Chapter 142. Doctor Who – The Daleks’ Master Plan Part II: The Mutation of Time (1989)

Synopsis: Joined by Sara, who now accepts Chen’s treachery, the Doctor and Steven continue to evade the Daleks. A stop-off in ancient Egypt leads to a reunion and a bloody massacre, before a return to Kembel and a final confrontation with Chen and the Daleks’ Time Destructor.

Chapter Titles

  • 1. The Nightmare Continues
  • 2. The Feast of Steven
  • 3. The Toast of Christmas Past
  • 4. Failure
  • 5. Volcano
  • 6. Land of the Pharaohs
  • 7. Golden Death
  • 8. Into the Pyramid
  • 9. Hostages
  • 10. Escape Switch
  • 11. The Abandoned Planet
  • 12. The Secret of Kembel
  • 13. Beginning of the End
  • 14. The Destruction of Time
  • 15. The Nightmare is Ended

Background: John Peel adapts scripts from episodes 7-12 of the 1965 serial known collectively as The Daleks’ Master Plan, by Dennis Spooner and Terry Nation. This is the first time since The Space War that a novelisation has had a different title to the one used on the TV episodes (although see ‘Cover’ below for more). This book completes the run of stories from season 3.

Notes: The back cover blurb on the original release mentions a ‘Time Destroyer’. The opening chapter reveals that Sara has been having nightmares about Bret’s death and she sleeps with a light on. She’s been aboard the TARDIS for ‘several months’ and considers it her home now (Peel clearly a supporter of the ‘Sara as companion’ fan myth). The Doctor has read the American novelist Peter S Beagle and quotes from The Last Unicorn. Trying to provide some comfort to Sara, the Doctor reveals a personal philosophy:

…if you found out that the Daleks had killed Chen, then you’d want to find out something else, and then something else after that. There are no endings – everything continues to grow and to progress. One of the reasons that I never learned how to control this old ship of mine was to prevent myself from falling into that trap of yours – wanting to see happy endings.

He then tells her about his own granddaughter and the two schoolteachers, who he likes to imagine married and surrounded by their own ‘noisy children’. The reason for the Doctor’s original stay on Earth is revealed! A ‘catastrophic malfunction had forced him to rebuild part of the main console’. 

Peel’s description of Liverpool is very accurate – the red bricks were indeed blacked by pollution in 1965 and well into the following decade (as seen on the opening titles of the Liverpool-set sitcom The Liver Birds). The police officers in Liverpool are (altogether now) named after actors from the popular BBC drama Z Cars – (Colin) Welland, (Brian) Blessed, (James) Ellis and (Frank) Windsor; three of whom had appeared in Doctor Who on TV by the time this book was released. The joke about the Doctor recognising a man from a market in Jaffa is retained (unusual as Peel tends to cut a lot of the sillier elements from stories). Steven decides to copy the sergeant’s accent, as on screen, but this needs a little unpicking. We’re told that Steven sounds ‘like a bad actor’s version of North Country speech’. On TV, despite being in Liverpool, only Peter Purves manages to effect a decent Scouse accent (he does very well!) but everyone else does ‘generic Northern’. In Z Cars, which was also set in Liverpool, none of the characters who pop up here actually had the local accent: James Ellis was from Belfast; Brian Blessed from South Yorkshire; Frank Windsor from Walsall, West Midlands; and Colin Welland from Leigh. So even if these had been the actual characters from Z Cars (as the production team had hoped), Steven would still have been the only one with a Liverpool accent! Just to continue the nitpicking, in 1965, the sergeant in Z Cars was played by Bob Keegan, who was the only one of the regular characters to have a genuine Liverpool accent (he appeared in Doctor Who many years later, as Sholakh in The Ribos Operation).

Steven has a serious crush on Sara and wishes she found him attractive. The clown figure who the Doctor helps in Hollywood is clearly Charlie Chaplin (he’s specifically not him on TV). 

New arrival to the Dalek cause is Celation, a ‘tall creature, which breathed the oxygen-rich air with difficulty, giving his speech a throaty, disjointed effect’ (it’s a close match for the description of the alien ‘Warrien’ in the previous volume and there is a theory that Warrien was actually a mis-named Celation!). The Dalek force includes a ‘chief’ or first scientist along with a second scientist and ‘monitor Daleks’ who keep an eye on computer banks. The Time Destructor looks like ‘a large, glass-encased cannon’ (as opposed to a globe made of tubular spokes as on telly). The Dalek time ship is ‘a featureless silver-grey cube’ (‘some ten feet to a side’, Steven notes when it lands in Egypt) and its commander is the Red Dalek seen on the book’s cover. Chen is disturbed to learn that the Daleks have their own stash of Taranium and they claim they used him to obtain more merely out of expedience; they have sufficient to power their time-machine but not enough for the Time Destructor too, so this would appear to be a lie just to undermine Chen’s over-confidence. There’s reference to the Dalek Prime back on Skaro. 

The TARDISes of both the Doctor and the Monk are said to have ‘chameleon circuits’ (a phrase that wouldn’t be used on telly until Logopolis – but see Doctor Who and the Doomsday Weapon and Doctor Who and the Terror of the Autons). Working away on the TARDIS lock, the Doctor has a bit of a rant:

The Doctor worked away on the lock, muttering to himself. ‘I think it’s about time that some people remembered that these journeys of mine are for the purpose of scientific discovery! I’m not in the business of giving sight-seeing tours of the Universe, with everyone behaving like a bunch of rowdy tourists and rushing off to look at whatever they wish! I thought that Barbara and that Chesterton fellow were bad enough, but it’s getting worse! Much worse’ The Doctor continued muttering under his breath as he laboured on, unaware that he was alone, at least for the moment.

The Monk ‘never paid attention in class’ so is aware that his knowledge of history is hazy and doesn’t actually know which year he’s landed in, having followed the Doctor. He does, however, recognise a Dalek, having ‘paid attention to a few things in class’ [so the Time Lords of the Monk’s time study Dalek history!]. The Doctor doesn’t actually dislike the Monk, and feels that  ‘with the proper guidance, the man might make himself useful instead of troublesome’. The massacre of the Egyptians is much more even-handed with the Red Dalek destroyed by an onslaught of heavy rocks. Inspired by his warriors fending off the alien invaders, the Egyptian Khephren decides to commission a monument of the Sphinx to guard the Pharaoh’s pyramid. 

Mavic Chen and the surviving Daleks return to Kembel in the time-machine and are greeted by the Dalek city administrator (the idea of a Dalek whose role involves admin is reassuringly comical). The Doctor assumes that the absence of Varga plants is a sign that they’ve been allowed to die off as the Daleks no longer need to use them as guards. Chen shoots Beaus dead (on TV, Gearon is Chen’s victim). The Doctor accompanies Sara and Steven when they release the delegates from the locked room – and he persuades Sara to spare Chen’s life, reminding her of the political chaos on Earth that might result from his death. 

Chapter 13 is a reworking of a recurring Terrance Dicks title, ‘Beginning of the End’. The heart of the complex contains a vast hanger that houses hundreds of Dalek saucers, maintained by Daleks on ‘flying discs’. The Doctor uses his cloak to break the circuit on a Dalek door and he recalls the first such doorway he encountered in the Dalek city on Skaro. Caught in the winds of the Time Destructor, Sara begins to hallucinate the ghost of her brother:

Sara collapsed, and felt dust and sand on her face. She hardly had the strength to open her eyes, but somehow she managed it. The twig-like fragility of her arm shocked her, as she clawed towards the fallen Time Destructor. It was no use, no use… she was too weak, too old now… Her dying vision blurred, and in the glow of the Destructor, she felt certain that she could see the smiling face and beckoning finger of her brother’s spirit.

Sara felt a sudden peace, and all was still.

Affected by the reversal of the Time Destructor, the Daleks become embryos and then briefly humanoid before turning to dust. Back on Skaro, the Dalek Prime realises that the fleet on Kembel has been destroyed and it is filled with a desire for revenge. On Earth, Karlton is arrested by Senator Diksen for his part in Chen’s treachery. He reveals that Marc Cory’s lost tape was found on the body of Bret Vyon (and it contained a recording that was not part of the one he makes in Mission to the Unknown). The story concludes with the scene where the Monk discovers he is stranded on a frozen world.

Cover: Alister Pearson’s cover is much more understated than for Mission to the Unknown. A severe-looking Doctor (referencing a photo fromThe Space Museum) is formed in the stars of a nebula as a very grand Dalek with a red casing and blue spots dominates the frame (based on a Madame Tussauds Dalek that appeared on the back page of the 1983 Radio Times 20th Anniversary Doctor Who special). The livery is an invention of John Peel, but it really works and it’s a shame it never appeared on telly. The title as shown on the front cover is ‘The Mutation of Time’ (a new title not taken from the episodes), but a circular flash states that this is ‘The Daleks’ Master Plan Part II’, while on the spine it’s ‘The Daleks’ Masterplan Part II’ (‘Masterplan’ is one word). The title page inside gives the title ‘The Daleks’ Masterplan Part II The Mutation of Time’.

Final Analysis: As he moves into the second half of The Daleks’ Master Plan, which was authored mainly by Dennis Spooner, it’s a relief that John Peel allows himself room for a little fun in a way that he tactfully avoided with The Chase. Whether it’s the farce of the Hollywood scenes or the triviality of the Monk’s side-quest, the first half of this volume is a hoot. It’s only when the action returns to Kembel that the mood changes to something more sombre.

Officially, Sara Kingdom was not a companion (something Jean Marsh herself stressed at her first ever convention in 1996, to the shock of many), but fandom has always included her in the lists and here, John Peel makes sure she counts by giving her several months as a passenger aboard the TARDIS. The opening chapter delves into her fractured psyche, tortured by her guilt over killing her brother and wanting absolution through the certainty that Chen will pay for his manipulation of her. Whatever the original intentions of the production team, these two books ensure that for the fans – she counts!

Over the course of his first three books, Peel manages to capture William Hartnell’s performance better than any other writer. The tetchiness is present in the works of other authors (including Terrance Dicks), but it’s his lightness and sense of humour that really lands here – where it’s appropriate, Peel remembers to make the Doctor funny. In this volume, the Doctor is said to ‘steeple’ his hands together, which conjures up a perfect mental image of the kind of pose this Doctor often adopted. I’m a huge fan of The Daleks’ Master Plan, both in what we’re still able to experience on video and audio, plus all the mysteries that surround it (who are all those delegates?!) – but I’m now a fan of John Peel too. It was an ambitious risk to take on this epic adventure, but in Peel’s hands, it’s a huge success. Who couldn’t love the way he disposes of his main villain (with echoes of Caligula in I Claudius)?:

The Daleks opened fire, and several of the bursts of rays caught him squarely. Mavic Chen staggered slightly, staring at them as the wave of energy washed over him. As it ceased, Chen suddenly realized that he had been terribly, terribly wrong. He was not immortal after all…

3 thoughts on “Chapter 142. Doctor Who – The Daleks’ Master Plan Part II: The Mutation of Time (1989)

  1. I know we’ve one or more First Doctor novelisation(s) to go yet, but there’s something fitting about “The Daleks’ Master Plan” being very nearly the last Hartnell story to be adapted. In a lot of ways, it shapes up as a quintessential distillation of his era.
    Over the course of two books, we discover an unexpected sense of humour, a gruelling life-or-death trial to survive, scientific musings, softly human introspections, a questing sense of adventure… Even the experimental format of the televised version is replicated in the two-part Target format. It’s all here.
    In 1989, with the last few months of Season 26 burning down to the wick, there’s an almost triumphant feeling to having such a startling ‘Doctor Who’ epic achieve a second chance at life. As mortal as the show looked at the time, “Master Plan” is a great showcase of everything that made it work in the first place.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Spot on. I’ve always felt it was the very best of everything so far: Best jungle; best model work; best Daleks; and the Doctor is on top form throughout. It”s almost as if, knowing the Director General was watching made everyone up their game.

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      1. Absolutely. Everyone feels like they’re at the height of their powers. It’s a shame we’re missing so much of the televised version as it feels like it locks the Doctor in as the show’s ultimate heroic figure. The first and last line of defence against a seemingly invincible enemy. No backup. No foresight. Just an instant reaction to do good. “Why him?” it asks, and answers, quite nicely, “Who else is there but him?” In the Targets, this pair and John Lucarotti’s “The Massacre” (with the Doctor conquering his own fatalism) make for a beautiful trilogy of the First Doctor rising to become that vital champion he’ll want to be for the rest of his lives. It’s terrific.

        Liked by 1 person

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