Thursday, 11 April 2013

The Daleks' Masterplan

I've been busy as a bee, I admit, but one of the main reasons the blog has slowed right down is this twelve-part behemoth I've had to get through, with nine episodes of it reconstructed. The decision, apparently prompted by the head of drama, to make a 12-part Dalek story was one that will always be questioned. Did it work? Well, yes and no.
Mavic Chen's ship arrives, Episode One. 
The plot is not that different, in all honesty, from that of ‘The Chase’, a six-part run around with the Daleks after the Doctor. This time, the Doctor has the core of the Daleks’ Time Destructor, a weapon that will force the Universe to bow to the Daleks. The Daleks have been assisted by creatures from many galaxies, including Mavic Chen (Kevin Stoney), the Master of the Solar System. The production team came up with a wonderful array of strange beings from different worlds, one of the highlights of this story.

Butterworth, Marsh and Purves.
The first six episodes are the best, and episodes 11 and 12 are rather decent two. Episodes 7-10 are more reminiscent of ‘The Chase’ and drag and go circular too much for my liking. Terry Nation wrote the first five as well as ‘The Feast of Steven’ – a somewhat comical Christmas episode with no Daleks and even less point. He outlined the rest I believe which Dennis Spooner then wrote to his guidelines. This saw the return of the Meddling Monk (played by the wonderful Peter Butterworth again) who appears in three episodes. ‘Volcano’ is another ‘nothing’ episode (part 8) and parts nine and ten are set in Egypt. However, the Monk does provide some amusing parts and humour. 
Brett Vyon and Steven.
The other notable cast member is Nicholas Courtney who appears in the first four episodes as Bret Vyon. I am told he will reappear in other episodes of Doctor Who as a different character, so that will be interesting I guess. He dies at the end of episode four, making that particular episode a very bloody one. (Katarina already dying mid-way through it).

The main planet of the story is Kembel, featured in the first four episodes and the last two. It also featured in ‘Mission to the Unknown’. However, we don’t see the very interesting Varga plants really at all in ‘The Daleks Masterplan’.
Adrienne Hill as the short-lived Katarina
The production team found they had made a mistake in adding the Trojan ‘Katarina’ (Adrienne Hill) to the TARDIS crew and promptly had her gone by episode four in a dramatic scene where she plunges herself and a desperate criminal into space by opening the airlock of Mavic Chen’s spaceship. They felt that the character understood too little of the worlds she would visit and explanations would therefore be too long and hinder the stories. I’m not so sure. It's a pity Adrienne Hill didn't have the chance to develop the character further. Also a great pity we only have one episode existing that she features in, plus a clip of her demise.

Dubious make-up for Kevin Stoney as Mavic Chen.
Jean Marsh then plays an important companion-like role for the rest of the story as Sara Kingdom, who gets a great dramatic death in episode twelve. Most of the story is played pretty straight, bar episodes 7-10 when things take a deliberately comic turn. The straight appears to work better than the comic in this story. Kevin Stoney must be mentioned for playing the evil Mavic Chen. It's an excellent performance under what appears to be a mask to give him a dark tan, and a white wig. It's the first time we've seen the Daleks really partnered up with anybody, and he sticks with them even after the Daleks turn on Chen and the delegates from the other galaxies in episode eleven.
The Doctor, Steven and Brett in Episode Four.

As for William Hartnell, well, apart from his mispronunciation of 'relevant' ('revalent') in Episode Two he is a tour de force across the twelve episodes, ably and strongly supported as always by Peter Purves whose Steven is an excellent character. Hartnell takes no holidays in this story, although he has a lighter load in episodes 9 and 10. It must have been exhausting for the aging star of the show, but he comes through it with flying colours.
The character Kert Gantry, Episode One on Kembel.

Stylistically, I think the team did really well. They portray Kembel, Mira (which look very similar) well, Egypt is well done too. There are a lot of bald heads and strange creatures throughout the story and it has a great look about it. Douglas Camfield ran a tight ship and that is evident across the 12 parts. It is dramatic and well paced, although it lags in the second-half of the story but with 12 episodes what could the viewer expect? I think if they could find a couple more episodes, preferably part 12, maybe 6 and 1, a DVD release could bring the whole thing back to life.
I rate it pretty highly and think it would have made a cracking eight part adventure. Twelve is simply too much though.
Also, if you are daring enough to plunge into Doctor Who reconstructed episodes, the best place on Youtube is a channel by El Doctorio. He has put up all the Loose Cannon reconstructions in pristine condition. 

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