Mission to the Unknown

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019 – "Mission to the Unknown"
Doctor Who episode
Mission to the Unknown.jpg
The Daleks collude with the masters of the Fifth Galaxy on a diabolical scheme
Directed byDerek Martinus
Written byTerry Nation
Script editorDonald Tosh
Produced byVerity Lambert
Executive producer(s)None
Incidental music composerStock music by Trevor Duncan
Production codeT/A, T Episode 5, or DC
SeriesSeason 3
Length1 episode, 25 minutes
Episode(s) missing1 episode, 25 minutes
First broadcast9 October 1965 (1965-10-09)
← Preceded by
Galaxy 4
Followed by →
The Myth Makers
Doctor Who episodes (1963–1989)

"Mission to the Unknown", sometimes known as "Dalek Cutaway" and also "Dalek Cutaway-Mission to the Unknown" and "The Beasts from UGH" in publicity material [1] [2], is a missing episode of the third season of the British science fiction television series Doctor Who, first broadcast on 9 October 1965. The sole standalone episode of the show's original run (apart from the 1983 feature-length anniversary special The Five Doctors, which was later shown in a multi-episode form) it serves as an introduction to the 12-part story The Daleks' Master Plan. It is also notable for the complete absence of the regular cast, including the Doctor (although William Hartnell is still credited on-screen). The story focuses on Space Security Agent Marc Cory (Edward de Souza) and his attempts to warn Earth of the Daleks' latest plan. Although audio recordings of the episode exist, no footage is known to have survived.



On the planet Kembel, Marc Cory and Gordon Lowery are trying to repair their spaceship, while another crewmember, Jeff Garvey, is lying on the ground, out of their sight. He awakes, in pain and in a violent state of mind. He keeps behind the ship to make sure that neither of the men sees him. He raises his gun to fire at Lowery, but Cory sees Garvey and shoots him. Cory pulls a long thorn, a Varga thorn, out of Garvey from behind the ear. He warns Lowery that if he stung himself on it he would have to kill him too.

The two men go into the spaceship, leaving Garvey's body. Garvey’s hand begins to twitch and hair and thorns start to grow all over his body. He is becoming a Varga plant. Cory has a licence to kill from the Space Security Service and enlists Lowery to help him. Cory explains that the Daleks have been gaining control of many planets and that a Dalek spaceship has been spotted in this solar system.

Cory tries to contact their rendezvous ship, but cannot get through, and their own ship is beyond repair. Cory believes the Daleks have a base on Kembel and that is why he and Lowery are there. He explains that the Varga plant is native to the Daleks' home planet Skaro and that you become a Varga plant if you prick yourself on it. This is further evidence that the Daleks could be on Kembel.

In the Dalek city on Kembel, the Dalek Supreme waits to be updated on the latest developments. He is told that the representatives from the seven planets will be arriving for a meeting. He tells a Dalek to destroy Cory and Lowery.

Elsewhere in the Kembel jungle, the Daleks are discussing how to exterminate the humans. Lowery (who is building a rescue beacon) and Cory are more concerned with the Varga plants than the Daleks. A spaceship flies above them and they realise the Daleks are planning something big.

Lowery finishes the rescue beacon and is about to record a message when they notice something moving in the jungle. They duck behind some bushes as four Daleks enter the landing area and destroy the ship. Cory and Lowery head deeper into the jungle and Lowery discovers a Varga thorn in his hand.

In the Dalek city, the representatives from the seven galaxies have gathered in a conference room. They are worried about the humans, who they believe are hostile, but the Daleks assure them that the humans will be dealt with. The representatives all approve the Dalek plans to conquer Earth.

Cory discovers that Lowery is becoming a Varga plant and kills him. Cory then picks up the rescue beacon and starts recording his message. The Daleks find and exterminate him, but the beacon and the message survive. All the representatives pledge an alliance with the Dalek cause, and start to repeat "Victory."


EpisodeTitleRun timeOriginal air dateUK viewers
(millions) [3]
Archive [4]
1"Mission to the Unknown"24:429 October 1965 (1965-10-09)8.3Only stills and/or fragments exist

^† Episode is missing

The episode came about because producer Verity Lambert wanted to give the cast regulars an extra week's holiday between the second and third production blocks, extending their break from five weeks to six, and so it was decided to make the final episode in serial T a one-off story introducing elements of the forthcoming story The Daleks' Master Plan (Serial V) without including any of the regular actors.[5] The episode was made by the same team as Galaxy 4[6] (Serial T), with both stories sharing pre-filming. It was also the final Doctor Who episode on which Verity Lambert served as producer.

Terry Nation wrote this episode partially as an attempt to create a story about the Daleks that did not involve the Doctor or his companions, so that he could eventually develop and sell the idea of a Dalek series, divorced from the Doctor Who universe. In the proposed series, the Space Security Service was tasked with hunting Daleks, and it would follow their adventures—an approach that can be seen in short stories and comic strips written for the 1965 Dalek Outer Space Book (cover dated 1966). An unmade pilot titled The Destroyers was written, but the series concept was never sold.

Alternative titles and production codes[edit]

Perhaps more than any other Doctor Who story, "Mission to the Unknown" generates confusion and debate over both the title used and the serial/production code allocated. All Doctor Who stories from this period have no overall on-screen title, with the story referred to either by a production code or an internal title by the production team. (For example, the early 1965 story featuring Nero was Serial M or The Romans.) The two were confusingly used interchangeably in many production and overseas sales documents. "Mission to the Unknown" generates further confusion because some documents do not refer to it as a serial but rather as a "cutaway episode". As the story was produced alongside Galaxy 4 the two appear to have been referred to together. Several of the production codes offered are either Serial T or Serial T +, an appendage.

The camera script calls the episode "Doctor Who: Mission to the Unknown", but in the left margin the words "Dalek Cutaway" are typed. A handwritten addition on the front sheet states "Serial T Episode 4" (which actually is the production code for the episode from the week prior).[7] In the Programme as Broadcast document, the episode is titled "Dalek Cutaway – Mission to the Unknown". No production code appears.[8] In a production memo provided to the new producer John Wiles, dated May 1965 and called "The History of Doctor Who", the episode is called "Serial DC".[7] In a design document dated 9 July, the episode is referred to as "T/A Episode 1", and in another dated 20 July, it is called "Serial T, Episode 5".[7] In 1969, when the videotape of the episode was due to be wiped (although this did not actually happen until July 1974), the relevant paperwork referred to it as "Serial Ta Episode 1/1".

When it came to offering the story for sale overseas, the synopsis sent by BBC Enterprises gave the title as "Mission to the Unknown (Dalek Cutaway)". The 1974 Enterprises document A Quick Guide to Doctor Who, which listed the stories produced so far for potential overseas buyers, gave the title as "Dalek Cutaway (Mission to the Unknown)" and did not offer any production code at all. When fans started compiling reference books in the mid-1970s, it was this latter document which formed the basis of many lists. The story was referred to alternatively as "Dalek Cutaway" and "Mission to the Unknown" on many occasions, whilst the production code went vacant until the discovery of the design documents stating T/A. In more recent years the exploration of the BBC's written archives has exposed the problems of the title and production code.[citation needed]

Cast notes[edit]

This is the only Doctor Who story that does not feature the character of the Doctor or the TARDIS at all. Despite this, William Hartnell is still credited as "Dr. Who"—this was because his contract specified he would be credited for all episodes, including those in which he appeared only in the reprise or did not feature at all. The Doctor's companions Vicki (Maureen O'Brien) and Steven Taylor (Peter Purves) do not appear either. Unlike Hartnell, their contracts did not guarantee they would be credited, though they were in the BBC listings magazine Radio Times[9] (and episode guides taking their information from there).

The alien delegates seen at the Daleks' HQ on Kembel would return in The Daleks' Master Plan, but recast with some make-up and costume changes and with a notably different line-up including some speaking characters, leading to some confusion over which is which. The disparity only came to light when the Master Plan episode "Day of Armageddon" was returned to the BBC archives.

Barry Jackson had previously appeared as Ascaris in The Romans and would appear as Drax in The Armageddon Factor (1979). Jeremy Young had previously played Kal in An Unearthly Child (1963). Edward de Souza would later play Mortimer Davey in the audio play The Roof of the World.

2019 remake[edit]

Students at the University of Central Lancashire are recreating a film of the episode with the involvement of Peter Purves, Edward de Souza and Nicholas Briggs in 2019.[10]

Commercial releases[edit]

In print[edit]

Mission to the Unknown
Doctor Who Mission to the Unknown.jpg
AuthorJohn Peel
Cover artistAlister Pearson
SeriesDoctor Who book:
Target novelisations
Release number
PublisherTarget Books
Publication date
21 September 1989

The story was novelised as part of The Daleks' Master Plan I: Mission to the Unknown by John Peel, published in September 1989. The rest of the book contained an adaptation of the first six episodes of The Daleks' Master Plan.

An unabridged reading of the book by Peter Purves and Jean Marsh, with Dalek voices supplied by Nicholas Briggs, was released by BBC Audiobooks in May 2010. The title was slightly modified to Daleks – Mission to the Unknown.

Home media[edit]

This story is one of three (the others being Marco Polo and The Massacre of St Bartholomew's Eve) to survive in audio form only, with no broadcast footage of any form currently known to exist. The audio was released as part of the soundtrack CD The Daleks' Master Plan. A reconstruction of the episode was produced by Loose Cannon Productions in 2000, using set photographs and the existing audio.[11]


  1. ^ BBC Written Archives Centre T66/25/1
  2. ^ https://www.gettyimages.co.uk/detail/news-photo/verity-lambert-on-the-set-of-doctor-who-where-the-beasts-news-photo/592227834
  3. ^ "Ratings Guide". Doctor Who News. Retrieved 28 May 2017.
  4. ^ Shaun Lyon; et al. (31 March 2007). "Mission to the Unknown". Outpost Gallifrey. Archived from the original on 18 June 2008. Retrieved 30 August 2008.
  5. ^ Howe-Stammers-Walker, Doctor Who: The Handbook: The First Doctor (London: BBC Book, 1994), pp. 280–81, 285.
  6. ^ http://www.bbc.co.uk/doctorwho/classic/episodeguide/missiontounknown/detail.shtml
  7. ^ a b c Andrew Pixley, "A Question of Answers," TSV 53 (March 1998)"A Question of Answers".
  8. ^ "Programme as Broadcast document" (PDF).
  9. ^ https://www.radiotimes.com/news/2009-01-29/mission-to-the-unknown/
  10. ^ Allen, Ben (20 February 2019). "Classic Doctor Who companion Peter Purves helps recreate lost episode Mission to the Unknown". Radio Times. Retrieved 20 February 2019.
  11. ^ "Mission To The Unknown (aka Dalek Cutaway)". Loose Cannon Productions. Archived from the original on 6 May 2014. Retrieved 12 June 2014.
  • By Any Other Name – Article by Andrew Pixley detailing the problems of early Doctor Who story titles.

External links[edit]


Target novelisation[edit]