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Doctor Who: Mission to the Unknown

and Verity was never seen again...
I've heard of "Doctor-lite" or "Companion-lite" but this is ridiculous...

aka "Dalek Cutaway"

Season Three, Series T/A

William Hartnell as the Doctor (credited, but does not appear)
(Vicki and Steven do not appear and are not credited)

Written by Terry Nation
Directed by Derek Martinus
Produced by Verity Lambert
Script Editor: Donald Tosh

As with "Galaxy Four," Mervyn Pinfield was originally intended to direct, but he fell ill (he passed away in May 1966) and Derek Martinus took over the job. Also, Verity Lambert is nominally producer, but was transitioning the job over to John Wiles who did the bulk of the producing work.

Mission to the Unknown - 9 Oct 1965 **MISSING**

How to watch:
  • Loose Cannon reconstruction available here (no telesnaps were made, very few production photos exist, and no extant video survives, so the recon required specially composed images)
  • Unofficial animated version produced by Ian Levine available here.
  • A 2019 live-action recreation produced and performed by acting and filmmaking students of the University of Central Lancashire is available here.


A trio of space travelers are marooned on the hostile jungle planet Kembel. Garvey has been infected by a thorn of a Varga plant, turning him into a homicidal maniac. He attempts to attack Lowery but is killed by Marc Cory, who then confides in Lowery that he's a Space Security Agent with license to kill, and he intentionally landed them on Kembel to investigate rumored Dalek activity. Despite not posing a threat to the Solar System for a thousand years, Dalek spaceship activity has been noted, and Varga plants are native to Skaro. Indeed, there is a Dalek base on Kembel, and they are due to meet with representatives from seven planets in league with them. The Daleks are aware of the presence of the humans, and the Dalek Supreme orders their destruction. Cory is forced to kill Lowery after he's infected by a Varga plant, and manages to record a warning message before he meets his fate at the hands of the Daleks.


This is a unique episode in the history of Doctor Who in that it is a single standalone episode and that neither the Doctor, the TARDIS, or any of the principal cast appear. When "Planet of Giants" was reduced from four episodes to three, an extra episode was required to fill the gap. Since Hartnell was contracted to a certain number of episodes, it was determined that he would not appear although the show was obligated to list him in the credits. The plans for Season Three involved a Mammoth Dalek Epic, so this would serve as a prologue, and Steven and Vicki would also not appear. This story was produced more-or-less as a fifth episode of "Galaxy 4," with the same director and design team, as the last episode of the second production block, and the final episode produced by Verity Lambert.

The prospect of this episode still existing today is especially bleak. There is no record of this episode ever being sold to any overseas affiliates; although a single film print was made and sent to Australia for review, they passed likely due to the especially violent content. The original broadcast tape appears to have survived to 1973 before being wiped. The whereabouts of the film print is unknown. Basically the only people who have seen this episode were the ones who watched it on its one and only broadcast in October 1965.

As for the contents of the story itself, it serves its purpose as a tension-laden appetite-whetter for the epic to come (though I wonder how many viewers were disappointed when the next four episodes were set in the Trojan War) – yet it is grim and bleak, like most Dalek stories tend to be, whether penned by Nation or not. Tonally I find it to be a kid's conception of what adult sci-fi drama is; it's Flash Gordon with a higher body count. The three characters have little dimension, they're ciphers in spacesuits. Once the last one dies, we don't know a single thing about them, other than they were space soldiers. But then, OMG Daleks, so I doubt many young viewers at the time felt condescended to.

Terry Nation, meanwhile, was preparing his forthcoming Dalek Epic, as well as his ultimately unsuccessful attempt to spin the Daleks off into their own TV series.

Haven't I Seen You In The Future?
  • Barry Jackson was the mute assassin in "The Romans," and the Doc's former schoolmate Drax in "The Armageddon Factor."
  • Jeremy Young appeared in the premiere story as Kal, Za's rival, in "An Unearthly Child."

Sausage Factor: 100% (10 credited guest actors, all male)

Rating: Two out of Four Varga thorns.
John Geoffrion is a semi-retired semi-professional thespian, a professional data guy, and a Dad. He usually falls asleep to the Classic Doctor Who channel on Pluto.tv

1 comment:

  1. This is one I really hope they animate or add the fan projects of it to a Dalek's Master Plan animated DVD, since they're linked! I need to check out at least the fan project still!


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