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...