Doctor Who #103: Destruction of Time

"The one thing that Sara lived for was to see the total destruction of the Daleks. Well, now it's all over. Without her help, this could never have been achieved."TECHNICAL SPECS: Part 12 of the Daleks' Master Plan. Missing from the archives, I've used a reconstruction (Part 1, Part 2). First aired Jan.29 1966.

IN THIS ONE... The Daleks destroy Mavic Chen, the Time Destructor destroys the Daleks, Kembel and Sara Kingdom, and the Doctor destroys the Time Destructor. It's the one with all the destruction­.

REVIEW: It finally ends! And harshly at that. After the ridiculous runarounds of The Feast of Steven, you've had time to forget Katarina and Bret's unceremonious deaths in the first couple chapters of The Daleks' Master Plan and may not be ready for Sara's. While we have pictures from the sequence, we don't know exactly how it would have looked. However, even as a pictures and sound reconstruction, it looks like a harrowing scene. As time lashes forward, both the Doctor and Sara are aged and the jungle around them turns to a dusty desert. Epic and dramatic! The Doctor survives this ordeal (see Theories), but Sara is turned first into an old crone, then into a skeleton and then... dust. That is a violent and shocking end for a character that had been assimilated into the TARDIS family and was being written as a companion. Suddenly, no one traveling with the Doctor is safe. We're less sure how the Daleks' regression to embryonic stage might have looked (after the Time Destructor is set on reverse), especially with the script mentioning a humanoid mid-stage, but that's an interesting ending for them as well. While they are defeated, it all ends on a bit of a downer, doesn't it? (Don't worry, the next story will cheer you up - oh wait, it's The Massacre of St Bartholomew's Eve.)

Mavic Chen goes completely loopy in this one and ends up quite dead. His megalomania is such that he believes he's in charge and can't understand why the Daleks ignore his orders. The fact they choose to remain silent when he starts to rant and rave is unsettling and demeaning at the same time. He's also paranoid the Doctor wants to take his place in the alliance. He's completely deluded. I can't help but think he was more interesting a character when he was a sane, if misguided, politician though. Kevin Stoney excels at taking Chen over the top, but it's so big, it takes us too far into Saturday matinée territory. I can't believe I'm going to say this, but Terry Nation wrote him as a more subtle and three-dimensional character than Spooner did. What helps sell his madness is Tristram Cary's demented music, which underscores his unbalance. Cary is also responsible for the insane "tic toc" music that accompanies the Time Destructor's effects. A huge help to the episode.

THEORIES: Affected by the same regression of time, Sara and the jungle are turned to dust, but the Doctor survives? This is the first clue we get that the Doctor may be longer-lived than humans are. He still gets older, though the effects are slightly reversed by Steven's flipping of the time direction on the Destructor. The visible effects anyway, because we're not TOO far from the first Doctor's regeneration now. And you've also got a potential answer to the problem of the Doctor's age. In The Tomb of the Cybermen, he tells Victoria he's about 450 years old. That's the first figure we get. By his 7th incarnation, he's 953 (Time and the Rani). when the Doctor returned to our screens in 2005, he was only 900 years old though, and has been aging at a rate of 1 year every year. So it's possible some of the lower figure is his chronological age, while the higher is his body's age accounting for the Time Destructor's stolen years. In other words, it's relative, and at some point, the Doctor's vanity took over and he started playing down the accumulation due to the Time Destructor's effects (and possibly those of other time-shenanigans).

VERSIONS: The serial was adapted as a charity stage production in October 2007 by Interalia Theatre in Portsmouth, UK, as a finale to their highly successful run of previous Doctor Who stage shows.[citation needed] It was adapted and directed by Nick Scovell and produced by Rob Thrush. Scovell starred as the Doctor, as in the company's previous productions. Nicholas Briggs guest starred as the voice of the Daleks and also, briefly, as the Doctor following a regeneration scene at the play's end. There is also a Target novelization, or rather, two because the story was so long (subtitled Mission to the Unknown and The Mutation of Time). In it, it is explicitly said Sara Kingdom traveled aboard the TARDIS for a number of months (in between the books), and the Daleks enjoying some down time in their rest area(!).

REWATCHABILITY: Medium-High - An engrossing final act that is highly dramatic and powerful even without the accompanying pictures. Not quite worth the time wasted in the middle of the story, but satisfying nonetheless.

STORY REWATCHABILITY: Highly variable - The Daleks' Master Plan is an efficient, hardcore, gritty, political, adult 4-parter that sees the death of not one, but three temporary companions (and a planet). Sadly, it serves as the bread to a nonsense sandwich modeled after the worst Dalek story of all time, The Chase. Imagine if the season had done DMP in 4 parts, a Meddling Monk in Egypt 4-parter with some meat on its bones, and then spent the other 4 parts on a proper plot. We'd have three whole stories instead of a meandering mess. By all means, feel free to skip the 8 episodes in the middle of this.


Anonymous said...

To be fair to Terry Nation, he did create complex three dimensional characters in Blake's 7 10 years later. (Care to do that one next?) So he did have some writing chops, at least when he was trying.

Enjoyed your DMP review. I remember when I first read the plot, 20+ years ago, thinking, "This sounds a lot like 'The Chase'."


Siskoid said...

Thanks Jason.

I've never even seen Blake's 7, and only know it by reputation. Let's talk again in 2 years when I'm done with Who. ;)

John Nor said...

A comment to say I'm enjoying these daily Doctor Who reviews.

I haven't listened to the BBC CDs of this mammoth story yet, but I have watched Blake's 7 (well, some of it), and it's great.

Chris Boucher (writer of some classic Doctor Who) was script editor for all 4 seasons of Blake's 7, as well as writing many episodes.

Anonymous said...

@Siskoid: Deal! :-) Not to derail this comment thread, but I envy you never having seen Blake's 7. It is flat-out awesome. I saw some of it in the mid-eighties on public TV here in the States, and only recently watched the full series. I got to about 1/3 of the way through Season 2 and got so hooked, I watched an episode or two a night until I got to the end. A month later, I still can't get it out of my head.

Lea said...

I'm not sure that this ep is missing - I've seen it on youtube so it must be on dvd somewhere?

Siskoid said...

Those are the Tubes I link to each time, they're reconstructions made with production photos.


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