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Production Code: TA
1 - 09/10/1965 17:50
On the planet Kembel, Space Security Service agent Marc Cory is investigating a recent sighting of a Dalek spaceship. His suspicion that the creatures may have established a base here proves well-founded.
His two companions, Jeff Garvey and Gordon Lowery, both fall victim to the poisonous thorns of Varga plants - ambulatory flora indigenous to the Daleks' home world, Skaro - and he has no choice but to shoot them before they are themselves transformed into Vargas.
Having overheard the Daleks plotting with representatives of the six outer galaxies to overthrow the solar system, Cory records a warning message and prepares to send it into orbit with a rocket launcher. Before he can do so, however, he is discovered and exterminated.
Malpha vows to turn the galaxies to ashes and their people to dust. The first planet to be conquered will be Earth.
The Day of the Triffids.
Marc Cory : "I'll tell you this: 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."
Malpha : "This is indeed an historic moment in the history of the universe. We six from the outer galaxies joining with the power from the solar system, the Daleks. The seven of us represent the greatest war force ever assembled. Conquest is assured!"
Marc Cory : "Space Security Service, licensed to kill."
Dalek : "Destroy and exterminate!" [(What, both?)]
The SSS know of Skaro, and recognise Dalek ships and those from the 'outer galaxies'. They're legally allowed to kill, and can give orders to anybody, military or civilian.
A unit of Daleks can destroy a small spacecraft. The humans know of the Dalek invasion '1000 years ago' [it's closer to 1800]. Varga plants grow naturally on Skaro, having been created in Dalek labs. A person poisoned by one of their thorns develops an urge to kill, and eventually transforms into another Varga plant. They can move slowly.
The Daleks are planning to invade the whole Milky Way galaxy [Skaro is probably not in the Milky Way. This means that they're going to attack the major powers of the galaxy, or there are very few inhabited worlds per galaxy. Such a plan would greatly disturb the Time Lords. See Terror of the Autons.]
Kembel, a hostile world avoided by everybody. Six months before The Daleks' Master Plan [late 3999?].
Earth is the political centre of the Solar System, which includes Mars, Venus, Jupiter [all with associated settlements] and the moon colonies. Humans still use rockets, at least to land on planets. The constellations visible from Earth have been renamed: reference is made to the constellation of Mir.
The regular cast do not appear in this episode, although William Hartnell was still credited on screen.
Terry Nation employs a rather cavalier use of the term 'solar system', which he appears to equate to the Milky Way as a whole. This perhaps suggests that by the era in which the story takes place - identified in The Daleks' Master Plan as being circa 4000 AD - humanity's empire extends throughout the galaxy, with the solar system at its hub. Skaro is also implied to be in this galaxy; hence the Daleks' alliance with representatives of 'the outer galaxies' against the forces of the solar system. The alternative interpretation that Skaro is actually within the solar system itself appears untenable.
This episode was made for all intents and purposes as if it was a fifth episode of Galaxy 4 - e.g. the production crew were all the same, all the film inserts were shot together etc.
The members of the alliance were named Malpha, Desmir, Stifka, Hjbuj, Pteron, Dbremen and Leemon. (These names, apart from Malpha, were made up for an Australian fan-published novelisation of the story in 1980. In the transmitted story only Malpha and the planet Gearon are named. The names used by John Peel in his 1989 Target novelisation derive from the later story, The Daleks' Master Plan.)
The Daleks announce their secret plan on the city's external loudspeaker system, where Cory hears it.
The alien delegates.
Cast & Crew
The Doctor - William Hartnell
Steven Taylor - Peter Purves
Vicki - Maureen O'Brien
Dalek Operator - Robert Jewell
Dalek Operator - Kevin Manser
Dalek Operator - John Scott Martin
Dalek Operator - Gerald Taylor
Dalek Voice - David Graham
Dalek Voice - Peter Hawkins
Gordon Lowery - Jeremy Young
Jeff Garvey - Barry Jackson
Malpha - Robert Cartland
Marc Cory - Edward de Souza
Director - Derek Martinus
Assistant Floor Manager - Marjorie Yorke
Costumes - Daphne Dare
Designer - Richard Hunt
Designer - Raymond P Cusick
Film Cameraman - unknown
Film Editor - unknown
Incidental Music - stock
Make-Up - Sonia Markham
Producer - Verity Lambert
Production Assistant - Angela Gordon
Special Sounds - Brian Hodgson
Story Editor - Donald Tosh
Studio Lighting - Ralph Walton
Studio Sound - George Prince
Title Music - Ron Grainer and the BBC Radiophonic Workshop, arranged by Delia Derbyshire
Writer - Terry Nation
Bottom Line - from The Discontinuity Guide
Analysis - from Doctor Who, the Television Companion
This single episode story was devised as a trailer for a longer (as it turned out, much longer) Dalek story later in the season. None of the regulars appear - this was always planned, as the episode was additional to the projected recording pattern and the artistes were not contracted for it - but it must be said that their presence is hardly missed as an excellent Terry Nation script and some fine direction combine to offer the viewer a gripping and highly entertaining adventure.
The atmosphere is tense and claustrophobic throughout. Following on from the previous week's cliffhanger, the episode opens with one of the astronauts running through a forest on the planet Kembel. He has been pricked by a Varga thorn, and the sight of his body being slowly covered with Varga fur and spines is terrifying.
Later the plants are seen advancing slowly but surely on the astronauts' camp, making for some very gripping scenes. Robert Franks, writing in Queen Bat Issue 2 in 1985, observed: 'The Varga... are another typical Nation device - "normally harmless" aspects of nature given a more malignant streak by the author in his efforts to provide locations which are both exotic and threatening. The Varga... are the principal factor in the episode's claustrophobic quality - dragging themselves along by their roots, they are gradually closing... in around the two survivors.'
Nation also introduces his alliance of outer galaxies, although only a creature called Malpha is given any significant lines in this story. These creatures come in a variety of weird and wonderful designs and provide a sinister group of aliens allied with the Daleks against the planets of the solar system.
'I was deeply impressed at the time at the array of creatures portrayed,' recalled Ian Levine in A Voyage Through 25 Years of Doctor Who dated December 1988, 'especially Malpha who had a sort of cracked and ugly face looking something like a grotesque parody of someone with eczema... The Daleks were interesting and well-portrayed as usual, and the scenario was beautifully set for the epic to follow.'
Also worthy of mention are the superb jungle sets designed by Richard Hunt, which provide an effective contrast to the stark and simple lines of the Dalek control centre, equally well realised by Raymond P Cusick.
Although just a single episode, Mission to the Unknown is a thrilling and entertaining interlude that leaves the viewer eagerly anticipating the forthcoming Dalek epic. First, however, there is a trip back in time to consider...