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. But it may be too late for Earth - the Daleks' Master Plan has already begun...
Read by Peter Purves and Jean Marsh, with Nicholas Briggs as the Dalek voices.
It is brave for BBC AUDIO to release a two-set (10 disc format) unabridged novelisation of a William Hartnell story as it is confronting a phalanx newly regenerated daleks with a mere "jammy dodger" biscuit (see VICTORY OF THE DALEKS).
However, John Peel's superior novels (released in 1989) for the two televised 1965/66 stories, DOCTOR WHO - DALEKS: MISSION TO THE UNKNOWN and DOCTOR WHO - THE MUTATION OF TIME , are prime examples of literary skill and astuteness that fans of the NEW SERIES (2005 onwards) will relish and devour them as voraciously as a carnivorous Varga plant that inhabit planet Kembel. The only thorn in the side of the listener is to actually find the 13 hours (for the two releases) in which to relax and enjoy the company of it's readers, Peter Purves & Jean Marsh (and the dalek manifestation presented by Nicholas Briggs).
The first CD set, DOCTOR WHO - DALEKS: MISSION TO THE UNKNOWN (5 disc - 6 hours 20 minutes) focuses on the episode of the same name (a "taster" episode that did not feature any of the regular TARDIS crew) and the first six episodes of DOCTOR WHO - THE DALEKS' MASTER PLAN.
The story unfolds tantalisingly slowly, allowing for the minor characters to develop organically (and, in some cases, "despatched" equally deliciously & elegantly) that you fail to question the absence of the Doctor and his two companions, Steven Taylor and Katarina. Peel's interpretation of Terry Nation's original "teleplay" examines the relationship between Earth's Space Security Service's agents (Cory, Garvey and Lowery) and their location; the inhospitable jungle planet of Kembel. Surprisingly, for a children's television series novelisation, the first chapters are laden with "adult-themes" and more akin with a taut psychological thriller as the pressures within the group become intolerable (due to environmental intervention), culminating in a chilling intensity, "Must kill. Kill."
BBC AUDIO's creation of the daleks, served by NEW SERIES' voice-artist Nicholas Briggs, is meritorious. They are chilling and awe inspiring.
Peel's realisation of a defined dalek hierarchy had, at the time of the original television episodes, not been fully described but here each dalek unit is tonally variably, allocated a task and, suitably, "titled".
His novel expands on the DOCTOR WHO universe legacy post-1989; inserting gems that only a long-time fan with value (The war between the daleks and movellans is mentioned as is the diplomatic foundations of the Draconian Empire).
Again, the inclusion of additional music score, Foley-type of sound effects and, used particularly within this release, reader's voice-treatment is superb. From the squelching of the Doctor ploughing his way through a marsh swamp to the interior or the TARDIS' console room to the depressurisation of the short-lived companion, Katarina, as she commits the ultimate sacrifice. Credit has been given where credit is often omitted.
The only issue, for this Police Box shaped hearted fan is the absence of Ron Grainer's iconic theme tune - the best version to date - to "top-and-tail" the release. Perhaps, the financial cost is, now, prohibited.
The release is a tag-team reading from Peter Purves and Jean Marsh (Sara Kingdom from the original transmission), and whilst initially it seems disconcerting and you question the presentation format after a few chapters it becomes acceptable. The more dynamic, pacy, adrenalin-driven style of Purves (along with his beguiling interpretation of the irascible First Doctor is wonderfully observed; "And don't call me Doc!") is exquisitely contrasted by a laconic, p-r-e-c-i-s-e, studied delivery of Marsh (it takes her 5 days 17 hours and 42 minutes to read one phrase - it's absolutely fabulous).
DOCTOR WHO - DALEKS: MISSION TO THE UNKNOWN is the ideal MP3 player addition, played reclined on a deserted beach somewhere or enjoyed during that "What shall I do on this rainy Bank/Public Holiday?"
Don't underestimate this BBC AUDIO release, you'll time to revisit this legendary 12-episode television drama as it is peeled (no Writer pun intended.) away chapter-by-chapter disc-by-disc for the first time as an unabridged reading.
Assign the respect that it deserves and you will not be disappointed, and you'll be hooked.