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4.0 out of 5 stars "The Dalek's Cunning Plan", 26 Jun. 2014
This review is from: Doctor Who - The Daleks' Master Plan (Audio CD)
Back for a 4th story, the Daleks are considerably more Daleky than in their 3rd one-The Chase, They even exterminate small mammals at one point! They form an alliance of planetary systems, although they happily despatch any members that outlive their usefulness. they have a doomsday weapon the Time Destructor for which they need a core of rare mineral tarranium, only found on the Planet Uranus (long before the corny joke destroying new pronunciation of "oorinus!"). Thus they need Guardian of the Solar System Mavic Chen(he's revealed to be a baddy so early on this is only a neo-spoiler).
Their banter with him is actually a (possibly unintended) comic highlight as they berate him "You make your incompetence sound like an achievement". This almost makes him Baldrick to their Blackadder. That aside they do get some classicly Skarosian lines "One Dalek is capable of Exterminating all!"

This story is 12 episodes long with an one off prologue ep "Mission to the Unknown" (*1), featuring neither Dr and companions or tardis, making Edward de Souza as Marc Cory Dr Who's 2nd leading man , albeit for an episode only. It's an exciting & tense prologue as Cory battles to find why the Daleks have been active near the Solar System.

The rest is similarly enjoyable if really rather overlong (more on that later). Terry Nation grew up during the 2nd World war and memories of that plus the movie serials he enjoyed as a child are evident throughout his work on Dr Who. The Dalek/Nazi parallel is well trodden ground so I won't go into it, but his 60's work on Who in particular follows Flash Gordon's 3 Laws of Movie serials;
Law one: Use a good title even if it's irrelevant to the story, witness here The Mutation of Time, does time mutate?
Law Two: never be afraid to throw in a device to move along the plot e.g. The Dr and friends are running to escape the daleks and stumble into a room where molecular dispersal experiments send them to another planet.
Law Three: Bring them back next week with a stonking climax and don't worry until writing the next episode how to get out of it!

Nation and co-writer Dennis Spooner were smart enough to know that fast moving action & cliffhangers don't go out of fashion as long as you move with the times, so they mixed Flash Gordon with 60's spy thrillers. The Space Security service (SSS one S more than the Nazi secret police, coincidence?) are James Bond-esque indeed Cory is Connery's bond in Dr No where he's at his most ruthless in getting the job done and Brett Vyon ( Played by the Brigadier himself Nicolas Courtney) is the less cold Connery 007 of his other films.
Jean Marsh's Sara Kingdom is also like a female Bond until the Dr and Steven's influence softens her. The SSS are a fun and well executed idea.

Possibly the alliance scenes may have been influenced by Goldfinger released the year before.

The main humanoid villain Chen is probably more Ming the Merciless than Blofeld. Well cast in Kevin Stoney who knows there are places for subtlety but also when the script suggests OTT, just go with it!

I think this story may also have borne some influence on Blake's 7 because we have rebels striking back at a corrupt administration and there's a penal planet (Desperus-in the 60's Nation was never subtle with planet names) where prisoners are dumped for life Botany Bay style. This idea would resurface in B7 as Cygnus Alpha.

Roughly with a slight dogleg, Nation is writing the 1st half and Spooner the 2nd. Of course at 12 eps (13 including Mission) it's very padded. There was certainly material for 6 eps, maybe 7-8 but not 13. So many episodes feature the tardis crew landing somewhere to escape the daleks and then in the same or next episode leaving as their pursuers arrive.

There's an Xmas episode with no relation to the plot (*2) "The Feast of Steven" where they tussle with Police in Liverpool and then visit old Hollywood, and in later episodes a materialisation in the middle of a cricket match and then the Meddling Monk appears and they go to Ancient Egypt. Spooner having to mark time until unveiling the big climax drew the short straw so you can see why he revived the Monk. However irrelevant, Peter Butterworth's mischeiveous time traveller is fun.

Companions and allies do die giving the story a welcome dark edge to it. It's hard to know what to make of companion Katarina who appears in the last few minutes of myth makers and a few eps here, maybe with a longer stay she could have been a bit like Leela.

Good material for Hartnell hugely enjoying the comic elements, and Steven gets good material too.

The alliance are not great on audio as many do not speak and the Hollywood sequence is too visual to work acoustically (for this Peter Purves narrates with a faux American accent-hard to tell if he's getting into the spirit of it or taking the mick!)

If you like the Daleks I think you'll enjoy it and I urge you to also check out the surviving visual material on the Lost in Time boxset
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Showing 1-2 of 2 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 30 Oct 2014 02:59:18 GMT
Don't you just which they could find the missing episodes to this adventure.

A brilliantly written helpful review Bob.

In reply to an earlier post on 8 Dec 2014 12:59:13 GMT
Bob Marlowe says:
Thanks as always and yes I'd love them to find the lot. However Feast of Steven is really unlikley as it was taken out for foreign sales and the tape wiped. So unless someone had an early video or a lot of super 8 film then it's gone for good. There was a funny rumour that it was given to Billy Hartnell and he got a projector and made the family sit down to it every xmas day during dinner. It almost sounds like a Little Britain sketch!
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Location: UK

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