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...