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Audio Book Review


Doctor Who
Daleks: Mission to the Unknown


Author: John Peel
Read by: Peter Purves and Jean Marsh
BBC Audio
RRP: £12.99
ISBN: 978 1 4084 0998 5
Available 06 May 2010

Stranded in the jungles of Kembel, the most hostile planet in the galaxy, Space Security agent Marc Cory has stumbled across the most deadly plot ever hatched - the Daleks are about to invade and destroy the universe. Cory has to get a warning back to Earth before it’s too late - but the Daleks find him first. Months later, the Doctor and his companions arrive on Kembel and find Cory’s message. However, it may be too late for Earth. The Daleks’ Master Plan has already begun...

This novelisation adapts material from the single-part, Doctor-less “Dalek cutaway” episode Mission to the Unknown and the first six episodes of the 12-part William Hartnell epic The Daleks’ Master Plan. At the time of its publication in print (in 1989), publisher Target Books had a maximum page limit that required the mammoth Master Plan to be split into two novelisations. The second volume, The Mutation of Time, comprising material from the final six episodes, is also being released as an audio book. In fact, the story splits quite readily along these lines. Without giving too much away (in case you’re unfamiliar with the plot), the Doctor and his companions manage to escape the Daleks at the end of episode six, “Coronas of the Sun”, and the end of this book - though their victory proves to be only temporary...

Peel sticks more closely to the televised plot than he did with his novelisation of The Chase. This is partly because of the numerous changes that had been made to Terry Nation’s original ideas for The Chase for timing and budgetary reasons, which Peel reinstated in his book, and also because The Chase survives intact and so can be seen in its transmitted form, whereas Mission to the Unknown and most of The Daleks’ Master Plan cannot.

The author does make some changes, however. As with his subsequent novelisation of The Power of the Daleks, he includes a substantial recap from the previous story, in this case The Myth Makers. This is because the ending to Donald Cotton’s novelisation of The Myth Makers differs substantially from the transmitted version in terms of tone, being decidedly casual and comedic. Peel provides a more serious and dramatic take on the departure of the Doctor and the wounded Steven from Troy, accompanied by their new companion, the handmaiden Katarina. The novelist explores the backgrounds and viewpoints of various characters, including Katarina, Bret Vyon, the intergalactic delegates - all of whom are given names - and the prisoners of Desperus. There are also mentions of Alpha Centauri, Draconia and the Movellans, alien civilisations from later eras of the television show.

Notably, Peel takes his greatest liberties with the events of the fifth episode, “Counter Plot”, perhaps because the episode survives in the BBC archives (so does the second episode, “Day of Armageddon”, but that would not be recovered until several years after the novelisation, in 2004). His changes include a reduced role for Mavic Chen’s subordinate Karlton (Chen’s Machiavellian scheming works better in prose than prolonged discussions with Karlton) and additional action and dialogue for the invisible Visians (who, on screen, never speak).

Presumably because the entire two-book saga is so long, the narration chores are shared by Peter Purves and Jean Marsh (alias Steven Taylor and Sara Kingdom), who take turns reading sections of the story. Their vocal styles are quite different (including varying pronunciations of the word “Mira”), but each is compelling in its own way. Purves provides some neat impersonations of Hartnell’s Doctor and Kevin Stoney’s Chen. The narrative is further enlivened by Dalek voices provided by Nicholas Briggs, and Simon Power’s exciting music.

This is a masterful release. Make it your mission to track it down.


Richard McGinlay

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