Friday, April 12, 2013

"Mission to the Unknown"

Mission to the Unknown

Story 19
Aired: Oct 9, 1965

1 Episode

Written by Terry Nation

Directed by Derek Martinus



Marc Cory, an agent of the Space Security Service, has been dispatched on a secret mission to the planet Kembel to investigate a recent sighting of a Dalek spaceship. Cory's suspicion that the creatures may have established a base on Kembel proves well-founded. His two companions, Jeff Garvey and Gordon Lowery, both fall victim to the poisonous thorns of Varga plants, flora indigenous to the Daleks' home world of Skaro, and he has no choice but to shoot them before they are themselves transformed into Vargas.

Having overheard the Daleks plotting with Malpha, Trantis and other alien allies to invade Earth's galaxy, Cory records a warning message and prepares to send it into orbit with a rocket launcher. Before he can do so he is discovered and exterminated, but the Daleks fail to destroy the tape, so the information that he has gathered still exists to be discovered.
Both the beacon and the recording remain, left ignored by the Daleks who chant, over and over, "Victory."


Also known as "The Dalek Cutaway", Mission to the Unknown must have fairly baffled viewers in 1965. It is, after all, an episode in which none of the regulars appear. It must have baffled them even more when the next story, a purely historical tale with no connection to this one, began next week.

Having said all that, Mission to the Unknown works surprisingly well. The jungle setting, with its odd sounds, overhanging vegetation and hostile mobile Varga plants, is spooky and well-handled. The leads we are following, while hardly what I would call colorful, are at least somewhat well-drawn and well played. The pacing of the story, having only 20 minutes to work with, is lightning fast, with plenty of incident and multiple points of tension. There's a lot to be said for the tone of the story overall, which is grim and tense. It's easy to see what Terry Nation's Doctor-free Dalek show would have looked like, and it doesn't seem half-bad at that.

The gathering of aliens is wonderful, and it's such a shame that this episode no longer exists as their designs are so kooky and just brilliant.

Finally, the Daleks themselves bounce back from their moronic appearance in The Chase to begin their greatest period in the series' history. They are so cool here, rampaging through the jungle, spitting fire and killing without mercy. The Black Dalek is more than a ranting maniac (as Daleks would so often be depicted), he is cunning and capable of being in charge of an alliance of many races. Their plan of conquest makes sense, and they instantly seem imposing and implacable. It really does get one excited for whatever is going to come next.

Production Note: This was Verity Lambert's final story as producer. She leaves awfully big shoes to fill.

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