… blah, blah, blah…’the Taranium must be recovered’…blah, blah, blah…’failure will not be tolerated’…blah, blah, blah (repeat for three months), it’s…

The Daleks’ Master Plan

In which the Daleks’ are intent on becoming Masters of the Universe (but only if they win their battle against Skeletor); while Katarina and Sara Kingdom learn the hard way that it's not a good time to be a Doctor Who companion...

Those sneaky little buggers would do anything             
        to try and gain access to the TARDIS.                     
- A Bit of a Mare - seeing Terry Nation’s name roll by in the opening credits of a twelve part story is not for the faint-hearted (or anyone fitted with a pacemaker). In fact seeing the immortal caption “The Nightmare Begins” flash up on screen was almost enough to have me reaching for a brown paper bag. But thankfully the wonderful Douglas Camfield is in charge, so even if the script’s going to be a bit ropey in parts, at least we know we’re in a safe pair of hands as far as the direction goes. The first episode introduces us to Mavic Chen, while the Doctor lands on Kembel to find some Daleks (cue pant-wettingly melodramatic musical sting!) and...erm…well, that’s about it really. Not a lot else happens. The SSS have obviously been looking for Marc Corey after he failed to return home for his tea, as Nicholas Courtney (looking just as fit in a Space Security Service uniform as he does in a Brigadier’s one) turns up to investigate his disappearance and ends up spending a good ten minutes glued to a magnetic chair - which the Doctor claims to have invented. ‘It has a force field strong enough to restrain a herd of elephants…’ apparently! Yeah, but only if you can get them to sit in it in the first place! If he’s so bloody clever it’s a pity he couldn’t have put his energies into giving the TARDIS a bit of an overhaul. It’s always breaking down. But no, he has to go and concentrate his efforts into putting together a bit of carpentry that you can’t get up out of! Katarina’s still failing to make much of an impression (she doesn’t even know what a key is when the Doctor shows her the one to the TARDIS! Don’t bother unpacking your suitcase love). She spends most of her time mopping Steven’s fevered brow - a job I’d happily volunteer to do. I’d even throw in a bed bath. Peel him the odd banana. Whatever was needed really.

- the Doctor’s presumably looking for some penicillin so’s to stop the poison that's racing through Stevens' system (blood poisoning he’s picked up from the Trojan soldiers dirty sword…and no, that’s not a euphemism!). I mean…come on! Even the Monk had a supply aboard his TARDIS. The Doctor really is a bit of a rubbish time traveller.

- on Earth, in the central communications room, everyone seems to be slacking, arguing about which television channel they should watch instead of actually doing any work. One of the women (Lizard or something) wants to watch Newsnight (yawn!) on Channel 403 (they must have Sky to have that many channels to choose from…is Rupert Murdoch still alive in the year 4000? Maybe he’s had himself frozen Walt Disney like) while the bloke wants to watch the football. Typical!

Spaceships - Lizan and Roald go on to discuss the merits of various spacecraft (it feels as if I’ve tuned into a future version of Top Gear). The Flip T-4 is one of the latest models on the market (it sounds more like a board game for 2 to 6 players ages 3+). Roald calls it a ‘trifle brash’ so it’s obviously the outer space equivalent of a boy racer mobile, pimped to buggery with stereo, sub-woofers, alloy wheels, tinted windows, under-car neons and dump valves. Proud owners probably think they’re in possession of a very impressive fanny magnet, whereas in reality they look like complete and utter knobs as they tear up the space lanes putting the fear of god up more sedate drivers in their spacecraft equivalent of Morris Minor's. The SPAR 7-40 on the other hand sounds much classier. Shame it’s named after a well-known convenience store. It even boasts a cassette player, which the Doctor uses to listen to his tape in Devil’s Planet (sadly it's not 'Bananarama'). It’s landings, however, would appear to be rather bumpy as it attempts to touch down before its feet have stopped spinning, meaning it bounces about on contact with the ground for a few, no doubt uncomfortable, moments. In fact there’s an awful lot of buggering about in spaceships in this story. The TARDIS in Episode One, the Spar in Episode’s Three and Four, the Dalek ship in Episode Six, the Monk’s in Eight and Nine...

- Mavic Chen’s being interviewed on a sort of space age version of Parkinson. Wouldn’t it be marvellous if he was on the same bill as Rod Hull and Emu. That’d take the smug grin off his bloody face - having some man’s hand stuck up the arse of a not very lifelike representation of a New Zealand species of flightless bird grabbing for, and attaching itself to, his knackers, and refusing to let go! He’s basically saying ‘Peace for our time’…yeah, and look what happened the last time someone in power uttered such immortal words. It’s quite a shock when he turns up on the Daleks doorstep and reveals himself to be a traitor though. It’s a bit like Churchill popping round to Hitler’s bunker with a bunch of flowers and a bottle of wine.

Yeah, pimp that space age pencil, Chen.
- good grief! Back in The Daleks I accused Susan of having atrocious handwriting! It’s perfect copperplate compared to Mavic Chens’. I couldn’t quite tell to begin with if he was writing a letter or having a stroke. From his illegible scrawl he’s clearly not meant to be English. Mind you, with this being produced in the 60s, a traitor of his magnitude obviously had to look and act like a Johnny foreigner! Bearing this in mind, I see they’ve been at Kevin Stoney’s face with the gravy browning. Sheesh!

Zephon - walks like he's had a nasty accident of the brown variety in his underpants. As he ambles around, he sticks his arms out, as if he’s waiting for his underarm deodorant to dry. And he’s got really scabby feet, which look fairly familiar…it’s not Koquillion in a cloak is it? From the state of his hands he seems to be suffering from an acute case of psoriasis (when the Doctor and the other blokes strip him of his outer garments, the sight of him not even semi-naked [he seems to be wearing a satin slip underneath] appears to make Katarina gag). Bet he looks like the Singing Detective in the buff. When his face is finally revealed it looks like a semi-shredded cabbage (it’s put me right off coleslaw and no mistake). He also seems to be sporting a Jim’ll Fix It medallion. Perhaps he wrote to Mr Saville asking if he could be supreme leader of the universe, and he got a reply back saying “Oh, go on then”. The Doctor imitates him during Day of Armageddon so that he can attend the Daleks’ conference, find out what’s going on and half-inch the Taranium. God knows how he gets away with it though. All he thinks he has to do is stick on his cloak - he makes no attempt to walk oddly or stick his arms out. Yet no-one bats an eyelid. He looks more like a Headless Monk from A Good Man Goes to War. Still, it’s quite ironic that the last time we saw the Daleks they were trying to infiltrate the Doctor’s camp with a (shite) double of him, whereas here, he’s doing exactly the same to them. That’s one in the eye-stalk for team TARDIS methinks.

- if what Chen waves about as he chats with Zephon is anything to go by then it would appear that the Daleks have written their plans for universal domination on a roll of wallpaper.

- one of the delegates (Celation) appears to be covered in Comic Relief red noses. He/she/it also walks as if heavily sedated…a bit like Nanette Newman doing the rounds of the supermarket in The Stepford Wives.

- back in the jungle and that farting elephant sound effect is back I hear!

I see Steven's right arm
is in a sling. Too much
"self-gratification"? He
really was held prisoner
on his own for a long time,
wasn't he!
Operation (Disco) Inferno - sees the Daleks setting fire to Kemble’s flora (with their pyro-flame attachments [well, they were hardly likely to attempt it with a box of matches, were they…it’d have taken them bloody hours just to get a match out of the box, never mind trying to strike it]), although it takes a bit of effort to get some of the foliage to catch…Ray Cusick probably used a bit too much flame retardant spray…on strict instruction from the fire brigade no doubt (who were more than likely standing just behind the camera with half a dozen or so buckets of sand just in case things got a bit out of control). The Daleks should’ve brought a can of petrol with them.

- when we see Steven in moving pictures in Day of Armageddon he’s wearing his normal clothes. But surely he should still be in his Trojan outfit. Perhaps Katarina helped him to get changed? The lucky bitch!

- the Doctor suggests hot-wiring Chen’s spaceship. And we all thought he became a wide-boy chav in the Twenty-First Century!

When the Dalek's had first
agreed to compere the Miss
Universe Y4K contest, they
hadn't quite realised what
utter munters the
contestants would turn
out to be.
- it’s a nice big conference room the Daleks have managed to book. Bet they had to put a deposit down months in advance in order to secure it. I wonder if tea and biscuits are served at regular intervals by a little old lady with a trolley.

The Taranium Core - apparently it’s taken fifty years mining Uranus to acquire enough Taranium to get the Time Destructor going! Ouch! I wonder if Chen employed the services of seven dwarves? The two halves of the Core are held together by what looks like a whacking great hinge off of someone’s front door. A full emm of the stuff can make you go blind according to the Doctor…just like too much masturbation! The Doctor makes a copy of it in Coronas of the Sun, no doubt by taking the label off an old baked bean tin and filling it with a few wires and a very small light bulb.

The Gay Agenda - in Day of Armageddon Zephon is surprised that Chen has decided to become ‘one of us’. Well, in my experience dear, you never can tell; there again, the fact that the Guardian of the Solar System has perfectly manicured nails is a bit of a giveaway…bet he’s a frequent visitor to ‘Wendy’s Hair and Nail Bar’ on the high street. ‘Get us off, get us off, get us off’ insists the Doctor to Brett as they attempt to flee Kembel in a stolen spaceship the following episode! Blimey, he’s insistent, isn’t he! No wonder Katarina calls him ‘the Great One’. Brett does get him off, for which the Doctor sounds extremely grateful. Soon after, he tells Brett that Chen is ‘one of them’. Presumably that’ll explain why he’s been poking about Uranus for the last fifty years. The only other inhabitants of the planet Desperus would appear to be the Screamers! Ah well, at least with a bunch of homosexuals on hand the convicts are never going to get too lonely. In Escape Switch the Doctor’s at it again, inviting Chen to ‘join me at the back here’ before promptly giving him what he’s been after for about six episodes. Shortly after this encounter the Doctor refers to him as Magic Chen…hmmm, it must’ve been good.

Some silly bugger had taken
the label off. Now they didn't
know if they were about to eat
a tin of tomato soup or
peach slices in a light
Desperus - how Terry Nation gets away with it is beyond me. First he gives us a planet scarred by war called Skaro, then a water world called Marinus, followed in quick succession by a sun parched planet called Aridius and a planet run by metal servo-robots called Mechanus. Now we get a planet full of desperate criminals called Desperus! At least when he reused the idea of a penal colony in space in Blake’s 7 he had the decency  to rename it Cygnus Alpha - something a little less bleeding obvious at least. As a planet it’s a bit basic. In fact, from the pictures that have survived, it looks like the Tribe of Gum have developed space flight (Terry uses a knife in the same way that Anthony Coburn used fire back in that story, as a status symbol capable of bestowing leadership upon the person able to claim it as their own; and whereas it was Za and Kal at each other’s throats back then, here it’s Bors and Kirksen).

Katarina - spends practically all of her time on the show calling the Doctor ‘Lord’ and worrying that without him she won’t make it to the Place of Perfection. In Devil’s Planet she’s adamant Brett mustn’t take-off without him, although if she wants to know the way to somewhere why doesn’t she ask Brett to do what anyone else would do in the same situation - pull into the nearest lay-by, wind down the window and ask a passing yokel for directions; ‘Excuse me, could you tell me how to get to the Place of Perfection please’; ‘Ooh arr, now let me see moi luvverly. Ee goes down this ‘ere rowd fer about ‘aaalf a moile, turn roight at ee powst aaarfice until ee comes to ee Whoite Loiun an’ it’s four-‘undred yards down on ee left’.

- why is Kirksen so insistent they take him to Kembel? Does he own a time share property there or something? Why doesn’t he want to head for some kind of civilisation? I mean, if he went back to his planet of origin, surely he could disappear into the underworld there and sort himself out a new identity. But no, he wants to go to Kembel. Or, as the Doctor calls it early on in The Traitors, Kendall (clearly he’s getting it mixed up with the Lake District).

It was Katarina's first date
with a fella since leaving
Troy and...oh-oh! Bad breath!
She wasn't quite sure what
an airlock was, but she
was going to chuck herself
out of it anyway, if only
to get away from the
smell of onions!
- Adric should take comfort in the fact that he isn’t the only companion to kick the bucket and then be completely forgotten about ten minutes later.

- eh? Hang on a mo’. As soon as they get back to Earth, the Doctor’s insistent they return to Kembel (presumably so he can get back to the TARDIS). So what was the point of going to Earth in the first place then? To warn them of Chen’s duplicity I suppose. But the only person they’re able to get near to without being assassinated is some old bloke with a receding hairline and a bit of a lantern jaw who works for the Fortieth Century equivalent of ICI, and who turns out to be a traitor anyway. Why didn’t they just go back to Kembel, pick up the TARDIS and then try to get a message though to Earth from there? It’s all just a bit unnecessarily convoluted.

- the conference is starting to feel a bit like a “bad day at the office” by Episode Four - everyone’s started bitching about Mavic Chen behind his back, pissed off that he considers himself to be second in command to the director of the company, whereas in truth he’s really just the equivalent of a spotty youth on a YTS employed to do the photocopying. Trantis is officially next in importance after the Daleks, as according to Chen, he has ‘the largest galaxy’ (while Sentreal presumably just has a regular size Twix, Celation a king size Mars Bar and Beaus a Finger of Fudge). So jealous is Chen at the position Trantis holds it’s a wonder he doesn’t start spreading malicious gossip that he slept with the boss (i.e. the Dalek Supreme) to get where he is.

Let's have a "Spot the Peter
Purves and guess what he's
doing to Jean Marsh"
- ‘Strange room’ says Steven as he and the Doctor enter what appears to be the Top of the Pops studio. All it needs is Tony Blackburn and a few sixties teenagers moving awkwardly to the latest Motown release. Mind you…dissemination sounds far too much like insemination for my liking.

- okay, so the experiment is all about teleportation. But surely this is already possible by the year 4000? There’s a teleportation relay on board Nerva in Revenge of the Cybermen, for example, which, by my reckoning, takes place at least a thousand years before this. Yet Froyn says only ‘small objects can be sent by cellular fragmentation over some short distances’. Presumably it’s a forgotten technology which they’re now only just rediscovering. Nevertheless, it comes to something when human civilisation - which by this point is thousands of years old - looks on the likes of Blake’s 7 and Star Trek: The Original Series as being state-of-the-art!

- and so, with the Doctor’s, Steven’s and Sara’s journey to the planet Mira in Counter PlotDoctor Who well and truly enters the psychedelic sixties. They might as well roll up a spliff, grab a beanbag and put the Grateful Dead on the record player. It’s incredibly trippy. Although I notice there was no way in hell they were getting Bill onto the trampoline…which is probably just as well. He’d have had to have had a couple of episodes off to get over it. Instead he stands in the corner of the studio, gurning into Camera 5.

The Daleks didn't really
understand the concept
behind "Hide & Seek",
but Chen was almost up
to one-hundred and he'd
soon be coming, 'ready or
not'...whatever the hell
that meant.
- just like the airlock on Chen’s Spar, the door of the control room in the experimental station (from where Froyn and Rhynmal keep an eye on the dissemination project) is hardly high tech, is it? It has to be slid open and closed by hand. You’d think a plant wherein cutting edge technology was being developed would be a little more up to the minute. Clearly their work has nothing to do with new door technology.

- are we sure Rhynmal hasn’t just walked in off the street and put on an official experimental station uniform. I get the feeling he doesn’t mix much with his other colleagues out of work hours, probably because he has to go straight home in order to look after his elderly mother. In fact, I think he’s escaped from Last of the Summer Wine. Either that or he thinks he’s Alan Bennett.

Technix - slap heads in the ubiquitous uniform of black polo neck jumper and matching trousers…which obviously means the budget’s getting a bit tight. They’re like older versions of the Xerons…with alopecia.

Mira - is fantastic. Note to Production Team: this is what Mechanus should’ve looked like! They clearly kept the paddling pool used for the swamp scenes in The Daleks in storage, coz it gets a dusting off here and is used to great effect.

Altogether now - "Y.M.C.A."
Mavic Chen - half Ming the Merciless wannabe, half ‘Black and White Minstrel’. We know from Mission to the Unknown that Earth is top of the Daleks’ “List of things to Conquer” and that consequently Mavic Chen is as doomed as a ten bob note right from the word go. Nevertheless, any tension that might've been lost is more than made up for in Kevin Stoney’s magnificent performance, which is a masterclass of a man’s descent into madness. His emotional disintegration parallels Hitler’s at the end of the Second World War in films such as Downfall. He starts to go off the rails from as early as Episode Five and, compared to Karlton - who’s as cool as a cucumber throughout as he waits for the moment to come when he can snatch power for himself - he’s already a gibbering loon. It’s a shame that after Counter Plot the scheming Technix is forgotten about, as there was plenty of mileage left in their relationship. I love the way Chen’s eyes roll to the back of his head during some of his more egocentric moments, almost as if he’s hearing voices telling him how great he is and is actively trying to see inside his own head to get a better look at where they’re coming from. There’s a wonderful moment in Escape Switch where he shoves a Dalek eyestalk out of his face and the Dalek reacts by almost doing a double take…as if it can’t quite believe anyone would have the audacity to do such a thing. The moment in the last episode where the last vestiges of sanity leave him and he murders one of the delegates in cold blood is a supremely chilling moment.

- thankfully the transportation experiment was a success and everyone is reassembled into exactly the right order upon arrival on Mira. Imagine what it would’ve been like if the Doctor had woken up with Sara’s chest, Sara with the head of a mouse and Steven with the Doctor’s propensity for not being able to remember a bloody word of the script!

A Visian,
pictured yesterday.
Visians - el cheapo Doctor Who monsters. If the footprints they leave behind are anything to go by then I can image they’re pretty bloody scary - they certainly sound it - so it really is a pity we can’t see them. I'm presuming it was money that prevented them from actually appearing. If it was a lack of imagination on behalf of the designer then they should've just held a design a (crap) monster competition on Blue Peter? When Bill is called to fight one off with his walking cane he starts beating the crap out of a potted fern…it’s marvellously funny. Apparently they’re eight feet tall, which means that from the relatively low angle and height of his attack, he gives one of them a good beating around the bollocks. Nasty! I can’t help but think Visians is a bit of a misnomer though. Shouldn’t it be In-Visians? They have a habit of waggling shrubbery about (just like the Refusians) and breathing heavily just so that we know they’re there! How thoughtful.

- Mavic Chen’s writing implement is covered in tin foil…to make it look a bit more space-agey no doubt!

Coronas of the Sun - written by Dennis Spooner “from an idea by Terry Nation”. That’s almost libellous isn’t it. Ok…he did have one good idea, two years ago when he thought up the Daleks (although the person who should receive credit for making them the success they became - Ray Cusick - is sadly overlooked by all but the most die-hard fans). Anyway…yes, Mr Spooner takes over. This marks the spot where we gradually go off on a bit of a tangent for about five episodes, and where all the politicking back on Earth between Chen and Karlton is sadly forgotten about in favour of a bit of a run-around as per The Chase.

- slapping a lump of shite onto the Daleks eyestalk in order to escape = © Barbara Wright, The Escape.

- ‘Take up attack formation 'Z'!’ screams one of the Daleks after the Doctor and co have successfully gained control of the Dalek ship on Mira. I wonder what Attack Formation’s A-Y were, and, in retrospect, if one of them at least might not have been a tad more successful? “Z” really feels as if they’re having to scrape the bottom of the barrel.

- after all that’s happened, for one dreadful moment we could be forgiven for thinking Steven’s gone the same way as Katarina and Bret Vyon after his experiment with ‘G-force’ and ‘reliance power’ goes tits up. However, it does have the effect of turning him into a kind of corduroy clad, well quiffed superhero. The Doctor says he has no cure for Steven’s condition. What? Being a bit shouty and insisting all over the place.

- back in the TARDIS, having outwitted the Daleks, Sara thinks something’s gone wrong with the TARDIS. ‘It's stopped going up and down’ she points out, referring to the central column. And talking of going up and down, wasn’t Peter P doing the same on top of Jean M in her dressing room between studio rehearsals…or am I just imagining that?

It's Christmas Day, and Bill
addresses the audience
watching at home with the
immortal phrase 'No, I can't
remember what the fuck it is
I'm supposed to say next
'It’s Chriiiiiistmaaaaaaaassssss' (as Noddy Holder has been reminding us every festive period since 1973 [BC…or does it just feel like it’s been that long?]) - and I see that Terry Nation’s back. How nice. Is he on double-time, what with it being the holiday period? The TARDIS has landed outside a police station, just as a patrol car pulls up, with some suspiciously merry policemen inside. Clearly they haven’t bothered to breathalyse themselves! The Doctor exits, even though the air is described as being utterly rank. Not a very good advertisement for Liverpool is it. Thank goodness Maureen O’ Brien left in the last story, otherwise, being a Liver Bird herself, she’d probably have had something to say to Mr Nation about his description of her home town (which quite possibly might have ended up with her forcing him to eat his own gonads if the reputation Scouse women have garnered over the years is anything to go by…I wouldn't know…although I have seen Letter to Brezhnev). Anyhoo…the Doctor’s taken in for questioning. There’s a man at the front desk reporting the fact that ‘the rebels’ keep moving his greenhouse. I know…don’t tell me, you’re almost wetting yourselves with laughter and having to pause the DVD player in order to go and fetch a length of kitchen roll to mop up the tears that’re streaming down your face, aren't you. No, neither am I. However, all this does mean that Steven gets to put on a police uniform. I don’t know about any of you, but that in itself would be enough to make my Christmas.

Director, Douglas Camfield,
breaks the news to his wife,
actress Sheila Dunn, that he
hasn;t in fact cast her as the
new "Doctor Who girl", but
as a bit part in a shite
episode that will be seen
by an audience of about
twelve, all of whom will be
half-asleep after their
enormous Christmas dinners
and too much sherry, and
which will be wiped from the
archives almost as soon
as it's shown anyway.
'Hooray for Hollywood' - and so after the high-jinks of a northern cop-shop at Xmas, the TARDIS moves onto the film capital of the world…and no, it’s not Shepperton. It’s LA of course, although thankfully the ship puts down on the right side of the valley. If they’d landed in San Fernando god knows what kind of film they’d have interrupted the filming of. Probably one featuring a scantily clad housewife opening the front door to a plumber sporting a dodgy blonde moustache. As it is, the film in question makes Weekend at Bernie’s look like Olivier’s Henry V in comparison. In fact it’s the type of flick they might very well have shown on Christmas Day in the 60s after this episode aired. How ironic. The ten minutes or so that follow on from their arrival are something of a loud, confusing mess…a sort of really cheap version of the big chase sequence at the end of The Producers.

- the shenanigans over and done with, the Doctor, Steven and Sara decide to do what is customary in the Williams’ household on such festive occasions…get shit-faced on cheap supermarket sparkling wine before passing out whilst watching the Strictly Come Dancing Christmas Special.

- it’s quite fitting that the episode title that appears on screen after the Doctor has wished ‘A happy Christmas to all of you at home’ is Volcano…it sort of mimics fandom exploding at the fact the show has just dared to break the fourth wall and, in so doing, suggest that what they’ve been watching on screen isn’t real-life at all!

'Should Auld Acquaintance...' etc etc - so, it’s now time to wash the copious amounts of spew off the front door step with a couple of buckets of warm water and bleach and resolve never, ever, EVER to drink again. Yes, it’s New Year’s Day and Doctor Who’s back on the box. Celation, Trantis and Chen are having a bit of a chat, a scene no doubt intended to assure viewers that the continuing narrative is still bubbling away in the background and hasn’t been forgotten about entirely, despite the holiday period. Celation sounds as though he’s forgotten his inhaler. Either that or he’s attempting to get the party going with an impression of an Ice Warrior. The atmosphere is somewhat ruined when the Daleks attempt to test their Time Destructor only to find out it’s got a dodgy part. Chen insists the Taranium must be good, pointing out ‘…it came from Uranus’, although how Kevin Stoney manages to deliver the line with a straight face is beyond me. It’s a credit to his professionalism. It would’ve taken me at least a dozen takes, and even then they would’ve had to resort to filming me from behind while someone dubbed the line in for me. Meanwhile, believing that the Daleks are onto him, the Doctor materialises the TARDIS in the middle of a cricket match. What follows is a mercifully short scene which nevertheless is as tedious as having to watch a test match in full. We’re clearly still in “wacky” festive mode. But it’s not the Dalek's in hot pursuit (at least, not yet). No, it’s Peter Butterworth. Hooray! A proper comedian at last. The jokes might start working now! He knobbles the TARDIS lock which means the Doctor and co. are unable to get back inside....for a couple of minutes. Jesus! I mean…what’s the point? Still, at least it’s not as bad as the most recent episode of the series to be screened on New Year’s Day. Yes, I’m looking at you Part Two of The End of Time. In fact, in comparison, this all makes perfect sense. After Tigus the TARDIS and its crew land in Trafalgar Square. If I were them I’d nip out and have a swift glass of sherry in Halfway II Heaven.

Oooh, exotic! In fact, if you
squint and look in I swear
you can see Judith
Chalmers standing at the
foot of the main pyramid.
'Walk Like an Egyptian' - hmmmm, I see the pharaohs have got the builders in. There’s construction material all over the shop - planks of wood, masonry, stone blocks, empty tea mugs and a half eaten packet of chocolate digestives. Although when the TARDIS first arrives they’re obviously on an extended lunch break as there’s no bugger to be seen. The Doctor’s still trying to fix the lock. Maybe he should’ve got someone from Yellow Pages out while they were in London, though it would’ve cost an arm and a leg what with it being New Year’s Eve. Repairs complete he dons a Panama hat. Panama hats are cool. The Monk arrives and promptly dons a pair of Ray Bans - now that really is cool! Inside the pyramid it looks a bit like one of those auction rooms you might see in one of those dreary lunchtime antiques programmes - it’s full of all kinds of bric-a-brac. They want to have a bit of a clear out and take some of the stuff down the local charity shop. And, finally, Sara gets to prove her credentials and do a bit of karate business as she works her way through a bunch of locals. With Escape Switch we’re back to clear and moving pictures at last and - dear god Khephren’s hairy! So much so you could almost be forgiven for thinking you’re watching the only surviving episode of The Abominable Snowmen!

The Egyptian version of
Dad's Army was the highest
rated programme on
El Mehwar TV. 'Don't
panic, Captain El Siyad...'
- there's a stand-off between the TARDIS crew and the Daleks in which the Taranium Core is handed over. Erm...isn’t this where we were four episodes ago?

- it’s The Abandoned Planet and we’re back on Kembel. I see Operation Inferno didn’t cause all that much damage. It would seem the Dalek's pyro-flame attachments just caused the odd plant to go a bit crispy here and there. And what with their firebombs failing to make much (and for ‘much’ read ‘any’) impact on London’s infrastructure in The Dalek Invasion of Earth… well…it comes to something doesn’t it, when the supreme beings in the universe could learn a thing or two about making fire from the Tribe of Gum.

- the Daleks’ time machine looks a bit like one of those fancy Glade air fresheners.

- Mavic Chen addresses the final council meeting, and makes himself even more unpopular, if that’s at all possible, telling the assembled delegates that ‘some of us are more equal than others’ when they question him as to why he’s privy to information they’re not. Cue an awful lot of nagging, much table banging and calls for him to be arrested…although I’d like to see them try calling 999 just to see what kind of a response they get. ‘Is it an emergency?’, ‘Well…yes as a matter of fact it is…one of the representatives is getting a bit above his station’, ‘Right ho, then, we’ll send a constable straight over on a bicycle’.

"...'and what's more,
Verity' I said, 'after another
three pints I can stick
a sock on it and pretend
it's a draught excluder'."
Bill's between takes
stories were legendary.
- the entire Galactic council are shoved into the same cell by the Daleks and left to stew. All very cosy, although, considering the diverse range of alien life forms they encompass, I wouldn’t like the task of emptying the bucket in the corner afterwards. I’ve a feeling that Celation’s excrescence would look particularly unpleasant - a bit like a white Cadbury’s Picnic with chocolate covered spots I would imagine.

- the Daleks are hiding in force underground it turns out, just like they do in Planet of the Daleks. How kind of Terry Nation to repay Dennis Spooner for writing the second half of a story that he couldn’t be arsed to finish of himself by nicking this idea and reusing it in a few years’ time.

- in the last episode, the Doctor says the Time Destructor will continue to work until ‘the Taranium has finally burnt itself out’. Bit of a manufacturing oversight, wasn’t it…not building in an off switch!

Sara Kingdom - the season started off with the Drahvins and now, just a couple of stories down the line, we get Doctor Who’s very own answer to Emma Peel. What a pity though that all the good work being done towards depicting strong, intelligent and resourceful women in the series is chucked in a bucket and pissed on in the very next script with the introduction of Dodo, a female character that is the very antithesis of all the qualities I’ve just listed. In fact, we get a succession of screaming annoyances who are, on the whole, as dim as a ten watt bulb (until Zoe stows away that is). The reasoning behind bringing in a kick-arse female companion is sound, but ultimately you have to ask yourself ‘what was the point?’ She’s given absolutely nothing of note to do; apart from a quick demonstration of her potential in a blink and you’ll miss it scrap in Golden Death (which ironically we do miss because the episode no longer exists) she’s nothing more than canon-fodder right from the word go. Granted, her act of (accidental) self-sacrifice at the end is affecting, but so was Katarina’s. As originally envisioned, it was Vicki who was due to chuck herself out of the airlock at the beginning of The Traitors, but wouldn’t it have been so much better if it had played out differently. What if the TARDIS had left Troy with both Katarina and Vicki on-board, with Katarina’s death in Episode Four merely being a foreshadowing of Vicki’s death in Episode Twelve. Having Vicki age to death would’ve been incredibly powerful and poignant. Much more so than that of a five second companion. I can’t help but think that in the rush to put their own stamp on the series the new production team missed a trick there.

- Death-O-Meter147. Kert Gantry - exterminated by the Daleks. What a shame as he was played by the lovely Brian Cant (have to make sure you use the correct vowel when spelling his name), giving a wonderfully edgy, albeit far too brief, performance - altogether now “Play-away-way, play-away-a-play-away-a-way-way-a-play-away-away-way”. It would never have happened if Big Ted and Hamble had been there to protect him; 148. Zephon - really gets the Daleks’ goat when his arrogant, self-important attitude means the meeting between the various galactic superpowers is delayed and the Taranium core stolen. Not only this, but he allows himself to get captured and impersonated by the Doctor. However, most importantly, the holdup means the hot finger buffet goes cold. So the Daleks exterminate him. Ha! Serves him right. There’s nothing worse than tepid spring rolls; 149. Katarina - ejects both herself and Kirksen out into space. Of course, if the Doctor hadn’t left the bloody spaceship’s front door open this could’ve been avoided; 150. Kirksen - maybe if he hadn’t have been so insistent on going to Kembel he’d be sitting up in the Lake District (see Doctor’s earlier comment) with a new identity, sipping Pina Coladas and doing the odd spot of fell walking; 151. Daxtar - shot by Bret for being a traitor (he does that thing of giving himself away by mentioning something important before he’s even been told about it…in this case the Taranium - a sure sign then that this is a Terry Nation script); 152. Bret Vyon - shot by his sister, Sara Kingdom (interestingly, she has a different surname to his. Does this mean she’s married. If so, Amy Pond isn’t the first married woman to have been the Doctor’s companion…although let’s not get into the argument of whether Sara is a companion or not. Life’s too short); 153. Trantis - believing he’s getting just a bit too big for his boots, the Daleks initially attempt to try out the Time Destructor on him, but when it doesn’t work they simply exterminate him instead. The moral of the story surely must be…keep your big fat gob shut and don’t get lippy with an inhabitant of the planet Skaro; 154. Hyksos - exterminated by the Daleks outside the Great Pyramid, still…lovely spot for it; 155 - 162. Egyptian Warriors - ditto. Although I suppose they could’ve just passed out due to sunstroke; 163. Gearon - shot by Chen as he finally flips and attempts to take over the Galactic council. Still, we’ve all had days at work where we’ve wanted to pass an annoying colleagues head through the paper shredder; 164. Mavic Chen - exterminated by the Daleks for being as mad as a bag of badgers (he also tried to shoot the Dalek Supreme, which probably wasn’t the wisest career move he’d ever made); 165. Sara Kingdom - ages to death whilst helping the Doctor with the Time Destructor, despite his protestations. Let that be a lesson to all future companions - do as your bloody well told; 166 - 169. Daleks - there are four Dalek operators listed in the credits, so they’re making it onto the list (presumably all 50,000 Daleks that're hiding on the planet are destroyed, but they don’t…that would just be silly…and play havoc with my numbering system). They regress to baby Daleks. Now that I’d love to see. Dalek mutants in nappies, sucking their dummies. Cute! Then they die!
(The Daleks exterminate the disseminated mice because they think ‘they might be hostile’…yeah, because, y’know, I’m sure they were just about to produce nunchucks from up their furry little arses and beat the living crap out of the metal gits. The utter fucking bastards [the Daleks’ that is]. Some Visians are killed by a Dalek patrol at the end of Counter Plot / beginning of Coronas of the Sun but being invisible means it’s a bugger to count how many. Perhaps I should include the show itself on the list here, as some people think it died with the advent of The Feast of Steven. A number of Egyptians are exterminated upon the Daleks' arrival in Golden Death, but as to how many is a complete guess, at a rough estimate I’d say at least half a dozen. Could someone please find this episode so this anally retentive fanboy can get his figures right please.)

Score on the TARDIS Doors - 8 - it’s lazy reviewing to say that this story’s too long, but…this story’s too long. Everything from The Feast of Steven to The Abandoned planet is sheer padding. That’s five whole episodes of just attempting to delay the inevitable final showdown between the Doctor and his archenemies. Coronas of the Sun marks a complete break in the on-going narrative and I can’t help but wish we could’ve had another couple of self-contained stories featuring Sara Kingdom and her travels aboard the TARDIS before eventually returning to the matter in hand and the resolution of the Master Plan, instead of having to bugger about with Christmas, the New Year and a mini-break in Egypt. Dennis Spooner tries his best to keep our interest going but in so doing completely forgets one of the strongest aspect of Terry Nation’s earlier script - the potential power struggle between Chen and Karlton. However, he more than redeems himself in the final couple of episodes. Despite it being filler, there’s a fantastic atmosphere to The Abandoned Planet. Effectively, the main protagonists, the Doctor and the Daleks, mysteriously disappear for the majority of the episode, and as Steven and Sara wander around the deserted city on Kembel searching for a trace of their companion, it feels very much as if we’re witnessing the calm before the storm. The ominousness is almost tangible. As they and Chen begin their descent into the hidden part of the city at the end of the episode you just know there’s an epic ending coming up, one which has been more than worth waiting for. Destruction of Time is a masterpiece. It positively drips with tension and high drama. It’s possibly one of the best episodes since the series began. It’s certainly one of the noisiest episodes ever, with the incidental music, the sound effect of the Time Destructor in operation and everyone shouting in panic and frustration combining to make it feel as if suddenly chaos really does reign supreme, all of which reaches a crescendo as first Sara and then the Daleks either age or regress to their deaths before the Taranium within the Destructor burns itself out. The silence which follows is almost deafening. Stunning. Still too bloody long though.
Advetisement: Take care of your skin...

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