Behind-the-Scenes: Creating The Daleks’ Master Plan – The Graphic Novel

The Daleks’ Master Plan has the distinction of being one of the few Doctor Who adventures to be presented on television, in novels, on CD, streaming, and now on vinyl. Due to the majority of the episodes being missing, however, it was also once adapted into the form of a full color, 168 page graphic novel. This, by an insane fan who welcomed the challenge and wanted desperately – for the 50th anniversary – to give a little something back to the show that had given him so much over the years. Since this fan had created and published many comics in the past, this was something he wanted to do and spent the next 18 months working on it, alongside his regular job’s workload. All because he loves Doctor Who on an almost abnormal level.

That insane fan was me.

I’m not exactly sure how it started but odds are, it was after giving another listen to the audio soundtrack of The Daleks’ Master Plan, where once again, I was fascinated by the character of Mavic Chen, Guardian of the Solar System! This audio more than any other conjured up fantastic imagery in my head – of course as with anything residing only in our imaginations — far superior to the few, budget-restricted episodes that survived for us to see. I wanted to draw this story. I wanted to give it as grand a visual presentation as possible. I wanted to have this be my present to fandom for the 50th anniversary. But first, there were a few things to address.

First, there was the matter of copyrighted material and if these were going to be printed, that would cost money. When money starts changing hands regarding copyrighted material, you’re venturing into dicey territory, so, not wanting any possible legal hassles, I wondered aloud about doing the graphic novel but having all proceeds go to the Children in Need charity. So I spoke with Christian Cawley, the man from Kasterborous. He said they’d be happy to present each chapter on the website and he could line up someone for the project in doing the print version. It was technically a fan-produced work for charity and love of Doctor Who, so we were set. Now, all I had to do was adapt the thing.

Before beginning, I wanted to go over the scripts for the actual transmissions. I knew the story rather well but wanted to analyse all the scenes and the dialogue, mostly just to immerse myself in it. I found a site called Earthbound Time Lords: the Doctor Who scripts, which had all the scripts from the missing episodes. I located The Daleks’ Master Plan episodes, printed them out, and tucked in. However, as I proceeded, I realised there was some substantial padding here and there. I had to proceed carefully. Yes, I only wanted pertinent dialogue to the story but at the same time, there’s sometimes a fine line between padding and nice character development. Some side discussions went nowhere, added nothing, and were gone. Some were fun or interesting lines that humanised the characters, even relatively unimportant side characters. It’s also very natural for the show back then to pad out certain scenes. The week to week transmissions needed to hit certain marks in the story and when they fell short, they needed to add a bit here and there.

When it came to cutting out unnecessary material, so went The Feast of Steven. I knew the Christmas day episode was a festive side step in the story but I never realized how utterly disconnected it was. Looking at the end of proceeding episode, Coronas of the Sun, and the beginning of the episode that followed Feast, Volcano, the match up was seamless and it was even more apparent that Feast was wedged in there and was not only unnecessary but put forth in a graphic novel, it would really kill the momentum and lessen the threat level. So away it went. It was also very interesting observing how Terry Nation broke the story down in the first half while Dennis Spooner scribed the latter chapters. Spooner added a bit more humour to the proceedings and I think it was his job to make sure this epic reached 12 parts. Having my “shooting scripts” ready, it was time to begin designing characters, scene breakdowns, rough pencils.

Now, at this point, I should say that when drawing these characters, that’s exactly what I was drawing – the characters. Not the actors, not the specific costumes or make up seen in the episode but the characters themselves. For instance, Mavic Chen. Kevin Stoney is not a large man but thanks to his approach, vocal stylings and command of the character, The Guardian of the Solar System did indeed seem a huge, robust man. A walking legend, loved by billions as their protector. I drew that guy.

Then there are the Daleks’ associates, the scheming, alien delegates, who we first see in Mission to the Unknown. I’ll give the production team credit; they did what they could to give us some strange alien creatures. I, however, was under no financial restrictions. Whereas one delegate – according to stills from the set — seemed to be made of a stack of dark, cardboard cones, I kept the shape but made it a dark yet transparent shell, which housed a kind of octopus or squid-like creature. Another was white with black bumps all over him. I turned him into a more gelatinous creature, able to stretch and mold itself, seemingly without any skeletal structure. I also gave him a hideous little maw. Not all the changes were so dramatic but they helped form a rather more interesting crew of sinister accomplices.

Camera angles, locations, and scenery were another luxury I could indulge in. Where I could, I built on what they provided in stills and the surviving episodes. In other situations, I wasn’t beholden to adhere to any of the other limitations of the old budget, so I chose a grand presentation whenever possible. Basically, I went with the Mighty Marvel Method (circa the 1960s). I tried to pump as much power as I could into the proceedings, with big splash pages to start off each chapter and utilize the panels and pages in different ways to provide maximum impact. The chapter titled Golden Death is done entirely in splash page format, as the major beats of the episode lent themselves to the treatment, being a bit more of a simple, runaround episode. Part of the Marvel look is cinematic in nature and it was fun adding different, specialised fonts for each chapter title as well.

I mixed up the visual pacing depending on the nature of a scene. When the Doctor steals the Emm of Taranium in Day of Armageddon, there are a series of short, desperate panels as he evades the delegates, escaping the conference room. Conversely, at that tragic moment in The Traitors, when Katarina opens the airlock, flinging her and her abductor, the escaped convict Kirksen, into the vacuum of space, the reader is out there too. We see a full page in black and white. The point of view is from outside the ship and we see the stunned, disbelieving faces of the Doctor and Steven within.

It was about 18 months of production from start to finish, 168 pages, the last chapter hitting some months before the official 50th, plus a little behind the scenes article at the end telling this tale and a dedication to Raymond Cusack on the back cover. There were a couple hundred print versions produced and sold, bringing in approximately £1,800.00 for Children in Need, so all in all, things went very well and I feel I met the challenge well enough – at least I finished.

People have asked which other missing adventures I would have liked to have done. The Web of Fear was my outstanding Troughton choice. Good thing I didn’t do it, since they found the majority of it! All for the best too, as I think I may be done with crazy challenges for awhile. But this was fun and rewarding.