Will Brooks’ 50 Year Diary - watching Doctor Who one episode a day from the very start...
Day 108: The Destruction of Time (The Daleks' Master Plan, Episode Twelve)
Whether you choose to look at this as one big story, or several little ones connected by a common thread, there's no denying that the last twelve episodes have seen an awful lot of death and darkness.
Sara's demise under the influence of the time destructor is one of those moments from this story that everyone sort of knows about. It's fairly common knowledge that she cops it before this story is out, and for the most part people know how she goes. That doesn't do justice, though, to just how effective the death is. She dies because she's gone back for the Doctor. I'd always assumed that she was captured by the Daleks and tried to escape or something, not that she was behind by choice.
And the basic knowledge that I had of the death didn't hold a candle to just how nasty it actually is. I mean, sure, I knew that she was aged to death, but when you're actually in the thick of it and listening to it happen… then it becomes genuinely horrific. The worst bit comes afterwards, when the narration describes Steven approaching her lifeless body, before a gust of wind brushes the hair and skin away from it, scattering them around in the dirt. It's a truly ignoble end for Sara, and perhaps a moment that I'd love to see recovered and put back in the archive.
Elsewhere, though… This episode always had an awful lot to live up to. This Dalek plot has been building up - either as the main story or in the background somewhere - for a full seventeen episodes, ever since Mission to the Unknown. It's a far grander scheme than we've seen the Daleks attempt before (and, with the debatable exemption of some 21-sf century stories), bigger than we'll ever see again. The problem is that after all that time, nearly three weeks for me, and a full four-and-a-half months on screen back in the 1960s… I'm not quite sure I can work out the Daleks' plan.
I'm sure that it made sense at some point during the story. After all, most of the plot has revolved around the Daleks trying to get back the Terranium so that they can get their Time Destructor up and running. But then alongside this, they've brought together delegates from a number of galaxies so that they can wipe them out and seize control of said galaxies.
So… what's the point of building a machine that will power through time very quickly and ruin those places? Have I missed something? As I say, at some point during the story, I'm sure it all made sense - I've never had cause to question the story before now - but I've completely lost it at the very end here.
One of the things that I did enjoy in this final instalment was the final end of Mavic Chen. I said yesterday that I hope he didn't die here, because nothing could top the shock of his fake death in the last episode. He does die, though, and while it's true that it really isn't as effective as his last one, there is still merit to having him back again. For a start, he's clearly gone completely mad. Proper bonkers. It's great to see the way that the Daleks play him and lead him right through to the right moment, before they simply exterminate him like any other person. It's fun to listen to Kevin Stoney ramping it up in the mad stakes, too.
On the whole, while I've enjoyed the episode, I don't think it quite fulfils the role of being the final part to an epic such as this one.
Speaking of which… just what is The Daleks' Master Plan? I've been saying for a week now that it feels like several separate stories, and I stand by that. I think in my mind now, I'll be thinking of it as;
Mission to the Unknown
A 1 Episode prequel (as it standard thinking).
The Daleks' Master Plan
6 Episodes. In which the Daleks' plan to take over the universe, but the Doctor and his chums steal the core of their machine and leave them in a bit of a pickle.
Revenge of the Monk
4 Episodes. The Doctor, Steven, and Sara bumble around in time a bit, getting arrested in the 1960s, and visiting Hollywood. They then realise that they're being followed by another time machine, and get caught up with the Meddling Monk. The Daleks then turn up to demand their Terranium back.
The Mutation of Time
A 2 Episode Coda to the entire arc, which sees the Daleks defeated and an end to the threats posed by their galactic conquest plans.
Does anyone else have a way of thinking about this story which isn't as a 12-parter? The thought of breaking it up seems a little like heresy, but it just seems right!
Next Episode: War of God