Oi! Spaceman: Adventures in Media Criticism
Missing Episodes and Moral Culpability (Mission to the Unknown/The Daleks' Master Plan)

An epic Doctor Who episode deserves an epic celebration of it. Yes, a celebration. Shana and Daniel have a long and lively conversation about the (arguably) longest single story in Doctor Who history: The Daleks' Master Plan, with Mission to the Unknown as prequel. Along the way, we see some excellent (and not-so-excellent) costume design, the gaining of (and loss of) some important companions, some very silly science, a pair of amazing performances from Kevin Stoney as Mavic Chen and of course William Hartnell as the Doctor, the welcome return of the Meddling Monk, and of course Daleks with fucking flamethrowers for arms. Our main topic of discussion: the culpability of the Doctor in the risks taken by his companions, a topic that the current era of the show tries (and fails) to address as well as it's done here. 

 

Main Topic: Mission to the Unknown/The Daleks' Master Plan. 

Segment One: To 34:35. General Thoughts. Getting Used to Reconstructions/Animations. Why Don't People Like Master Plan? The Monk Returns. A Batman/Joker dynamic. Recurring characters as plot devices. Describing "The Feast of Steven" and "Volcano." Doctor Who Christmas episodes. We Hope No Who Nerds Listen To This Podcast. The Daleks as Nazi/communist metaphors. Mission to the Unknown as Verity's last episode. A major period of transition. Proto-Brig! The Relationship between Bret Vyon and Sara Kingdom. Shana has completely forgotten Steven. "Steven sits on the floor in a daze." Looking at Mission to the Unknown: The Varga Plants. The hypothetical Terry Nation Dalek show. Fluffy Hartnell. 

Intermission: Mavic Chen plays politics with some Daleks.

Segment Two: 34:35 to 53:10 Mavic Chen, the racism and the genius. Terry Nation doesn't know what a galaxy is. Officious Daleks. "Dalek Supreme and the Football Hooligans." The Doctor pits different enemies against one another. The Daleks as more than "tank aliens." What does Shana think of Katarina? Taking death seriously. Did Katarina sacrifice herself intentionally? Steven as moral center and audience avatar. 

Intermission: Katrina's death, from the excellent audio version.

Segment Three: 53:10 to end. The Death of Bret Vyon, and Steven's great moment. The police state of Daleks' Master Plan. "Doctor Who is a kid's show." Daleks with fucking flamethrowers. Diluting the serious. Very attractive young Jon Pertwee. The legacy of Sara Kingdom. Before Terry Nation became a hack. Shana voluntarily watches a reconstruction. Hartnell's voice. Just, Hartnell's voice. A plug for the audiobook. What do we think of the Monk? A litany of man-thigh. The ancient Egyptians as pawns in this story. "My Doctor is a hero, not a clown." Ending the epic. Recounting episodes eleven and twelve. The mechanics of the Time Destructor. The Death of Sara Kingdom. "So much scarier than the Angels." What does war get us? Death. Jessica's gonna laugh. Hartnell allows each companion to be the best version of themselves. The moral culpability of the Doctor. The ethics of war. The agency of a follower. Doctor Who inspires amazing conversations. Big Ideas. A return to this kind of Dalek. Wrapping up. 

Ending: The final words of the episode, as Steven and the Doctor reflect on the loss of their friends.

 

Amazon link to the audio play version of Mission to the Unknown/The Daleks' Master Plan. Highly recommended!

Animation of Mission to the Unknown Part One. Part Two.

Further Reading (I.E. stuff Daniel found useful in understanding this story and talking about it):

Wood and Miles's About Time, Volume One. An excellent resource for the first three seasons of Classic Who.

Phil Sandifer writes a love letter to Verity Lambert and discusses some of the history behind Mission to the Unknown. And writes the best general-consumption "way to watch "The Daleks' Master Plan" Daniel has yet seen. 

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