Buyers' Guide Review
by Martin Izsak
(A more in-depth analysis, containing "SPOILERS" and intended
for those who have already seen the program, can be accessed
Although belonging to "The Dalek Masterplan" as a prologue,
it must be noted that this episode does not have the
Masterplan's excellent production team, and is actually
lacking in many elements because of it. Without strong
ethical substance in the material, the half-hearted degree
of acting and audio-musical finesse is less forgivable here,
and the production team from
"Galaxy Four" (the previous story)
seem less enthusiastic in tackling this nuisance extra
task on their schedules.
First to the writing. Terry Nation has devised a
pretty good story here, but the dialogue is horrendous,
as most of the points he makes come out as snappy, irritated
remarks by his two protagonists, or as ineffective pompous
strutting by the Daleks, or as dim-witted "what-if" questions
by the Masterplan allies. The voice performances are not
very inspiring either, as director Derek Martinus seems
to want to just fill the allotted time, get it in the can,
and not worry too much about tweaking the elements to make
them more dramatic. There's more of retardation than menace
in Jeff Garvey's mutterings of "Kill, kill..." - fans of
Barry Jackson should find his performance in
"The Armageddon Factor" (story no. 103)
a galaxy more interesting. The Daleks sound more silly than
menacing, and worst off is the Supreme Black Dalek, who manages
once more to sound like the frailest, littlest, oldest granny
of them all. Alliance member Malpha sounds decidedly unintelligent;
under this same director in the last adventure, Robert Cartland's
previous performance as the Rill voice, however flawed, is much
better than what we get here, as was the written dialogue.
The thing to really enjoy here is the whole sci-fi / horror
aspect of the Varga plants, since this is the only episode in
the Masterplan story arc where they feature as more than an odd
mention in a line or two of dialogue. Here we learn about them,
and see them interact with the main protagonists, and they
certainly are one of the best, most frightening, most disgusting
things Terry Nation's dark writing has ever come up with.
There has traditionally been considerable confusion in the
"dramatis personae" of Masterplan Alliance members, particularly in
matching names to faces consistently. Prior to 2004,
we were not helped by having no existing footage whatsoever
of any Masterplan scene
involving any of the alien alliance members. The still photos
made popular up to that point seemed to feature only the versions
from "Mission to the Unknown" (with the exception of Zephon
beside Mavic Chen). One of Malpha's lines states
clearly that at this point there are six members in addition
to the Daleks, and all six can be clearly seen in the photographs.
The novelizations by John Peel and Rosemary Howe give these
six very different names, and their descriptions seem to give
very little information that is useful in identifying them,
particularly Howe's usage of terms like "ugly face", and
"disgusting" which is really more biased opinion than anything.
It is also clear that Howe's novelization takes great liberty
with repositioning scenes, even to the point where the natural
cause-effect chronology is lost.
Ultimately, this prologue episode will not rank very highly
in season three primarily because the aliens, Daleks included,
receive such "children's show" level performances.
Not to worry though, for if "Mission to the Unknown" has
at all managed to whet your appetite or stir your curiosity,
the upcoming "Dalek Masterplan" story proper will not disappoint!
One further note.... Mark Ayres is doing one very excellent
job at remastering these old audio recordings, combining low
frequencies of one recording with the high frequencies of another,
and all that. As someone who made do with a fan-traded cassette
recording of this episode for years, the difference on CD is
nothing short of amazing.
A special commendation from the High Council of Gallifrey
is in order!
This 5 CD set features the complete audio tracks of all
12 television episodes of "The Dalek Masterplan",
This story is not known to exist in its original format
(1 black-and-white 25-minute TV episode) in its entirety.
and the special
prologue episode "Mission to the Unknown", in two formats:
- The CD Audio version features narration by
actor Peter Purves (who also played Steven Taylor)
to help listeners follow what used to be visual aspects
of the story. This version spans all 5 discs
and is playable in any normal audio CD player.
- The .mp3 version can be accessed from the first disc
by computer only (Mac or PC),
and features the original sound
from the television episodes with no narration added.
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