I have been very much looking forward to the release of this audio, not only because it is from one of the legendary missing stories, not only because it features the Daleks, not only because it’s the longest Doctor Who serial ever (12 episodes plus a one-episode “prologue” which I’ll deal with today), but also because Tim didn’t I don’t have the paperback in his my collection.

“Mission to the Unknown” is unique in that it is the only episode not to feature any of the regular TARDIS crew. From the liner notes: “The last-minute editing of 1964’s “Planet of the Giants” from four parts to three left producer Verity Lambert ‘owed’ an episode. Rather than incorporate it into a longer story, she took the unusual step of producing a ‘taster’ for the 12-part Dalek epic which was being planned for either side of Christmas 1965. Possibly for contractual reasons, the current regular cast — William Hartnell, Peter Purves and Maureen O’Brien — would not appear.

“Encouraged by the success of the Daleks’ three previous outings and the merchandising spin-offs which they inspired, Terry Nation saw great potential in his creations. Keen to explore the possibility of the metal meanies having their own series, he approached “Mission to the Unknown” as something of a testing ground.” I suspect that Nation was influenced to a degree by James Bond novels and movies of the time. This episode introduces the “Space Security Service” and an agent who has a “license to kill.” Also, the organization headed by the Daleks (which reminded me of the Legion of Doom when I first saw the three surviving episodes on the “Lost in Time” box set) bears no slight resemblance to SPECTRE. Furthermore, the structure is reminiscent of From Russia with Love, in that nearly the first half of that book is told from the Soviets' point of view.

The most interesting thing about “Mission to the Unknown” to me was that it revealed a hitherto unknown (again, to me) detail of Dalek lore, namely, the Varga plants. Varga plants are native only to the Dalek’s home planet Skaro and are inimical to all forms of life except Daleks. But the Daleks genetically engineer the Varga plants to survive on other worlds they may visit for their own protection. Therefore, if one ever finds a Varga plant on a planet other than Skaro, the Daleks are sure to be around. Once pricked by the thorn of a Varga plant, the victim eventually becomes one.

The CD set also includes an hour-long documentary disc about the lost episodes.

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Episode One: “The Nightmare Begins”

The second CD of the set begins with a two minute recap of The Myth Makers (which was broadcast between Mission to the Unknown and The Dalek’s Master Plan). Steven is very sick from having been poisoned at the end of The Myth Makers. They have left Vicki behind in ancient Troy, but have picked up Cassandra’s handmaiden Katarina, who believes the Doctor to be a god and the TARDIS his temple. (Hartnell fluffs, “You must call me ‘Doctor’… I am not a doc--… I am not a god.”) They land on the planet Kembel, the planet of the Dalak Alliance, seeking help for Steven, and soon encounter Nicholas Courtney, making his Doctor Who debut, not as Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart, but as Space Agent Bret Vyon.

Some 8mm film footage exists of certain scenes from this serial. It is available on the “Lost In Time” box set and I watched it last night to get an idea of the sets and costumes. Also, I plan to watch episodes 2, 5 and 10 from that set when I get to that point.

The Doctor has a “magnetic chair” which he uses to restrain Vyon.
I'd forgotten that Steven was poisoned at the end of "The Myth Makers" - I shall have to dig out the novelization, later.

It's still fairly fresh in my mind because the audio version of that was released a few months ago, too!

Episode Two: “Day of Armageddon”

I listened to episode two on the way home from work yesterday afternoon, then I watched it yesterday evening just to compare… not so much to compare it to the audio only version, but to compare it to the only other time I’ve ever watched it. I bought “Lost In Time” early on in my Doctor Who watching, perhaps too early. Needless to say I enjoyed it much more the second time through, not only in the context of the rest of the story, but in context of all the Doctor Who I’ve seen since, especially First Doctor.

Searching the jungle using flame throwers, the Dalaks find the TARDIS while the Doctor is away. Space Agent Vyon ill-advisedly leaves the safety of the TARDIS taking Katarina and the unconscious Steven with him. After meeting up with the Doctor, they overpower one of the delegates, the Doctor dons his robe and joins the alliance in disguise. Meanwhile, Vyon, Steven and Katarina attempt to steal the space ship of Mavic Chen, Guarian of the Solar System.

Mavic Chen looks like an albino Klingon and is conspiring against the Dalek’s even as he pretends to ally with them. He has supplied a small amount of the rare element “Taranium” to power the Daleks’ “Time Destroctor” weapon. The delegate whom the Doctor is impersonating wakes up and sounds the alarm, but the Doctor escapes with the Taranium in the confusion.

Cliffhanger: Vyon prepares to depart and leave the Doctor behind!

Episode Three: “Devil’s Planet”

The Doctor arrives on board at the last second and they take off to warn Earth of Mavic Chen’s duplicity and the impending Dalek attack. In hot pursuit, the Dalaks use a randomizer to disable the controls of the stolen ship, and it crashes to Desperus, a prison planet. The Dalek ship crash lands as well, and the Doctor and company must fight off a group of prisoners before they are able to repair the damage and take off again.

Cliffhanger: Katarina checks the airlock and is surprised by a convict who has sneaked aboard!

This is a really fast-paced serial, yet also very political (in an allegorical way). Too bad it’s mostly missing.

I listened to “The Traitors” on the way home from work yesterday afternoon, watched “Counter Plot” yesterday evening, and listened to “Coronas of the Sun” this morning.

Episode Four: “The Traitors”

The stowaway holds Katarina hostage in the airlock (dumb idea) until she triggers the release and blows them both out into space. On Earth, the Doctor, Vyon and Steven report Mavic Chen’s activities to an official named Daxtar, but soon realize he’s in league with Chen. Daxtar calls a security force led by Sara Kingdom, who kills Vyon and pursues the Doctor and Steven into a room in which a “molecular dissemination” experiment is being conducted, and all three of them are transported across the galaxy to the planet Mira.

Episode Five: “Counter Plot”

Because the planet Mira is closer to Kembel than it is to Earth, Daxtar convinces Chen to report to the Dalak that he meant to send them there rather than admit they escaped. On Mira, Sara reveals that Vyon was actually her brother. The three are attacked by the invisible, eight foot tall inhabitants of the planet. When the Dalaks arrive, the Doctor, Steven and Sara steal their ship.

Episode Six: “Coronas of the Sun”

The Daleks take control of the ship remotely and return it to Kembel. The Doctor constructs a fake taranium core to fool the Dalaks. After the exchange is made, they escape in the TARDIS.

As I mentioned yesterday, this is a very fast-paced serial, the only disappointment being that most of the taped episodes have been lost. With the deaths of two of the Doctor’s allies (I hesitate to call them “companions”) so far, one feels as if anything can happen and no one is safe.
It must've been really something to watch when it was on. I must dig out my "Lost in Time" disks again sometime.
Episode Seven: “The Feast of Steven”

The first ever Doctor Who Christmas Special! It was noted early on in the planning of this serial that this episode would air on Christmas Day, so the decision was made to take a break from the action in acknowledgement of that fact. It’s a good thing, too. After six episodes of unrelenting tense danger, this episode presents a welcome change of pace.

I forgot to mention yesterday’s cliffhanger: the TARDIS landed on a planet with a poisonous atmosphere, but it turns out to be ordinary 20th century pollution. They have landed in contemporary London at Christmastime and get themselves arrested but manage to escape. Next, they materialize in Hollywood during the silent film era and the rest of the episode becomes a marvelous antic romp among the soundstages. At the end of the episode, the Doctor breaks the fourth wall and wishes the viewers at home a Happy Christmas.

Good stuff!

Episode Eight: “Volcano”

Last week, you will recall that the Doctor passed off a fake tararium core to buy their freedom. In this episode, the Dalak’s test it in their Time Destructor and it fails. When they realize they have been tricked, they request a time machine from the planet Skaro to pursue the Doctor.

Meanwhile, the Doctor and crew have landed on a volcanic planet named Tigus*, but they have been followed. Emerging from a TARDIS disguised as a large boulder is the Meddling Monk, who the Doctor and Steven have encountered once before and left stranded on Earth in the year 1066. (I’ve been looking forward to this development and re-watched “The Time Meddler” recently so the events of that story would be fresh in my mind.) The Monk has managed to repair the TARDIS, and while the Doctor, Steven and Sara are scouting, the Monk uses a laser-like device to seal the lock of the Doctor’s TARDIS.

When the Doctor and the Monk first meet they pretend to be on good terms until the Monk reveals that he plans to strand the Doctor on Tigus the same way the Doctor stranded him in 1066. Fortunately, the sun of the volcanic planet has unique properties which, when focused through the Doctor’s ring, un-fuses the lock. The Doctor and company depart and the Monk follows.

 

*They also attend a cricket match and land in Trafalgar Square on New Year's Eve, 1966.


Good stuff!

Episode Nine: “Golden Death”

Given that many Doctor Who six-parters tend to drag in the middle, one might expect this, the longest Doctor Who serial ever, to bog down long about now, but nope! It keeps barreling full speed ahead! Now the Doctor is surrounded on three sides by the Daleks, the Monk, and… but wait. I’m getting ahead of myself.

After escaping from the Monk on Tigus, the Doctor lands the TARDIS in ancient Egypt to effect further repairs. A ship materializes after them, which they assume to be the Monk’s TARDIS but is in reality the Daleks. Steven and Sara go to meet it in an attempt to be proactive, but when they discover it’s the Daleks they flee right into the hands of the Egyptians. The Monk has arrived, too, and he is captured by the Daleks. Mavic Chen convinces the Monk to work for them against the Doctor. The Monk is played largely for comic relief, more mischievous than evil, but still dangerous. He continues to be a walking anachronism, this time wearing sunglasses (along with his monk’s robes, presumably) in ancient Egypt.

Meanwhile, the Doctor has discovered the Monk’s TARDIS and begins flipping through settings of the chameleon circuit until he settles on a police box. I think he freezes it in that configuration, but I’m unclear on this point.

There’s one scene in which hundreds (well, probably “dozens”) of Daleks chant, “Conquest! Conquest! Conquest!” I always try to visualize these audio episodes how they would have been produced at the time rather than how they might look with today’s budget. This one was probably shot using many small models, but I will go so far as to visualize several dozen full-sized Daleks.

Cliffhanger: In a tomb, Steven and Sara witness a bandaged hand emerge from beneath the lid of a sarcophagus.


Tonight, I’ll watch episode ten on the “Lost in Time” set.

One of the great examples I've heard of "fan wishful thinking" was that the Monk was going to be brought back, played by Patrick Stewart.

Oh, that'd be cool. (Nothing more than "wishful thinking," I take it?)

 

Speaking of the Monk (and Patrick Stewart*), when he first came out of his TARDIS this episode his own little "Peter and the Wolf" theme music was playing in the background.

 

*Patrick Stewart once narrated Peter and the Wolf. I have in on CD, but I prefer Sting's version.

Yeah, just talk as far as I know.
In the late 80s, the Monk appeared in the comic strip in Doctor Who Monthly, and his TARDIS was shaped as a police box.

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