Will Brooks’ 50 Year Diary - watching Doctor Who one episode a day from the very start...
Day Ninety-Nine: Devil's Planet (The Daleks' Master Plan, Episode Three)
One of the problems with the narrated soundtracks is that they don't always feature the narration where you would like it. The very end of this episode is the perfect example: the ship is taking off, the Daleks have made a bad landing, giving the Doctor and his friends some much needed time to escape, the Doctor turns to ask Katarina to keep an eye on the door… and she screams. CRASH! The theme music kicks in!
Now, I don't have a clue what she's screaming about. Has she turned to find a Dalek in the doorway? Maybe she's stubbed her toe and it really hurts? There was a similar problem with the narration on the Galaxy 4 release, where Vicki turns and screams - it's only later that you actually find out what's happening. Still, it's a minor niggle, I suppose.
Something that keeps surprising me in this story is that Katarina is still alive. I feel like I'm a spectre at the feast, constantly waiting for her to die. I thought it was going to happen at the end of the second episode, as the ship lifts off from the Dalek conference and we've seen Zephon wiggling his plant-like appendages as he breaks free of his bonds. But it didn't.
Then I spent much of this episode waiting for someone to step out of the shadows and do the deed, but they didn't. Later in the episode, I figured that the convicts would be the ones to get aboard the ship and drag her into the airlock, but they didn't (that said, there's one convict unaccounted for, so I think I can probably piece together what she's just seen in that cliffhanger - a madman with a knife). I really wish that I was coming into this not knowing that she was destined to die in this story, because it really does feel like I'm just waiting for that to happen, and that everything else is merely delaying it.
That said, everything that's getting in the way of her demise is still pretty good. The confrontation between Zephon and Mavic Chen is nicely played, and Chen comes out of it rather well. He's incredibly cool and calm, and the kind of villain that you really love to hate. I'm still impressed by his appearance yesterday, which I think is helping me like him even more. I'm not sure where I got the idea from (maybe a piece of fan art? A dodgy photoshop once? I honestly can't remember. Maybe I dreamt it…), but I've always thought of Mavic Chen as being Kevin Stoney in a slightly ill-fitting orange mask, with a dodgy beard attached.
Thinking about it, I might be thinking of his appearance in Revenge of the Cybermen and simply transplanting bits of that costume over to him here. When he appeared on screen yesterday, and he looks fantastic, that just helped to make everything fall into place. Another thing transferring over from yesterday is the great design of the sets - in my mind, the confrontation between the delegates took place in that huge council chamber, with Chen and Zephon stranded in the centre, while the other delegates called on from their places on the sidelines.
I feel that I should probably also mention Nicholas Courtney, considering that we're witnessing his first of many appearances in the series. Suffice to say that he's as good here as he ever is, playing a character who I rather like, but I probably shouldn't. He's cold and hard-nosed, and it's interesting to see his interplay with the Doctor and Steven. I love the fact that he refers to the Doctor as 'grandpa', and generally has very little time for him - it's making for a very interesting dynamic.
Next Episode: The Traitors