When Doctor Who does epic it is invariably tarred by its failures rather than its successes. In the three attempts at uber-adventures – The Dalek Masterplan, The War Games and The Trial of a Time Lord – one invariably remembers the bad bits rather than the good bits.
So War Games and Trial aside, is Masterplan, in its twelve episodes, minus its prologue, a good epic?
Well, it tries. It goes darker than many episodes have before, killing off one companion dreadfully and another potential companion with equal evilness, and the Daleks themselves are as convoluted and nasty as ever. But for every wonderful performance from the likes of Hartnell and Purves there is some terrible padding. It very much rises and falls on its length, and as such is probably to be considered a mistake. It shouldn’t be, because the good probably outweighs the bad.
You’re probably reading this thinking, “old Ed’s on the fence here”, and you’re probably right. I don’t have any massive feelings towards Masterplan any further than “it’s a bit long”. Purves is superb in it, though, but then he always is, the companions’(n?) death is/are well handled and completely brutal, but there’s probably too many things going on, too many characters – too many shifts in characterisation (Sara Kingdom for instance) and Chen’s motives make no sense. Add into that The Monk and a weird Keystone Christmas Fourth Wall breaker and, well, perhaps it’s best it doesn’t all exist. One thing is for sure, the Daleks are far better here than they are in The Chase and director Dougie Camfield is as always superb at keeping things rattling along with some lovely touches. Perhaps it would have been better with one writer (writing is shared between Spooner and Nation) or perhaps a more subtle arc might have made the whole experience less exhausting and less rigid (it’s thirteen eps, including Mission to the Unknown, remember, that’s the length of an RTD season!) so maybe a vague Bad Wolf-ish arc would have been better, but, for what we’ve got, it’s an investment, and one I doubt the modern audience would make.
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