Sunday, 20 August 2017
Inspirations - The Daleks' Master Plan
Now in its third season, it had been decided that Doctor Who would comprise mainly four part adventures, with a six part Dalek story every six months or so. The Controller of BBC 1 - Huw Wheldon - was a big fan of the Daleks, as was his mother. He asked outgoing producer Verity Lambert to show more of the Skarosian menaces, and she came up with the idea that two Dalek slots could be combined to form one massive 12 episode adventure, that would run over the Christmas period. New producer John Wiles was horrified to inherit this, as it would take up most of his first year in charge. Knowing that Terry Nation would never be able to come up with all 12 episodes, Donald Tosh agreed that he would write half - the set-up and the conclusion - whilst Dennis Spooner would handle the middle section.
Dalek director Richard Martin had moved on, and so Douglas Camfield was hired to direct. As deadlines loomed, as Tosh tells it, Nation dropped off his scripts on the way to the airport, but these were mostly episode outlines rather than full scripts. As such, much of The Daleks' Master Plan ought to be credited to Tosh.
We've already looked at the origins of the Kemble-set opening episodes, thanks to the prequel episode Mission to the Unknown. We've still got the jungle warfare elements, and Nicholas Courtney's Bret Vyon is the new Bond-like character. Like Bond villains, the Daleks have got themselves a big base, a group of allies, and have developed a super-weapon - the Time Destructor.
There is a new, humanoid, villain added to the mix - would be ruler of the universe Mavic Chen (Kevin Stoney). He already runs the Solar System, but that isn't enough. Part Three sees the Doctor and company fleeing Kemble in Chen's stolen ship. This allows for the first of two chase sequences, so the story can introduce new locations and new adversaries. First we have the desperate criminals of Desperus. This prison planet is obviously influenced by the penal settlement of Devil's Island - the episode is actually called Devil's Planet. One of these hirsute felons - Kirksen - gets onto the ship and takes Katarina hostage in the airlock. She has been telling the Doctor that she knows she will die soon since she came aboard the TARDIS, and in Episode Four this comes to pass. She sacrifices herself to help the Doctor, opening the airlock to space. The first companion death, and she only came into the programme in the previous story. Tosh and Wiles had realised that someone from so long ago would need everything explained to them, or accept things that she ought to have questioned - which would have slowed the drama down to a standstill.
Watching her death scene at home was the director Stanley Kubrick, who was preparing 2001: A Space Odyssey. He wanted to know how the shots had been achieved. (Adrienne Hill had been filmed on a trampoline, shot from below. These death scenes were the first she filmed for the show).
The action moves onto Earth, where Bret's friend turns out to be in the pay of Chen and he is forced to kill him. He is himself shot dead by a new Security Agent - Sara Kingdom. She, the Doctor and Steven are accidentally transported to yet another jungle planet - mire-ridden Mira. Nation had introduced matter transmission to the programme with his travel dials in The Keys of Marinus. Mira is home to the invisible Visians. Nation will return to invisible aliens in a few years time. Sara admits that Bret was actually her brother, and quickly joins forces with the Doctor and Steven when the Daleks show up. She is clearly modeled on The Avengers companions Cathy Gale and Emma Peel, as well as some of the female agents encountered by Bond.
The Visians attack the Daleks, allowing the Doctor and company to flee, but the ship is drawn back to Kemble. In trying to create a fake Core for the Time Destructor, Steven accidentally shrouds himself in a force-field. This allows the Doctor to retrieve the TARDIS. There then follows the oddest episode in the history of Doctor Who - The Feast of Steven. This one went out on Christmas evening. It was felt that Daleks exterminating people on Christmas Day might not go down very well, so this episode is played for laughs. The first section sees the TARDIS materialise in Liverpool on Christmas Day, 1965. The Doctor gets arrested on a vagrancy charge - believed to be squatting in the new Police Box that's been delivered outside the police station. The Doctor thinks he recognises a man he meets in the station as having been in the market place of Jaffa. This is an in-joke as the man is played by Reg Pritchard, who had played the rather camp tailor Ben Daheer in The Crusade.
It had been hoped that the cast of Z Cars would have featured here, but their producer vetoed the idea. Steven pretends to be a Scouse policeman to rescue the Doctor and they move on. On the scanner, they see a woman about to be cut in half by a saw in a timber yard. Rushing to her rescue, they find that they have arrived in a Hollywood studio of the silent era. A number of films are in production - the Perils of Pauline type they first saw, another not unlike Valentino's The Sheikh, and a Keystone Kops affair. Morton Dill had thought they were filming a Keystone Kops routine when the TARDIS materialised on top of the Empire State Building in The Chase. Charlie Chaplin is referenced, and the Doctor meets Bing Crosby, who's thinking of giving up clowning to take up singing. Crosby never acted in comic roles in silent movies.
After fleeing back to the TARDIS, the Doctor then famously breaks the fourth wall by including the viewers in his Christmas toast.
The following episode aired on New Year's Eve. The Doctor realises that someone is following him and assumes that it is the Daleks, who have discovered that he had given them the fake Core. It transpires that it is not the Daleks at all, but a return appearance by the Meddling Monk, once again portrayed by Peter Butterworth. Spooner, his creator, is the author of this episode. The Monk's return - the series' first recurring character - allows for more humour over the festive period. Before meeting him, the TARDIS lands in the middle of a Test Match between England and Australia at the Oval cricket ground. The usually unflappable BBC cricket commentators are parodied, with one of them looking to see if this has ever happened before. After a brief meeting with the Monk on a volcanic planet, the TARDIS arrives in Trafalgar Square to witness the New Year celebrations. The Daleks have indeed found out that they have been sold a pup, and so send to Skaro for their own space time machine - allowing the story to be stretched out further. TARDIS, Monk and Daleks (with Chen in tow) all arrive in Egypt at the time of the building of the Great Pyramid of Khufu at Giza. It looks pretty much finished, so the year must be around 1260 BC. This setting was one of those originally intended for inclusion in The Chase. That previous Dalek pursuit had seen the Doctor's companions encountering Dracula and the Frankenstein Monster, and this time it is the Mummy who is referenced, as Sara and Steven see a bandaged figure emerge from a sarcophagus. It's just the Monk, trussed up by the Doctor.
The Doctor is forced to hand over the real Core to Chen. He has sabotaged the Monk's TARDIS yet again - making it look like a Police Box to draw Dalek fire, and he has stolen the directional unit - hoping it will be compatible with his older ship. The Monk is last seen on an ice planet, doomed to wander aimlessly until he can replace the unit. The unit does manage to get the TARDIS back to Kemble before burning itself out. Not content with one big base, the Daleks have built themselves another - an underground bunker. Chen's sanity finally collapses as he starts giving the Daleks orders, and it is only a matter of time before they exterminate him. The Doctor steals the Time Destructor and activates it. Time starts to unravel forwards. The jungle turns to desert, and Sara ages to death. The second companion death, within the same story, though there continues some debate about whether or not she is a proper companion. Steven rescues the Doctor, and throws the Destructor into reverse. The Daleks regress to embryos, and John Wiles and Donald Tosh start writing their resignation letters.
Next time, Steven sees double and the Doctor looks for a chemist shop in 16th Century Paris...