Tuesday, August 15, 2017
The Daleks' Master Plan (Parts 1-6)
Yes, I know. I'm not even listing the episode titles for this one. Sorry. I can't even, as the kids say.
But the 12 part storyline The Dalek's Master Plan Is a strange one--it's long (obvioulsy) and, written as it is by Terry Nation and Dennis Spooner, filled with lots of plot complications and twists and turns. The thing is, summarizing those twists and turns isn't all that much fun, and we'd get lost in a lot of the more intricate, less interesting, bits of plotting.
The story begins right after the TARDIS's hurried departure from Troy. The TARDIS lands in some forsaken wasteland, the Doctor starts exploring to find some medical help for Steven, poisoned in the last episode of The Mythmakers. Katarina, the handmaiden who brought him into the TARDIS, is trying to help, but, as she thinks the Doctor is Zeus and that she and Steven are dead, she's of limited utility.
Enter Bret Vyon, Space Security Service, man of action, who'd return in a few years in an iconic role. Bret is trapped by the Doctor (he wants to capture the TARDIS and use it to warn Earth of impending Dalek invasion, so he's a goodie at heart). Indeed, bound to a chair by the Doctor, he persuades Katarina to retrieve some pills from his belt and administer them to Steven, saving his life.
OK, see? I'm doing plot exposition. Maybe I should do a more Missy-style Catch up.
The Daleks have formed a league with some other aliens to conquer the Solar System. Vyon wants to stop them, the Doctor et al try to help. The Guardian of the Solar System, Mavic Chen (a scenery-chewing, great hambone performance by Kevin Stoney is betraying the Solar System by having a rare metal core (50 years in the making) for a Time Destructor (whatever that is) made. It's a McGuffin you could buy at Radio Shack. The
Doctor swipes the thing from the Conference of Evildoers, Vyon hijacks Chen's ship (they can't take the TARDIS--and this is the first good joke in the story--because they need to get where and when reliably.). On the way they're forced to land on a prison planet; they escape but one of psycho band of prisoners grabs Katarina as a hostage to make them take him anywhere but Earth. He picks Kemble--ie, where the Daleks are--and Katarina proves once and for all that she's not the naïf everyone thought she is, because she opens the airlock pulling her captor and herself into space, to save the others. It's brutal, even in a recon.
When they reach Earth, Chen--who followed in hot pursuit--makes sure That Kingdom, the Space Security Service's most ruthless agent, is assigned to kill the infiltrators and retrieve the McGuffin. We discover (and thank heaven we have this part in film and not just recon) is Sara Kingdom--and she guns down Bret Vyon, her own brother, and then coolly sends her agents out to kill the Doctor and Steven. "Shoot them in the head," she instructs them, to ensure the McGuffin is not endangered.
Meanwhile the Doctor and Steven--and Sara, who jumps into the room with them at the last second--get transported, along with some lab mice, to a planet far away, and (1) the Daleks trap them; (2) The Daleks exterminate the mice; (3) Sara is convinced of Chen's treachery, and grieves for Bret; (4) the Doctor, Sara and Steven steal the Dalek ship, and fly to Kemble. During the trip back, the Doctor makes a fake McGuffin and Steven finishes it, temporarily acquiring immunity to energy weapons. The Doctor turns over the fake outside the TARDIS and they all run inside--the Daleks fire at them, hitting Steven, but see earlier statement re energy weapons, temporary immunity to. The TARDIS dematerializes...
See what I mean? What a run-around. But so much to praise/condemn along the way.
The Daleks' Allies What a useless bunch of refugees from Cooger & Dark's Pandemonium Shadow Show (Or is it Dark & Nightshade these days? Hard to remember...)
The Daleks: Really, guys? You send the Laurel and Hardy of Skaro to track down the Doctor and the last piece of your superweapon? Ogrons would have done a better job. As for exterminating the mice because they were potentially hostile? Lame. Just lame.
Mavic Chen: Ridiculing the Daleks when they try to blame him for their failures, over-the-top megalomaniacal, he's the best old fashioned villain to date. I suspect I'll still rate the inimitable Roger Delgado well over Stoney--but he's good. Quite good.
Bret Vyon: Cool, unflappable, but with a sense of honor--sounds like Nicholas Courtney's iconic Brig, right? But he isn't; there's a tension, a near-desperate quality to him that differentiates him from Courteny's later performances. Subtle differences in body language and tone of voice. Vyon is tough, but he's at the limit.
Katarina: Basically she got stuck on the TARDIS by accident, helping Steven inside. She's just a place keeper, you might think, Until Adrienne Hill nails that horrifying, but noble death scene. Katarina is under no illusions; she's sacrificing herself, and it's raw and it hurts. And she's right.
Sara Kingdom: An amazing turn from Jean Marsh. Totally different from Joanna in The Crusade--all clipped commands and subtlety, even grieving. If I'm reading the dates right, Sara appears before Emma Peel in The Avengers. Whether or not that's so, Sara reminds me more of Cathy Gale, who proceeded Diana Rigg's Emma Peel, particularly in her earlier appearances where she's sterner, less playful.
Marsh makes Kingdom a true professional whose professionalism is used against her, and she's now desperate to stop Chen and wrest some meaning out of her brother's death, at her hands.
Doctor Who doing Space Opera rarely works; this part of the story could have been superb trimmed down to a four-parter. But what's good is really good.