Again, I’ve always considered this to be my all time fave serial (though I will let you know how that holds up at the end of this year long project.) So, I’m sure this is: a) going to be a wordy couple posts (six episodes, so two posts, 3 Monday, 3 Wednesday) and b) I’m going to gush a lot.

You’ve been warned.

Episode 1:

We open with a smoky, misty terrain, mostly rocks and some brush. Men in helmets and gas masks and firewarms can be seen. The men are fired upon and drop down, survivors running. Other soldiers walk through the mist, carefully.

The Doctor is seen in the mist, looking about, confused. He comes across a man in strange garb – one we’ll find out shortly to be a Time Lord. The Doctor chastises him for intercepting the transmat beam, saying it’s dangerous to do so.

The Doctor insists that he’s tired of the “continual interference” in his life by the Time Lords, but the Time Lord retorts that they seldom interfere in the business of others and pride themselves on this. He refuses to do it, until he hears it has to do with the Daleks.

The Time Lord says that they foresee a time where the Daleks will destroy all other life forms in the universe; they want him to go back to a point prior to the evolution of the Daleks, to avert their creation or alter their creation so they are less aggressive, or perhaps he can learn enough about them to discover some inherent weakness.

The Doctor agrees to it and asks for the coordinates, but the Time Lord says they’re already on Skaro. He offers The Doctor a Time Ring, a device that will return him to the TARDIS when done. The Time Lord disappears just before Sarah and Harry show up.

Suddenly, the sounds of artillery are heard, getting closer. They rush and hide as all about, there are explosions. After a short period, it stops, and they find a man in a gas mask – perhaps one of the group we opened with. The Doctor and Harry note a disparity between the weapons (one looks to be an energy rifle, the other a simplistic rifle) and his equipment (gas mask and a radiation detector). Sarah notes some of his clothing is synthetic fiber, other parts animal skin.

The Doctor postulates a thousand year war, civilisation on the edge of collapse, and then leads his companions forward. They end up coming across a minefield, which they don’t realise until they see a mine. They move on carefully, but suddenly The Doctor stops. He tells Harry he’s on a mine.

If I move my foot, I might detonate it.”

Don’t move your foot.”

I won’t.”

Love that dialogue.

Harry wedges some rocks under the mine to keep it from shifting and holds it firm while The Doctor removes his foot… and there’s no bang. I always enjoyed this scene because Harry manned up and did what needed to be done, and even argued with The Doctor about doing it the way he wanted.

The expression on Ian Marter’s (Harry) face is classic. The relief is palpable.

They move on, unaware at there being a visible watcher. They come across a giant dome in the distance, large enough to cover an entire city. The other area is protected by barbed wire and Harry wonders out loud why they need land mines and barbed wire when they can build “things like that”.

They move into the trenches, and find dead soldiers propped up to make them appear fully manned. They note that the soldiers have different uniforms (and The Doctor says they’ve likely crossed lines), but the disparity in technology and weaponry is still there.

Again, The Doctor posits that the war must have been going on for ages; when it started, they had the advanced resources, but as it has dragged on, they’ve been forced to adapt more primitive ones. As they are watched from a door, a gas shell falls into the trench. They grab respirators from the propped up corpses, but are attacked by the gas mask wearing types we saw before (not the same uniforms as the dead men in the trenches).

Soldiers in black come out from the door where someone was watching, shooting on the attackers. The Doctor and Harry are brought inside, Sarah Jane is left in the trench.

The black suited men bring them in, musing that they don’t look like Thals. The Doctor and Harry are taken on a transporter into the dome. In a planning room, they are brought before the general, whom The Doctor makes fast friends with (said the author with a lot of sarcasm.)

The Doctor is ordered to turn out his pockets, cluttering the table with a lot of stuff. The Doctor gets the general to rant about the destruction of the Thals and the superiority of the Kaled people. The Doctor turns tables on the general, disarms him and Harry takes the gun, taking the only other soldier present captive.

The Doctor ruminates on the fact that ‘Kaled’ is an anagram of… well, he doesn’t say, but it’s certainly obvious. They force the general to take them back to the wastelands, reinforcing his belief they are “mutos” (mutants, obviously).

Sarah wakes up in the trench, left for dead. She tries to get in the door, but obviously, she can’t. Looking for a weapon, she finds a pistol, a revolver, but it’s out of ammo.

As The Doctor and Harry (who has a gun at the general’s back) walk in the corridor, they come across Security Commander Nyder (played by Peter Miles, who previously played Dr. Lawrence in DOCTOR WHO AND THE SILURIANS and Professor Whitaker in INVASION OF THE DINOSAURS, both of which serials I gushed about him playing Nyder) and two of his operatives. He demands to speak with the general, who asks him to wait in his office. There’s some banter between Nyder and The Doctor and when Nyder and his men walk off, they stop some twenty feet away and turn and fire their guns.

The Doctor and Harry flee, Nyder’s guards in pursuit. Nyder signals an alarm and guards everywhere are mobilised. Nyder chastises Ravon for being captured.

The Doctor and Harry take a lift that takes them to the surface. They run, pursued by surface patrols (alerted by Nyder via intercom.) Harry activates a trip wire, but he and The Doctor both drop to avoid being hurt by the explosive – however, by time they get to their feet, they are surrounded.

Sarah Jane wanders through the misty countryside, calling out for The Doctor and Harry. A shambling, wrapped figure follows/pursues her.

The Doctor and Harry are brought back to General Ravon’s office; Nyder is there and begins to question them. The Doctor confesses they are not from Skaro, but Nyder says according Davros, no other planets have intelligent life.

When Nyder says Davros is never wrong (implying that they are lying), The Doctor replies, “Well, he must be exceptional. Even I am occasionally wrong about some things.” Classic Doctor Who line.

Nyder informs The Doctor that Davros is their greatest scientist, in charge of all science at “The Bunker”.

Peter Miles rules as Nyder. He was excellent in his previous roles, but he really shines as Nyder. Nyder, so sinister, so cold and calculating. There’s a distinct, intentional Nazi vibe going on here. (Nyder even wears an Iron Cross on a chain above his breast bone.)

We learn mutos are descended from Kaleds (and presumably Thals?) affected by chemical weapons in the first century of the war. Racial purity is important to the Kaleds, or at least by the ruling party.

Nyder informs that he will be taking the prisoners back to “The Bunker”, to be interrogated there. The general argues, but only briefly. Nyder hands him a requisition for supplies, signed by Davros, that the general finds offensive – he says these supplies will take half his stock, but gives in.

The Kaled salute is basically the Nazi salute, so we’re not even being subtle about it.

Sarah Jane runs, pursued, paralleled by what obviously must be mutos. She comes to a ruined building and peers in, seeing a strange man, or half a man – his lower half is obscured in a device not unlike a wheelchair. Another man sets up some firearm targets and addresses the half man as Davros.

Davros instructs his associate to observe the test. Davros’ voice is raspy and inhuman. He says this is a moment that will live in history. He toggles a switch on his chair/unit and a Dalek moves forward out of the shadows. At voice command, the Dalek destroys the target. Ironically, the command given is “Exterminate”. Davros says, “The weaponry is perfect. Now we can begin,” as Sarah Jane watches in horror… and the credits roll.

Really, a near-perfect episode. Great sets, costumes, plot, acting, everything. Great cliffhanger.

Episode 2:

Sarah Jane hides as Davros, Gharman, and The Dalek depart. Moments later, a group of four mutos swarm her.

Nyder brings his prisoners into The Bunker, turning them over to Tane for screening. After he leaves, The Doctor and Harry complain of having a “very trying experience” and asking for tea, or coffee.

Haven’t we had a trying experience?”

Very trying, Doctor.”

Tane orders them into the security scan; Harry goes first, and it’s obviously a painful experience. He’s clear and The Doctor goes next. They detect the Time Ring and remove it from him, putting it with the other confiscated items.

The Doctor explains to Harry that the Time Ring must be recovered, it is their only way home. Guards take the prisoner to senior researcher Ronson.

The mutos debate whether to kill Sarah Jane or not. “Kill her! It is the law. All norms must die.” Two mutos argue and struggle over what to do. They stop when they hear voices of a patrol. The one trying to kill Sarah Jane runs off and is shot dead. The other muto and Sarah Jane are captured by the patrol, to be used as “expendable labour for the rocket”.

The Doctor and Harry are brought into the science division, where Ronson questions them about their possessions. Again, the belief that Skaro is the only place where intelligent life exists comes up. Ronson says when they were scanned, complete biological patterns were taken. He picks up the results and before he looks at them, he says, “If you are from another planet…” and his voice trails off as he realises the truth.

He questions The Doctor where they came from, and as he begins to take notes, an alarm sounds. It is announced that Davros is coming to make an announcement.

Davros enters, flanked by black jackbooted thugs, including Nyder. He talks about his experiments with the Mark III project and he wants them to see the “remarkable results”, and thus the demonstration he has arranged. The Mark III machine, the Dalek we saw before, enters. Davros demonstrates voice control.

At Davros’ command, Nyder and Gharman bring out an energy weapon and outfit the Mark III with the gun. Davros turns the “machine” over to “total self control”. He toggles a switch and the Dalek moves about, examining everyone. It detects that The Doctor and Harry are aliens and tries to exterminate them. Ronson jumps forward and deactivates the Mark III.

Davros goes on a rant, and when Ronson explains his actions, Davros gives him until first light to complete his interrogation, at which point the prisoners will be given over to “the machine” (the Dalek) to continue.

Under armed guard, Sarah and a large group of mutos are inside the Thal dome. It seems they’re going to be used for slave labour. A Kaled soldier there, another prisoner, explains they’re being used to load the rocket with radioactive materials, a last ditch attack on the Kaled dome. Shortly thereafter, the crew of prisoners is taken to continue loading the rocket.

In the Kaled dome, The Doctor is brought back into a cell that Harry waits in. He tells Harry that he gave them scads of “scientific gobblelygook” but learned more from them – The Bunker was originally a think thank but became the Scientific Elite and gained near total power over the Kaled society.

Ronson enters their cell, apologising to The Doctor for any torture that he might have suffered. Ronson then says that while The Doctor called the Mark III a Dalek before, that word had never been heard before until an hour before, when Davros announced that the Mark III would from now be referred to ask such.

It turns out that Ronson is part of a group of scientists who feel that Davros has taken the research into the wrong path. He’s created creatures, the presumed ultimate mutational heritage of the Kaled people. Ronson takes the prisoners and shows them a room with the creatures (presumably the squid-like forms of the Daleks) inside.

After their shift, Sarah Jane tries to get her fellow prisoners to try something. She hatches a plan to scale the rocket and get to the roof and escape that way. The Kaled soldier and the muto who fought to keep her alive agree to it.

Ronson says that the Dalek was meant to be a travel machine for the ultimate mutational form of the Kaled people. Ronson explains that there are people in the city, civilians who still have the power to overrule Davros, but he cannot go speak to them. Ronson says he could help them escape, but the only way out goes through a cave filled with the leftovers from Davros’ earlier experiments.

Sarah Jane feigns weakness to distract the guard and they take him out. She leads her fellow prisoners out.

Ronson helps The Doctor and Harry escape through a ventillation duct (there’s a lot of that in Doctor Who serials.) Crawling through the ducts, The Doctor and Harry see one of Davros’ experiments shambling by.

Sarah and the others climb the rocket scaffolding. The guard in the cell comes to and signals the alarm. Thal guards arrive in the rocket chamber and open fire on the escaping prisoners. Several are shot and fall, including the Kaled soldier. Sarah Jane quits climbing but her muto friend talks her on. As she moves to go on, she slips and falls and screams… and the credits roll.

Now, THAT, my friends, is a cliffhanger. Can you imagine having to wait a week after that?

Episode 3:

Sarah falls a short distance, fortuitously landing on a platform. Her muto friend (if he has a name, I’ve missed it) goes down to check on her, and they keep climbing; by now, it seems they may be the only two (or of the few) remaining escapees. They make it to the top of the rocket.

The muto jumps to the rocket and when it’s her turn to jump, she freezes. The Thals pursuing climb closer and closer. Sarah steps across, not jumps, which is really kinda cheesy that she was so worried. The Thal guards fire a warning shot and the muto and Sarah stop ascending the rocket. One of the Thal guards trips Sarah up so that she’s hanging from his hand, and then he pulls her up, telling her in a day or two of working, she’ll wished he had let her drop.

The Doctor and Harry move through the caves, coming across a grate. Harry says it must be the way to the wastelands. Harry steps into a giant clam shell like creature which bites down on him. The Doctor gets a big rock and begins bashing it, but it won’t let go of Harry. The Doctor pries the creature open with a stone level.

Harry hobbles to the grate. He and The Doctor try to bend the corroded bars of the grate.

Two Daleks are active now, but Davros says there must be further improvements. One of the other scientists approaches Ronson after Davros leaves, asking about the prisoners. Ronson pretends they’re still in the detention room, but the other scientist says he’s sympathetic and informs Ronson that The Doctor and Harry have reached the city and contacted the leaders whose names Ronson gave them. From across the room, Nyder watches their conversation with suspicion in his eyes.

The Doctor and Harry and a group of concillors meet in General Ravon’s planning room. Ravon asserts that there are no listening devices that he is aware of. Councillor Mogran has called the others there for this secret meeting. The Doctor is invited to explain what he knows about the Daleks. The Doctor tells them his knowledge is from the future; so, really, if you think about it, it’s really stupid for them to take the word of this stranger who claims to know the future.

The loading of the Thal rocket continues. Sarah is weak, but the guard says this is the final load.

Nyder reports to Davros about the secret meeting with opponents of The Bunker’s work. Nyder also reports that the two prisoners have been seen at the dome. Davros says he will deal with Ronson in his own way.

The four concilmen agree to set up an independent tribunal to investigate, and Davros’ experiments will be suspended pending the investigation. The Doctor is less than thrilled. General Ravon tells The Doctor and Harry about the Thal rocket and that they believe Sarah is one of the slave workers.

Mogran and two others from the council meet with Davros and Nyder, to inform him about the investigation. Davros plays the patriot, accepting the investigation, but says that he will need twenty-four hours to shut down some experiments, but Mogran gives him twelve.

After they leave, Nyder flips out, but Davros says he will stop the project, that the council has signed the death warrant of the “whole of the Kaled people” – he will destroy them and only the Elite will live on. He orders for twenty Daleks to be readied in their machines, though Nyder argues it, saying they are “still very erratic, unstable”. Davros’ reply is that he will program the units to limit their actions.

In the Thal dome, The Doctor and Harry enter through a trap door in the floor. (Cuz, ya know, if I had a dome built during a thousand year war, I’d have trap doors leading to an underground warren of caves that led to the wastelands.)

Skulking about, they see Davros and Nyder meeting with Thal leaders; eavesdropping, they listen in as Davros says he is tired of the war and the Kaled leaders will not listen to him. He tells the Thals their rocket will fail, the Kaled dome cannot be penetrated. Nyder hands over a chemical formula that will turn the Kaled dome brittle.

The Doctor and Harry move on, hoping to find Sarah, but also wanting to get back to the Kaled dome to warn the council of Davros’ betrayal. The Doctor and Harry free Sarah and the others; The Doctor sends Harry and Sarah back to the Kaled dome, while he stays behind to try to sabotage the rocket.

Thal guards pursue Harry, Sarah and Sevrin (the muto who has been her constant ally) as they go down into the tunnels.

As The Doctor readies to ascend the rocket, the Thal guard recovers and triggers a security circuit that either electrifies or magnetises the scaffolding and The Doctor is zapped/caught. As he struggles/writhes in pain… the credits roll.

And that’s where we leave off until Wednesday!