Thursday, September 10, 2015

Mission to the Unknown - "There's something very big going on here, and if the Daleks are involved you can bet your life our whole galaxy is in danger."

BBC - Doctor Who Classic Episode Guide - Mission to the Unknown - Details

Season 3, Story 2 (Overall Series Story #19) | Previous - Next | Index

The Daleks are a design marvel. The other alien species on display ... not so much.
How you do doin' tall, dark, and accordion-necked?
This episode is the prelude to "The Daleks' Master Plan." It raises some interesting questions, in addition to being the answer to a trivia question ... what Doctor Who story doesn't have have the Doctor, or even a companion, in it? Mostly, it feels like an old-fashioned B-movie written by a hack. So, of course, it's Terry Nation's.

It aired before "The Myth Makers," the fall of Troy story where the Doctor gets a ride in the Trojan Horse, so it's easy to imagine viewers wondering what the heck it was while watching it, then being thrown for another loop when a Dalek epic didn't immediately follow, but another off-balance pseudo-historical did instead. It only makes sense, to the extent it ever does, when "TDMP" finally does come along.

If you do decide to watch it, maybe you can explain to me why the Daleks are shouting about their plan to conquer galaxy over loudspeakers from their secret base on a jungle world. You can also try to help me understand what sort of secret agent (and, oh yes, he has a license to kill because why not cadge some Bond lingo) concocts a plan like this one to save the galaxy from the Daleks. It's all so painfully dumb.

But, I said it raises interesting questions, so I'll ask one of them: is this even Doctor Who? I mean, yes, of course it is, it was produced and broadcast as a Doctor Who episode, and it's got Daleks in it. But stripped of the theme music and titles, if you didn't know it was an episode of DW, would you have guessed it was a pilot for another series? Terry Nation trying to get his Daleks their own show, a straight sci-fi adventure/space opera?

Even knowing it's DW, it feels like a stealth pilot for another show. A show doomed to fail -- and that's what makes it feel like not-Doctor Who to me. If it doesn't have the Doctor in it and it's too dumb to stand on its own, it feels like something else. This one is, for me, the easy answer to a hypothetical question along the lines of: if you could trade one lost story to get another one back, basically sacrifice it so it would never be found, but another one could be, this is the one I think we could all live without.

Additional Resources:
Reconstruction, Part 1
Reconstruction, Part 2
Animated Reconstruction
Wikipedia transcript
Sandifer post
Nobody in the production is clearly and unequivocally essential to the show working. 
Except Verity Lambert. Who at the same age I am now, did 18 months of work that were, let's be honest here, more important to the world than anything I am ever going to accomplish, and probably anything you are ever going to accomplish. Doctor Who exists because a brilliant, beautiful, and strong-willed lady named Verity Lambert spent 18 months fighting tooth and nail to make it happen. 
Doctor Who will, over the other 46 years of its existence, become a number of things, some of them miles from anything we saw on screen in Lambert's time as producer. But at the end of the day, there is nothing about Doctor Who that is not completely dependent on her. And her influence never left the show either. Flip forward a decade or so, and think about where the people working on Doctor Who might have gotten the idea for a brash, strong-willed, capable female who worked alongside the tempestuous Doctor. Ask yourself where a model for a character like Sarah Jane Smith, or Romana, or Tegan, or Ace, or Martha, or Amy might have come from. The answer's obvious. The Doctor always had a companion like that. From day one. It's just that she never stepped out in front of the camera before Lis Sladen stepped out in The Time Warrior.
Wife in Space post
TV Tropes page

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