Doctor Who Sunday: Mission to the Unknown
Before this: Galaxy 4
Season 3, Episode 2…?: Mission to the Unknown
Mission to the Unknown is also known as Dalek Cutaway or Dalek Cutaway – Mission to the Unknown. It’s a missing episode of Doctor Who that is an introduction to the 12-part story The Daleks’ Master Plan and is also the only Doctor Who story in history to feature neither the Doctor or the Doctor’s companions. It focuses on Space Security Agent Marc Cory (Edward de Souza) and his run-in with the Daleks. No footage is known to have survived and its episode/production number is very confusing.
Perhaps because it started off as such a small, low-budget show, classic Doctor Who took quite a few risks. One was this episode: neither the Doctor or the companions were in this episode at all. You don’t usually make an episode of a show without its title character, but Verity Lambert was a great producer and they did it – and it works, mostly. Unfortunately not a bit remains of this story, which makes it a bit tedious. Luckily, as it was only one episode, it doesn’t suffer as much as other stories (such as the 12 part The Daleks’ Master Plan, oh dear). In fact, it works quite well as a radio play.
The story is focused on a Space Security Agent, Marc Cory, who is on the planet Kembel. They discover that there are Varga plants on Kembel – if the plant pricks a person, they get an urge to kill and then slowly become the plant themselves. Marc is understandably worried, as the Varga plant is native to Skaro, the Dalek home planet, and the Daleks have been aggressively expanding their territories.
Of course, he’s right, and the Daleks are on Kembel. And they’re not alone! Unlike the Daleks of the new Doctor Who, which are more or less invincible, these Daleks are still defeatable, and thus are garnering allies. It’s certainly refreshing to see a side of the Daleks that actually shows them not just as unstoppable, undefeatable killing machines, but as killing machine adversaries that are not all powerful.
While this isn’t going into the Doctor Who hall of fame, it’s definitely a fun story – it’s short enough to keep someone’s interest, while having some cool antagonists.
Here it is: the only Doctor Who episode of its kind, the only episode in the history of the show to not have the Doctor make an appearance. None of the companions appear either. In fact, the only popular element of the show to make an appearance are the evil Daleks, who are hiding out on some strange jungle/swamp planet. The story felt very much like a traditional sci-fi story, with action heroes, aliens, mystery, and madness. A planet that is as harsh and uncompromising as the aliens it harboured, the unfortunate crew also have to deal with internal strife to attempt to overcome their adversaries and reach their goal. It is really a shame that the episode is missing, because it would have been a stunning one to watch, with plenty of action. As it was, it is a testimony to the writers and actors to make it as entertaining as it is.
The story was short and sweet (something that cannot be said about The Dalek’s Master Plan which is coming up – 12 parts!), with only one episode. It’s the sort of episode you can put on when you have a bit of spare time to kill – an airport or train sort of story. The story involves Daleks, aliens, plants that drive people insane, and a secret mission by an Earth authority organisation. Rather riveting stuff, even if the actors tended to sound the same with no visuals to separate them.
Because it felt different to other stories, it is easy to pretend that the short is part of another series, or a stand alone. The real stars of course are the Daleks, who have finally decided on their catchphrase “exterminate!” They are suitably ruthless and devious, and it is easy to imagine being a little British child in the 1960s being horrified at the notion of the Daleks plotting some evil scheme to destroy the Earth and the Solar System. The humans’ story, full of tragedy though it is, is also heroic and fun: stirring stuff dealing with madness and selflessness. That being said, it was a bit hard to tell them all apart – the pictures aren’t always clear, and the voices sound dreadfully similar (received British accents in tenor), so it became a bit tricky telling them all apart.
Mission to the Unknown is good fun, and a suitable preamble to the rather epic twelve-parter in front of us. Not having the Doctor or his companions makes for an interesting experience, and something that will probably never happen again in the history of the show, considering the modern style of one story per episode. Although because it is missing it is only for the committed fans, it is certainly an enjoyable watch.