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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Ah, Tim… you’re here, too. Good!

Episode Ten: “Escape Switch”

Much to my surprise, the bandaged hand which emerged from the sarcophagus belonged to… the Monk! It soon became clear to me that I had never seen episode ten before. I don’t remember not watching it when I first bought the “Lost in Time” set a few years ago (I do remember watching episode four of “The Celestial Toymaker”); I must have skipped it accidently. For years now I’ve been aware that the Monk appeared in “The Daleks’ Master Plan” but thought it a shame none of his episodes survived. What a nice surprise for me, then, to discover that one of them did!

The Monk is playing both ends against the middle, at first pretending to befriend Steven and Sara, then betraying them to the Daleks (although he denies he meant it and insists he’s still on their side). When the Doctor catches up to them, he has no choice this time but to turn over the real tararium in exchange for their release. The Doctor has not only stuck the Monk’s TARDIS in the form of a police box, but he’s also stolen the directional controller from the Monk’s TARDIS. The Monk realizes this when he materializes on an ice planet. He’s not stuck there, he just doesn’t have any control over his destination, much like the Doctor.

Episode Eleven: “The Abandoned Planet”

The Monk’s directional control burns itself out almost immediately (because it’s from a newer model TARDIS than the Doctor’s), but it does return them to Kenbel. Once there, the Doctor is almost immediately separated from Steven and Sara again so the story can progress on several fronts. There is also dissention in the enemy camp, with the Daleks turning on Mavic Chen, Chen faking his own death, then trying to take control of the alliance himself before he is actually killed.

Tomorrow: The conclusion!
Episode Twelve: “Destruction of Time”

This is an episode I would really like to be able to see as well as hear, but.. c’est la vie! In order to thwart the Daleks’ plans, the doctor sets off the Time Destructor on the planet Kembel. The Time Destructor is really more of a time accelerator. The Daleks themselves are immune to its effects, but the planet itself decays around them. Sara Kingdom is exposed and ages into dust. This serial is noted for portraying the first death of a companion, but I don’t know if they’re referring to Katarina or Sara or Bret Vyon, all allies of the Doctor who die throughout the course of this serial.

What I find interesting is that the Doctor himself is also exposed to the Time Destructor. He manages to reverse the effects after the Daleks have been defeated, but I can’t help but wonder if the accelerated aging he experienced might have contributed to his first regeneration (sort of a delayed effect as would later happen when the Tenth Doctor regenerated into the Eleventh). In any case, this was a rousing yarn and I’ll say again that it’s a shame that most of the television episodes are missing.

NEXT: “The Massacre of St. Bartholomew’s Eve”

Watched "Day of Armageddon", "Counter Plot" and "Escape Switch" last night and this morning. Not alot to add to what you've said above.  Interesting seeing Courtney playing someone other than the Brigadier.

 

Mavic Chen has kind of a grotesque look - almost like the were going for a weird "albino blackface" look.

 

Took me a minute to remember who the heck Katarina was - I was particularly struck by the scene where she started praying to the Doctor.

 

Nice seeing Jean Marsh again.

 

Speaking of "grotesque", the faces that Hartnell, Purves and Marsh made when the transporter kicked were pretty over the top.

 

The scene of the Doctor fighting the "invisible" (a.k.a. "cheap") monster was pretty funny.

 

A shame so much of this was lost.

The Baron said:

I'd forgotten that Steven was poisoned at the end of "The Myth Makers" - I shall have to dig out the novelization, later.
 

Some of the novelisations depart from the serials, so the volume may do so. I've not read The Myth Makers, but it's one of Donald Cotton's; his novelisation of The Romans is very humorous.

Incidentally, the novelisations of the first Dalek serial, The Web Planet and The Crusades pre-date the Target series and date from the 60s. (That's why the Dalek one begins with the schoolteachers' getting stuck aboard the Tardis.) The first and third were written by David Whitaker (Whitaker was the show's first script editor, wrote The Crusades, and wrote other 60s Doctor Who tie-ins). The Zarbi one was written by the serial's author, Bill Strutton.

 

The authors of the earlier Target volumes included Terrance Dicks, Malcolm Hulke, Gerry Davis and Brian Hayles. Barry Letts did The Daemons. Ian Marter and Phillip Hinchcliffe did a couple of the earlier Tom Baker ones. For a while Terrance Dicks a lot of them, although a number of the Davison ones were done by the serials' authors. Later on the serials' original authors seemed to have first refusal (it may be they became more willing to do them), and those which weren't done by them were done by various parties.

 

(corrected) Wikipedia has an order-of-publication list here.

Thanks to my good friend Jeff, I got to hear "The Feast of Steven" over the weekend. Interesting styuff. Makes me wish even more that this story available in its entirety.  It must have been odd back in the day, watching this week in and week out, for them to take a week off in the middle of this lengthiest of Dalek adventures for them to suddenly send out a comedy episode. That said, it's amusing stuff and well worth a listen if you get the chance. 

As much as I liked this one when I listened to the audio-only version of the television soundtrack, it was a little hard to follow, even with the linking narration, unless one paid the strictest of attention to the multiple characters and scene shifts. The book, though, was intended to be experienced without pictures. The audiobook (which I am listening to), comprises 10 discs (two sets), divided into two parts: “Mission to the Unknown”and “The Mutation of Time.” I’ve already decided that, at some point in the future, I will listen to the audiobook and television soundtrack together, alternating back and forth, allowing them to complement one another.

The official Doctor Who Youtube channel has put up the recreation of "Mission to the Unknown" as performed by the University of Central Lancashire.  Well worth a  look!

Thanks for letting us know! We'll be sure to cast it when Tracy gets back in town.

Whenever I see one of these old threads pop up, I half expect to read the annoncement of an actor's death. I'm glad it was good news this time!

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