Thursday, 11 March 2010

The Daleks' Master Plan


  1. The return of The Daleks and please forgive my nerves after the terror of "The Chase" (not in a good way). But I'm glad to say mt fears are without any foundation here. Picking up the story after the events of "Mission to the Unknown", this has the same dark feel as the taster episode and is a MAGNIFICENT return to form.

    So, what's good. Well, first The Daleks are close to their evil peak, devious, full of hate and exploiting the power hungry of other planets to carry out their conquest of all. Absolutely wonderful, no ineptitude or spluttering here, this is pure Dalek - a phrase I'm sure they would love.

    The main ally in their plans for the bul;k of the story is Mavic Chen, Guardian of the Solar System. Great name, great title, great performance by Kevin Stoney. Wonderfully oily and clearly quite mad with his thirst for power, he is surrounded by people who are either equally slimy or thugs who don't question any order. A truly dark vision of the road humanity is on. I love Chens' dismissal of all the other dictators on The Daleks council of allies as inferior. I know the realisation of the other races may look a bit inadequate by todays CGI standards but I really don't have any problem with them. Each race is identifiable and at no point am I dragged out of the story by the costumes so the department gets a "Great Job" fro me.

    Into all this comes The Doctor, and I have to say Hartnell is excellent and this is perhaps the turning point in the series where The Doctor becomes the hero. Before Ians departure he fulfilled the hero role while The Doctor was the gruff old advisor. Now it's all changed. It's The Doctor who stays behind at the council meeting to steal the Taranium Core, which is quite possibly the bravest and most selfless act The Doctor has yet performed in the series. Hartnell conveys this new side to the character quite brilliantly and to me he just feels more compassionate and emotional than ever before. Peter Purves does a fine job with the Stevens' emotion of witnessing 3 of his friends die in the course of the episodes and also in his humourous sparring when The Monk returns towards the climax. Adrienne Hill gives Katarina a genuine sense of wonder at her journey and her sacrifice to save the others is brutal and genuinely moving. Future Brigadier Nicholas Courtney is fine as Bret Vyon, focused on saving Humanity and carryin the scars of watching his friend die on Kembel. Jean Marsh is superb as Sara Kingdom, initially one of the thugs and used by Chen to kill Bret. The revelation of her relationship with Bret is great and she handles the changing attitudes of the character excellently. The climax ewhere she is aged to death works wonderfully on audio and I'm distraught that no video exists of it.

    Of course, there are weaknesses. There are some slow periods, a couple of so-so performances, and episode 7 is throwaway - though it was designed that way. But, crikey, 12 episodes with a plot that makes sense, great central performances, great villains, Daleks, The Monk, and huge amounts of brutal death and dark visions.

    So from me 9/10 and I hope everyone else loves this like I do

  2. Episode the first: Space TV! Hoorah! Daleks with flamethrowers! Hoorah! Everything else! I suppose it's all right.

    And the second episode's a lot better. I think this is because we can actually watch this, see the decent acting and sets and camera moves. And there's a lovely Bret Vyon / Doctor Who face-off.

    In episode four, the criminals from Desperus talk about going to Kembel, not Earth. Sorry, there's no two ways about it, then. Kembel, Earth, Desperus are all in the solar system. Well, at least in the year 4,000 they are, anyway. And people are always banging on about the solar system. Home to 40 billion people now, no less. Perhaps it's all been terraformed, like in Firefly?

    But then it all goes pearshaped again. Myra, apparently, is in a distant galaxy... but is closer to Kembel than Earth is. Eh? Oh, it makes my head spin, it does. Why it's almost as if no-one gave a shit. Grr.

    Katarina, who suddenly appeared at the end of the last series and jumped into the Tardis for no good reason? Well, she's a bit rubbish, really. Having a character who, faced with the future, simply can't deal with or understand it is one of those things that probably seemed like a good idea at the time. Having said that, even though I knew it was coming, I was shocked as anything when she died.

    And what a beautiful elegy. "I shall always remember her as one of the daughters of the Gods."

    OK, let's try and find a couple of plusses. Here's Mavic Chen and the Supreme Dalek each trying to blame the other for whatever's gone wrong this week. "You make your incompetence sound like an achievement," says the SD. And I do love the way that the Supreme Dalek is off-balance and slightly defensive for the rest of the episode after Chen hears the news that the Doctor and his pals have stolen a Dalek Pursuit Ship!

    And oh, dear, we're back to the bad again. Does episode six have the least cliff-hangery ending ever? "If you go outside, it's dangerous! The atmosphere is entirely poisonous!" Well, OK, let's not go outside then. And just why is that episode called Coronas of the Sun, anyway? And then, of course, the atmosphere's not poisonous anyway. Foof.

    Finally the Daleks get round to summoning a time machine from Skaro to chase our heroes. Who, for some reason, end up being commented on by cricket commentators. What. The. Fuck?

    And then the Meddling Monk turns up! Out of nowhere! Hooray, a great villain from the past! Perhaps something will start happening!

    Except, of course, it doesn't, and we spend two episodes stumbling around in Egypt repeating once again the trade-hostages-for-the-taranium-core beats from before.

    And finally (thank god, finally!) we get to episode 12. Which is actually quite good, if gruesome as all get-out. And really quite depressing and dark.


    The episodes that survive suggest that a lot of the problems (but by no means all) of the scripts could have been pushed to the side by the smart direction and visuals. But even so, this was long, dull, and repetitive. And even episode 12 can't save it. Perhaps the Daleks have had their day at last?

    Oh yes. And then in the middle, there's The Feast of Steven.




  3. Piers Sir I am distraught that you did not enjoy the masterplan and fear that the metal machines may come after you!!!!!!!

  4. I have no worries about this lot. They can't even tell the difference between a galaxy and a solar system.

  5. I'm afraid I wasn't keen either. In fact I'm struggling to find the enthusiasm to offer a review.

    Maybe tomorrow...

  6. Take your time. Let the immediate sorrow and disappointment die down for a while first.

  7. OK. The memory has faded enough now that I feel I can offer some reactions to The Daleks’ Masterplan.

    I thought Kevin Stoney’s performance as Mavic Chen was very OTT. His bickering and arguing with the Daleks undermined some fantastic design work but more distressingly it cheapened the Daleks, yet again, reducing them to the level of pantomime villains after a promisingly sinister initial appearance from them.

    It’s all too long since we had a decent Dalek story now, waaaay back in series two.

    The high points;

    Jean Marsh as Sara Kingdom, what a terrific companion. It’s a real shame she only lasted for (not quite) one story.

    Nick Courtney (Yay!) as Brett Vyon – a great performance and an interesting character who exits the drama all too soon.

    Katerina’s death. I mean I don’t really give a monkey's nuts about the character but it’s so sudden and brutal – I love it!

    This story is largely a rehash of The Chase, isn’t it? Except with better guest stars. As I mentioned before I was really excited to see this one, and I genuinely wanted to like it. It starts well but I’m afraid it exhausted my good will, and my patience, all too quickly.

    Dull, overlong and just not good enough.

    Better than - The Chase
    Not as good as - The Sensorites

  8. Chen's arguments with the Dalek Supreme demonstrates how deluded he is, and how cunning they are. The Daleks only put up with Chen's histrionics because without the Taranium Core the Time Destructor is useless, and it is this device that holds the key to the success of the Daleks' Master Plan. If the Core is lost, then they will need Chen to again secretly mine it for them, as Taranium only exists on a single planet within the Earth's solar system. With the Core, however, they can kill Chen and destroy the Earth and its colonies in short order. To see "Master Plan" as a rehash of "The Chase," is to completely miss the plotting and counter plotting that suffuses this story from top to tail.

  9. Piers said...

    "In episode four, the criminals from Desperus talk about going to Kembel, not Earth. Sorry, there's no two ways about it, then. Kembel, Earth, Desperus are all in the solar system."

    There is no evidence that Kembel and Desperus are within the Earth's solar system. Kirksen says he wants to go to Kembel and not Earth, because, as a convinced murderer, he knows the Earth authorities will either kill him, or send him back to the prison planet. It has nothing to do with how far he is from one planet relative to the other.

    Piers said...

    "And people are always banging on about the solar system. Home to 40 billion people now, no less. Perhaps it's all been terraformed, like in Firefly?"

    Clearly, that's the case, as Melpha indicates in "Mission to the Unknown" all the planets of the solar system will be attacked, also, in "Master Plan," it is stated that Brett Vyon was born on Mars, and Karlton is later instructed by Chen go to Venus and wait for further instructions there.

    Piers said...

    "If you go outside, it's dangerous! The atmosphere is entirely poisonous!" Well, OK, let's not go outside then ... And then, of course, the atmosphere's not poisonous anyway."

    Evidently, the Tardis was picking up on the quality of the London air, which in 1965 was rank. Air pollution was a major health hazard for Londoners, with the "Great Smog" in December 1952 killing over 12,000 people.