Originally broadcast over 12 weeks in 1965 and 1966, this now mostly "lost" TV story represents some of the best DOCTOR WHO of the early 1960's. Only episodes 2,5 and 10 are still extant in the BBC's TV archives, with episode 2(DAY OF ARMAGEDDON) only just re-discovered in January of 2004.
Released now as a soundtrack with a linking narration by Peter Purves - who played the Doctor's companion Steven in the original production - this is a highly enjoyable way to experience Terry Nation and Dennis Spooner's superbly written adventure. Not only do you get the full 12 episodes, but also the bonus episode: MISSION TO THE UNKNOWN; which was broadcast a few weeks previous to the start of MASTER PLAN as a prologue to the events of the story. This unusual episode has the distinction of being the only TV episode in the history of the show not to feature either the Doctor, the TARDIS or any of his companions.
Essentially the plot consists of the attempts by the Daleks and their allies to gain possession of a rare element (known as the Tarranium Core) which will power the Time Destructor - a device enabling them to conquer the Universe. The Doctor gains possession of the Tarranium, and there then follows a game of cat-and-mouse around time and space.
This is an improved version of the formula used in a previous Dalek story - THE CHASE (1965). Here we have a similar plot with the Daleks chasing our heroes around steamimg swamps,lush jungles, futuristic cities, historical settings and harsh alien deserts. What makes MASTER PLAN so successful is the way that these whizz-bang, boy's own absurdities are taken so seriously by director,cast and writers. There is an added poignancy to proceedings in that many of the good guys die, including 2 of the Doctor's travelling companions. This gives the whole an edge of tension and tragedy that makes for compelling story-telling. Here then is what DR WHO has to offer at it's best - an exciting children's adventure series that adults adore.
The Daleks themselves sound great, and are as ruthless and devious as they have ever been. When you listen to stories like this you get a small insight into why the Daleks were as much an icon of 1960's Britain as the Beatles and the mini-skirt.
Added to this mix are some superb performances by William Hartnell, Jean Marsh, Nicholas Courtney (in his first DR WHO appearance, before his later better known role as Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart) and the marvellously camp Kevin Stoney as the Daleks' power-hungry ally, Mavic Chen. A magic "chemistry" between the actors is evidenced here, making the audience really care about what happens to the characters.
The sound quality is excellent and this set of 5 CD's would have got 5 stars from me were it not for the rather crass episode 7 (THE FEAST OF STEVEN)- a "comedy" episode played for laughs as it was broadcast around the Christmas period of 1965. Thankfully, this silliness doesn't last and is probably forgiveable in light of the populist nature of Christmas episodes of well-known shows.
This comes highly recommended not only to fans of DR WHO, but to anyone who likes '60's telefantasy or the other work of Terry Nation (e.g. SURVIVORS and BLAKES 7).