Doctor Who Sunday: The Daleks’ Master Plan
Before this: The Myth Makers
Season 3, Episode 3: The Daleks’ Master Plan
‘The Daleks’ Master Plan’ is the partly missing third serial of the third season of Doctor Who, which originally aired in twelve weekly parts, making it the longest Doctor Who serial. It was never screened in Australia due to censorship, and also marks the first appearance of Nicholas Courtney in Doctor Who.
This is the great whale of Doctor Who – a twelve episode doozy that sees the Doctor pick up and drop several different companions. It also boasts the first companion deaths in Doctor Who history, with an especially gruesome death occurring at the end of the final episode.
We took quite a while to slog through ‘The Daleks’ Master Plan’, not because it was bad, but just because we were kind of afraid to tackle it all in one (or even two) sittings. Instead, we went the old route of watching an episode a week, just as if we were back in 1965 – but of course, on computers instead of on a TV. We’re not savages, after all.
‘The Daleks’ Master Plan’ was not as bad as I’d expected. Sure, a lot of the original video is missing, and it’s very, very long, and I definitely wouldn’t recommend watching it in one sitting, but it’s actually a pretty good story. Basically, the Daleks have hatched a plan to take over the universe with an alliance that includes Mavic Chen, the Guardian of the Solar System. Chen is set to provide the Daleks with taranium, an incredibly rare element that will allow them to power the Time Destructor (I know) and rule the universe. The Doctor and Steven (as well as a few different companions) need to foil this plan, and so begins a long journey that takes them to multiple planets, ancient Egypt and Britain.
Straight off the bat, I’ll say that I was pretty excited about Mavic Chen, who has a pretty Chinese sounding name. He even looks vaguely Asiatic, but unfortunately upon further inspection, Kevin Stoney is well, pretty white, which means that this is one of Doctor Who’s most egregious examples of yellowface (and also possibly some blackface, as Chen’s face is quite dark too). Apart from that, Mavic Chen is an interesting character – he betrays the people of Earth so he can rule over more than one galaxy.
The companions in this are also strong. Although we lost Vicki in the previous episode, we picked up Katerina, and in the first few episodes we’re also introduced to Bret Vyon, a space security agent that is first suspicious of the Doctor and the companions, but then joins their side. We also meet Sara Kingdom, his sister, who is particularly impressive. Spoilers: all three of the new companions perish.
While I rather enjoyed this serial, the filler episodes were a bit of a drag – it seems to be a consistent problem with early Doctor Who. Rather than simply running shorter serials, the story is simply stretched thinner, which can lead to some mostly pointless episodes. Still, there are plenty of great moments and this episode also sees several of the Doctor’s companions die, especially in the last episode in which a companion, ravaged by the effects of the Time Destructor, dies and simply withers away to dust which is blown away. It’s really chilling stuff and I can see why it was censored back then.
All in all, a story with some very dark, serious moments, some fairly boring filler episodes and some exciting ones too! It’s probably one of the darkest serials so far, and I honestly think it was worth watching for the last episode alone.
We did it! We finally got through the serial I had been dreading for so long. ‘The Dalek’s Master Plan’ was a whopping 12 episodes long, making it the second longest story in the show’s history (‘Trial of a Timelord’ will be another slog-fest). Not only that, but ¾ of the episodes are missing – so most of the action was in audio. And yet, despite my fears of it dragging on and on and on, it was actually a fast paced story, considering how much of it was missing. That being said, it is really something that only really committed Whovians should watch – it’s definitely a heavy going serial.
The story was very long and quite stretched out. Sometimes it felt a bit too-padded out – there were scenes in Ancient Egypt and 1960’s Britain which seemed very out of place in the sci-fi story. Whilst those forays, which included the return of a character I never thought to see again, were very funny and light-hearted, they did distract from the story quite a lot. Outside of these forays away from the main story, the plot was intriguing. Daleks always make great bad guys – treacherous and megalomaniacs in equal measure. And whilst this didn’t feel like a particularly evil plot (especially compared with some of their other plots later in the series) it was definitely an enjoyable plot. And a character called Mavic Chen (a character who was supposed to be Asian I suspect but was played by a very white guy in “black face”) certainly added an element of intrigue, with inter-galactic politics, egos and greed being very prominent in the story. It ended on a rather rough note as well.
This story did have an awful lot of character deaths – and not only the first but second character death in the show. This is obviously a very rare occurrence – there is only one other major character death in the entire series (this is not counting Rory’s alive/death fiasco, or Peri’s unknown fate). Quite bleak stuff – especially the manner of these deaths. It is easy to understand why the ABC decided to censor this serial in hindsight – it is definitely dark stuff for a children’s show. Maybe kids were made of sterner stuff back in the 1960’s.
Overall, quite enjoyable, and definitely not worth the anxiety over a twelve part story missing ¾ of its stories.