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Doctor Who – Mission to the Unknown (1965)

I forgot to mention, at the end of “Galaxy 4” the Doctor and Vicki spot a random planet and wonder (for some reason) what’s happening there. This just happens to be it…

On an alien jungle, a man in a space suit awakes on the ground and mumbles, “Kill, kill.” Elsewhere two astronauts, Lowery and Cory, bicker over whether or not they should have bothered exploring the planet, named Kembal, in the first place. The man from earlier, who was the only other member of their crew, interrupts their work and attacks. Cory kills him and discovers that the man was pricked with a “Varga thorn”, causing his insanity. Later Garvy’s body slowly transforms into a Varga plant. Cory reveals to Lowery that he’s an agent sent from Earth to investigate the growing interplanetary empire of the Daleks, which may pose a threat to Earth. He brought their ship to Kembal because he suspected the Daleks have a base there. The appearance of the Varga plant, a dangerous hybrid of plant and animal that is actually native to Skaro and that the Daleks use as sentries, helps confirm Cory’s suspicions. Unfortunately, the ship must be repaired before Cory can leave and inform Earth.

When repairs go slowly, Lowery prepares a device that can send out a SOS. Spying a Dalek craft, Cory and Lowery flee into the jungle as the Daleks destroy their ship. While making the escape Lowery finds that he’s been stuck with a Varga thorn and tries desperately, without warning Cory, to suck out the poison. At the Dalek base, the Dalek’s leader, the Dalek Supreme meets the leaders of six allied planets and all agree to a joint invasion of Earth and its colonies in the solar system. When Lowery finds that he’s turning into a Varga plant, he begs Cory to kill him – and he complies. Cory is only able to send off part of the message before he, too, is found and killed by the Daleks.

Continuity Notes

It’s not clear how this fits into the already convoluted Dalek chronology we have so far, especially in relation to “The Dalek Invasion of Earth.” Lowery knows about the Daleks, but scoffs at the idea that they pose any threat to Earth, while Cory implies that the Daleks have only recently started conquering other planets. 

This also stands out as the only episode where neither Doctor or any of his companions appear at all. 

Finally this is the last episode produced by the show’s first producer, Verity Lambert. With her departure the only trace of the original show left is William Hartnell himself. 

Sign of the Times 

Lowery uses a rigged-up tape player to send the SOS (and, no, it’s not a tape player made to pass off as some sort of futuristic device; the dialogue actually describes the device as a modified tape player).

Comments

It’s a little unfair to review just this episode, since it’s meant to be a prologue to – and arguably should be treated as the first episode of – the “The Daleks’ Master Plan.” However, the proceeding serial, “The Myth Makers”, gets in the way, so we have instead a stand-alone and Doctor- and companion-less episode. 

Apparently the writer, who is of course Terry Nation, felt that “The Chase” was much too light-hearted and returns to the darker tone that characterized “The Dalek Invasion of Earth.” Without the lifeline of the Doctor, though, it reveals just how dark the First Doctor era can be: our hero without hesitation kills two other people who are subjected to a fate worse than death and fails to even warn Earth about the massive invasion planned by the Daleks and their allies. It really does feel as if Nation was trying to return the Daleks to form to prepare for the big epic. So the question is…does it work?

Well, one of the strange things about going through the First Doctor era is that I started to feel the exact same emotion I felt watching the 2005 series: Dalek overload. After all, Season 2 had seen not one but two lengthy serials featuring the Daleks, so I suspect audiences were starting to feel the same. Still, having never seen “The Daleks’ Master Plan”, the prologue does have me curious about at least what the tone of the whole affair will be.

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