Thursday, September 15, 2005

'The Daleks' Masterplan'

12 episodes: 3 surviving

As expected, this is very hard to rate - the three surviving episodes are numbers 2, 5 and 10 out of 12, so more than in any other case you really are just dipping in and out of the story at almost unconnected points. The DVD contains a tiny amount of off-air 8mm footage from this adventure's missing sequences, plus from those in 'The Reign of Terror', from 'Galaxy 4' (well, ten seconds of the Doctor at the TARDIS console with Vicki cutting Steven's hair in the background) and Vicki's swansong 'The Myth Makers' - plus some later adventures. Thus we get to see Brian Cant, the peerless children's TV presenter from when I was little (of Playschool and Bric-a-Brac fame), here being exterminated by Daleks in the jungle in part 1! We also see the moments up to Katarina's shocking self-sacrifice in part 4 – having missed almost all of her brief tenure - which was a watershed moment in the programme's history as it proved that a companion could die. Regrettably, though, there is nothing from the infamous part 7, Christmas episode 'The Feast of Steven', which ended with the Doctor smashing the 'fourth wall' by delivering the legendary "...a happy Christmas to all of you at home!" line direct to camera...

It must be said that there is a special frisson attached to the second part, 'Day of Armageddon': this was the very last 'lost' episode of Doctor Who to be rediscovered, to the present, brought to light as recently as January last year (2004) when it was returned by a former BBC engineer – reducing the number of still-missing episodes to a mere 108... In it, we get to see the traitorous Guardian of the Solar System, Mavic Chen, conspiring with the Daleks to create an ultimate weapon, the Time Destructor, and the Doctor making off with its crucial 'taranium core' after masquerading as a delegate at a galactic conference featuring many weird and wonderful alien creatures. We can also see, after nearly forty years, the debut appearance of Nicholas Courtney, who would later play the series' longest-running supporting character Brigadier Alastair Lethbridge-Stewart. Here he is a different kind of soldier, Space Security Services agent Bret Vyon, who before the start of part 5 is alas killed by interim 'companion' Sara Kingdom - who subsequently admits he was her brother. Sara is played by Jean Marsh, almost unrecognisable from her earlier role as Princess Joanna in 'The Crusade', who apparently fills the vacancy created by Katarina's demise... until the very end of the story, where she too meets an untimely end. Not the jolliest of adventures, this one. Still, there is a neat trick where the Doctor, Sara and Peter are accidentally teleported to a distant planet along with the intended participants in the experiment: two white mice in a cage, which instantly made me think of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. Of course, they are immediately followed and surrounded by the Daleks - but, instead of finding out what happened next, we jump straight to part 10 in ancient Egypt. The Meddling Monk has turned up again, and gets captured by Mavic Chen and the Daleks along with Sara and Steven, effectively saving his own life by telling the Daleks they can use the other two as hostages. The sets are magnificent as the Doctor arranges to swap the three for the taranium core at the Great Pyramid and a band of Egyptian warriors launch an attack on the Daleks - and the Doctor and friends escape in the TARDIS after he has stolen the 'directional unit' from the Monk's own ship, condemning the meddler's TARDIS to roam randomly without it. And that's it - no more is to be seen, unless we get very lucky sometime in the future...


Episodes watched: 73
Episodes still to watch: 649

Ten whole per cent of the way through my 'Survival' bid!!

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