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Reviewed: Doctor Who Season 3 – Missing In Action

Due to the BBC’s lack of vision, Doctor Who Season 3 is one of the hardest hit regarding missing episodes and definitely the most affected of the William Hartnell era. Only 17 of the 45 episodes exist. This is unfortunate on a couple of levels. Aside from the obvious, many people don’t know what they’re missing, as the soundtracks exist for all these stories and are wonderfully presented with linking narration.

As a side note, in several seasons before and after this one, you had many instances of longer stories, often with 6 parts, that may have been padded out for necessity of stretching the budget. It was sometimes apparent in those cases that the narratives may have worked a lot better as tighter, more compact 4-part serials. They took a different tack here. In Season 3, with the exception of the single-part Mission to the Unknown and 12-part Dalek Master Plan, all the remaining stories in this season are 4-part stories. By and large, it all works in their favour as written.

Galaxy 4

No one ever really talks about Galaxy 4, a simple, well constructed morality play. The beautiful Drahvins and hideous Rills are at war with each other, while their planet is due to explode in a matter of days. As usual, the Doctor (Hartnell), Steven (Peter Purves), and Vicki (Maureen O’Brien) are caught in the middle.

But even though it’s a very basic story, William Emms gives us crafty, biting dialogue along the way. Hartnell is at his tetchy best, Steven his usual heroic self, and Vicki is defiant, even handed, and just as capable as the men —which is in and of itself, a welcome revelation for the ’60s attitudes. The interactions are smart, the set design laudable, and there’s a good sense of exploration of the unknown throughout. The four parts – Four Hundred Dawns, Trap of Steel, Air Lock, and The Exploding Planet – are well paced. Even the “Chumblies”, robot servitors of the rills, get a bad wrap because of the affectionate name given them by Vicki, yet when all’s said and done, they’re a respectable part of the narrative and their design is very logical for their tasks.

I think this is an underrated story for a variety of reasons. Firstly, three parts are missing – only episode 3 exists, available on The Aztecs Special Edition DVD with tele-snap reconstructions put together for the remaining parts, set to the soundtrack (also available separately with linking narration).

Unfortunately, many people don’t tend to bother with the soundtracks. A mistake. Go listen. Give your imagination a workout. It’s there for you.

Mission to the Unknown

The unicorn in the history of Doctor Who. A 1-part adventure featuring none of the regular cast. Space security agent Marc Cory is investigating mysterious events that have led him to Kembel, an out-of-the-way planet rife with never-ending jungle and deadly Varga plants. Unfortunately, Cory has stumbled onto the very planet where several sinister delegates have formed a type of galactic council. They’ve met there on Kembel to plot and scheme with their new allies, the Daleks. Cory tries to send a warning to the rest of the universe but is exterminated. The audience can only watch, as the council prepares to put their despicable plan into operation. Their first target: Earth.

This was a marvelous prologue to The Daleks’ Master Plan, as it let you know that the Daleks were coming… and then nothing. At least, not for another several weeks; the Doctor, Steven and Vicki go about there business, totally unaware of what awaits them in the near future. In fact, I recommend that if you are going to dive into the soundtracks from this era, do so in order. Listen to Galaxy 4, then Mission but then, move right along to…

The Myth Makers

One of the finest of the forgotten gems, getting squeezed in between Mission to the Unknown and The Daleks’ Master Plan.

The Doctor and co. land at the fall of Troy. It’s an extremely well done historical adventure, a fun blend of drama and comedy, very much in the style of The Romans. Once again, the Doctor is forced to insert himself, quite unwillingly, into the history books. The TARDIS crew comports themselves very well due to a smart script by Donald Cotton but some of the historical characters that really steal the show, with the bombastic Agamemnon (Francis De Wolf), the comical quips of Paris (Barrie Ingham), and the wonderfully dire, over-the-top predictions of Cassandra (Frances White).

Amidst the fun and danger of planning Troy’s ultimate demise, Cotton even manages to craft a believable romance between Vicki and young Troilus, prompting her departure from the TARDIS. You must give this one a listen.

The Daleks’ Master Plan

I really think by now, I may have easily spent more time and creative energy on this story than anyone ever even officially connected to it, including those who actually starred in it and produced it. But that’s another story.

This is story of Mavic Chen, Guardian of the solar system, and what happens when he encounters the Daleks and the sinister delegates of the Galactic council, originally seen in Mission to the Unknown. The Doctor is thrust into the mix. What follows are several battles of wits, and varied encounters on multiple planets and galaxies. The Doctor and his associates fight to not only to survive but to thwart the Daleks and their accomplices’ master plan. The heroes pay a heavy price in the end. The heaviest in the history of the programme.

Magnificent performances not only by the TARDIS crew but also a young Nicholas Courtney as Bret Vyon and Jean Marsh as Sara Kingdom – but perhaps greatest of all, Kevin Stoney as the incredible Mavic Chen.

The Massacre at St. Bartholomew’s Eve

Another purely historical 4-part serial that exists only in soundtrack form, The Massacre is a dark and, at times, perplexing adventure. It features the Doctor and Steven arriving in a very turbulent time, 1572, just in time for the titular event, the religious massacre of the Huguenots. The Doctor and Steven are separated and soon, we see the evil Abbot of Amboise, who bears an uncanny resemblance to the Doctor himself. The viewer is then kept in the dark throughout the story as you’re not sure if the Doctor has somehow taken the Abbot’s place or if he’s simply missing. Steven is just as confused and later, when the Abbott is publicly murdered on the street, Steven’s not sure if it’s actually the Abbot lying dead or indeed the Doctor.

All the while, the tension ratchets up more and more as time counts down to the inevitable bloodshed.

Written by John Lucarotti and Donald Tosh, The Massacre is a comfortably paced story that I’m sure had the younger viewers worried more than once for the Doctor’s safety. It’s very much worth a listen, and I do implore you to. Yes, it’s a historical, which many gloss over, but they’re still an important part of the show’s history.

Also, as a side note: back in then-present day, companion Dodo (Jackie Lane) arrives.

The Ark

This is one of the few Season 3 entries that is complete on video and is best described as an interesting mix between Doctor Who and The Twilight Zone.

10 million years in the future, the human race is still chugging along, moving through the stars in a huge, generational spacecraft that serves as a sort of ark for the human species. It’s a trope Doctor Who would fall back on numerous times, including The Ark in Space and Smile. Along comes the Doctor, Steven, and Dodo, who has a cold, which, since there hasn’t been a cold virus circulating humanity for many millennia, the Doctor must try and save humanity and their faithful servant race, the Monoids, from. They could all be wiped out by Typhoid Dodo. Of course the Doctor wins the day and at the end of the second episode, The Plague, they depart the ark and the world of Doctor Who, only to arrive 700 years later on the very same ark at the chilling edge of… the Twilight Zone and a whole different problem. Check the statue.

Splitting the story that way is a solid idea; you have to wonder what contemporary audiences thought too – when they saw them go back tot he TARDIS, they must’ve considered this tale a rare 2-part tale!

Although somewhat slow paced at times, the mid-story shift is interesting enough to make the story as a whole worthwhile.

The Celestial Toymaker

This four part adventure is also missing Parts 1, 2 and 3 (The Celestial Toyroom, The Hall of Dolls, and The Dancing Floor), with only The Final Test existing on video. This is a shame because as wonderful as Michael Gough may have been as the Toymaker, and whatever fantastic games and contests were constructed for the serial, it’s all a bit wasted. This was a very very visual story: try as he might, even the valiant linking narration by Peter Purves doesn’t quite compare to what the visuals would have been here. Even if all the episodes existed on video, it’d be a shame that they’re black and white in this case.

Many people seem to desperately want this one found over the other stories lost form the archives, but I’m of a different mind. Basically, while the Doctor plays a personal game of Trilogic to defeat the titular Toymaker, Steven and Dodo simply go from challenge to bizarre challenge where they compete against the minions of the Toymaker, who usually cheat. It resembles more of a reality TV game show by today’s standards.

William Hartnell was missing for the majority of this one for personal reasons, while at the same time, producer Innes Lloyd was looking into the early possibility of replacing him due to his health. Thankfully, it didn’t happen quite yet. It seems like it might have been a ham-fisted attempt to do it like this anyway. Maybe it’s all just down to execution but I wasn’t too entirely thrilled with The Celestial Toymaker.

The Gunfighters

Many fans grouse loud and often about how so few stories from Season 3 survived intact and that sadly, The Gunfighters was one of them. This is an unfortunate way of thinking. The Gunfighters is not great Doctor Who. It’s not even in the upper half of the class. Or the top two thirds. Or top 80%.

But it is a complete story that exists and, more or less, is in the same vein as The Romans and The Myth Makers, in that it is a romp. I must point out, though, that both of the former stories have some serious elements and very strong scripts. The Gunfighters… not so much. It leans much more on comedy, slapstick, and horrible American western accents.

A case of mistaken identity in a dentist office lands the Doctor in the unfortunate role of Doc Holiday and he’s thrust into the current events that will culminate in the gunfight at the O.K. Corral. To be fair, I’m sure writer, Donald Cotton and director, Rex Tucker thought they were doing a fantastic job of capturing that era in the US, they were utterly clueless as to virtually everything here, beyond what they scrounged up in a history book.

It wasn’t as daft as The Feast of Steven. It has that going for it. It’s only four parts. It’s harmless fun. And it’s a Doctor Who story that actually exists in Season 3. Those facts alone make means we shouldn’t forgot about it or sneer at its existence.

The Savages

Another under the radar, totally missing 4-part morality play, like Galaxy 4, which is almost as enticing on the whole.

The Doctor, Steven, and Dodo arrive on a distant planet in the far future which boasts perfection, peace, and prosperity – at least, that’s what the scientists of the world say. But the opinion is not shared by the race of savages living on the outskirts of the city. No, this isn’t Gallifrey, but there are a few similarities.

Be that as it may, the Doctor and co. must fight to free the planet from the tyranny of the elite ruling civilisation and the Doctor manages it in a rather unique way.

This serial was notable for two reasons. To start with, this was the very first adventure that dispensed with individual episode titles, and simply kept the title The Savages throughout. Secondly, this story saw the rather abrupt departure of Steven at its conclusion, as he stayed on to lead the disparate factions of people on the planet. It was at this point that producer, Innes Lloyd decided to start cleaning house and replace the current crop of companions with his own handpicked ones. And he doesn’t hang about.

The War Machines

This 4-part season-ending story is complete and features the introduction of Ben Jackson (Michael Craze) and Polly Wright (Anneke Wills). It also has the distinction of giving us possibly our first glimpse – in Doctor Who – of the swinging ’60s at the Inferno club. It also features a character (a computer in this instance) referring to the Doctor as “Doctor Who”.

This is the first story to have a very UNIT-like feel to it. Set in then present day 1966, the threat is terrestrial, in the form of W.O.T.A.N. (Will Operating Thought ANalogue). It’s a near sentient computer bent of controlling the world as it feels humans just can’t cut it anymore.

W.O.T.A.N. has the ability to mesmerize and control humans, forcing them to do its bidding, including assembling a small army of deadly War Machines, which will aid W.O.T.A.N. in taking over the world. The super computer is well on its way to victory but hasn’t counted on interference from the Doctor –whose mind the computer could not control. Or pesky sailor Ben Jackson, a scrappy chap who worked his way into the scheme to investigate from within. Or even the military, aided by some scientific advise and assistance from the Doctor. That’s so UNIT.

The story works nicely enough and has a bit of that Pertwee feel to it. Unfortunately, as abrupt as Steven’s departure was in the last story, Dodo gets the boot even worse here, with only a mention after the fact of her simply staying in the country… as Ben and Polly just cram into the TARDIS with a laugh. And off they all go into the vortex!

Looking at the season as a whole, it must be said that the first half is stronger overall, with the likes of Galaxy 4, Mission to the Unknown, The Myth Makers, the Daleks’ Master Plan, and The Massacre. Perhaps it’s worth noting that while Verity Lambert was producer and David Whitaker script editor for Galaxy 4 and Mission, John Wiles was in the big chair with Donald Tosh script editing for The Myth Makers through to The Ark. It was Innes Lloyd, who was producing the show for the rest of the season, starting with The Celestial Toymaker and new script editor Gerry Davis who started with The Ark. Changing these top roles twice over throughout the season could easily account for the different quality in the end product as each new team put their stamp on the show.

Lloyd and Davis would continue on until the end of Season 4, by then having overseen the biggest changes ever in the history of the show to date.

NEXT: Just some Guy.

Rick Lundeen

Reviewed: Doctor Who Season 3 – Missing In Action

by Rick Lundeen time to read: 11 min
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