Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Mission To The Unknown


Mission to the Unknown was broadcast on 9 October 1965. It's written by Terry Nation and directed by Derek Martinus. It is a single episode story featuring none of the main Doctor Who cast. It doesn't even feature the TARDIS. This is a Doctor-lite episode before these things existed. What the viewing public made of it at the time I don't know. I would have been waiting for the Doctor to appear all the way through and then...he doesn't.

To add to the weird floating nature of this episode the next story The Myth Makers makes no reference to it. The TARDIS crew find themselves outside the walls of Troy at this point and involved in the Trojan War for four episodes. It is only then that they stumble into the epic Dalek's Master Plan for which Mission to the Unknown is the taster.

We had been led into Mission to the Unknown at the end of Galaxy 4 when Vicki wondering what was happening on the planet below and we find ourselves there, looking at Garvey (Barry Jackson) who has woken up with a desire to kill.

It will turn out that this is the planet Kembel where Marc Cory (Edward de Souza) of the Space Security Service has been following up rumours of a Dalek build-up. Kembel appears to be a planet in the arse end of nowhere. It's unpleasant enough already but it turns out Cory is right and that the Daleks are here finalising a conspiracy to conquer the Solar System. In fact Kembel is the location of the conspiracy's meeting place and we get to meet the delegates from the Outer Galaxies who have joined in. It is a production mystery who each delegate actually is so I won't dwell on them for now but there's an attempt to make them look as alien as possible for a set of blokes in costumes. The picture above shows some of them. Enjoy.

Alas Kembel is also home to the Varga plant. This unpleasant piece of flora/fauna is only found of Skaro so its appearance on Kembel is a dead giveaway that the Daleks are here. The Varga plant is surrounded by thorns that if they penetrate the skin slowly turn the thorned into a Varga plant whose only desire is to kill. It's what had happened to Garvey, who Cory kills.

As the Daleks fan out into the forest to seek out Cory and his colleague, Lowery (Jeremy Young) the tension tightens effectively. There are Varga plants and Daleks hunting the two men as they look to launch a rescue beacon explaining what was happening on Kembel. This is one of those stories when you know that the 'good guys' aren't going to make it. Their sacrifice is so obvious they might as well have best before dates on their uniforms.

Lowery gets Vargaed and then killed by Cory. Cory is just about to launch the beacon when the Daleks find him and....

Meanwhile back in the meeting room the delegates finalise their plans. It's all rather impressive and hints at the epic scale of what is to come. You also get the impression that Terry Nation has got one eye on a spin-off series for the Daleks and the Space Security Service. Based on this it might well have worked, although as this episode is missing from the archives it is hard to make an absolute judgment. It certainly sets up a fictional universe that could be further explored outside - as well as inside - Doctor Who.

As a one-off it works well. The performances are good, especially Edward de Souza as Cory and I never really found myself wishing for the regular TARDIS crew to turn up, although I might have felt differently after a couple of episodes without them. We've become so used to the odd regular cast member disappearing for an episode here or there whilst they go on holiday that it doesn't feel as out of place as it might later in Doctor Who's history.

So it works for me as the one-off. There's a definite tension here and then it finishes at a point that leaves you intrigued about what is going to happen next, which oddly isn't the first part of The Dalek's Master Plan. O no. Bizarrely our next story is The Myth Makers. That's the decision that I find most odd in this process. I'm sure someone, somewhere has explained the thinking behind it but to jump from this to Troy for four weeks and then back to The Dalek's Master Plan seems weird to me.

I decided to do a separate blog on Mission to the Unknown after some thought because I wanted to keep it in its rightful place in broadcast order. I think it deserves a separate blog because it isn't part of The Dalek's Master Plan. It is a stand alone story connected to what follows but it also stands alone.

I might be wrong about that but it is my blog. So my rules.


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