As Space Security Agent Bret Vyon and a fatalistic colleague search for their missing comrade Marc Cory on the planet Kembel, little do they realize they’re about to become the first witnesses to the beginning of a Dalek invasion of Earth’s galaxy and solar system. Vyon escapes with his life, but his radio transmitter is destroyed, leaving him unable to warn Earth of the impending danger. The TARDIS lands on Kembel, and when the Doctor steps outside to explore, he is ambushed by Vyon, who takes the key to his timeship. Vyon enters the TARDIS and tries to coerce Katarina into operating the controls, but Katarina – still new to the TARDIS – can’t help him, and Steven attacks Vyon and lets the Doctor back in. The Doctor secures Vyon in a magnetic security chair which holds him immoble, and returns to his explorations outside, spotting Daleks nearby. Vyon helps Katarina cure Steven of his poisoning, while the Doctor infiltrates a nearby spaceport where the Daleks are gathering. He impersonates one of several visiting delegates, and discovers that the Daleks – with help from the traitorous Mavic Chen, guardian of the solar system – plan to unleash a weapon called the Time Destructor. When they find the TARDIS door ajar, the Daleks force Katarina, Steven and Bret Vyon out of the time machine, and the former TARDIS travelers have to steal a ship from the spaceport. Vyon intends to leave the Doctor behind, but the Doctor manages to get aboard as the ship takes off – having stolen the valuable taranium core that would power the Time Destructor. The Daleks pursue, forcing the ship down on the prison planet Desperus, where two prisoners hijack the ship as it takes off again. The criminals take Katarina hostage and barricade themselves into an airlock, but the girl bravely sacrifices her own life to open the airlock, killing the hijackers in the process. The Doctor and Steven are stunned, but continue racing toward Earth to warn humanity of the Daleks’ plan.
Mavic Chen beats them back to Earth and has the Space Security Service declare Vyon, Steven and the Doctor traitors to the human race, but the three travelers haven’t taken quite the path Chen expected, and elude capture. Chen assigns special agent Sara Kingdom to track them down and eliminate them, unaware that she is Vyon’s sister. Vyon leads the Doctor and Steven to a friend of his, only to discover that this friend is in Chen’s employ and is also in on the conspiracy to hand Earth over to the Daleks. Sara Kingdom arrives at the scene and guns down her brother in cold blood, continuing the pursue the other two. She pursues them into a laboratory where a matter-transmission experiment is taking place, and all three are transported through space to the planet Mira. The Daleks follow the travelers to Mira, where Sara experiences a change of heart as the murder of her brother sinks in. But her realization is almost cut short by a new threat – Mira’s invisible and lethal indigenous life forms. When the Daleks corner the time travelers, those creatures offer an opportunity to escape. The Doctor, Sara and Steven commandeer the Dalek ship and leave Mira. As the Dalek ship follows a pre-programmed course back to Kembel, the Doctor makes a fake taranium core. He uses it to bluff his way back into the TARDIS on Kembel, handing it over to the Daleks at the last minute. But despite the fact that the travelers still have the real taranium core, the TARDIS takes them someplace else inhospitable, with a poisonous atmosphere: 20th century Earth.
When the Doctor investigates, he is mistaken for a homeless man, discovering that the “poisonous atmosphere” is merely that of polluted 1966 London. Steven and Sara have to act fast to rescue the Doctor from police (who are, after all, merely looking after “their” police box) and escape back to the TARDIS. They then wind up materializing in a Hollywood studio during a film shoot, and a brief but maddening chase ensues between the time travelers and the filmmakers. The TARDIS then takes them to the volcanic planet of Tigus. Not only are the Daleks lying in wait, having discovered that they do not possess a real taranium core, but so too is the Meddling Monk, an interfering fellow Time Lord the Doctor and Steven left stranded in 1066 A.D.. The Monk tries to exact his revenge by locking the Doctor out of his own TARDIS, but the Doctor uses a special property of his ring to gain entry. With both the Monk and the Daleks in hot pursuit, the Doctor and his companions make a quick escape to ancient Egypt, but their reception is anything but friendly there – a possessive Pharaoh lays claim to the TARDIS.
Followed to Egypt by the Monk, the Doctor realizes that the stakes are now higher and he’ll have to use the real taranium core as a bargaining chip. When the Monk ensures that Steven and Sara are captured by the Daleks and suggests they use the two humans as hostages, the Doctor is forced to hand over the core to the Daleks. His friends returned to him (and having once again sabotaged the Monk’s TARDIS), the Doctor races back to Kembel, where Mavic Chen’s ambition grows to the point where the corrupt leader no longer thinks he needs the Daleks. They solve this problem by swiftly exterminating Chen and activating the Time Destructor. When the Doctor realizes how the Daleks’ ultimate weapon will work, he decides to run for the safety of the TARDIS to wait out its effects, for the weapon will quickly destroy itself and all those around it. Tragically, Sara does not live to see the Daleks’ grandiose plan fail.
written by Terry Nation and Dennis Spooner
directed by Douglas Camfield
music by Tristram Cary
Guest Cast: Jean Marsh (Sara Kingdom), Brian Cant (Kert Gantry), Nicholas Courtney (Bret Vyon), Pamela Greer (Lizan), Philip Anthony (Roald), Kevin Stoney (Mavic Chen), Michael Guest (Interviewer), Julian Sherrier (Zephon), Roy Evans (Trantis), Douglas Sheldon (Kirksen), Dallas Cavell (Bors), Geoffrey Cheshire (Garge), Maurice Browning (Karlton), Jack Pitt (Gearon), Roger Avon (Daxtar), James Hall (Borkar), Bill Meilen (Froyn), John Herrington (Rhynmal), Terence Woodfield (Celation), Peter Butterworth (Monk), Roger Brierly (Trevor), Bruce Wightman (Scott), Jeffrey Isaac (Khepren), Derek Ware (Tuthmos), Walter Randall (Hyksos), Bryan Mosley (Malpha), Robert Jewell, Kevin Manser, Gerald Taylor, John Scott Martin (Daleks), Peter Hawkins, David Graham (Dalek voices), Clifford Earl (Sergeant), Norman Mitchell, Malcolm Rogers (Policemen), Kenneth Thornett (Inspector), Reg Pritchard (Man in mackintosh), Sheila Dunn (Blossom Lefavre), Leonard Grahame (Darcy Tranton), Royston Tickner (Steinberger P. Green), Mark Ross (Ingmar Knopf), Conrad Monk (Assistant Director), David James (Arab Sheik), Paula Topham (Vamp), Robert G. Jewell (Clown), Albert Barrington (Professor Webster), Buddy Windrush (Prop Man), Steven Machin, Jack le White (Cameramen), Paul Sarony, Malcolm Leopold (Keystone Cops), Harry Davies (Make-up Man), William Hall (Cowboy), Jean Pastell (Saloon Girl), M.J. Matthews (Chaplain)
Broadcast from November 13, 1965 through January 29, 1966
LogBook entry & review by Earl Green
Whew. Given the vast scope of the story, I almost feel obligated to keep my opinion material on this mind-bogglingly long 12-parter brief since the synopsis seemed to take forever. In its day, where – as legend would have it – it was the product of a BBC controller’s wish to placate his mother (reportedly a fan of the Daleks) and the Dalek-hungry public, The Daleks’ Master Plan tested the metal monstrosities’ popularity to the breaking point. The only episode of the dozen-week saga in which the Daleks do not appear is the goofy part 7, The Feast Of Steven, a Christmas pantomime episode designed to lighten the mood for the holidays. Otherwise, it was three solid months of deadly dustbins.
As exhausting as watching it must have been, listening to the entirety of The Daleks’ Master Plan on CD is quite a venture too. Imagine spending over five hours of your life listening to a narrated audio transcription of a TV show which no longer exists in video form. Episodes 5 and 12 still exist, and I’ve seen them, so I can’t really say if tackling this story is any easier with video than it is without. The 5-CD set, requiring some novel modifications to the kind of packaging reserved for 4-disc sets, is well assembled with copious liner notes, and the discs are helped along considerably by the able and subtle narration of Peter Purves, who played Steven in the original episodes. Purves seems to especially enjoy – and his help is most needed for – the aforementioned Christmas episode, much of which consisted of sight gags with little dialogue. A lot is lost in the translation, but Purves still accurately recounts the missing scenery in a playful tone; for the other 11 episodes, he remains appropriately serious.
Overall, an exhausting listen, but there’s a very good story at the heart of it – Doctor Who’s first attempt at a major story arc. There are some ripping good cliffhangers here in William Hartnell’s final tussle with the Daleks, and the jeopardy escalates throughout the story, though there’s also a lot of running around, being caught, escaping in the nick of time, and that sort of padding. It takes patience to listen long enough to get to the juicy stuff, and I’m not sure it worked a lot better with visuals accompanying it. Still, given the scope and seriousness of the story, in a way The Daleks’ Master Plan is a template for Doctor Who’s sometimes too-serious later years.