February 28: "Don't Shoot the Pianist" / "Johnny Ringo"

(The Gunfighters episodes 2 & 3)

So there's some strong competition, but "Don't Shoot the Pianist" might be one of the funniest episodes of Doctor Who.  It's certainly up there.  Steven's getting really fed up singing the same song over and over again, and it takes the regular singer Kate showing up to let him stop -- only to have him play the piano while she sings.  "Don't mind me," Dodo fumes, having just been playing.  "Just have a good time with your new friends!"  Honestly, her sense of priorities seem consistently misplaced -- has she not noticed they were being forced to play at gunpoint?

The Doctor, while holding the Clantons at gunpoint, is happy
to see Wyatt Earp. ("Don't Shoot the Pianist") ©BBC
But really, the star of the show is William Hartnell.  Donald Cotton has decided to write a story where the Doctor isn't responsible for the main action but instead wanders about the place slightly bemused.  It means that in general Hartnell can play up the comedic side of things without having to worry too much about moving the plot along.  And as there's not too much plot moving happening in this episode (most of it is at a more-or-less standstill while the Clantons labor under the misapprehension that the Doctor is Doc Holliday), that leaves quite a bit of room for comedy.  From the Doctor explaining to the Clantons that he's not Doc Holliday, he just happened to be in his office when Seth Harper walked in and then Holliday insisted on lending him his gun, to his time spent in the jail cell under the protective custody of Wyatt Earp and Bat Masterson, Hartnell is a master of underplaying just the right amount, so that even though he's incredibly funny it still seems in character.  Steven hands him a gun through the cell window, which he then fiddles with in front of Earp, pointing it at him at one point while gesturing (which John Alderson as Earp reacts to with just the right amount of faint alarm) before handing it over: "I have no intention of trying anything, only people keep giving me guns and I do wish they wouldn't."

Sure, there are some minor issues (and here I'm thinking primarily of the accents -- most of them aren't too bad, but Peter Purves' accent is a bit odd just because we're used to him sounding otherwise, while David Cole as Billy Clanton sounds like he went to a finishing school, despite attempting to speak in a dialect), but they by no means detract from the action.

"Johnny Ringo" is a little more serious, introducing as it does the title character and advancing the storyline.  After Steven is saved from a lynch mob, the Clantons learn that the Doctor isn't Doc Holliday after all, and so they plot to go after him by hiring Johnny Ringo to take care of him.  Ringo is shown to be a brutal man, gunning down Charlie the barman just because he talks too much.  The Clantons may be a bit inept, but Ringo is anything but.  Yet as Holliday left Tombstone and took Dodo with him, Steven decided to team up with Ringo to find them.  Meanwhile, Phineas Clanton is broken out of jail by his brothers, who gun down Warren Earp as they do so (again, not historically accurate -- Warren Earp wasn't in Tombstone at the time).  The stage has been set for the final episode.

There are still some fun moments: the "Ballad of the Last Chance Saloon" starts entertainingly narrating the action on screen, and there's one moment with the Doctor that is hilarious.  The Doctor explains to Wyatt Earp that Steven has gone off with a man named Johnny Ringo to look for Dodo.  "Ringo?" Earp responds in disbelief.  "Yes, yes," the Doctor replies.  "You've got a photograph of him here, look," he adds, helpfully passing Wyatt a wanted poster that Earp immediately throws aside.  But ultimately this episode is more about getting things ready for the climactic shootout than anything else.  Soon the stage is set for "The OK Corral"...

February 27: "The Final Test" / "A Holiday for the Doctor"

(The Celestial Toymaker episode 4 & The Gunfighters episode 1)

Oh hey, we can actually watch this episode!  And it is clear that visuals do help somewhat -- we can see Cyril's reactions and we can watch the danger that Steven and Dodo are in by almost falling off the game spaces and onto the electrified floor.

But we're still watching other people play a board game.  And it's not the most expensive-looking set ever, is it?  There's a certain minimal charm to it, but it's not sufficiently distracting to engage the eye when the mind wanders.  Some aspects are good though; the Toymaker's desk and the tin robot monitors are really quite lovely, but then they're stuck in a nondescript white room.

Dodo also continues to be gullible, falling for Cyril's "injured" trick despite already knowing that a) Cyril's an underhanded player, b) moving to a different square without authorization sends you back to the start, and c) Steven is adamantly telling her not to.  It's this last point that seems to make up her mind, as she yells she's going to help him, moves to his square, and has to go back to start.  It does point out Dodo's kind nature and her willingness to see the best in people, but it's also frustrating to watch since we're really on Steven's side in this case.

The Toymaker congratulates the Doctor on (almost) completing
the Trilogic Game. ("The Final Test") ©BBC
In any event, Cyril is eventually undone by his own schemes, making the winning roll but then forgetting he'd put slippery powder on one of the spaces, which sends him off to his "death", leaving a charred doll behind.  The rest of the episode consists of the Doctor brought back to permanence and full voice -- despite Wiles' and Tosh's best efforts23 -- and attempting to work out how to leave the Toymaker's domain without getting caught up in its destruction.  He eventually figures out how to imitate the Toymaker's voice to make the final move for him, dematerializing just as the Toymaker's realm explodes with some, ah, interesting choices of stock footage.

The Celestial Toymaker is a hard story to evaluate based on what we've got, as so much of it does appear to be visual in nature.  The visuals we do have though, with "The Final Test", aren't the most encouraging things ever.  There's enough reason to be cautiously optimistic, but it's still not clear how much visuals would save, say, the second half of "The Celestial Toyroom".  But possibly more than any other currently missing story, The Celestial Toymaker is almost impossible to evaluate based on what we've got, other than to note that it's not very workable as an audio-only story.

So not only does "The Final Test" still exist, but the next four episodes still exist as well.  So we can enjoy "A Holiday for the Doctor".  It's not much of a holiday, though, as the Doctor is suffering a bad toothache as a result of one of Cyril's sweets at the end of last episode.  But rather than arrive in a modern or futuristic locale where he can get his tooth properly looked at, he arrives in Tombstone, Arizona Territory, in 1881 (the second time Doctor Who has traveled to America).  The episode starts out quite seriously; there's a song occasionally entering the proceedings to help set the mood, and the Clanton brothers all seem pretty intent on getting their revenge on Doc Holliday, who killed their brother Ruben (not historically accurate, but never mind).  Doc Holliday is less than enthralled by this: "You kill a guy out of sheer professional ethics, and then you've got three of his brothers chasin' after you to leave at once." 

As things progress it becomes clear that this isn't going to be as serious a treatment of the subject as, say, The Massacre was -- not surprising, given writer Donald Cotton's last story was The Myth Makers.  This means that there are some great moments, such as when the Doctor, in Holliday's office to have his tooth removed, realizes there's no anesthetic available.  "You're welcome to a slug of rattlesnake oil!" Holliday says, proffering a bottle.  "Oh my dear man, I never touch alcohol," the Doctor says.  "Well, I do," Holliday replies, taking a large swig.  And then there's Steven and Dodo, who've dressed up in what look more like fancy-dress versions of American West attire, being forced to sing and play piano for the Clantons (who are under the impression they're friends of Doc Holliday).  The bit where Steven starts to become exasperated while singing, only to see one of the gang nonchalantly point a revolver at his face, is a piece of understated joy.  We're only an episode in, but The Gunfighters looks like it's going to be much more entertaining than The Celestial Toymaker was.

23 Producer John Wiles, who was Verity Lambert's replacement, never got along with William Hartnell, and it was becoming clear to many that Hartnell, who was sick with arteriosclerosis (though he didn't know it at the time), wouldn't be able to continue in the role much longer.  So Wiles and story editor Donald Tosh decided to write him out in this serial by virtue of giving him a different appearance and such when the Toymaker brought him back, allowing the role to be recast.  Hartnell reportedly got wind of this and went over their heads to Gerald Savory, who had Hartnell's contract extended for 6 months.  (That's one version, anyway; another suggests that the contract was extended automatically without Wiles realizing it.)   John Wiles, who hadn't really wanted to produce in the first place, decided that enough was enough and he left the position -- which is why The Celestial Toymaker is actually the first story produced by Wiles' successor, Innes Lloyd. And yes, in many ways the drama behind the scenes during the making of this story is much more interesting than what ended up on screen.

February 26: "The Hall of Dolls" / "The Dancing Floor"

(The Celestial Toymaker episodes 2 & 3)

Hmm.  No, sorry to say, but these two episodes appear to be as visual the first one.  It's certainly a rather imaginative story, but the actual realization is now without the pictures down to listening to Steven and Dodo argue with playing card people about using wooden dolls on chairs.  It's not the most thrilling television ever, I'm afraid.

Cover of the 1986 Target novelization.
(From On Target - The Celestial Toymaker)
And William Hartnell, who was made invisible last episode, is now rendered mute as well, after a few prerecorded lines that sound like he's literally phoning them in.  The lines are totally devoid of any sort of import or alarm or feeling whatsoever; I don't think it's a stretch to say it's Hartnell's worst performance on Doctor Who.  Still, at least everyone else is giving it their best.  Carmen Silvera and Campbell Singer do their best to make the Queen and King of Hearts distinct characters, and they're actually quite fun -- even though you know they're working against Steven and Dodo.  And it's a bit entertaining to watch Steven and Dodo interact; Steven wants to win no matter what so that this will all be over, while Dodo wants to get into the spirit of the games and doesn't seem to realize how deadly they are.  Still, it seems like a lot is lost when all you have is the soundtrack.

Alas, things don't get any better in that department with "The Dancing Floor".  The first half of the episode is fairly clearly designed to be a slapstick comedy, and so when all you can do is listen it's rather an exercise in tedium.  This sequence, more than any other, is probably the most difficult to evaluate based on audio alone.  After all, Laurel & Hardy's short The Music Box won an Academy Award, but if all you could do was listen to it, it would quickly lose its appeal.  I'm not suggesting that this sequence is on par with something like that, but rather that it's almost impossible to judge.  Still, at least it sounds like the actors are having fun.  And then the second half concerns Steven and Dodo dancing their way across a dance floor to get to the TARDIS.  It doesn't sound quite that difficult, and once they get the hang of it, it isn't.  Er, yes.  Again, visuals might really help.

But maybe they wouldn't.  It's got to be said that, after the sinister atmosphere built up by "The Celestial Toyroom", this gets squandered a bit in these two parts.  We get told the chairs are dangerous in "The Hall of Dolls", and Dodo gets frozen by one, so there's a little bit of suspense.  But on the other hand it does seem a bit jolly, and then "The Dancing Floor" goes even further by having not really any threat whatsoever, so dramatic tension goes out the window.  Donald Tosh has complained that when incoming script editor Gerry Davis rewrote his scripts to remove two primary characters, as ordered from above22, he also removed a lot of the menace that Tosh had inserted and replaced it with more pantomime.  You can't help but wonder if Tosh doesn't have a point.

22 Settle in, this might take a minute.  In the 1930s a playwright named Gerald Savory had written a smash hit comedy called George and Margaret, where a family is awaiting the arrival of two guests named, funnily enough, George and Margaret -- they're the catalyst for the events of the play, but they don't actually appear in it.  Fast-forward to 1966, and Gerald Savory is now Head of Serials.  So writer Brian Hayles gets the idea to have George and Margaret actually show up in a Doctor Who story.  Savory gives permission and Hayles writes the script, but he doesn't have time for rewrites, so it passes to outgoing script editor Donald Tosh to make any necessary changes.  He rewrites it substantially enough that it's going to go out under his name, "based on an idea by Brian Hayles", but then Savory reads the script, hates it, and withdraws permission for his characters to be used.  At this point money has been spent and people have been cast, so they can't just scrap the story.  Therefore incoming script editor Gerry Davis has to rewrite the whole thing to remove George and Margaret.  The result apparently hardly resembles Tosh's scripts, so he has his name taken off it and Brian Hayles is reinstated as credited author (Davis can't take credit because he's the script editor and the BBC had rules about such things -- as Tosh had left at the relevant point, that rule no longer applied to him).

February 25: "The Bomb" / "The Celestial Toyroom"

(The Ark episode 4 & The Celestial Toymaker episode 1)

So Monoid Two's report is cut off mid-sentence, in what must surely be suspicious circumstances.  So Monoid One's decision is to ship every Monoid, including all the miniaturized Monoids in trays, down to the planet's surface.  He's not really a forward thinking kind of person, is he?

This episode is concerned with two things: finding the bomb concealed on the Ark, and watching the Monoids annihilate each other in infighting.  There's not really anything terribly surprising in this episode -- really the only unanticipated part is that some of the Monoids disagree with Monoid One's decisions and choose to return to the Ark, which leads to Monoid One and his followers trying to gun them all down (and watching them shuffle about in their costumes, shooting at each other, has to be seen to be believed).  The battle that ensues seems to wipe out most of the Monoids, leaving the Guardians free to colonize the planet without having to deal with the Monoids too much.  Meanwhile, a Refusian pilots a landing craft back to the Ark and helps the Guardians eject the bomb (hidden inside that big statue) into space, apparently with only seconds to spare, judging by the timing of the explosion.

There are some really quite ambitious model sequences here, with some forced perspective shots and things that are nicely done (even if you can see the wires occasionally).  The takeoffs and landings of the landing crafts, for instance, are often done incredibly close to the camera, to give the impression of a large craft landing nearby -- and fortunately the model is of sufficient quality to carry off the illusion.  It's a charming effect.

Really, that sums up The Ark in general.  As a story it never quite lives up to the promise of its first episode, but there's enough here presented in such a way that you can't help but be entertained by it.  It's not the most perfect story in the world, and you wouldn't be wrong pointing out that the second half is weaker than the first (even though the first is just about a plague and the second has invisible aliens and battles and things), but it's still an enjoyable little tale, aided by some striking direction.

And now it's back to the soundtracks for "The Celestial Toyroom", which is a bit of a pity given how visual this story seems to be.  It's a nicely sinister set-up we're given, as the Celestial Toymaker (and note that's almost certainly "Celestial" as a synonym for "Oriental", the way that word was once used -- the Toymaker's Mandarin garb indicates this is the case) forces the Doctor, Steven, and Dodo to play games for their freedom.  It's a chilling concept, as the Toymaker indicates that if they lose, they have become his playthings and remain in his realm forever.  The Doctor has to play the Trilogic Game (a form of the Tower of Hanoi puzzle) while Steven and Dodo participate in a sort of obstacle course against two of the Toymaker's dolls, clowns named Joey and Clara21.  This is where it becomes painfully clear how much this episode loses by being audio-only.  It might have been a bit tedious watching Steven and Dodo play this game, but when all you can do is listen to them play, it becomes a bit difficult to remain engaged in the episode.  Ah well; maybe the next two episodes will work better as soundtracks.

21 Lest anyone get any ideas, the pronunciation is different from the BBC Wales' companion's name ([klεɹə] vs. [klɑɹə] in the International Phonetic Alphabet), and as the clown Clara is actively trying to hinder Steven and Dodo's progress, the modus operandi doesn't really fit anyway.

February 24: "The Plague" / "The Return"

(The Ark episodes 2 & 3)

It's a serious business the Doctor has landed them in: because of Dodo's cold, the future of the entire human race appears to be in danger.  So naturally, the acting commander, Zentos, wants to do the right thing and...ensure that the Doctor, Steven, and Dodo are executed for bringing the plague on board the ship.  He seems to be under the impression that this is the result of Refusian agents from their destination planet attempting to sabotage their journey for some reason, but in any case, Zentos is out for blood.  To this end he holds the most amazing hearing, with Steven defending the time travellers from his accusations of deliberate infection -- and he gets a great line, by the way, as he responds to Zentos's accusations: "The nature of man, even in this day and age, hasn't altered at all.  You still fear the unknown, like everyone else before you."  But Zentos spends a lot of time whipping the other Guardians up into a frenzy against the travellers, to the point where Manyak, who's acting as defense for them, has to basically yell to be heard.  "Let him speak!  This is a fair hearing," Zentos then has the nerve to say.  And meanwhile, during this hearing, we keep cutting to the Commander (who's sick, remember) saying things like "That's true!" for some reason.  But nothing, not even Steven himself collapsing from the illness during the hearing, can stop the Guardians from decreeing that the Doctor, Dodo, and Steven be ejected into space.

The Earth begins to burn up as it falls into the sun.
("The Plague") ©BBC
I like the part where, after the Guardians have voted to space our heroes, the Commander has to come on over the intercom and basically say, 'Cut that out; what the hell is wrong with you?' to Zentos.  This means the Doctor can finally be allowed to work on finding a cure.  After a brief moment to lecture Dodo on her English (interesting that even as late as 1966 the word "OK" was deemed to be non-standard in some way), the Doctor gets to work.  A quick montage later (more than a little reminiscent of The Sensorites, it must be said), a cure has been found and everyone is saved.  The Doctor is hailed a hero (even though they brought the thing aboard in the first place) and the travellers are allowed to depart.  Yes, it's a story that wraps up quickly, but it's nice to see that not everything needs to be a 12-episode epic, and the sense of economy here is quite refreshing.

Except that's not quite what happens.  In one of the best cliffhangers ever, the TARDIS leaves, only to rematerialize in the same place.  But it's not the same time: the statue that was going to take 700 years to finish is completed -- except with a Monoid head...

"The Return" shows a much-altered Ark.  The Monoids have had a revolution and taken over, turning the humans into their slaves.  Many of the Guardians were killed; some survive to work in the security kitchen.  Yes, you read that right: "security kitchen."  There are some impressive effects shots in the security kitchen, as tablets are dropped into a liquid and instantly become new potatoes and chicken wings -- one almost gets the impression that the humans are being kept in a kitchen so that they could do those shots.

Monoid Two challenges the Refusians to show themselves.
("The Return") ©BBC
In any event, the Ark's journey is almost over -- they've finally reached Refusis II.  The Doctor and Dodo are sent down in the first landing party to assess the suitability of Refusis II as a place for colonization.  The encounter the Refusians, who appear to be invisible, and who have been waiting for the people from Earth to arrive.  The Monoids aren't terribly friendly to their new hosts though, so while the Doctor has a pleasant chat with their host, where he learns that the Refusians lost their appearance in a "galaxy accident" (er, yes...), Monoid Two tries to warn the others on the Ark, only to have his landing craft blown up by the Refusians.  It's actually a surprisingly brutal act from a species which had hitherto seemed quite civilized, and it's not absolutely clear why they do it.  After all, it's not like the Monoids could see the Refusians in order to shoot them down.  Maybe they just didn't want a whole bunch of Monoids streaming down from the Ark and messing up the place.

Still, after the first episode set up a thoughtful tone, these two episodes are a bit of a letdown.  "The Plague" is concerned more with haranguing the travellers about bringing the illness on board, and "The Return" seeks to show the Guardians' society with the roles of humans and Monoids reversed -- except that rather than explore that relationship in more detail, the Monoids are portrayed as generally unlikable from the start of the episode, so it's difficult to work up any sympathy for them.  Don't get me wrong, these are still pretty entertaining episodes: they just don't seem to have had as much thought put into them as "The Steel Sky" did.

February 23: "Bell of Doom" / "The Steel Sky"

(The Massacre episode 4 & The Ark episode 1)

"Bell of Doom" opens bleakly: Steven has seen the Doctor lying dead in the gutter, and now he has to try and find the Doctor's key to the TARDIS, which he presumably left in his old clothes at Preslin's house.  He and Anne Chaplet spend the entire day tearing Preslin's house apart, trying to find the Doctor's clothes, but all they can locate is his walking stick.  Meanwhile, Catherine de Medici and Marshal Tavannes plot the massacre of the Huguenots in Paris, set for St. Bartholomew's Day; Tavannes originally has a list of Huguenots to take out, but the Queen Mother decides to let mob rule take over, anticipating that this will mean the death of all the Huguenots in Paris.  Steven and Anne are unaware of this, but they are surprised when the Doctor walks in; it turns out he was not in fact the Abbot of Amboise, despite appearances.  But as Steven tries to explain what's been happening, the Doctor becomes greatly alarmed when he realizes what the next day is, and exhorts Anne to break the curfew and take refuge in her aunt's house for the next few days, while he and Steven will leave in the TARDIS.  Anne hurries away and the Doctor and Steven flee, just before the carnage begins.

This part of the episode is concerned primarily with turning the wheels that have been set in motion in the previous episodes, and all it really does is bring the Doctor back into the picture and have him take Steven away before the massacre itself begins.  It's a functional half, but because all the pieces have been carefully maneuvered into place ahead of time, there's a sense of inevitability to the proceedings here, and the TARDIS dematerializes just as Admiral de Coligny is dragged from his bed, triggering the St. Bartholomew's Day massacre.  The resulting carnage was reportedly depicted with sounds of violence over illustrations of the proceedings, which were apparently still too much for some viewers.

The second half of the episode shows Steven disgusted with the Doctor's treatment of Anne; he feels the Doctor had essentially condemned her to death by staying in Paris, and he's unhappy with the Doctor's callous disregard for humanity.  The Doctor tries to explain: "My dear Steven, history sometimes gives us a terrible shock, and that is because we don't quite fully understand.  Why should we?  After all, we're all too small to realize its final pattern.  Therefore don't try and judge it from where you stand.  I was right to do as I did.  Yes, that I firmly believe."  But Steven won't hear a word of it, and he storms out at the next stop, leaving the Doctor all alone. Hartnell gives a wonderful, reflective speech as he's left by himself in the TARDIS:
Even after all this time he cannot understand.  I dare not change the course of history...  Now they're all gone.  All gone.  None of them could understand.  Not even my little Susan, or Vicki. And as for Barbara and Chatterton... Chesterton.  They were all too impatient to get back to their own time.  And now, Steven.  Perhaps I should go home, back to my own planet.  But I can't.  ...I can't.
Hartnell does such a great job with this quiet, almost tortured speech that it's something of a shock when Mancunian Dodo Chaplet bursts in, looking for a telephone and totally failing to be impressed that this isn't even remotely a police box, or that it's in fact a time and space machine.  She seems to be looking forward to traveling in the TARDIS, even though she has no earthly reason to believe the Doctor that the TARDIS is a kind of vehicle, but when Steven rushes back in the TARDIS is away on its next adventure...

The Massacre is quite different from the last few Doctor Who tales.  It's a very serious piece of political drama, engineered in such a way that it comes across not so much as a tale of religious conflict but as one of political machinations: Catherine de Medici may consider all the Huguenots heretics worthy of death, but Marshall Tavannes is considering the implications of such an action.  It's a very adult (in the non-tawdry sense) piece of television, and it's something of a shame that we can't see the performances -- but the fact is that this is a story that relies so much on dialogue that the pictures aren't required.  An impressive serial.

It's been four or five stories since we've had a complete serial existing in the archives (depending on how you count "Mission to the Unknown"), but we're back on video with "The Steel Sky".  Occasionally, listening to some of the previous episodes, you sort of wonder how they managed to actually create the sets and stories that you're listening to -- how did they create Kublai Khan's palace at Shang-Tu, or what did the Time Destructor-ravaged Kembel look like?  But here's an instance where we get a story like that that we can actually see, and the result is quite superb.  There's a jungle full of exotic plants and animals, and there's what looks like an elephant on some stock film, until the Doctor, Dodo, and Steven reach out and pat it on its trunk.  "The Steel Sky" looks suitably impressive.  The main alien race on display, the Monoids, are also charmingly weird, even if it's clear from their first sighting how they got that singular eye in the center of the head.

But what's also nice is that some thought has clearly gone into things.  This adventure is depicted as incredibly far into the future, further than we've ever gone before -- the Doctor guesses they're at least ten million years ahead.  This treats everything that we've witnessed as just a tiny chunk of history.  ("Nero, the Trojan wars, the Daleks. But all that happened in the first segment of time," says the commander of the spaceship. "Segment?" the Doctor wonders. "To use your phrase, sir, what segment are we in now?" "The fifty-seventh," the commander replies.)  Paul Erickson20 is thinking in pretty epic terms, and it pays off.  We get an epic script combined with some epic direction (I've mentioned the jungle, but the superimposed screens are also quite good, and the distant depictions of the roof of the ship are also really well done) -- so much so that you can almost forget Dodo's brash attitude as she explores her surroundings, declaring it first to be Whipsnade Zoo and then going around acting like a general nuisance: "You'll have to watch her," Steven warns the Guardians after she states she can't scratch the material that their statue-in-progress is made of, "she'll have the whole thing down."  And one final piece of forethought: Erickson has given Dodo a small cold, but as the people of the future had long ago eradicated the common cold, they have no resistance to it, and it starts to run through the population as a deadly plague...

20 Although Erickson's then-wife Lesley Scott is credited, by all accounts she contributed no actual work to the scripts.

February 22: "The Sea Beggar" / "Priest of Death"

(The Massacre episodes 2 & 3)

What's striking about "The Sea Beggar" (as well as "War of God" before it) is how different it is from The Daleks' Master Plan.  Although these episodes still strike a pretty serious tone, stylistically these are less like an action/adventure and more like a political drama.  Each episode seems to encapsulate roughly a day's worth of events, with no cliffhanger reprises, and the stakes are more about political maneuverings than the fate of the universe.

The other interesting thing about "The Sea Beggar" is the disappearance of the Doctor.  On its own this isn't particularly surprising, since William Hartnell's been on vacation before, but there's never been a sole companion around.  This means that most of the events focus squarely on Steven, as he tries to convince his new friends first that a) the Doctor and the Abbot of Amboise are different people, despite looking the same, and then that b) the Doctor is pretending to be the Abbot of Amboise for some reason, but that he couldn't possibly have an ulterior motive against the Huguenots.  This leads to Steven overhearing of a plot to assassinate the Sea Beggar, and then the plot shifts to Steven trying to get someone to listen to him and work out who the Sea Beggar is.  It's a plot driven by dialogue more than visual events, which means it's one of the easier stories to follow on audio, and it's also relatively engaging, as we work along Steven trying to figure out what's going on.  And then, in the episode's closing moments, we learn that the Sea Beggar is in fact Admiral de Coligny.

The Target novelization (from On
Target - The Massacre
"Priest of Death" continues in a similar vein, only this time Steven gets a chance to tell Nicholas Muss about the planned assassination of de Coligny on that very day.  This means that they have very little time to stop the assassination.  The other new wrinkle is that William Hartnell is back as the Abbot of Amboise (or is it the Doctor? -- the character of the Doctor is nowhere to be found), but here he's playing a very serious character.  There aren't any "hmm"s or "eh"s or anything like that, which (as has been mentioned before) does illustrate how much of the Doctor's character is in fact characterization, rather than just William Hartnell stumbling over lines or inserting filler words to give himself time.  It's a strong performance.  And Steven's belief that the Abbot is in fact the Doctor does help sell the "is he/isn't he?" storyline.

But this is predominantly about the Admiral's attempted assassination.  Steven and Nicholas are too late to prevent it, but by a fluke the Admiral bends down at just right the moment and is only wounded instead of killed.  This attempt is apparently because de Coligny is firm friends  with King Charles IX, and the Catholics in France would like to see the Protestant influence with the king be removed.  But, since it fails, the Abbot of Amboise takes the fall and is killed, and then his death is blamed on the Huguenots.  It's a continuing political drama, and one can't shake the feeling (even if you didn't already know the outcome) that an inevitable, tragic end is coming.  Plus, that cliffhanger, as Steven finds someone who's apparently the Doctor lying dead in the street, is also quite effective.  John Lucarotti and/or Donald Tosh's story (there's some uncertainty as to just how much of Lucarotti's original scripts remain in the finished product) moves from strength to strength.

February 21: "Destruction of Time" / "War of God"

(The Daleks' Master Plan episode 12 & The Massacre episode 1)

And so we come to "Destruction of Time"18, the final installment of The Daleks' Master Plan.  It starts with Mavic Chen, clearly unhinged, announcing his presence to the Daleks and demanding to be informed as to the latest developments of the invasion plans.  He seems utterly surprised that the Daleks have no more use for him, and he ultimately ends up dead, exterminated by them.  But meanwhile the Doctor has reappeared, having somehow gained control of the Time Destructor (maybe it was clear how on video), and thereafter the episode is a visual tour-de-force, showing the Doctor and Sara struggling to get back to the TARDIS as the Time Destructor accelerates time all around them.  It's a bit of shame, then, that we only have the soundtrack.  But based on the descriptions, and Douglas Camfield's direction on the episodes we can see, this was probably pretty impressive.  Certainly even with just Peter Purves' narration on the official CD release, Sara Kingdom's death, as she ages to death as a result of the Time Destructor, is very effective.  And when Steven ventures out of the TARDIS to help the Doctor, the Doctor's anguished cry of "No, don't touch me!" is powerful.  And in the end, all that's left on Kembel is dust, as time was accelerated and then reversed.  Steven's final line, as he remembers the dead, is also very well delivered.

Thus The Daleks' Master Plan comes to its conclusion.  It's been a huge epic, unlike anything Doctor Who had ever done before.  But, final episode not withstanding (and once again, this sounds like it was one of the best final episodes ever), it's not clear if this was really worth the length.  There are quite a few episodes that feel like they consist of one primary event surrounded by a lot of filler.  It's frequently very good filler, but it's still filler.  That said, there's a seriousness of tone here on display for most of the story that really helps convey the mood: the Daleks are the most dangerous threat the galaxy has ever faced, and everyone responds appropriately.  We're leagues ahead of The Chase, whose story structure The Daleks' Master Plan resembles in many respects.  But this treats its subjects with respect, and as a result things are improved dramatically.  I'm just not convinced that its 12 episode length (13 with "Mission to the Unknown") is justified.  It might be different if we could see the entire thing -- the visual elements might paper over any narrative longueurs.  But as it stands (and this has been said before about other stories), I think people are more entertained by the idea of a 12-part Dalek epic than what we actually get.  It's good, but it's not great.

Next up is "War of God", the first episode of The Massacre19, which sees Steven and the Doctor arrive in Paris in 1572.  The Doctor goes off to visit an apothecary named Charles Preslin (who doesn't appear to be a real historical figure) and warns Steven not to get into trouble while he's gone.  So Steven goes into a pub and learns about the high tensions that exist between the Catholic rulers and the Huguenot (Protestant) citizens, due to repeated religious wars.  Most of this episode is setting up the historical background for this story, with a discussion of the killings at Vassy ten years earlier, where Catholics killed a hundred Huguenots ("Because they were Huguenot", Gaston says), that led to the French Wars of Religion, with frequent flare-ups over the intervening decade.  And Steven encounters a serving girl named Anne Chaplet who overheard a conversation suggesting that another such event might happen.

And periodically throughout the episode, we hear of the cruelty of the Abbot of Amboise (also not a real historical figure), who is both virulently anti-Huguenot and anti-science (or, at least, the work of Charles Preslin).  Then the cliffhanger of "War of God" reveals that the Abbot of Amboise is...the Doctor?!

18 There appears to be slight confusion on whether this was called "The Destruction of Time" or just "Destruction of Time" -- one of the minor problems associated with missing episodes.  Most fans tend to use the former, but both the Radio Times and the BBC's Programme-as-Broadcast paperwork used the latter, which does suggest that there was no initial definite article on the broadcast title.
19 This is the last major title discrepancy we're going to get until season 23.  The Target novelization and the outside cover of the BBC soundtrack release refer to this story as The Massacre, while the inside of the BBC release and some contemporary documents called this The Massacre of St. Bartholomew's Eve -- which is both somewhat redundant (the word "massacre" was coined by Christopher Marlowe to refer to these events) and inaccurate (as the massacre occurred on St. Bartholomew's Day, not St. Bartholomew's Eve).  Note that some people have argued that, as this story is about the events leading up to the massacre, the title is actually referring to the [massacre of St. Bartholomew's] eve -- which both suggests a fundamental misunderstanding of how the English language generally works and is itself inaccurate, as this story takes place over the preceding four days, rather than just the one immediately before.  In any event, I'll be referring to this story simply as The Massacre.  

February 20: "Escape Switch" / "The Abandoned Planet"

(The Daleks' Master Plan episodes 10 & 11)

"Escape Switch" is the last of the three episodes of The Daleks' Master Plan currently existing in the archives.  It also bears the distinction of being Doctor Who's 100th episode.  But there's no pomp and circumstance here, as we're still in the middle of our Dalek epic.  Instead we learn that that mummy hand from the last cliffhanger was in fact the Monk, who'd been wrapped up in bandages by the Doctor.  But then the Monk, Steven, and Sara are kidnapped by the Daleks, and the episode becomes a standoff between Mavic Chen and the Daleks, and the Doctor.

The Doctor announces his terms to the Daleks and Mavic Chen
as Sara, the Monk, and Steven look on. ("Escape Switch") ©BBC
The Monk still manages to lighten the proceedings, even when he's a prisoner of the Daleks, as he insists that getting them captured was purely to save their lives, so that they could be used as bargaining chips against the Doctor.  But this is primarily about the stand-off between the Daleks and the Doctor, and the Doctor has no choice but to hand over the taranium core.  But as he does so the ancient Egyptians strike back, although to be honest it's a bit of a lackluster fight: a bunch of them are exterminated, and then oddly a Dalek starts to call for help while the Egyptians surround it with rocks, rather than just exterminating the lot of them.  But that's not the primary concern.  Instead we care about how the Doctor and his friends are going to stop the Daleks, now that they have the core of the Time Destructor.  Fortunately the Doctor has stolen the directional unit from the Monk's TARDIS, so they have one chance of getting back to Kembel.  Of course, this means that the Monk is now traveling as randomly as the Doctor.  "I'll get you for this, Doctor! I'll get you one day!" he vows, but he never does.  (At least, not on television.  Various pieces of spin-offery have addressed this plot strand, including Virgin's New Adventures, but they're rather beyond the scope of this blog.)  Farewell then to Peter Butterworth's wonderful character and perfect foil to Hartnell's Doctor.

"The Abandoned Planet" returns us to Kembel, which starts with the delegates talking of overthrowing Mavic Chen, but then he arrives to take control of the council -- except the Daleks have no more use for any of them, and so they're all put in prison cells (it sounds like).  This sets the stage for Steven and Sara's exploration of the Dalek outpost, which appears to be completely abandoned.  (Incidentally, is William Hartnell actually in this episode?  After the episode reprise he features in one scene at the beginning -- which could have been prerecorded -- and then he's not heard from again for the rest of the episode.)  It's a somewhat eerie effect, Douglas Camfield clearly interested in creating a mood for this section.  Steven and Sara find the delegates and convince them to warn their galaxies of the impending Dalek invasion, which they are willing to do -- it would seem the delegates have lost their taste for conquest. 

All, that is, except for Mavic Chen, who seems convinced that the Daleks still need him.  Kevin Stoney does a nice job of showing that Chen has gone mad -- admittedly, all we have to go on is the audio, so he could be drooling over himself and waving his arms about manically, but that seems unlikely.  Particularly nice is the moment when Sara Kingdom announces her presence in the Dalek city over the loudspeaker system (a potentially foolhardy choice, to be sure, but then they are trying to convince the Daleks to bring the Doctor to the control room, so they at least have some plan), and Mavic Chen is convinced Sara is there to rescue him: "She has come back out of loyalty to me, to ensure my safety as the Guardian as the Solar System."  It's clear he's become unhinged, and then after the other delegates leave, he insists on taking Steven and Sara into the Daleks' hidden underground base...

February 19: "Volcano" / "Golden Death"

(The Daleks' Master Plan episodes 8 & 9)

"Volcano" opens with no mention of the previous episode, so you can see how they could get away with cutting out "The Feast of Steven" for (as it turned out, nonexistent) overseas sales.  In fact, this episode seems to follow on directly from "Coronas of the Sun", with the Daleks testing the fake taranium core in their Time Destructor and learning it doesn't work.  Since they were testing it on delegate Trantis at the time, he seems quite relieved to have survived -- only to be cut down by the Daleks as he leaves the test chamber.  The Daleks then decide to pursue the Doctor with their own time machine.

But the Doctor, Steven, and Sara are unaware of this.  All they know is that they're pursued by another time machine.   This leads to a stopoff at the Oval cricket ground, where the commentators seem more concerned about how this affects England's chances rather than any sort of amazement at a police box materializing out of thin air.  It's a bit of dry humor that's more than a little familiar to anyone who's read Life, the Universe, and Everything by Douglas Adams -- maybe he saw this episode on transmission and unconsciously borrowed from it.  But then it's off to a volcanic planet named Tigus (one wonders if they used the same volcanic eruption footage as later seen in both The Enemy of the World and Inferno), where it turns out that it's not the Daleks chasing the Doctor but rather the Meddling Monk, from Dennis Spooner's last story.  This leads to a rather more light-hearted sequence from this serial than we've previously gotten (Christmas episode aside).  The first half of this serial has been decidedly serious in nature, depicting a universe where the Daleks have gained powerful allies that are ruthlessly aligned against our heroes.  But this shows a lighter touch, with some humor injected into the proceedings again -- it's a lot more like season 2 was, and since Dennis Spooner was story editor for that season this is perhaps unsurprising.  But nevertheless it's a welcome change.

Covers for the two volumes of the Target novelization of
this story. (from On Target - Mission to the Unknown and
The Mutation of Time)
This trend continues in "Golden Death", with the TARDIS arriving in ancient Egypt.  The Doctor sticks around to repair the TARDIS lock (damaged by the Monk last episode) while Steven and Sara look around, waiting for the Monk's arrival.  But they're captured by Egyptians, and meanwhile the Daleks have arrived, along with Mavic Chen.  So there's still a lighter, more humorous touch to the events here, but Dennis Spooner inserts the Daleks into these events as the same creatures as earlier.  So while Sara and Steven are busy overpowering Egyptians and the Doctor is chatting with the Monk, the Daleks are ruthlessly exterminating the local population as they proceed toward their goal of recovering the taranium core.  This shows that Spooner understands that the Daleks are at their most effective when they're shown to be inhuman killers, not when they join in the frivolity of the moment (as they did in The Chase).  It makes for a striking contrast and throws the Daleks into a sharper relief than they've been in for the past few weeks.

But then after establishing this sense of danger and realism (well, as real as Daleks in ancient Egypt could be), weirdly the episode seems to end with a cliffhanger depicting a mummy approaching Sara...

February 18: "Coronas of the Sun" / "The Feast of Steven"

(The Daleks' Master Plan episodes 6 & 7)

Last time the Daleks had cornered the Doctor, Steven, and Sara on the planet Mira.  But fortunately it's the Visians, 8-foot tall invisible creatures, to the rescue as they choose that moment to attack the Daleks and let the travellers make their escape by making off with the Daleks' spaceship.  This is followed by a lengthy sequence in the ship (which curiously makes the same "ship traveling through space" noise as the Earth ship Spar did) where the Doctor creates a duplicate taranium core to fool the Daleks with.  But it needs to be energized somehow, which Steven does with a very dangerous piece of technobabble that nevertheless almost kills him -- and let's just take a moment to appreciate how a good a scream Peter Purves lets loose.  This also has the effect of surrounding Steven in a forcefield that withstands a Dalek blast -- so he's able to make his escape into the TARDIS back on Kembel without harm.

This is yet another episode that probably looked better than it sounds, as it's concerned mainly with making the fake taranium core and the consequences of those actions.  At least the Daleks get a couple good lines though: "You make your incompetence sound like an achievement," the lead Dalek says to Mavic Chen after he attempts to convince the Daleks that he intended for the Doctor and company to be transported to Mira.  But beyond that, this seems like another episode marking time rather than significantly changing events or anything like that.  And this is the second episode in a row with a nice-sounding title that doesn't actually seem related to the events of the episode.

The Doctor has a chat with Bing Crosby. ("The Feast of
Steven" -- off-air photo taken by Robert Jewell.  From The
Destruction of Time - Off-Air Photos
But now it's time for Doctor Who's first ever Christmas episode, "The Feast of Steven", which chooses to take a break in the middle of this Dalek epic and have some fun instead.  "The Feast of Steven" also has the dubious honor of being the least likely missing episode to ever be recovered, since there's no evidence that it was ever telerecorded -- certainly it was never offered for sale and wasn't part of the Daleks' Master Plan package that Australia passed on.  Which is a bit of a shame, because it sounds like it was quite fun.

The first half takes place in a police station, where the Doctor, Steven, and Sara each in turn head into the police station to either rescue the others or because they themselves have been arrested.  This is also the sequence where one of the first Doctor's more famous lines comes from: "Your ideas are too narrow, too small, too crippled... You might say that I am a citizen of the universe, and a gentleman to boot!"  Of course, what's less well remembered is the constable's reply: "He's having us on a bit, isn't he, sir?"

But after the shenanigans in the police station there's a quick reminder that we're in the middle of a serial ("I'd forgotten about the Daleks," Sara says), and then it's off to Hollywood in the silent era.  This part is less successful, in part because it's clearly visual; it's like listening to the soundtrack of a Three Stooges short and trying to imagine what's going on.  Peter Purves does his best narrating the soundtrack (even if he seems to be putting on a bit of a funny voice at times), but alas, this is a sequence that was probably best seen rather than heard.  Still, it's still charming in its own way.  And then it all ends with that (in)famous moment where William Hartnell turns to camera and wishes the audience "a Happy Christmas to all of you at home!"  And we have a photo to prove he turned to camera, too.  And thus ends Doctor Who's only 20th-century Christmas episode.

February 17: "The Traitors" / "Counter Plot"

(The Daleks' Master Plan episodes 4 & 5)

Wow, this is a brutal episode.  It opens with Katarina being held captive by a dangerous criminal, but then she sacrifices herself to kill him by opening the airlock to space while they're both inside it.  The Doctor gives a nice little speech about how he'll always remember her as one of the daughters of the Gods, and then we apparently got a shot of her floating through space that was so good, Stanley Kubrick asked Douglas Camfield how he'd achieved it.  Not bad for someone who's only been around for 4-and-a-bit episodes, but it also serves to underline the stakes in this story.  Up to this point we've been larking about on jungle planets and such, dealing with Daleks and their strange allies; it's been dangerous but not really threatening.  But now things are brought sharply into focus with Katarina's death.

Things continue in this vein after the Spar crash-lands on Earth.  Bret is forced to kill one of his friends, who accidentally reveals that he's working for Mavic Chen.  Bret Vyon has been labeled a traitor, since it's known that he and Kurt Gantry went looking for Marc Cory after they received his distress signal (odd, that, since Cory never launched the distress signal beacon and in fact the Doctor found the tape in the jungle -- of course, if we're discussing odd things, the same scene has Mavic Chen, upon learning that Vyon and Gantry were on Kembel, declare that they must be the ones who "took over my Spar"; you'd think he wouldn't want to broadcast that he himself had been on Kembel, but maybe given the ship Bret and company stole it was unavoidable).  And then, in the final moments of the episode, he's gunned down by fellow agent Sara Kingdom -- another life lost.  "The Traitors" is a brutal episode, and it's becoming clear that the days of Verity Lambert running the show are over.

The Daleks corner Steven, the Doctor, and Sara on the planet
Mira. ("Counter Plot") ©BBC
"Counter Plot" is fortunately another episode that exists on video.  Funny, that; Marco Polo is a serial that was sold to 23 different nations, and none of its episodes survive.  The Daleks' Master Plan was sent to a single country but never aired, and yet we have three of the twelve episodes existing in the archives.  Interesting how things work out.

But in any case, this episode begins with the Doctor and Steven trapped on Earth -- although they don't actually know that yet, and they don't even know that Bret's been killed.  All they know is that they're caught in a room with Sara Kingdom and some white mice when suddenly all three are disseminated across space to the distant planet Mira, caught up in a science experiment.  After the events of the last episode, things go back to the way they were before, with another episode that seems to be marking time.  But we do get some wonderful gloating moments from Mavic Chen (along with some sinister acting from his right-hand man Karlton), and the Doctor gets a good line after he realizes he's been transported across space: "The mice couldn't have done that."  But beyond that, the primary function of this episode is to get the Doctor and Steven away from Earth and convince Sara Kingdom that Mavic Chen is a traitor, which they seem to do easily enough.  Then she reveals that Bret was in fact her brother, just to give a sense of how strong her sense of duty is.  And then the Daleks find them.  "I'm afraid, my friends, the Daleks have won," the Doctor announces sadly.

It's not the strongest or most interesting episode, but it is nice to be able to see "Counter Plot".  Much how a fairly standard episode like "Day of Armageddon" revealed some nice camera work and interesting direction, so too does "Counter Plot" reveals some interesting moments -- the shots of the Doctor, Steven, and Sara being transported through space via cellular dissemination are pleasingly unusual, with good direction blended with unusual sounds to create something wonderfully evocative.  It once again shows how good Douglas Camfield is, and "Counter Plot" ends up being a reasonably entertaining episode.  Even if we never actually discover what the counterplot is.

February 16: "Day of Armageddon" / "Devil's Planet"

(The Daleks' Master Plan episodes 2 & 3)

Hooray!  Back on video for "Day of Armageddon", and you can get a bit of a sense of what we've missed by being audio only.  Because let's be honest: in terms of plot, it's not very exciting.  The Daleks burn down the jungle, the Doctor impersonates a delegate to the Dalek conference, and Bret, Steven, and Katarina steal Mavic Chen's ship.  Everything else is just talking.

Bret, Steven, and Katarina prepare to steal Mavic Chen's ship.
("Day of Armageddon") ©BBC
But when you can see the images, you can tell what Douglas Camfield is doing with the camera.  There are some great shots, not just of the Daleks burning down the jungle (which were shots that already existed prior to 2004), but also of the conference.  You can see Kevin Stoney's performance as Mavic Chen, which plays with a sense of mischievous superiority. And seeing pictures of the delegates is one thing; seeing them move and interact is something else quite entirely.  "Day of Armageddon" is largely a setting-up episode (we learn what the Daleks' plans are and how Mavic Chen is involved), but it's directed with enough flair that you don't really notice until subsequent viewings.

Back to the soundtrack for "Devil's Planet" (other than a minute and a half clip from Blue Peter) which seems mainly like complications.  Trantis, the delegate from last time that the Doctor impersonated [edit: the doomed delegate's actually Zephon, not Trantis -- keeping all the delegates straight is hard work], is executed by the Daleks (their word), while the Daleks manage to drag the Spar off course and down onto the planet Desperus, "the penal planet of the Solar System", where convicts try to escape their imprisonment.  Oh! and we learn that the Doctor stole the core of the Daleks' ultimate weapon, the Time Destructor, which consists of a full emm of taranium (Terry (Nation) + uranium, perhaps?), which is both incredibly powerful and incredibly rare.  That's apparently a big deal, and so the Daleks are keen to get it back.  Anything else?  Oh yes, the Doctor produces Marc Cory's last message (as seen, sort of, in "Mission to the Unknown"), so that plot thread is wrapped up.  But this is just another episode marking time, it seems, full of incident but not much plot.  Still, it's a hell of a cliffhanger scream from Katarina.

February 15: "Horse of Destruction" / "The Nightmare Begins"

(The Myth Makers episode 4 & The Daleks' Master Plan episode 1)

The thing about "Horse of Destruction" is how different in tone it is from the previous three episodes.  Before it's been quite fun, largely larking about with Greeks and Trojans, but this episode is decidedly darker in tone.  There's little humor present, with the proceedings much more concerned about the drama of the situation.  Vicki convinces Troilus to leave Troy before it's sacked but without telling him why, but when he's out on the plains he encounters Achilles and has a fight with him which appears to leave him wounded.  Meanwhile Odysseus is shown to be a cruel man who hopes that Agamemnon or Achilles is killed so that he can gain more of the booty -- interested more in wealth than any sort of honor or pride.  And there's something quite upsetting about finding Priam and Paris dead, after we've spent two episodes in their quite pleasant company.  Death and carnage abound, and even Steven is gravely injured.  Yet Vicki decides to stay behind, apparently because she's quite taken with Troilus, and so the Doctor and Steven leave without her (but with Cassandra's servant Katarina instead) as she plans with Troilus and his cousin Aeneas to found another Troy (or in other words, Rome).  So good-bye to Vicki, who at least gets a decent farewell scene, even if we don't actually see her farewell to the Doctor.

I have to admit, before this I hadn't really given much thought to The Myth Makers -- I'd listened to the soundtrack once before and read the Target novelization, but that was about it.  But now, having listened more closely, I find this story has gone way up in my estimation.  Sure, the last episode is rather at odds with the other three, but it's at least somewhat appropriate for the tale ultimately being told, and those other three episodes sound like quite a delight.  The Myth Makers is now quite high on my wish list for missing episodes recoveries.

But it's time to move on, back to the planet Kembel (where we were four episodes ago), to find out what's been happening since "Mission to the Unknown".  Earth has sent someone to investigate the disappearance of Marc Cory, so say hello to Nicholas Courtney's first role on Doctor Who, as agent Bret Vyon.  He doesn't exactly make the best first impression though, seeing how he takes the TARDIS key from the Doctor and tries to hijack the ship -- albeit to warn Earth about "those things."  So not only is it the introduction of Nicholas Courtney, but also of not discussing the identity of the main villains, despite the fact that not only was the Daleks' return spoiled in the Radio Times that week, but also the fact that we're on the same planet as we were in "Mission to the Unknown" -- you know, the last episode to feature the Daleks.  But whatever.  At least Bret Vyon helps cure Steven's blood poisoning, acquired from his wound last time.

There's also a casual infodump where two technicians on Earth watch the news, where we learn about Mavic Chen, Guardian of the Solar System, the fact that it's currently the year 4000, and that there's been peace in the system for 25 years.  It's really quite lovely, and a long way from an "as well you know" speech.  But it also sets up Mavic Chen for his betrayal at the end of the episode, as he plans on selling the Solar System out to the Daleks.  And really, that's about it for this episode.  Not that much really happens, but the clips we can see suggest it was directed well, and to its credit it does keep things moving quite nicely, so that you don't really notice how little actually goes on this episode.  And it's got a nice evocative title too.

February 14: "Small Prophet, Quick Return" / "Death of a Spy"

(The Myth Makers episodes 2 & 3)

Seriously, though.  How did Donald Cotton get away with a title like "Small Prophet, Quick Return"?  Especially given that his original title for "Death of a Spy" was nixed...17

A Trojan goddess emerges from the shrine.  ("Small
Prophet, Quick Return", from 8mm off-air footage) ©BBC
But anyway. Last time our attention was focused mainly on the Greek encampment.  This time we get a lot in Troy, which is generally portrayed as something less out of Homer and more out of a P.G. Wodehouse novel.  Paris behaves like a member of the Drones Club, frightfully polite and not really into this whole fighting business at all, but he's being forced into it by his father King Priam, taking the "rich uncle" role, albeit a slightly bloodthirsty one.  ("I should think not indeed, bringing back blessed shrines," Priam remarks after Paris announces he's captured a shrine for the temple.  "Go back and bring Achilles' body, if you want to do something useful.")  And Cassandra is the sister who no one listens to because all she prophesies is doom and destruction ("Don't pay any attention to Cassandra," Paris tells Vicki, "she takes the gloomiest view.  I suspect it's a kind of insurance, so that if things do go wrong she can always say, 'I told you so.'").  It's into this that Vicki is thrust, but she never tells anyone anything other than the truth: that she's from the future.  Cassandra seems to dislike her, but everyone else is quite taken with Vicki.

Meanwhile, the Doctor is forced to admit he's not Zeus, and consequently Odysseus gives him two days to win the Trojan War.  Steven, meanwhile, decides to go rescue Vicki from the Trojans, so he plans to be taken prisoner by Paris.  That whole conversation leading up to the duel is quite a delight:
PARIS: It's Achilles I seek.
STEVEN: And must my Lord Achilles be roused to undertake your death, adulterer?
PARIS: Yes, well, I'm prepared to overlook that for the moment.  I assure you I have no quarrel with you.
STEVEN: I'm Greek, you're Trojan.  Is not that quarrel enough?
PARIS: Yes, well, personally, I think this whole business has been carried just a little bit too far. I mean, that Helen thing was just a misunderstanding.
It's also great how quickly Steven turns to flattery after "losing" the duel, which leads to Paris willing to take him back to Troy just so he can tell the Trojans how great the Greeks think Paris is!  Of course, that backfires slightly when Vicki recognizes Steven, leading Cassandra to declare them both Greek spies.  Next Episode: "Death of a Spy"...

"Death of a Spy" isn't quite as witty as the last two episodes, but that's probably because Steven and Vicki spend the majority of the episode locked up in a Trojan cell.  This does give Vicki (who's been rechristened Cressida) a chance to chat happily with Troilus, and let a little bit of romance blossoms -- complemented by a rather sweet, understated guitar piece from composer Humphrey Searle (one of the more distinguished composers to ever work on the series).

There's some humor in the Greek camp, though.  The Doctor's first thought for defeating the Trojans is to be catapulted over the walls in giant paper airplanes, but he rather goes off the idea when Odysseus informs him that he'll be the first to fly.  Finally, somewhat defeatedly, he gives the Greeks the idea for the Trojan Horse, which Odysseus seizes on eagerly and presents to Agamemnon and Menelaus.  There are a couple jokes here: for instance, when the Doctor describes how they'll build the horse and the Greeks will sail away, Menelaus perks up, until the Doctor informs him that the Greeks will, of course, return: "Why is there always a catch in it?"  And it's quite clear that the Doctor, who is forced to be inside the Trojan Horse, would really rather be somewhere else, as he keeps fidgeting and making noise until Odysseus has to basically threaten him to get him to stop.

The cliffhanger to this episode is interesting.  Paris announces he's having the Horse brought into Troy, and the credits roll.  It's the first time that the cliffhanger has relied on the viewers having prior knowledge of history/myth (delete according to preference), rather than on some obvious danger apparent on screen.  It's worrying not because we think the Doctor and his friends might not get out of their predicament, but rather because we know what's going to happen next.

17 It was going to be called "Is There a Doctor in the Horse?", but this was apparently too much for the production team.

February 13: "Mission to the Unknown" / "Temple of Secrets"

("Mission to the Unknown" & The Myth Makers episode 1)

So "Mission to the Unknown" (or Dalek Cutaway, if you really, really must16) must have come as something of a surprise to viewers at the time.  Instead of the Doctor, Vicki, and Steven, we focus in on Marc Cory, Space Security Service Agent ("Licensed to kill"), and the crewmen he's forced into service: Jeff Garvey and Gordon Lowery.  They're on the planet Kembel, "the most hostile planet in the universe", where Cory suspects the presence of a Dalek base.  And he's right: the Daleks are using Kembel as a place to form an alliance with six other major galactic powers in order to conquer the universe -- with Earth as their first target; there's a pause when the Black Dalek announces that the first planet to be conquered will be.......Earth! Which could be a dramatic pause, or he might be gesturing at a map of the solar system, but either way, pure melodrama.  (Though not quite as melodramatic as the stock music they've decided to use, which is so over-the-top that it's almost taking the piss.)

But the thing that's perhaps most surprising about this episode is that, fairly unequivocally, the Daleks win.  Their alliance has been formed, Garvey and Lowery both fell victim to Varga plants, and Cory is exterminated by the Daleks before he can send his warning message off.  And no one knows Cory and company are on Kembel.  The Daleks are therefore ready to conquer the universe...

"Mission to the Unknown" isn't really designed as a stand-alone story, but rather as a teaser for an upcoming Dalek story.  What's perhaps most interesting about it is how it's then disconnected from the next four episodes, which means it's sort of a "meanwhile" scene hinting at larger machinations at work.  In this regard it's surprisingly modern (especially since we know with hindsight that a huge Dalek epic is in fact on its way), confident enough to tell a story completely separate from the Doctor and his companions -- and a story that doesn't have a real resolution.  And, thankfully, the Daleks here are back on form as a powerful force in the universe, rather than the somewhat buffoonish characterization we got in The Chase.  And this is where the Daleks really start to become that galaxy-conquering army of terror: a characterization distinct from where we've seen them before (The Dalek Invasion of Earth was pretty small fry compared to this) but one that will launch them into new heights.

And finally: this episode was only made because they had to make up an episode after Planet of Giants episodes 3 and 4 were edited down into a single part.  So this is in production terms Galaxy 4 episode 5, but more importantly it's the last episode to be produced by Doctor Who's original producer, Verity Lambert.  Now Bill Hartnell is the only person from the beginning who's still around...

What was it like for viewers, who, having gotten over the surprise of an episode with Daleks and no Doctor, next got an episode with the Doctor and no Daleks?  "Temple of Secrets" is completely disassociated from events on Kembel, and indeed seems to follow on directly from "The Exploding Planet", as Vicki's still got a sprained ankle.  But fortunately, "Temple of Secrets" makes up for any lack of Daleks by being quite a witty script.  The TARDIS arrives at the end of the Trojan War, and writer Donald Cotton wastes no time in deflating the myths.  Achilles is shown to be something of an idiot, who only slays Hector because Hector is distracted by the Doctor walking out of the TARDIS to ask for information.  And Agamemnon and Menelaus are depicted quite entertainingly, with Agamemnon a ruler using Helen's abduction as an excuse to try and gain control of the trade routes through the Bosphorus by conquering Asia Minor, and Menelaus as a man who's quite content to see the back of Helen ("It wasn't the first time she'd allowed herself to be abducted," he complains.  "I can't keep on going off to the ends of the Earth to get her back.  It makes me a laughing stock."). 

Odysseus is probably the characterization closest to the one we're familiar with today, but that's simply because he's somewhat conniving and refuses to take Achilles' claims of the Doctor's godhood seriously (since Achilles thinks the Doctor is Zeus).  And he gets a great line when he drags Steven into Agamemnon's tent: "Who is this?" Agamemnon asks.  "My prisoner, the god Apollo," Odysseus replies.  "Achilles, will you not worship him?  He is a Trojan spy, but of such undoubted divinity he must be spared."  It's fortunate that an episode that exists only on audio relies so much on dialogue, because it means we can still enjoy the proceedings without wondering as much what we're missing (which often was the case in Galaxy 4).  And that next episode title!  I'm amazed Donald Cotton got away with it.

16 It's one thing to debate the merits of using An Unearthly Child vs. 100,000 BC, but some people insist on calling this story Dalek Cutaway, despite the fact that it's only one episode long and has the title "Mission to the Unknown" on it, simply because there's some contemporary paperwork that calls it Dalek Cutaway (even though no one goes around referring to The Claws of Axos as The Vampire from Space, and that name got as far as a filmed title sequence).  This is basically the Doctor Who equivalent of hipsterism -- referring to "Mission to the Unknown" as Dalek Cutaway simply because it's more obscure.  Or you could call it a form of elitism, but that essentially boils down to the same thing.

February 12: "Air Lock" / "The Exploding Planet"

(Galaxy 4 episodes 3 & 4)

"Air Lock" was one of the two missing episodes recovered in 201115, which means that we can actually enjoy watching this episode, rather than just listening to the soundtrack.  And it does make it clear how much the visuals improve things: the soundtrack alone denies you the pleasure of Stephanie Bidmead's performance as Maaga, and how she turns directly to camera to deliver some of her asides; or how the Rill's recollection of events immediately after the crash are augmented by a flashback sequence that shows Maaga gun down her crewmember; or even the appearance of the Rill itself.  We're also treated to an interestingly abstract building that the Rills have constructed, a simple frame with pieces of plastic attached to the geometric design: the Rills, it seems, think in terms of triangles for their structures.

Maaga prepares to kill one of her soldiers. ("Air Lock") ©BBC
Of course, the story itself continues more or less down the same path as the last two episodes.  We're introduced to the Rills and we learn that they're actually quite decent folk.  Meanwhile, Steven manages to escape from the main part of the Drahvin ship, but then he ends up trapped in the airlock for the rest of the episode.  And, er, that's about it.  This episode is more about illustrating the morals of the two sides (the Rills are decent and giving, the Drahvins are ruthless and selfish -- witness their conversation about self-sacrifice) than anything else.  And like I said, it does help tremendously to be able to see things, but this continues to be not the most action-packed serial.

Back to the soundtrack for "The Exploding Planet", which is a bit sad because it sounds like things are actually happening this time around.  We can hear a Drahvin soldier stealthily approach a Chumbley and smack it with an iron rod.  The Drahvins start to attack the Rills' base, and then the TARDIS.  And the planet actually explodes!  One wonders if they used stock footage of volcanoes and things to show the destruction of the planet.  As such this is actually a fairly urgent-feeling episode, as the Rills need to power up their ship before the planet explodes.  Of course, we still get a little poetic moment: "To think that at dawn all this will explode into nothing," Vicki muses.  "No, not just nothing, child," the Doctor replies.  "Hydrogen gas that springs itself out like molten silver against the other stars in the same galaxy."  But beyond that, this is primarily wrapping everything up, as the Rills fly away and the Drahvins are left to their fate.  And then we get a teaser for the next episode: as Vicki wonders what's happening on a planet seen on the scanner, we travel to that planet, to see (well, hear) a man muttering about how he must kill...

Galaxy 4 isn't a terrible story by any means, but it's hardly a stand-out.  The tale seems a bit simplistic, honestly, as it focuses first on showing how ruthless the Drahvins are before then demonstrating how decent the Rills are.  If there is a sense of "appearances aren't everything", it's from the Drahvins, who believe the Rills to be evil just because they look weird.  But as the Drahvins are also shown not to understand things like friendship and loyalty, this more demonstrates that the Drahvins are really in the wrong, rather than just being misguided.  It's entertaining enough, and the existing episode suggests that this might have looked pretty good indeed (certainly "Air Lock" shows us that new director Derek Martinus has put some thought and care into things), but ultimately this is one of those pleasantly average stories that Doctor Who occasionally turns out, not doing anything wrong but not really wowing anyone either.

15 The other episode being The Underwater Menace Episode 2.

February 11: "Four Hundred Dawns" / "Trap of Steel"

(Galaxy 4 episodes 1 & 2)

So Doctor Who is pretty lucky in that the majority of the episodes from the first two seasons exist (with only 11 out of 81 missing).  But now that we've reached season 3, the number of missing episodes increases sharply -- and there also aren't any more telesnaps until we reach Innes Lloyd's producership, starting with The Savages.  So I'll be listening to a lot of soundtracks for a while, with no pictures to help guide the process.  Ah well.

Of course, "Four Hundred Dawns" is a bit unusual, in that a 5 minute clip exists, which means that we can actually get some idea of what it looked like.  The clip's not the most exciting thing ever, being primarily exposition, but we do get a sense of what the Drahvin spaceship looked like, and what the Drahvins themselves looked like, as well as some shots of the Chumblies.  Before 2011 this was pretty exciting; now with the recovery of "Air Lock", this isn't quite as intriguing, but it's still nice to have a decent chunk of the episode to view.

As far as the actual story goes, though, season 3 opens rather mutedly.  We get a continuity reference back to The Space Museum, and that's about the most exciting thing to happen at the start.  I'll allow for the reasonable possibility that a lot of this was more visual, but still.  Once the Drahvins "rescue" the Doctor, Vicki, and Steven, we get a lot of backstory explaining what's going on, about how the Drahvins and the Rills both crashed on this planet four hundred dawns ago, and the Rills are vicious murderers, and also the planet is going to blow up in fourteen dawns.  And this is the part where people usually point out that the reputation this serial has for being about not judging by appearances is inaccurate, as it's clear from the outset that we're meant to mistrust the Drahvins and their story.  In fact, it's less clear how Galaxy 4 got this reputation in the first place, given just how clearly we're meant to be against the Drahvins.  I blame Peter Haining.

"Trap of Steel" continues the fun, with the Doctor (who previously learned that the planet only had two dawns left) returning to the Drahvins and inexplicably telling them that, yes, the planet's toast in fourteen dawns.  It doesn't even last that long, as Maaga, leader of the Drahvins, quickly cottons on that the Doctor's lying, and forces him and Vicki to go capture the Rills' ship.  There is a nice bit where Steven tries to convince one of the Drahvin soldiers to take Maaga's weapon to fight Chumblies, and he'll just look after her gun in the meantime, and Vicki gets to test her theory about the Chumblies ("I noted, observed, collated, concluded, and then I threw the rock").  And then there's some exploration of the Rills' ship and the structure built around it, which, again, probably looked more interesting than it currently sounds.  And, once again, that's it.  Not the most action-packed pair of episodes around, but they're not too bad.

February 10: "Checkmate" / Dr. Who and the Daleks

(The Time Meddler episode 4 & the first Peter Cushing film)

So by the end of "A Battle of Wits" we knew exactly what the Monk was planning, but the Doctor didn't, so consequently there's a recap where the Monk gleefully tells the Doctor of his plan to change history.  The Doctor is of course outraged, but the Monk rejects his arguments: "Doctor, it's more fun my way.  I can make things happen ahead of their time... For instance, do you really believe the ancient Britons could have built Stonehenge without the aid of my anti-gravitational lift?"  This is a great line, suggesting that the Monk has already changed history to what we "know" it to be, and he's clearly having a lot of fun.

The Monk discovers the Doctor has removed his TARDIS's
dimensional control. ("Checkmate") ©BBC
But the discovery of another TARDIS!  The suggestion before this has often been that the Doctor built the TARDIS himself, but this shows that's clearly not the case.  There are other TARDISes, and other members of the Doctor's race.  It's a bit difficult to convey how significant this is, given how blasé we are about such a thing nowadays, but it proves that there are more than just the Doctor and Susan out there in the universe.

Really though, the rest of the episode is just showing the results of the actions put into motion in the previous episodes.  The Saxons know the Vikings are planning an invasion and that the Monk (who previously requested that the villagers light beacon fires) isn't to be trusted.  The Vikings hiding in the monastery are routed and killed13 by the Saxons, and the Monk is chased out as well, foiling his attempt to meddle with history.  Except he still has his atomic cannon and its neutron mortars, but it seems like it's too late for him to carry out his plan.

The Time Meddler is a lovely little story.  It's about history, but really more about history itself: 1066 is little more than a backdrop to the Monk's machinations (albeit an event that really would lead to dramatic differences if it were altered), but they're the actions of someone amusing themselves rather than of a megalomaniac.  It's also a direct challenge to the premise set up in The Aztecs, of the immutability of history.  We've got Donald Tosh editing scripts now, but this is still clearly Dennis Spooner's domain.  It looks great (even if the prints themselves are a bit rough, with "A Battle of Wits" clearly in the worst shape), it's well directed and well acted -- with a superb guest turn from Peter Butterworth -- and it's a great script.  Really, what's not to love?

The Time Meddler is the last story of season 2.  If season 1 saw Doctor Who establishing the guidelines for the show, season 2 saw everyone trying to push the boundaries.  We get more humor, more abstract concepts (such as in The Space Museum), and more ambition.  It doesn't always pay off (stand up, The Web Planet), but there's always a sense of trying to go beyond what they've done before, and when they occasionally try to play it safe (such as with The Chase), the result falls a bit flat.  Season 2 demonstrates that there's still plenty of life left in the show -- it's survived the loss of all three original travelling companions, and it's done so with confidence.  Season 1 ends with a speech about the TARDIS crew finding their destiny in the stars.  Season 2 does one better by ending with the time travellers' faces actually out among the stars.  It's a fitting end.

The Daleks prepare to destroy all other life with a neutron
bomb. (Dr. Who and the Daleks) ©AARU Productions
But we're not quite done yet!  Between the end of season 2 and the start of season 3 came something monumental: that's right, it's time for Dr. Who and the Daleks, the first Peter Cushing film. Which means this is more like two hours of Who today, but never mind.

But Doctor Who, in color and with money thrown at it!  It looks pretty impressive, even if it doesn't always succeed -- full marks for the Daleks, somewhat less for their salmon-colored city.  But you have to admire a production that sticks lava lamps prominently in frame as a symbol of alienness.

This film is a relatively faithful adaption of the first Dalek serial.  Most of the big changes have to do with the main characters: Dr. Who is an eccentric inventor who lives with his granddaughters Barbara and Susie Who (yes, really), and who happens to have invented a time machine, which he keeps in a police box in his garden.  Ian Chesterton is Barbara's bumbling boyfriend.  Everything else is largely in keeping with the original: all the plot beats are there -- almost to the point where it feels mechanical, rather than organic.  Dr. Who wants to investigate the alien city, so he sabotages the fluid link (which is even the same error code on the fault locator).  The Daleks want to ambush the Thals, so they make Susie write a letter inviting them into the city.  Dr. Who needs the fluid link back, so a small party goes around the back of the city while the main force attacks the front.  (This is actually probably the most pointless plot beat to repeat, since Ian's small party doesn't seem to have any real effect on the outcome of events here.)  This is definitively a big color remake of the original story, but it hasn't stopped to consider why events in the original serial were there in the first place, content instead to just forge on ahead regardless.

Dr. and Susie Who are held captive by the Daleks. (Dr.
Who and the Daleks
) ©AARU Productions
That's not to say things aren't entertaining -- they're just not as entertaining as they could be.  Peter Cushing steals the show as Dr. Who, playing a version of William Hartnell's character with all the irascibility removed.  He's a kindly old grandfather, and you can see Peter Cushing put the twinkle in Dr. Who's eye in almost every scene.  And although Ian Chesterton is portrayed as an idiot, Roy Castle puts enough sympathy in the role that you can't help but root for him by the end.  On the other hand, Roberta Tovey's Susie Who is one of those precocious child geniuses that film and television companies seem to think audiences will like for some reason, and although she tries, virtually every line of dialogue Tovey has to deliver makes her seem stuck up and unlikeable.  And Jennie Linden, sadly, is rather wasted, as Barbara's character fades primarily into the background.  Special mention, though, for the moment when she puts mud on the Dalek's eyestalk: "Dalek!" she yells.  "Yes?" the Dalek replies obligingly, whereupon Barbara slaps the mud on its eye: "Aaah!"

It's not perfect, and the attempts to artificially graft humor onto the proceedings typically fall flat (and nowhere worse than in the awful ending scene, showing Ian panic about Roman soldiers and start faffing about in Tardis14 like he's having a seizure), but there's still enough to enjoy here, especially if you can look past the salmon shower curtain walls.  It's not as good as the original, but it is as confident, and that carries things a long way.

Malcolm Lockyer seems to think he's composing music for a Bond film, though.

13 Though not in the episode as it currently exists: "Checkmate" is missing 12 seconds of the Vikings being killed -- the result of overseas censor cuts; the audio of the missing segment, though, still exists and is on the DVD.
14 In an interesting reversal of the custom of the television show, in the entirety of Dr. Who and the Daleks the time machine is always called Tardis, with nary a definite article in sight.