Planet of the Daleks
Planet of the Daleks was the fourth serial in season ten of Doctor Who. It was the penultimate serial for Katy Manning and the conclusion of a loose, dual-serial storyline begun in Frontier in Space. It was also a direct sequel to the very first Dalek serial, showing what had happened to the Thals after the First Doctor met them in The Daleks and the heroic legacy the Doctor left on their culture.
Behind the scenes, it was writer Terry Nation’s first Doctor Who commission since the 1965 Christmas episode, “The Feast of Steven” and director David Maloney’s first story since The War Games.
Immediately after the events of Frontier in Space: the Third Doctor has been shot and gravely wounded by the Master. Jo helps him into the TARDIS, where he uses the telepathic circuits to send a message to the Time Lords before he collapses.
Delirious, he tells Jo that he may be asleep for a while. He falls into a coma, his body temperature dipping so low that frost appears on his skin and both his hearts beat only once every ten seconds.
Jo dictates into the TARDIS log, a portable recording device, that she has seen this healing state before. She states that the TARDIS is moving, apparently being controlled remotely by the Time Lords. When it halts, Jo activates the external scanners, only to see plants outside. They block the viewer by spraying a thick, sap-like liquid at it. With the Doctor catatonic, Jo leaves the ship to explore the surrounding jungle. The plants spray sap on her as she walks by. Some of it gets on her exposed hand.
As Jo explores, the TARDIS is rapidly covered by plant sap, hardening into a shell around it. When the Doctor awakens, he finds himself sealed in. The oxygen in the TARDIS cabin is rapidly being used up. He activates the emergency oxygen supply and finds the tanks almost empty. He starts to suffocate. Jo, in the meantime, discovers a spacecraft in the jungle with a dead pilot. She is found by two others in the same uniform — Taron, who appears to be the leader, and Vaber, who has a surly disposition. Taron is intrigued when Jo tells him about the TARDIS. They are joined by another crew member, Codal, who warns them a patrol is approaching. Taron tells Jo to hide in the spacecraft while he and the others find her friend. Jo hides in a storage cupboard while an invisible entity enters and searches the craft. She avoids discovery, but a fungoid growth has appeared on her hand and is starting to spread.
Taron and his men find the TARDIS and chip the hardened sap from its doors, dragging the nearly asphyxiated Doctor outside. The Doctor thanks them and notes he finds them familiar. When the men say they are from the planet Skaro, the Doctor recognizes them as Thals and tells them he was on Skaro many years ago. The Thals are skeptical when he claims to be the famous Doctor of Thal legend, but he gives them enough details to mollify them. Taron tells the Doctor that he has been infected by a fungus carried by the sap and treats him with a spray. It would have engulfed and killed him had Taron not done so.
They are on Spiridon, a planet where the plant life is more animal than vegetable. There are creatures hostile to everyone, including themselves, and extremes of day and night temperature. These Thals are the only survivors of a military expedition. Taron orders a halt to their progress through the jungle when they hear something breaking down. Nothing is seen except a circular depression in the ground. Giving the Doctor another spray can, Taron tells him that he will see what they are up against. The Doctor sprays the seemingly empty air before him. It reveals the outline of a Dalek…
The Dalek is inactive, dead from what the Thals call “light wave sickness”. The Spiridons, the dominant species on the planet, can generate an “anti-reflecting light wave” which the Daleks are trying to duplicate. However, it takes a tremendous amount of power and cannot be long sustained. The Spiridons have been subjugated and enslaved by the Daleks, but there are no more than twelve Daleks on the planet. Back in the spaceship, Jo has passed out as the fungus spreads across her forearm. An invisible Spiridon enters the spacecraft and takes her away.
A Spiridon patrol comes across the Thals and the Doctor. Codal leads them away from the others, but is captured. When they make it back to the craft, they find the TARDIS log on the ground and two Daleks about to destroy the ship. Believing Jo still inside, the Doctor steps forward and begs the Daleks to stop, but the patrol shoots him with a stun ray. He watches helplessly as the spacecraft is blasted to pieces. Taron and Vaber remain hidden and go off to retrieve the supplies for their mission on Spiridon.
The Doctor is taken to the Dalek base for interrogation and put in the same cell as Codal, whom he tries to cheer up. The Doctor tries to open the cell door with his sonic screwdriver, but to no avail. Codal and he decide to modify the components of the TARDIS log to emit a radio frequency to jam Dalek control impulses. Meanwhile, Jo is being cared for by the Spiridon who found her. His name is Wester and he is one of a group of his people who are trying to fight back against the Daleks. He cures her of her fungal infection with a salve and tells Jo that the Doctor and Codal have been captured and taken to the Dalek base. Jo is determined to free them, even though Wester says that if the Daleks use them for their experiments, they are better off dead.
Vaber and Taron find the explosives that they hid earlier. Vaber wants to attack the Daleks now. He accuses Taron of being overcautious and cowardly when Taron refuses. Vaber draws his gun and threatens to shoot Taron if he does not hand over the explosives, but before things can get out of hand the heat and roar of another spacecraft rush over their heads. It is another Thal vessel, but the entry angle is too steep and their weapons are lost in the crash that follows. Only three Thals have survived — two men, Latep and Marat, and a woman, Rebec. Taron is unhappy to see Rebec. She happens to be his lover. Rebec tells him that they intercepted a message to Dalek Supreme Command saying that the Dalek army on Spiridon was now complete: a force of not a dozen, but ten thousand Daleks.
Jo and Wester see fur-wearing Spiridons entering the Dalek base, carrying crates of vegetation. The Daleks are experimenting with a plant-destroying bacterium. Jo hides on one of the crates and smuggles herself into the base. Taron shows Rebec another feature of Spiridon — a liquid allotrope of ice that exists in the core of the planet and erupts to the surface like lava. The Daleks use it as a cooling system, with ice tunnels that lead into the base. Taron plans to use them to infiltrate and cause a distraction while Vaber and Latep wait by the entrance with the explosives. A Dalek is sent to interrogate the Doctor and Codal, who use the improvised jamming device on it successfully, but the device is destroyed in the process. Making their way through the corridors, they find the three Thals, who are struggling to get out of the tunnels before a molten ice eruption floods them. Jamming the shaft doors open and getting them out, all run as a Dalek patrol enters the corridor, and is covered by the molten ice rushing out of the cooling tunnel.
The rest stumble into a chamber while Marat, weakened from the cold, covers their retreat. He is exterminated by the Daleks, who find a map on him showing where the explosives are hidden. The Doctor seals the doors with his sonic screwdriver. The Dalek Section Leader sends a patrol to find and destroy the explosives, while others are sent for cutting equipment. Jo overhears the orders and follows the Dalek patrol out of the city. Trapped in the chamber, the Thals and the Doctor find a huge refrigeration unit pumping excess heat up through a ventilation shaft that leads to the surface. The Doctor also discovers the Dalek army stored in an adjoining chamber, sleeping in suspended animation. The four improvise a hot-air balloon from plastic sheeting but there doesn’t seem to be enough lift to carry all of them, and the Daleks have nearly cut through the door…
There is finally enough lift for the improvised hot air balloon to carry the Doctor and the Thals up the shaft, they rise up out of the room just as the Daleks break through the door. A gravitational disk is sent for so that a Dalek can follow them up the shaft while another patrol is sent to the shaft’s exit on the surface. The Dalek patrol sent for the explosives activates the timed detonators and leaves. Jo sneaks up to try and deactivate the timers, but only manages two before being knocked out by a stone from the crumbling cliff-face the explosives were hidden against. She awakens barely in time to grab the deactivated bombs and take cover before the third goes off, conveniently destroying the Dalek patrol sent to intercept the Thals.
Meanwhile, the Thals and the Doctor reach the top of the shaft and drop a rock on the pursuing Dalek, sending it plummeting to the bottom. Making their way away from the shaft, they meet Jo, whom the Doctor is overjoyed to see again; he thought her killed when the Thal ship was destroyed. The Doctor explains that his telepathic signal was to tell the Time Lords the location of this planet — he had learned that there was a Dalek invasion force here while on the planet of the Ogrons. The Time Lords steered the TARDIS here. Latep and Vaber also rejoin the group. They had thought the others were killed in the ice eruption and were about to assault the city when they found one of their bombs was a dud and the others destroyed by the Daleks. Jo shows them the two bombs she rescued.
The group decide to hide in the Plain of Stones, an area of Spiridon with rocks that absorb heat from the sun by day and discharge it at night. They avoid a combined Dalek/Spiridon patrol as night falls and the temperature drops. The Doctor notices the Daleks seem to be moving slower than usual. In the Dalek base, one reports to the Section Leader that the bacteria will destroy all plant life within a day and unimmunized life forms within an hour. It will be ready in half a Spiridon day. At the Plain of Stones, Vaber and Taron come to blows again about when to take action. During the night, Vaber steals the two bombs and sneaks away from the camp. Taron and Codal go in pursuit as the others huddle around the campfire, surrounded by anima with eyes glowing in the darkness. Vaber is caught by the Spiridons, who bring him to a Dalek patrol as Taron and Codal watch, hidden and disguised in the fur coats the Spiridons wear.
When the Daleks try to force Vaber to lead them to the Thals, Vaber breaks away and is exterminated. Taron and Codal use this distraction to grab the two bombs and vanish into the forest.
The Daleks have developed an immunization process against the bacteria. Orders are sent out for all Daleks and Spiridon slaves to return to the base for immunization before the bacteria is released. On the Plain of Stones, Wester shows up to tell Jo that the Daleks have developed the deadly bacteria and he is going to try to enter the base and stop its release. The Doctor devises a plan using nearby pools of molten ice. Deducing that the ice slows and even stops the Daleks from functioning, the group lure a Dalek patrol to them, and push the two Daleks into the pools. The sudden drop in temperature kills them. Taron, Codal and the Doctor dress in Spiridon furs while Rebec sits in the emptied Dalek casing so they can enter the base undetected with one of the bombs. Latep and Jo will enter the city via the ventilation shaft with the other bomb, in a two-pronged attack.
As the first group enters the city, they see Wester entering the bacteria preparation chamber under the pretense of delivering a report. Wester releases the bacteria into the sealed room, sacrificing himself, but ensuring that the room cannot be unsealed without killing the other Daleks. The group try to move deeper into the base, but one of the Thals’ boots is spotted by a Dalek, who sounds the alert.
The group flees down the corridors, making their way back to the cooling chamber. Once there, the Doctor asks Rebec and Taron to barricade the entrance while he finds a way to keep the Dalek army from reviving. Codal and he decide to set an explosive in the wall of the chamber holding the Dalek army, which are slowly coming to life. In the meantime, the Dalek Supreme, a member of the Dalek High Council, has arrived in a spaceship to oversee the final stages of the operation. It exterminates the Section Leader for incompetence. Jo and Latep finally arrive at the cooling chamber and use their bomb to destroy a squad of Daleks before joining the others. As another patrol comes through, the bomb set in the chamber wall explodes. Molten ice rushes out to flood the chamber, freezing the Dalek army for centuries to come. The group escapes over a ramp that leads to the surface while the rest of the Daleks abandon the base, which is filling with molten ice.
The group makes its way to the Dalek Supreme’s spacecraft. The Doctor asks Taron not to glorify what has happened, nor make war sound like an adventure. The Thals were a peaceful people and he would hate to see them change. Taron and Rebec promise and the Thals enter the spacecraft and leave for Skaro. The Doctor and Jo run back to the TARDIS, pursued by the Dalek Supreme and the other Daleks. They de-materialize just as the Daleks open fire. The Dalek Supreme orders operations to recover the invasion force and contact the Dalek High Council for a rescue ship. The Daleks have been delayed, but will never be defeated….