THE DALEKS’ MASTER PLAN: DAY OF ARMAGEDDON
Me: Weirdly, this episode more than survives, because the original film inserts still exist.
Me: Yeah, the bits that were pre-recorded and played in when the episode was being recorded.
Him: That’s the bit that Babelcolour recoloured.
Me: That’s right. And the picture quality’s amazing.
Me: John Wiles was really put out by having this story dumped on him.
Me: And before it was finished, he’d handed in his resignation. Donald Tosh went too.
Me: Hartnell and Wiles didn’t hit it off and, according to scuttlebutt, Wiles was looking for ways of writing him out when they were preparing the story that became The Celestial Toymaker.
Him: William Hartnell?
Him: But why? He was the Doctor.
Me: He was. But he wasn’t very well and I think he’d become quite difficult for some people to work with.
Him: So what was John Wiles planning on doing? Cancelling the series?
Me: I’m pretty sure it was just recasting. Or making the Doctor into a gas or something.
Him: Did he come up with the regeneration idea then?
Me: Not entirely. He was more of the ‘Please rid me of this troublesome Who’ idea. But that’s a little while off.
Him: Right. Press play.
We recap. The Doctor returns to the TARDIS.
Me: Hang on a minute. Notice anything different?
Him: What do you mean?
Me: The recap.
Me: Yeah. And?
Him: I don’t know. William Hartnell’s ear blends in with his hair?
Me: Well – no. This episode was only recovered in 2004, so the recons had already been made.
It’s an interesting moment, for me if for no-one else, as it shows just how close the team who sweated out the recons managed to get to the original show. It’s also interesting in that certain directorial decisions simply vanish. There’s some lovely camerawork later on in this episode that even a camera script wouldn’t hint at. I’ve read a review of Airlock, the recently recovered third episode of Galaxy 4, which reports that there’s a moment where Maaga delivers a chilling speech straight down the lens and into our souls. Haven’t seen it yet myself, of course. Anyway, the Doctor’s returned to the TARDIS to find it being worshipped by Daleks.1
Me: They don’t recognise the TARDIS.
Him: Maybe these are different Daleks.
The Doctor shuffles off into the foliage. The worshipping Daleks receive a message from the Dalek Supreme that Operation Inferno is go go go. Following an abbreviated countdown.
Elsewhere, Mavic Chen’s busy composing his scurrilous muck-raking memoirs.
Him: He’s just scribbling.
Me: Oo- a delegate.
Zephon oozes into the room like a rock star. According to my copy of Brewers Dictionary of Phrase and Fable, Zephon was also the cherub dispatched by Gabriel to find Satan after his expulsion in Paradise Lost. As to whether or not this counts as canon, I’ve no idea. I suppose it’s possible that The Impossible Planet is a sequel to Milton.2
Me: Bit Lovecraft. He gives me the creeps.
Mavic Chen and Zephon exchange pleasantries and exposition. It seems that the Daleks have had their eyestalks on taking over everything for a while now. And greed’s still as prevalent in the year 4000 as it was in 1965. I guess Zephon doesn’t quite get this, even though he’s turned up at the conference as well, because he asks Mavic Chen why he’d become a traitor.
Mavic Chen: Traitor? Bwah ha ha ha ha ha!
Greed, megalomania and just general wrong ‘un insanity revealed as his main interests, Mavic Chen thunders on with more exposition. It’s entertaining stuff. Elsewhere, the Daleks are plotting a double-cross that should really come as a surprise to no-one except Katarina. Speaking of Katarina: she’s looking after Steven in the jungle.
Me: Steven’s looking better and Katarina’s moving.
The Doctor finds our chums.
Me: I couldn’t work out if Steven had heard of the Daleks or not.
Following a recap, the Doctor gives Steven’s leg a solid pat.
Me: Steven’s wooden leg.1
The Him cracks up at this. Suddenly – film occurs. A Dalek deforestation team are preparing for a long night’s conflagration.
Me: Big jump in picture quality there.
Him: That one on the right’s got some difficulty getting his flame going.
The Doctor, Steven and Katarina continue their ramble. Bret, having observed the Pyro-Daleks, catches up with the others. The Doctor’s still being a bit cantankerous and wants to leave. Some other members of the group are keen on being heroes. Bret Vyon does something very brave here.
Me: Has anyone dared tell the Doctor to shut up before?
The Daleks burn and burn and burn and burn in a scene that seems to last forever. Bret still wants to warn Earth, and so our friends begin to make their way towards civilisation. The smoke from the burning jungle drifts across the Dalek city. Mavic Chen and Zephon are having a Kemblelit chat about this and that. Slightly later, back in the conference room, the other delegates arrive, in various forms of non-musical movement.
Him: What’s wrong with that guy? It’s like he’s checking for landmines.
Me: I think it’s to do with coming from a world with higher gravity.
The Daleks announce that after coffee, exterminating the traitor Zephon and reading the minutes from the previous meeting, the conference will get underway. The Doctor, Bret, Steven and Katarina have made their way to Eavesdropper Point. Bret notices a familiar Spar.
Bret Vyon: It’s Mavic Chen’s!
Our heroes decide to steal the Spar belonging to the Ultimate Head of the Solar System.
Me: “Master of the Universe!"
Zephon lurks out of the dark.
Him: What’s wrong with it? Whoah – that’s cool!
As he prepares to haunt a doorstep or two, Zephon’s claw twists through and shifts some sawdust.
Me: It reminds me of Dunwich. And where we used to live.
Zephon gets jumped by Bret Vyon. Rather him than me.
Me: Douglas Camfield directed all of The Daleks’ Master Plan.
Me: I’ll keep trying.
The delegates have finished their coffee and are waiting patiently for the meeting to get underway.
Him: It’s that guy again.
Me: He had a freak accident playing squash.
A Dalek is sent to search for Zephon who’s having his robes removed elsewhere. Katarina’s descent into lunacy isn’t being helped by this turn of events.
Me: There’s a lot more going on with Katarina than I’d realised.
Him: Yeah. It’s showing how much she’s from the past. I don’t like her as much as Vicki, but…
Me: Well, she thinks she’s passing through the underworld – and it must seem like that. Of course, she might have already gone mad at this point.
The Doctor plans to disguise himself and crash the conference. He also hasn’t forgotten Bret Vyon telling him to shut up earlier.
Him: The Doctor keeps prodding him.
Me: It shows he trusts him.
The Doctor gives Bret Vyon Marc Cory’s final tape before disguising himself as an eldritch salad. The Daleks, totally fooled, direct ‘Zephon’ to the conference chamber whilst our heroes prepare to twoc a Spar. Zephon wakes up and undulates against his viney restraints.
‘Zephon’ joins the conference, acting like he’s got concussion.
Him: The Doctor isn’t convincing in the slightest. And he’s wearing high heels.
Mavic Chen: Here’s your place - next to me.
Him: Did that Dalek just hesitate there?
Me: I don’t know. It doesn’t match the subtitles.
The Daleks reveal that the time destructor is almost ready.
Dalek Supreme: IT-ONLY-RE-QUIRES-THE-CORE-TO-BE-FIT-TED!
Him: The core of the Earth?
Me: I think it’s a taranium core this time. The whole, mine-Bedfordshire-in-order-to-hollow-out-the-core-of-the-Earth-and-take-it-for-a-quick-spin idea has been quietly dropped.
The delegates are so delighted that the meeting’s finally underway that they start some rhythmic pounding.
Him: His hands look horrible.
Me: That’s Malpha.
The Dalek Supreme calls the meeting to order.
Dalek Supreme: MAAAA-VIC-CH-EN!
The core of the time destructor is revealed. It isn’t a tin of dog food. Teeth are bared.
Mavic Chen: I, Mavic Chen, give you the core of the time destructor!
PARP! goes the core of the time destructor.
Me: Makes quite a noise when he puts it down.
Him: Like iron in Look Around You.
Zephon struggles to free itself.
Me: The salad’s almost escaped.
Whirr click goes the Spar. Bret Vyon pops in and takes it over.
Me: Nice. No messing
Zephon raises alarums.
Him: Did you see his head?
Him: I know someone who looks like that.
In the confusion the Doctor grabs The Taranium Core and makes a hasty exit.
Me: “I’ll have that!”
On the Spar, Katarina prays for the Doctor’s safety as Bret prepares to lift off…
Me: So – she needs the Doctor to guide her…
Him: To the Place of Perfection.
NEXT: DEVIL’S PLANET
Me: I enjoyed that episode. It finally makes sense.
1. I’d better offer my thanks to Tachyon TV who, to the best of my knowledge, first pointed this out.
2. No, it isn’t.