The Destruction of Time is devastating. Nothing in the story to date, indeed in the series so far, quite prepares you for the cataclysmic events that unfold during these twenty five minutes. Even with only the soundtrack and a handful of photographs it’s incredibly powerful, so we can only guess what it would look like in motion. But with Douglas Camfield directing it seems more than likely that the visuals would have been extremely striking.
Mavic Chen meets his well-deserved end. Kevin Stoney once again sails merrily over the top, but that suits Chen’s character – who by now has lost his last lingering shreds of sanity. What makes his demise particularly fascinating is the way he’s treated by the Daleks. They simply ignore him. This silent treatment is the ultimate humiliation, although he’s still able to rationalise it away by believing that the Daleks will continue to obey him. Instead they take him out into the corridor and kill him. For the self-proclaimed ruler of the universe it’s a squalid and ignominious end.
The Doctor suddenly pops up out of nowhere and tells Steven and Sara to return to the TARDIS. While they’re doing this, he steals the time destructor and also heads back to the ship. It goes without saying that the Daleks really need to strengthen their security …..
Whilst Steven makes it back to the TARDIS, Sara returns to help the Doctor. The bitter irony is that there’s nothing at all she can do and her exposure to the time destructor has fatal results. Although we’re denied any video record of this scene, the photographs we have help to sell the horror of the moment. This is no quick, easy death but a long, lingering demise.
The Doctor’s also affected, although he manages to quickly rally round. But when Steven comes to help, Hartnell barks at him in such an unearthly manner that it’s another moment that jars. We rarely hear the Doctor under such pressure.
And then it’s over. The time destructor is exhausted, Kembel is now a desert wilderness and Sara and all the Daleks are dead. Once the Doctor recovers some of his equilibrium he can’t help but crow a little. “Well, my boy, we finally rid this planet of Daleks.” It’s up to Steven to remind him of the human cost (“Bret, Katarina, Sara”) to which the Doctor belatedly agrees. “What a waste. What a terrible waste.”
When picking out top Doctor/companion pairings, Hartnell and Purves probably wouldn’t be top of many people’s lists, which is a bit of a shame. Peter Purves always accepted that his role was to provide solid support for Hartnell (both on screen and off) and that’s something he always did very well. Maybe if a few more episodes existed then their era might have a higher profile. Are there are more out there? Time will tell I guess ….
The Daleks Master Plan might lurch from comedy to tragedy and all points inbetween, but it still works. It shouldn’t by rights as it has all the hallmarks of being another (admittedly entertaining) debacle like The Chase. But thanks to Douglas Camfield’s direction (the three episodes in existence, plus a handful of other clips more than hint at the overall visual quality) the story avoids that fate. It’s quite a leap from the comic book thrills of the mid part of the story to the final ten minutes of destruction, but this final downbeat tone still packs a punch 55+ years on.