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Doctor Who story number 18a

"What?" I hear you say. "18a? What the hell?"

First things first, when they filmed Planet of Giants the story was cropped from four episodes to three. They also dropped a Dalek story from the second season (and replaced it with the abysmal The Chase) and so there were seven episodes allotted to Doctor Who floating around spare. Oh and the BBC Head of Drama Sydney Newman decided to extend the production block for season three from 26 episodes, and so they got the stupid number of 35 episodes.

Stupid? Yes, because the Doctor Who team were working on the premise that stories would be four or six episodes, and they now had nine extra episodes to play with. Now, we have to backtrack to The Dalek Invasion of Earth - it was really popular, as would be expected with the final episode shown at 5:59 on Boxing Day. Naturally the producer wanted another Dalek story to run over the Christmas period. So, they came up with the idea of using that one spare episode for a trailer episode, leaving out the Doctor and companions due to contract reasons - still rather daring stuff, imagine doing a Star Trek episode without any of the regulars.

Now it gets political. Terry Nation, who created the Daleks and held them firmly in a rubbery suction cup grasp (His estate still retains the rights to them today) was thinking about how he could make more money off everyone's favourite xenophobic dustbins. He wanted a spin-off that could go to the United States (British television wasn't popular there in the 60's. Certainly not Doctor Who), and so he used what was known in the BBC as "Dalek Cutaway" to start building his series.

What we get is pretty mundane, some of it almost comedy. We have the Space Security Service. We have Special Agent Marc Cory, who is a spy, even modelled on James Bond - Goldfinger was still new when Nation started the script (oddly enough it opened the same day the final episode of The Dalek Invasion of Earth was screened) and spies were groovy, baby, yeah!

Storywise the first three scenes are full of macho bullshit. Bond at his worst is better behaved than Marc Cory and doesn't try to order people around when he needs them in a pinch. The Varga plants are cool even though they are only described to us, and would have been better if they were in a story with human villains, as we can't beleive the Daleks need them. The aliens are all interesting and get no screen time other than standing around yelling about how tough they are. Terry Nation once again proves how much of a hack he is by mangling every astronomical term imaginable. At one point the humans are reffered to as "hostile influences from the solar system" (meaning our Sol system) and then later the same alien say the Daleks are "the power from the solar system" - now this kind of error would be understandable if two people wrote this, but one person wrote it. We also learn that there's only one place in the universe Varga plants "grow naturally" a few scenes before learning they are all produced in laboratories. Shocking.

The story is lost, but you can get the audio recording, with linking narration, included on The Daleks' Masterplan CD.

The transcript can be read here:

Terry Nation

This story has 1 episode with an individual title:

  • Mission to the Unknown

Plot Overview
The story opens on the planet Kembel with a man stalking through a jungle filled with screaming (Nation used the same kind of jungle back in The Keys of Marinus), muttering about having to kill....

Cut to a spacecraft in a clearing. Lowery is trying to repair the damage to the ship while Cory watches. The man from the opening shot turns up and Cory shoots him - it's their fellow crewman Garvey, who has been poisoned by a Varga thorn, which turns people into murderous were-plants. Lowrey isn't too happy but Cory just knocks him down like the studly super-spy he is and then they get into the ship to talk about whatever the hell is going on. When they're gone Garvey sits up and we see he is growing thorns already....

Cory shows Lowrey his papers (yes, paper in the Earth year 3999...) and we get the worst line ever:

Lowery: I might have known: "Space Security Service. Licensed to kill."

Oh and Cory says: "This other document gives me the authority to enlist the aid of any persons, civil or military." So now Lowery has to do everything Cory tells him. Oh god, this is only the third scene! It already sucks!

Anyway, we learn that the Daleks, though they invaded Earth "a thousand years ago" (actually 1800 years but Terry Nation was too lazy to GO AND READ HIS OLD SCRIPTS) they haven't been that active in the Milky Way since - but they have conquered over seventy planets in the Ninth Galaxy and forty more in "The Constellation of Miros" (which must be another galaxy given a colloquial name). Of course if that's the whole story nothing is going to happen, so by the usual million-to-one chance the captain of a space freighter caught sight of an odd looking ship - his description matched that of a Dalek ship. Cory beleives they have set up a base on Kembel because it's the most hostile planet in the universe. In true gung-ho style he didn't tell anyone where he was going. Cory's suspicions are confirmed because the Varga plants originate from Skaro: Home planet of the Daleks.

Cut to Daleks because the kiddies are losing interest without aliens or the Doctor in the episode. We get the usual Dalek talk: "RE-PORT." "DE-STROY ALIEN CRAFT." Etcetera. Interesting point: The Black Dalek says "first sun" instead of "dawn" which is a nice difference, it makes them a little more alien.

Meanwhile the two humans are in the ship, unable to contact the freighter they are meant to be meeting with. We learn that the cactus-like Varga plants can uproot themselves and drag themselves slowly along the ground with their roots - and that the Daleks engineered them as a biological defense system, and probably weapon - they grow back as fast as you shoot them. Lowery is working on a beacon they will send into orbit, but the Daleks are closing in... One having a compass instead of a suction cup. Why they don't have one built in, we will never know. A gigantic ship thunders overhead and the Daleks inform the viewers while talking that it is from the stupidly-named planet Gearon. Cory and Lowery run from the ship as the Daleks close in, but Lowery gets stuck by a Varga plant and conceals it (isn't it always the way in these situations...). The Daleks rip up the scout craft and move off to finish off the humans.

Meanwhile the Black Dalek is getting grief from the alien Malpha, who looks like The Thing from The Fantastic Four, over the presence of the humans on Kembel. The Black Dalek assures him that they will be captured and served tea and crumpets - No, wait, that's a lie. They will actually be EX-TER-MIN-A-TED! The aliens hammer out a miliary alliance in the time it takes us to watch Marc Cory say "This way" and then they all say things like "Galactic domination" "Mightiest in the universe" and "All your base are belong to us!!" but seem to have no idea how it's going to happen.

Now for the dumbest part: Cory and Lowery have gotten within a short walk of a Dalek city and Cory took a stroll over to it and heard them announce, through a public address system mind you, that "Our whole galaxy is to be invaded and destroyed!" Beat that one, Ming. Lowery tells Cory, who must be blinded by his own studly super-spyness, that he's been infected with Varga poison, so Cory just shoots him out of hand.. Then he records a message as the Daleks close in on him, scared now that he has no one to display mindless aggression towards in order to boost his own ego. The Daleks exterminate him just as he finishes (obviously not hearing what he was doing) and trundle off for a celebratory, uh, whatever they have when they celebrate, leaving a recording device unnoticed by the body...

Main Cast



  • Edward de Souza - Marc Cory
  • Jeremy Young - Gordon Lowery
  • Barry Jackson - Jeff Garvey
  • Robert Cartland - Malpha
  • Ronald Rich - Trantis
  • Sam Mansaray - Sentreal
  • Robert Jewell, Kevin Manser, Gerald Taylor, John Scott Martin - Daleks
  • Peter Hawkins, David Graham - Dalek Voices
  • Johnny Clayton, Pat Gorman, Len Russel - Beaus, Gearon, Warrien (random aliens)
  • Tony Starn, Roy Reeves, Leslie Weeks - Varga Plants
  • Notes

    • This is the shortest Doctor Who story. Thank god.
    • This episode was labelled Serial T/A, Serial Ta, Serial T Episode 5 and Serial DC, so it might exist somewhere....
    • The beacon is standard saftey equipment for all craft, and has a voice recording you record as needed and then fire into orbit with a rocket launcher. It then presumably uses the same magic sub-space radio we see in all other sci-fi shows to broadcast to signal relay stations. For once something that makes sense!
    • What in the hell is a Dalek doing with a seismic detector that can locate a human? WHY, GOD? WHY?

    We've got to get this capsule off, and fast. - Cory (capsules need good lovin' too!)

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