subterfuge, to bring about the military defeat of both the Daleks and their allies.

At the end of the story, the only thing that makes Chen a villain and not a hero is the fact that the Daleks out-maneuver him, and the only thing that makes the Doctor look like a hero and not a blundering, chaotic old fool, is the fact that Steven, quite by accident, throws the Time Destructor into reverse.

315fedowl said...

''The Monk and the Doctor greet each other very politely; this is something that will continue when we later meet the War Chief and indeed the Master.''

Unsurprising, as it's supposed to be the same guy.