Events from July 65 to Feb 66
Dalek Cut-Away: ‘Mission to the Unknown’
Terry Nation held the conceptual rights over his creations and therefore began to explore ways he could utilise them without the BBC’s involvement. At the same time, the Doctor Who production team were also looking to exploit their hot property and in February of 1965, two months before the third Dalek serial The Chase had even started recording, a fourth story was planned to attempt to emulate the success of the Christmas just gone.
Due to a rearrangement with production blocks, there was also an additional episode’s recording slot available and it was decided to use this as both a teaser for the fourth Dalek story, and also a pre-pilot for Terry Nation’s desired independent Dalek television series. To this end, and also to save money on contracts, the regular cast would not be employed for this one-off prelude episode which was given the title Dalek Cut-Away or, as it would become known, Mission to the Unknown.
The Space Security Service became the focus of the single episode and Terry Nation had hopes that this could form the basis of a spin-off series which would sell in America. He delivered the script whilst The Chase was mid-production.
Due to the production arrangements, it was decided that this unique episode would be shot along side “Serial T” named Galaxy 4, and thus was it essentially treated as episode five of that story and given the production code “T/A”. Whilst this was in development, at the end of May, a directive from BBC Management was passed down to the Doctor Who production office to maximise the use of the Daleks and to this end the main Dalek story which would follow the “cut-away” was doubled in length from six to twelve episodes.
A mere 22 days after the last Dalek serial had concluded recording, Friday 25th June saw short film sequences recorded for Mission to the Unknown, although no actual Daleks were required at this stage. A couple of weeks later on 5th July, Dennis Spooner was formally commissioned to write half of the epic twelve-part serial, in tandem with Terry Nation, which would ultimately become known as The Daleks’ Master Plan.
Rehearsals for Mission to the Unknown began properly a little over a month later on 2nd August at Drill Hall. The same four Dalek operators were used as had been employed in the previous serial.
Four days later, studio recording was undertaken for the episode. Friday 6th August also included a photo-call at 3.45pm in which outgoing producer Verity Lambert posed with Daleks and delegates to mark her final story.
Only eight weeks after their last studio use, the same four main props from The Chase returned to action: Dalek One, Dalek Two, Dalek Five and Dalek Six, with Dalek Two being painted with black dome and skirt to function as the Supreme Dalek as it had previously. (The “stunt prop” Dalek Seven with its movie-type characteristics remained in storage).
Dalek Five was refitted with the perceptor device featured at the end of The Chase having temporarily changed back to a sucker for the Wayne and Shuster appearance. With Mission to the Unknown‘s script still referencing this piece of Dalek technology, there was no need to replace it with a sucker attachment at this stage. After this single day’s work, the props were then stored and would not be needed in studio again for nearly three months.
The Daleks’ Master Plan
It was the great demands of The Daleks’ Master Plan‘s production which triggered Shawcraft Models, the original creators of the Dalek props, to request a lighter work-load from Doctor Who, and it was indicated that the producer should look elsewhere for other companies. Shawcraft had been employed to supply large models, such as the volcano for the sequence on Tigus, which caused numerous problems, and the delegates’ space-craft with accompanying landing area. This was the beginning of the end in terms of their involvement with the show.
Shawcraft performed some internal refitting of the Dalek props. Lateral braces were fitted to the skirt of Dalek Five, which resulted in prominent bolts appearing on the second panels on each side of the prop.
Following its appearance as the Supreme in Mission to the Unknown, Dalek Two was repainted silver in order to provide four silver props to be seen together in the pre-filmed sequence of the Daleks burning down the jungle for episode two. This scene also required a flame-thrower attachment to be created for each of the props so that they could genuinely set fire to the trees on set. Interestingly, after filming was concluded, Dalek Six was chosen to become the Supreme Dalek, rather than Dalek Two, and was painted accordingly.
Recording of the mammoth twelve-part saga got underway with episode one “The Nightmare Begins” on Friday 22nd October. For the first installment the same four props were once again in action. The Daleks by this stage had sustained some more wear-and-tear and the neck rings of Dalek Five in particular had numerous chips taken out of the rim. Episode two “Day of Armageddon” was recorded on 29th October and featured the four Dalek props extensively as they assembled their alliance.
Episode three “Devil’s Planet” was recorded on 5th November and largely concerned a drawn-out escape by the Doctor and his allies with the Daleks relatively inactive in their Kembel base as they argued with their delegates. Similarly episode four “The Traitors” recorded on 12th November hardly featured the Daleks at all, with the episode mostly concerning the Space Security Service which Terry Nation wanted to develop as part of his spin-off series.
For recording of episode five, “Counter Plot” recording switched to TC4. Once again the Daleks were in used sparingly, with only a couple of scenes in a Dalek control room including the three silver props and Dalek Six still painted black, then a couple of scenes on the jungle set. This time the undergrowth was conveniently re-used as the planet Myra and Dalek Two was fitted with a Seismic Detector which allowed them to perceive the planet’s invisible inhabitants.
Episode six, “Coronas of the Sun” was recorded on 26th Nov, again at TC4. This was a much more action-packed segment, and saw more extensive use of the four Dalek props. More recording was done on the jungle set and in the Dalek control room, as well as the Daleks’ own Pursuit Ship being hijacked. A “reception force” greeted the Doctor and friends on arrival, being once again the same four props with Dalek Six painted black.
The episode due to be broadcast at Christmas was recorded on 3rd Dec and saw a return to TC3. Entitled “The Feast of Steven” it was assumed that television audiences would be low – unlike the 21st century in which Christmas Day Doctor Who is event television – and therefore the episode was devised to be stand-alone. It was written as light-entertainment and required no Dalek props at all that week.
It was business as usual the following week with episode eight “Volcano” recorded on 10th December. Instead of the usual recap of the previous episode, there was a lot of dialogue which summarised the story’s entire plot so far. When the episode was ultimately broadcast, viewing figures were up 1.7 million from the Christmas episode, so the decision to isolate “The Feast of Steven” from the plot was rational. The episode featured the main four props again with Dalek Six still painted as the black Supreme and involved the Daleks discovering their Time Destructor was faulty and preparing a pursuit through time, echoing their last TV adventure.
Episode nine, “Golden Death” was recorded on 17th Dec and was set in Egypt. For this and the following episode, no scenes involved Kembel and therefore no Supreme Dalek was required. This allowed Dalek Six to be returned to its all-silver appearance. The following week, the cast and crew had a week off over Christmas, and when production resumed on 31st December for episode ten, again this featured all four props painted silver. This episode, “Escape Switch” was essentially a rehash of the previous episode, featuring further battles between Daleks and Egyptians, more padding with the Monk and the taranium core being returned the Daleks.
Recording for the penultimate episode eleven, “The Abandoned Planet” saw the return of the jungle set and the Kembel council chamber, and was recorded on 7th January 1966. This week also required the Supreme Dalek to return, however a different prop was nominated to play the part second time around. It was Dalek Two which, again, had its skirt and dome painted black for this purpose although relatively little use was made of the props that week. This episode was a drawn out exposee of the Daleks’ untrustworthiness and the dialogue was carried by Steven, Sara and the delegates.
The final part entitled “Destruction of Time” was recorded on 14th Jan 1966. Once again all four props were used, and Dalek Two remained in its Black form to function as the Dalek Supreme. When the Time Destructor is activated in the final sequence, an FX prop was created using a real skirt, dome and appendages, with a dummy neck and shoulder section rigged to collapse when a series of small explosives were triggered inside.
A month after broadcast, on 3rd February 1966 two Dalek props introduced an episode of Blue Peter in which Valerie Singleton showed viewers how to make Dalek-shaped cake.
The Daleks in question were Dalek Two, still painted black from its appearance as the Supreme in the latter half of The Daleks Master Plan and Dalek Five.
Just a few days later on 7th February, two more Daleks were required for a “BBC Week” that was held at the McLellan Galleries in Glasgow. The exhibition attracted 50,000 visitors and they were entertained by displays and practical demonstrations. Staff manned the two Dalek props who circulated the exhibition making announcements. To complete the connection to Doctor Who, John Carter was publicly ‘made-up’ every day to resemble William Hartnell1.
After their epic three-month TV appearance, there was a growing sense that the Daleks had out-stayed their welcome. The slow, heavily-padded and largely circular nature of The Daleks Master Plan also lacked originality, as it derived its concepts of hidden cities, jungles, invasions and chases through time from all the previous Dalek television stories. The country was growing tired of the Daleks, and the final episode drew the lowest viewing figures of the entire serial, with the exception of the Christmas Day episode.
Information from Ariel Magazine, March 1966. With thanks to Mick Hall.