A little while ago we speculated about which missing Doctor Who stories, such as The Daleks’ Master Plan, might be next in line to receive the animation treatment. It proved to be a popular article. You can still read it here.

An animation of The Web of Fear Episode 3 has already been confirmed for a special edition release. (We predicted this in the previous animations article.) Recently the Doctor Who Figurine Collection appeared to suggest that The Evil of the Daleks and The Abominable Snowmen were next to be animated. All are very exciting projects. But what of the holy grail of classic Doctor Who; The Daleks’ Master Plan? As discussed previously this epic 12-parter would be a challenging animation project. So allow BlogtorWho to present a possible solution.

Doctor Who - The Daleks' Master Plan: Escape Switch
Doctor Who – The Daleks’ Master Plan: Escape Switch

The original Daleks’ Master Plan

Dalek creator Terry Nation was tasked with coming up with his fourth story featuring the evil pepperpots up against the Doctor and his companions. Whilst completing his third Dalek story, ‘The Chase‘, Nation was commissioned to write a one-off episode, which would become ‘Mission to the Unknown‘. This would serve as a prologue to his next commission, another six-part Dalek story; ‘The Daleks’ Master Plan‘.

However, due to discussions on the 7th Floor of BBC TV Centre, this story was doubled in length. Huw Wheldon, a senior figure within the Corporation, provided feedback from his mother-in-law who requested “more Daleks”. Apparently, Producer John Wiles was so furious with this decision that he threatened to quit. Script Editor Donald Tosh is thought to have talked him down from his ultimatum. Acknowledging that Nation would need assistance writing another six episodes, on top of the seven episodes already commissioned, Verity Lambert put forward Dennis Spooner. The four men involved had a meeting to discuss how to extend the initial story. As a result of that meeting another chase across space and time was considered the best strategy to extend the story.

But what of that initial story?

The Daleks burn the jungles of Kembel in The Daleks' Master Plan (c) BBC Studios Doctor Who Terry Nation 1960s Dalek Flamethrower
Doctor Who: The Daleks’ Master Plan – The Daleks burn the jungles of Kembel in The Daleks’ Master Plan (c) BBC Studios

Six Part Master Plan

Terry Nation‘s original six-part story saw all the action play out in the year 4000 (having been changed from the year 1million). No doubt influenced by the successful James Bond movie ‘Goldfinger‘, Nation constructed a tight and gritty thriller, full of espionage and corruption. Brett Vyon is a substitute for James Bond. Terry Nation’s drafts refer to Sara Kingdom as Agent 5-5-0. The Space Security Service is an agency akin to MI5. The parallels are numerous. Episode four is called ‘The Traitors‘ giving an indication of the themes involved. However, once the length of the story was doubled, much of this atmosphere was lost. Elements of it still remain with the opening few episodes before that momentum is lost. The reappearance of The Meddling Monk for example is an obvious sign of the shift to a more comedic tone.

Nation’s original outline was recently explained by Gavin Rymill on the Doctor Who: The Missing Episodes podcast. As pointed out during that podcast episode, the introduction of a time travel element dilutes the drama significantly. If the Daleks can call for a time machine then why don’t they just go back in time to mine another core of taranium? But I digress. From an animation perspective the chase across space, encountering more characters in a variety of locations, makes the whole thing more complicated. So if The Chase 2.0 was not intended originally could we do without it?

The Daleks' Master Plan: Escape Switch
Doctor Who: The Daleks’ Master Plan: Escape Switch (c) BBC

Animating the original six-parter

So, if animating 12 episodes, plus potentially Mission to the Unknown, is going to be a long and difficult process how could it be made easier? An obvious solution to me is to animate the story as it was intended. This means animating it as a six-parter only. Think of it as the story equivalent of Doctor Who Confidential Cutdown released on DVD. Admittedly, this is quite a controversial idea as it would differ from the transmitted version. However, if it was to speed up the animation process then surely this would be a good thing? Plus we would also get the version of The Daleks’ Master Plan that was originally envisioned by Terry Nation. We might also get a slightly better version of the story, without the comedic chase across time and space, which we already have in the aptly titled story The Chase.

Hopefully in the future animation costs will come down. These projects are very time consuming so as technology develops further, the prospect of animating all twelve episodes of The Daleks’ Master Plan will hopefully be less daunting. Then we can enjoy the hilarity of ‘The Feast of Steven‘ and other episodes. But until then, how about an animated six episode version? That was the length initially commissioned after all.

What do you think? Let us know in the comments.

For more discussion regarding The Daleks’ Master Plan check out Doctor Who: The Missing Episodes Podcast available online here and in the usual podcast apps.

3 COMMENTS

  1. Yes I think a tight condensed version would be a fitting tribute to Terry Nation, as I’m sure his ‘estate’ would agree.
    I do also think that Evil of the Daleks would be perfect too. Especially as we have The Faceless Ones and The Tomb of the Cybermen already available. Logical me thinks.

  2. It’s definitely a clever idea, but it’s not going to go over well as a replacement for the fans who would want the original restored… which, honestly, is most fans.

    Also, how different is the dialogue in Nation’s original scripts? Would the production be looking at hiring an entirely new cast of actors to rerecord it, and then having to sound design the new scenes on top of that task? Now it’s starting to sound more like some kind of unique one-off Big Finish special animated for home video.

    I would absolutely LOVE to see this idea realized, but I can’t really see it happening in this climate as anything but an extra on a blu-ray release, and it would be a pretty expensive extra to produce.

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