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16 Jan 2007The Daleks' Master Plan, by Eddy Wolverson
16 Jan 2007The Daleks' Master Plan, by Paul Clarke

Where on earth do I begin? Every Doctor Who fan in the universe has heard of “The Daleks’ Master Plan” – the Christmas episode; the death of a companion; the one that got away…

Many people will have purchased the Lost in Time DVD collection on the strength of the three existent episodes of this story included on the disc. They do not disappoint! The newest discovery, “Day of Armageddon” is presented remastered with the option of an audio commentary from Peter Purves (Steven), Kevin Stoney (Mavic Chen) and Raymond Cusick, the designer. The visual quality of the episode (as well as that of both “Counter Plot” and “Escape Switch”) is so good that you would think it was only shot yesterday! Although I enjoyed watching these three episodes, it really is so sad to see. Such an epic, landmark story, and all that remains of it are three episodes and a narrated soundtrack (available separately on CD from the BBC Radio Collection.) Nevertheless, what we have is worth enjoying…

“Mission To The Unknown”, a single twenty-five minute episode broadcast four weeks before the first ‘official’ episode of the serial, is an episode unique in the history of the classic series – not one; not two but all the regular cast were on holiday! Moreover, despite being regarded as part of the larger “The Daleks’ Master Plan” narrative, this stand-alone episode is the only single-episode story in twenty-six seasons of Doctor Who (except for the feature-length special, “The Five Doctors,” I suppose.) Effectively a lengthy trailer for the upcoming story, this ‘Dalek Cutaway’ episode focuses exclusively on the exploits of the Space Special Security Service Agent Marc Corey (Edward de Souza) on the planet Kembel. He discovers that the Daleks are planning to unite several aggressive alien species against mankind, and although he is exterminated by the Daleks, a tape containing his findings survives, setting up the twelve-parter wonderfully… Only available today as an audio soundtrack, “Mission To The Unknown” is a curiosity that even die-hard Doctor Who fans will struggle to get excited about. It’s entertaining enough, but personally I had no real interest in the characters. In fairness though, when listened to in conjunction with the rest of the story, this little episode does do a remarkable job at slowly cranking up the tension, and at the time must have had a lot of viewers scratching their heads, looking for a resolution that wasn’t forthcoming. Moreover, if nothing else, this episode gives us a glimpse at what Nation’s spin-off Dalek series, “The Destroyers”, could have been like. Unfortunately for Terry Nation, it also gave the BBC an impression of what such a series may have been like…

As episode one proclaims, “The Nightmare Begins.” Depending on whether or not one has seen “Mission To The Unknown,” this episode is either wonderfully compelling or a bit been-there-seen-that. Much of the material from the teaser episode is rehashed, but even so this episode has a lot going for it. The Doctor, Steven, and new companion Katarina are really thrown in at the deep end – the wheels of the Daleks’ plan are already turning, and following on directly from “The Myth Makers”, Steven is badly injured and the Doctor is forced to venture out into the jungles of Kembel in search of aid. This episode also introduces a familiar face to the series, albeit in an unfamiliar guise. Nicholas Courtney makes his Doctor Who debut as Bret Vyon, another Space Special Security Service Agent. It is Courtney’s superb performance that really engaged my interest in this episode; his character is (initially) portrayed as a very unlikeable and very militant individual, someone who appears to be as much a threat to our heroes as the Daleks are.

The second episode, “Day of Armageddon,” was famously returned to the BBC archives in late 2003, and subsequently released commercially the following year for the first time as part of the Lost in Time DVD collection. After listening to the soundtracks of “Mission To The Unknown” and “The Nightmare Begins,” it was absolutely fantastic to be able to enjoy the wonderful visuals on display in this episode – beautiful shots of Daleks in the forest with pyro weapons; all the aliens in the council… even Mavic Chen himself. It’s a really enthralling episode. To those who have seen it on the DVD but don’t own the soundtrack, I cannot stress enough how much more enjoyable the episode is in context. “Day of Armageddon” may give us some wonderful visuals and some truly classic moments of television, but it isn’t until later episodes that characters like Bret Vyon and Mavic Chen (Guardian of the Solar System) are explored more fully, and moreover, it isn’t until later that things really heat up!

The loss of episode three, “DevilÂ’s Planet,” is truly heartbreaking. Almost a completely self-contained adventure, this episode is set on Desparus (the prison planet of the ‘Solar SystemÂ’ – how many planets does our Solar System have, hmm?) and contains the most shocking moment in the series to date – KatarinaÂ’s death. Like many people, IÂ’d heard about her death long before I saw the surviving clip or heard the soundtrack, yet I was still taken aback at how well it was handled. Completely unexpected; totally understated. My only criticism would be that her death lacked a bit of weight because her character was so new. If, for example, it would have been Maureen OÂ’BrienÂ’s Vicki being sucked out into space I think it would have hit a lot harder, but even as it was the writers and producers have to be praised for taking such bold action. 

From the third episode onwards, “The Daleks’ Master Plan” borrows a lot from “The Chase” in terms of format and pace, but thankfully not in tone. Instead of the Daleks’ chasing the Doctor and his companions through time and space just to exterminate them, in this story they are chasing them to retrieve the Taranium Core of the Time Destructor and the whole universe is at stake. Episode four, “The Traitors,” continues the ‘chase’ format but also takes more time to dwell on characters like Mavic Chen and Bret Vyon. In this episode we witness Vyon kill a man in cold blood, outraging the Doctor, but due to some clever writing on Nation’s part Vyon still gets over with the audience. His methods may be worlds apart from the Doctor’s, but their goals are the same. It’s almost reminiscent of the relationship between the Doctor and certain Brigadier… Moreover, “The Traitors” give us a little bit of exposition, allowing the audience insight into Mavic Chen’s own private master plan. Here we also see his ruthlessness in practice as he stabs one of his ‘allies’ in the back, framing them for a crime against the Daleks.

“Counter Plot” is one of the two episodes of this serial that were found in a Mormon Church basement! It has had limited exposure in the past, having been released commercially on the BBC Video Daleks – The Early Years, but now is available on the Lost In Time DVD gloriously remastered. It’s damn good thing too, because it’s a cracking episode. Jean Marsh as Sara Kingdom is absolutely superb. She’s yet another Space Special Security Service Agent, and on initial appearances she seems like just a female version of Vyon. The trouble is, she won’t believe the Doctor, Steven and Vyon’s story, and it isn’t until she has actually killed Vyon – who we then find out is her brother! – that she realises that it is all true. This gives her character a troubled, unstable edge – something a lot of the Doctor’s early companions lack. Of course, whether Sara is a proper ‘companion’ or not is another issue entirely, and one I don’t give a shit about if the truth be known! She’s here for one story, and she’s fantastic – that’s all I care about!

Some Doctor Who fans may experience a little bit of déjà vu watching the existing episodes of “The Daleks’ Master Plan”, particularly if they were the sort of Doctor Who fans raised on a staple diet of Jon Pertwee Dalek stories. Already in this twelve-parter, we have seen the familiar concept of a killer jungle in “The Nightmare Begins” and “Day of Armageddon,” and in this episode we are treated to another Terry Nation trademark – invisible monsters, the classic budget-saving baddies! Both the killer jungle and the invisible aliens would later be rehashed in “Planet of the Daleks” six years later, but strangely, because I’m so familiar with “Planet of the Daleks,” it is this story that feels like the rip-off, when of course it was written years beforehand!

With the beautifully titled “Coronas of the Sun,” Dennis Spooner takes over the writing duties and immediately there is a noticeable change in the serial’s style. Nation’s beginning to the story makes the Daleks’ plan crystal clear, but they do not actually do much themselves, nor is there any real interaction between the Daleks and our heroes. Spooner brings the Daleks to the forefront, giving us a battle between them and the Visians (the invisible creatures) and also a showdown outside the TARDIS with the Doctor and his companions – here there is a rare moment of brilliance for Steven, who manages to save the lives of the TARDIS crew but only at great risk to himself. The nefarious Mavic Chen is also handled well by Spooner, who really plays on Chen’s manipulation of the Daleks. In this episode Chen actually wants the Doctor to escape with the Taranium Core, just to annoy the Daleks!

The story’s seventh instalment, “The Feast of Steven,” was the first episode of Doctor Who ever to be broadcast on Christmas Day. Unlike 2005’s action-packed blockbuster, “The Christmas Invasion,” this episode is nothing more than a whimsical diversion – not a Dalek in sight! I confess, I did enjoy listening to the surviving soundtrack, not because it is good by any stretch of the imagination, but just because I found it so amusingly rubbish. I still think it is incredible that the producers decided to cut away from the biggest, most ambitious story that they’ve ever attempted and instead give the massive Christmas audience a slapstick knockdown run-around show! Out of all the episodes churned out in the sixties, without a shadow of a doubt this one has dated the most. The Doctor even famously salutes the audience from home! Yuk.

“Volcano” throws the audience right back into the action, the Daleks’ resuming their pursuit of the TARDIS back through time and Mortimus, the Meddling Monk, rears his ugly head once again. Here, the Monk is just as good as in “The Time Meddler”, if not better. Peter Butterworth works so well with Hartnell; they just have that chemistry between them, a bit like Roger Delgado and Jon Pertwee. “Golden Death” sees the Monk being forced by the Daleks to trick the Doctor, making for some hilarious television as the Monk schemes and plots – sometimes in a very sinister way, but mostly playfully. He’s actually a very likeable character – something Paul Cornell would later play on wonderfully in his superb novel, “No Future.” He’s certainly my favourite black and white Doctor Who villain!

“Escape Switch,” the last of the extant episodes, is the best of the three in my opinion. It wraps up the Monk ‘trilogyÂ’ of episodes superbly – William Hartnell is at his absolute best, both forceful and clever, as is Kevin StoneyÂ’s Mavic Chen, and there are also some wonderful scenes where the native Egyptians react to the Daleks. ItÂ’s hard to believe that this segment of “The DaleksÂ’ Master Plan” is the only Doctor Who television story ever set in Egypt – whatÂ’s up with that? At the end of the episode, the Doctor actually gets his hands of a directional unit for the TARDIS and manages to steer it back to Kembel, only to be forced into handing over the core of the Time Destructor to the Daleks! 

For me, the worst part of “The Daleks’ Master Plan” is its ending. Admittedly, watching the credits roll at the end of “Escape Switch” (the last surviving episode of the serial) is a very deflating experience which doesn’t help the final two audio-only episodes. As good as the narrated soundtracks are, you cannot beat the much more visceral experience of an actual episode. “The Abandoned Planet” is a slow and drawn-out affair, and features far more exposition and political scheming than any of the other eleven episodes. To make matters worse, the Doctor is nowhere to be seen.

“Destruction of Time” is rather a grim title for an episode, and grim is what you get. Chen meets a rather predictable end, gunned down by the Daleks he strived so hard to outwit. It’s quite a shame really - even though he was so evil, part of me wanted to see him out-manoeuvre the Daleks! The Daleks then detonate the time destructor, but it is so powerful that it kills them – reducing them to microscopic embryos. The death toll mounts as Sara dies horribly, aged to death by the Dalek weapon. In the end, only the Doctor seems pleased that the Dalek menace is destroyed; Steven is far too distraught about the deaths of Katarina, Bret, Sara and so many others that he can’t bring himself be pleased, leaving us with a very downbeat ending indeed.

In all, the epic centrepiece to the 1965/1966 season is quite simply that; epic. The greatest compliment that I can pay this story is that it holds up over thirteen episodes – in forty years no other story can claim that. The sheer ambition of the story is breathtaking - several planets; ancient Egypt; Earth in the far future; spaceships; the meddling Monk; the death of two ‘companions’… it’s absolutely groundbreaking stuff, beautifully and imaginatively written by both Terry Nation and Dennis Spooner. The constant shifts of location and emphasis really help the story maintain its pace over such a long stretch, so much so that at time it feels more like The Lord of the Rings than Doctor Who! What I love so much about this story is how one can easily dip in and out of it – the plot is grounded in a relatively simple premise so that you can miss the odd episode and still follow it, and (although I doubt anyone will approach the story this way these days) if you were to watch/listen to it over thirteen weeks, the gaps in your memory are so easily filled. It’s like intergalactic Coronation Street. That said, “The Daleks’ Master Plan” is a story that works on a lot of different levels. There’s a lot of action, a lot of politics, a lot of a humour, a lot of pathos and a lot of death. Arguably, it’s the most ‘grown-up’ Doctor Who story of the Hartnell era. Sadly, there aren’t any telesnaps out there to allow any decent sort of reconstruction to be made, so it there was ever a contender for another story to be animated… there’s cash to be made, BBC!

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After the Dalek-free 'The Myth Makers', the following story delivers on the promise of 'Mission to the Unknown', and does it with considerable success. 'The Daleks' Master Plan' is the series first and arguably greatest, true epic, mixing space opera with political intrigue, betrayal and even humour. Key to the success of the story is the Daleks themselves. 

If 'The Chase' showed the Daleks taking another technological step forward, but undermined this achievement by making them creatures of ridicule, then 'The Daleks' Master Plan' redresses the balance; the Daleks here are not stupid, or silly, they are a palpable threat to the entire galaxy. In 'The Chase', the Daleks made the leap to time travel, whereas here they go beyond that. Not only do they again time travel and pursue the TARDIS, but also they have built their ultimate weapon, the Time Destructor. The implication is obvious – the Daleks can conquer anything. We are constantly reminded throughout the story of just how dangerous the Daleks are, whether it is the Doctor asserting that with the Time Destructor they can conquer the entire universe, or Bret Vyon grimly making clear that the solar system is finished if they cannot stop the invasion force on Kembel. This is the first time that the Daleks feel like a threat on a galactic scale. Part of their menace lies not in their attitude towards their enemies however, but also their attitude towards their allies. The Daleks are more cunning and manipulative here than ever before; with the benefit of pre-knowledge, the viewer can easily guess that the Daleks will betray the representatives from the outer galaxies, but the shocked silence when Zephon and later Trantis are exterminated demonstrates that the Alliance members did not fully understand what they were letting themselves in for in their greed for power. Mavic Chen also serves to remind us of the true nature of the Daleks; when he discovers that the Doctor and Steven have been accidentally transmitted to Mira with the Taranium core, he is clearly on the verge of panic, knowing how they reward failure. Even before this, his conversations with Karlton let us know that he realises the danger of the game he is playing and that he does not underestimate the Daleks. Tellingly, it is only when he descends into madness in the final episodes that he loses his fear of the Daleks, which quickly results in his death. Far more convincingly than 'The Chase', 'The Daleks' Master Plan' makes it clear that there is no escape from the Daleks. When the Doctor and his friends flee Kembel in Chen's Spar, the Daleks force them to crash on Desperus from afar and send pursuit ships after them; when they escape to Earth, Chen and his co-conspirators are waiting for them; on Mira, the Daleks soon catch up with them, and when they flee in the Dalek ship the Daleks on Kembel ensnare them first by remote control of the vessel and then in a magnetic beam. Even when they escape in the TARDIS, the Daleks can follow them through time, and it is only by returning to Kembel and confronting the Daleks that the Doctor and Steven can be free of them. Even when the Daleks are defeated, the cost is high, for at various points during the Doctor's struggle to defeat them, Katarina, Bret Vyon and Sara Kingdom all pay the ultimate price. 

The length of 'The Daleks' Master Plan' is in some ways instrumental in its success. Wisely, having effectively had a build-up in the form of 'Mission to the Unknown', the story starts with incredible intensity from 'The Nightmare Begins'. During this episode, the TARDIS arrives on Kembel with the Doctor already under stress due his need to find help for Steven, who was wounded at the end of 'The Myth Makers'. Within the episode, Steven is recovered, but he, the Doctor and Katarina are separated from the TARDIS on a hostile planet infested with Daleks. Bret Vyon, whose partner has just been exterminated and who is equally stranded, joins them. Soon, they are driven out of the jungle by a fire started by the Daleks for that very purpose, the Doctor is forced into a desperate gambit to find out what the Daleks plans are and how to stop them, and this results in a relentless chase through space, as they struggle to stay alive and find a way to stop the Daleks for good. The first six episodes of 'The Daleks' Master Plan' are some of the most fraught and thrilling episodes in Doctor Who up to this point, with the Doctor under threat from the pursuing Daleks, the criminals of Desperus, Chen and his allies on Earth, and the vicious invisible Visians. Inevitably, the death of new companion Katarina in 'The Traitors' only adds to the oppressive, doom-laden feel, as indeed does the death of new friend Bret Vyon. In addition, the TARDIS remains on Kembel whilst the Doctor is in space or on other planets. Whilst he has frequently been separated from the TARDIS during the series up to this point, he has never been so isolated from his beloved ship. In '100,000 BC', 'Marco Polo', 'The Sensorites' and 'The Dalek Invasion of Earth', he was close to the TARDIS but prevented from getting in; in 'The Mutants' and 'The Web Planet', and 'The Space Museum', he had access to the TARDIS, but circumstances prevented his escape. Here, he is completely cut off from the TARDIS for the first half of the story, and this greatly emphasizes the feeling of danger for the Doctor. Wisely, after six episodes of unrelenting tension, there is a change of tone, with the out and out comedy of the much-maligned 'The Feast of Steven'. This doesn't work quite as well on audio as it probably did when first broadcast, but is nevertheless a welcome light-hearted interlude, and allows the viewer to get to know Katarina's successor Sara Kingdom without the threat of the Daleks immediately looming. The return of the Daleks in 'Volcano' reintroduces the main plot, but the tone remains lighter thanks to the welcome return of the Meddling Monk, out looking for revenge. The comic relief he provides allows episodes eight to ten to be lighter in tone that the first six episodes, without making the Daleks seem silly, as they did in 'The Chase'. Finally however, all distractions are dismissed once more, as the action returns to Kembel for 'The Abandoned Planet' and 'The Destruction of Time'. Once more, the tension of the first six episodes returns, as the Daleks' plans near completion. The revelation that the Daleks have secretly constructed an underground city without the knowledge of the Grand Alliance members again reminds us of the extent of their preparation. Ironically, it is perhaps this discovery that finally tips Chen over the edge; his megalomania is at its peak when he believes that he has been made leader of the council in episode eleven, and the resulting crushing humiliation when he discovers that the Daleks have locked him in the council chamber with the others undoubtedly takes its toll on his questionable sanity, but it is not until he discovers the hidden city and thus realises that the Daleks have been using him all along that he finally snaps, believing that the Daleks will obey him and seemingly oblivious to his own mortality. And it is also this which allows the Daleks to be finally defeated, since the distraction provided by Chen gives the Doctor his chance to seize the Time Destructor and activate it. The sound of the activated weapon provides an ominous backdrop to the final scenes, as the Doctor and his companions struggle to reach the TARDIS, with Sara aging to death in the attempt. After the epic scale of the story as a whole, the climax does not fail to disappoint, as the Daleks succumb to the effects of their own weapon and are destroyed, along with the hostile jungles of Kembel. 

The Daleks are not the only success of 'The Daleks' Master Plan'; Mavic Chen is arguably one of the best villains of the era. Part of his success is due to the fact that he is not just a stock megalomaniac; he wants power yes, but he also has flaws and fears. As noted above, he is terrified when he realises that the fugitives and the Taranium have escaped him on Earth, and it is Karlton who shows him how to turn the situation to his advantage. In addition, whilst he is clearly after power, he wants it on his terms; he doesn't want the Daleks to conquer the galaxy, he wants to use the Time Destructor so that he can conquer the galaxy. Kevin Stoney is superb in the role and gives Chen a commanding presence throughout. This presence is enhanced by Chen's appearance in the two surviving episodes, since he is portrayed as a strange mixture of ethnic groups, which distinguishes him from the other human characters we see in the story. Interestingly, whilst he is an impressive and commanding villain, he is perhaps not the mastermind that he thinks he is; there are hints in episodes four and five that Karlton is in some ways the power behind the throne, though Chen does not realize it, and when confronted by the Dalek Supreme on at least two occasions, he loses his calm and starts shouting in near-panic. And of course, ultimately, when he realises that he has been out-maneuvered by the Daleks all-along, his descent into madness and death is swift. Compare this with, for example, Tegana, who remained stoic and focused throughout 'Marco Polo', even when his plans went wrong, and who ultimately faced death with dignity. For all that I like Tegana, the flawed Chen is the more interesting character. Of course, characterisation is nothing if the acting is not up to scratch, and Stoney is one of the great successes of 'The Daleks' Master Plan'. 

I've noted previously that watching the series in order has given me a perspective on stories that I haven't quite had before, and just as I wished that I didn't have foreknowledge about the episode three cliff-hanger to 'The Time Meddler', whilst watching 'The Daleks' Master Plan' I wished that I hadn't known that the Monk would turn up in 'Volcano'. I think he's a great character, and Peter Butterworth reprises his role to great effect here. The fact that the Monk's creator Dennis Spooner had pretty much taken over the writing chores from Terry Nation by this point undoubtedly enhances the success of his return, as the Monk becomes the first individual (as opposed to the Daleks) recurring Doctor Who villain. The Monk's air of childish glee on Tigus immediately recaptures the spirit of 'The Time Meddler', but what seems initially like it is going to be a reprise of the battle of wits between the Monk and the Doctor becomes something else due to the intervention of the Daleks. The Monk's reaction to the Daleks is priceless, and his constant attempted small shifts of allegiance from the Daleks and Chen to the Doctor to Steven and Sara as he tries to stay alive and make good his escape in light of unexpected complications makes the episodes in which he appears hugely entertaining. After the various time travelers finally leave ancient Egypt, Steven announces that he hopes the Monk escapes the Daleks and will be all right, and this pretty much sums up the viewer's attitude too. Even the Doctor seems to have a soft spot for him and it is a shame that Butterworth never reprised his role again. 

The regulars are at their best in 'The Daleks' Master Plan', with Hartnell on particularly fine form. The Doctor is particularly superb when he confronts the Daleks in episode twelve, holding the Time Destructor and clearly determined to end their threat, whatever the cost to himself, but he has many other wonderful moments. He is his usual cantankerous self on several occasions, especially when dealing with Bret, whose first concern is the safety of Earth rather than the safety of the Doctor's companions. He shows icy contempt when dealing with Chen, and exasperation when dealing with the Monk. Whatever the Doctor's mood, Hartnell never falters. He again gets to do comedy during 'The Feast of Steven' and when dealing with the Monk, but also excels at pathos after first Katarina and then Sara dies. And he gets one of my favourite first Doctor lines when he tells the police inspector, "I am a citizen of the universe, and a gentleman to boot!" Peter Purves again excels, proving that Steven really is one of the most underrated Doctor Who companions. One of the things that I like about Steven is that his character develops believably as his time with the Doctor continues. In 'The Chase', despite his long imprisonment by the Mechanoids, he is a fairly happy go lucky character and this attitude continues during 'The Time Meddler'. During 'Galaxy Four', he seems more jaded, as he is confronted with Maaga's callousness. After his wounding in 'The Myth Makers', he becomes attached to Katarina, who tends him whilst he is sick, and her death I think brings home to him the dangers of traveling with the Doctor, which Bret's and Sara's deaths only emphasize. My impression of Steven is that he looks for the good in people and forms friendships quickly and easily. Whereas the Doctor can look at the bigger picture, Steven is more affected by individual death, and by the end of 'The Daleks' Master Plan' he is, quite understandably, much more serious and less happy-go-lucky than he was in 'The Chase'. Katarina, only recently introduced, is killed off here, which doesn't allow for much character-development. This is a shame, since her wonder at the TARDIS and everything else she sees is rather endearing and is a refreshing contrast with the more assured Vicki. I can see why keeping Katarina on as a regular companion would have been difficult for the writers, but it would have been nice to see her last a bit longer. Her struggle to understand what is going on around her seems to bring out the Doctor's gentler side, and her death, whilst premature, is at least well handled, as she sacrifices herself to save her friends and let them help the people of Earth. Sara Kingdom is a very different character entirely, and is far more aggressive and capable than any other female companion seen thus far in Doctor Who. It is interesting that almost the first thing she does is kill her brother whilst obeying orders, which is not a common way for a companion to join the Doctor. After she realises her mistake and joins the Doctor and Steven, she quickly comes to respect the Doctor and shifts her loyalty from the treacherous Chen to the old man. For the rest of the story, she seethes with the desire to see Chen suffer for his betrayal of Earth and to see the Daleks defeated, and it is this commitment that results in her death, as she leaves Steven to return to the TARDIS and turns back to help the Doctor with the Time Destructor, despite his instructions for her to get to safety. This summarizes her relationship with him perfectly; she likes and respects him, but will let nothing and nobody stand in the way of justice. It is important to note that she is motivated by justice and not revenge, since she gets the opportunity to kill Chen in episode eleven, but allows him to leave on the condition that he goes to warn Earth of the Daleks' invasion plans. Whilst her shooting down of her brother without question is disturbing, it arises from loyalty to what she believes is right, rather than her being a gun-toting psychopath. 'The Feast of Steven', as well as being light relief from the main story, allows us to see Sara in a more humorous context, as she deals with the policemen and then various Hollywood production crewmembers. In these circumstances, she is as much out of her depth as Katarina was up until her death, and she reacts with bafflement, but not anger. Later, as the TARDIS makes numerous brief stops whilst being chased by the Monk, she almost gets caught up in the wonder of seeing new times and places, before the shadow of the Daleks falls once more. The final scene of 'The Feast of Steven' in the TARDIS, as the Doctor serves wine and toasts the viewer is often criticized for breaking the fourth wall, but it offers us the only real chance we get to see this short lived TARDIS crew relaxing and enjoying a brief respite from danger. 

There are many other things that make 'The Daleks' Master Plan' a classic. Based on surviving photographs and the two surviving episodes, Douglas Camfield's direction, and also the set-design and costumes are all first class. Mira is a far more convincing jungle set than Mechanus was, and the Egyptian sets are easily a match for those of any of the pure historicals. The future society from which Chen, Sara and Bret hail is well realized, thanks in part to the sets, which could so easily have been generic minimalist corridors of the future. Another strength of the story is the subtle use of minor characters to convey information, for example Lizan and Roald, who introduce us to the concept of the Guardian of the Solar System. Another good example is the cricket commentators; rather than seeing the next TARDIS landing in a chain of several from the Doctor, Steven and Sara's point of view, we get to see their brief landing from the perspective of, in effect, casual bystanders. This is a novel idea and one that has not been used before in the series. Every minor character shines, from the brutal inmates of Desperus to the ancient Egyptians who refuse to be cowed by the threat of the Daleks and are determined to guard their Pharaoh's tomb regardless of the obvious danger. Overall, 'The Daleks' Master Plan' is one of the greatest Doctor Who stories of the era, and one of the best Dalek stories ever. Whilst the missing ten episodes are a great loss, we can at least be grateful for the fact that it works surprisingly well on audio.

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