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The Fourth Dimension

The Daleks' Master Plan


At twelve episodes, this is arguably the longest Doctor Who story ever made. Technically The Trial of a Time Lord snatches the record at fourteen episodes, but in reality that was actually four separate stories grouped together under one title. The Daleks’ Master Plan is definitely a single story, even if the writing credits are shared between Dennis Spooner and Terry Nation.


The Meddling Monk makes his second and final appearance in this story, clearly having managed to escape 1066 where the Doctor stranded him in The Time Meddler.


As in many true epics, not everyone survives this adventure. In fact there are three significant deaths. Katarina, having only just joined the TARDIS crew at the end of the previous adventure, The Myth Makers, sacrifices herself to save the Doctor by opening an airlock and ejecting both her and her assailant into space.


Space Security Agent, Bret Vyon, briefly joins the Doctor and Steven in their efforts to warn Earth of the Dalek threat. Unfortunately though, Vyon is shot dead by fellow agent, Sara Kingdom who believed him to be a traitor. It is only after the event that we learn that Sara was also Bret’s sister. Vyon was played by Nicholas Courtney who would later play the semi-regular role of Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart.


Having realised her terrible mistake after killing her own brother, Sara Kingdom joins the Doctor and Steven in their fight against the Daleks. At the climax of the adventure, the Doctor is forced to use the Daleks’ Time Destructor which drastically ages both the Doctor and Sara. However, although the Doctor survives the ordeal and is rejuvenated, Sara is not so lucky and ages to death.


Episode seven, The Feast of Steven, was the first and, until The Christmas Invasion in 2005, the only Doctor Who episode to have been premiered on Christmas day. The episode did not feature the Daleks and had no real connection with the main story of the serial. Instead it presented a parody of the TV series Z-Cars set in present day Liverpool followed by a Keystone Cops style caper on a 1920s Hollywood film set. Finally, celebrating Christmas in the TARDIS, the Doctor raises a toast to the viewers and says ‘a Merry Christmas to all of you at home’.


The Doctor’s ring is more than just a decorative item. When the Meddling Monk uses a laser to freeze the TARDIS lock, the Doctor is able to use his ring to refract sunlight and open the lock again.


The events of this story play out on five different planets as well as in various spacecraft. The Doctor and his friends visit the jungle world of Kembel, previously seen in Mission to the Unknown and the centre of Dalek operations; the penal colony Desperus; Earth in several eras including the year 4000, ancient Egypt and present day; Mira, another jungle world populated by invisible creatures; and the volcanic planet Tigus where Doctor once again faces the Meddling Monk.


Katarina’s death in space was filmed by having actress Adrienne Hill bounce on a trampoline and filmed against a background of stars. The film was then played in slow motion to suggest her hair and clothing were floating in the vacuum of space.


As an in-joke in the light-hearted Feast of Steven episode, the Doctor recognises a man at the police station from the market in Jaffa. The man was played by Reg Pritchard who had also played the clothing salesman in The Crusade.


Only episodes two, five and ten of The Daleks’ Master Plan survive in the BBC’s archives. All three of these episodes were released on DVD as part of the Lost in Time box set in 2004. A soundtrack recording of all twelve episodes exists and has been released, with linking narration by Peter Purves, by BBC audio on CD and MP3. This CD box set also includes the single episode prologue, Mission to the Unknown.

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