Mission to the Unknown

This story is not known to exist in its original format
(1 black-and-white 25-minute TV episode).
CD Audio (5 disc
Dalek Masterplan Set)
(Doctor Who Story No. 19, starring Edward de Souza as Marc Cory)
  • written by Terry Nation
  • directed by Derek Martinus
  • produced by Verity Lambert
  • featuring library music stings
  • 1 episode @ 25 minutes
(Prologue to "The Dalek Masterplan")

Story: Special Security Service agent Marc Cory (Edward de Souza) leads a small expedition to the deadly jungle planet Kembel, where his worst fears are confirmed: The Daleks are forging a hostile alliance, and several other races have greedily joined. Will Cory have a chance to warn the Earth before the adaptive Varga plants take over his entire expedition? What is the Daleks' latest plan?

In-Depth Analysis Review

by Martin Izsak

WARNING: This review contains "SPOILERS", and is intended for those who have
already seen the program. To avoid the spoilers, read the Buyers' Guide version instead.

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. The main thematic point of "Galaxy Four" (story no. 18) wasn't driven home hard enough for her, I see. 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!

International Titles:

Deutsch: (Mission ins Ungewisse)

Magyar: "Küldetés az ismeretlenbe"

Français: (Mission dans l'inconnu)

Русский: "Миссия в неизвестное"

Italiano: "Missione verso l'ignoto"

This story is not known to exist in its original format (1 black-and-white 25-minute TV episode) in its entirety.

Audio CD - Doctor Who - The Daleks' Master Plan. (5 discs)

This 5 CD set features the complete audio tracks of all 12 television episodes of "The Dalek Masterplan",
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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Read the In-depth Analysis Review for the next story: "The Myth Makers"

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