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Mission to the Unknown
Series: Doctor Who -
TV Stories
Season Number: Season 3
Story Number: 19
Doctor: none
Companions: none
Setting: Kembel; 3999 or 4000
Writer: Terry Nation
Director: Derek Martinus
Broadcast: 9th October 1965
Format: 1 25-minute episode
Previous Story: Galaxy 4
Following Story: The Myth Makers
" is vital that defence mechanisms are put into operation at once!"
―Marc Cory

"Mission to the Unknown" was a single-episode prologue to The Daleks' Master Plan. It was the last episode of Doctor Who for which Verity Lambert received a producing credit. It is the only episode of Doctor Who not to feature the Doctor or his companions at all.



On the planet Kembel, Space Security Service agent Marc Cory is investigating a recent sighting of a Dalek spaceship. His suspicion that the creatures may have established a base here proves well-founded. He learns of a plot by the Daleks to invade and destroy the solar system, but is discovered and exterminated.


Gordon Lowery

Jeff Garvey is lying on the ground. He wakes and sits up. He twists his face in agony and when the pain passes he stands. He starts repeating "Kill, kill." Meanwhile Marc Cory and Gordon Lowery are attempting to repair their ship. It isn't going very well. Lowery is wondering why Cory landed on the planet Kembel in the first place. They are also wondering about where Garvey has gone.

Garvey is watching the two men working on the ship, still repeating "kill, kill." He keeps behind the ship to make sure that neither of the men sees him. Garvey raises his gun to fire at Lowery, but Cory shoots Garvey first. Garvey is in a lot of pain and then lies still. Cory pulls a long Varga thorn out from behind Garvey's ear. He tells Lowery to be careful because if he stung himself on it, he would have to kill him, too.

Cory and Lowery go into the spaceship leaving Garvey's body. Garvey's hand begins to twitch, and hair starts to grow all over his body, as well as Varga thorns; he is becoming a Varga plant. Cory has a license to kill from the Space Security Service and he enlists Lowery to help him. Cory explains that the Daleks have been gaining control of many planets and that a Dalek spaceship was spotted in the Solar System.

Garvey is twitching with life as spines are growing all over his body.

Cory tries to contact the rendezvous ship, but they can't get through. It has dawned upon Corey and Lowery that they can't repair the ship. Cory believes the Daleks have a base on Kembel and that is why they he and Lowery are there. He also 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 another reason why the Daleks could be there. There are Daleks on Kembel!

In the Dalek city on Kembel, the Dalek Supreme waits to be updated on the latest developments. He is updated and told that the representatives from the Seven Planets will be arriving soon and their meeting can start. He also tells a normal Dalek to destroy Cory and Lowery.

Cory and Lowery are being observed by three Varga plants. Lowery is making a rescue beacon. Elsewhere in the Kembel jungle, the Daleks are discussing tactics on how to exterminate the humans. Cory and Lowery however are more concerned with the Varga plants than the Daleks. Lowery continues to make the rescue beacon. A spaceship flies above them and the Daleks are planning something big.

Lowery finishes the rescue beacon and just needs to record a message. Cory and Lowery notice something moving in the jungle and duck behind some bushes as four Daleks glide into the landing area. They destroy Lowery's spaceship. Cory and Lowery head deeper into the jungle and Lowery discovers a Varga thorn deeply embedded in his hand; he pulls it out and frantically attempts to suck out the poison. They continue to walk deeper into the jungle.

In the Dalek city, the representatives from the seven galaxies have gathered in a conference room. They are worried about the humans; they believe they are hostile, but the Daleks assure them that the humans will be dealt with. The representatives all agree with a treaty the Daleks have written and that they will conquer Earth first.

Lowery is in pain and is still trying to suck the Varga poison out of his hand. He realises that Varga spines are growing all over his body and quickly covers them when he hears Cory returning. Cory heard what the Daleks said on the loudspeaker and he realises that Lowery is becoming a Varga plant. He kills Lowery. Cory then picks up the rescue beacon and starts recording his message.

Elsewhere in the jungle, a Dalek says that they must kill the humans. Cory is surrounded by Daleks and is exterminated; the beacon and the message, however, survive. All the representatives pledge an alliance to the Dalek cause and start to repeat "Victory."




  • The term "the Solar System" here seems to refer to the entire Milky Way Galaxy. This may be because Humanity controls the whole Galaxy and the Solar System is at the heart of this Empire.
  • The Space Security Service know of Skaro, and recognise Dalek ships and those from the 'outer galaxies'.
  • Varga plants originate from Skaro, having been created in Dalek labs.

Story Notes

  • The Doctor, Steven Taylor and Vicki never appear and never get a mention in this adventure. We experience the story through Marc Cory.
  • "Mission to the Unknown" is the only Doctor Who episode that does not feature the character of the Doctor or the TARDIS at all. Despite this, William Hartnell was still credited on-screen. This was because his contract specified he would be credited for all episodes. While the revived series frequently would do "Doctor-lite" episodes, to date these have all featured the Doctor in cameos.
  • 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. Radio Times credits 'William Hartnell as Dr. Who, and Maureen O'Brien, Peter Purves', but omits their characters from the actual cast list.
  • Terry Nation wrote this partially as an attempt to create a story about the Daleks that did not involve the Doctor so that he could eventually develop and sell the idea of a Dalek television series, divorced from the Doctor Who universe. In the proposed series (which would not have featured the Doctor, as Nation had no copyright in the character), 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.
  • This episode was produced due to the editing of Planet of Giants from 4 episodes to 3.
  • The episode was made by the same team as Galaxy 4, with both stories sharing pre-filming and, possibly, the same production code
  • A direct link to this story is made in the first episode of The Daleks' Master Plan when the Doctor recovers the tape recorder used by Cory to record his final message. "Mission" thus presents an unusual example of the story-to-story narrative framework that was commonplace in the Hartnell era. The final scene of Galaxy 4 leads both to "Mission" and to The Myth Makers, whereas the final scene of "Mission" leads only to the first episode of Master Plan. At the end of Galaxy 4 Vicki complains of a sprained ankle. As she sits down she notices the planet Kembel on the view scanner. This leads to a short scene with Garvey. When we next see the TARDIS at the beginning of Myth, Vicki still has the problem with her ankle. Thus there is the usual "narrative flow" between stories, but the Daleks' story and the Doctor's story are interspersed.
  • Both Mission to the Unknown and The Daleks' Master Plan were the only 1960s Doctor Who stories that were offered for overseas sale but never purchased.

Title and Production Code

Perhaps more than any other Doctor Who production, 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.

Early in 1965 the term Dalek Cutaway started to be used to describe the episode in the production office. The onscreen title Mission to the Unknown came later but both continued in circulation, with Dalek Cutaway seemingly being used in places as both a story title and a production term. The abbreviation "DC" also appears on a few early production documents.

Design documents successively refer to the episode as "Serial T/A" and later "Serial T Episode 5". The episode's camera script gives Dalek Cutaway as a description and a handwritten addition states "Serial T Episode 4" (which is the wrong number). Later when the videotape of the episode was wiped the relevant paperwork referred to "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.


  • Mission to the Unknown - 8.3 million viewers


  • The members of the alliance were named Malpha, Desmir, Stifka, Hjbuj, Pteron, Dbremen and Leemon. (These names, apart from Malpha, were made up for an Australian fan-published novelisation. In the transmitted story only Malpha and the planet Gearon are named.)
  • This is the only episode not to feature the Doctor. (That's not strictly true. There are episodes — such as The Keys of Marinus episodes 3 and 4 — which do not feature the Doctor because Hartnell was on holiday. In such situations, the Doctor was sidelined from the main action by being described as ill, on a mission, or captured. But this is the only one in which the narrative explicitly fails to include the Doctor in any way. Moreover, it is true to say that this is the only episode where neither the Doctor nor any of his companions are around.)

Filming Locations

Discontinuity, Plot Holes, Errors

  • Why would the Daleks announce their secret plans on the loudspeaker? Only the people who were involved in the plan would have heard it so there was no need not to use a loudspeaker.
  • Dialogue appears to name the Daleks as natives of Mutter's Spiral. This seems to contradict other information which places Skaro outside Earth's galaxy.



Some chroniclers place ST: "Planet of the Bunnoids", "Mars" and "The Long Step Backward" between Galaxy 4 and The Myth Makers. However, all these stories fail to account for the sprained ankle that Vicki suffers in Galaxy 4 and continues to endure in The Myth Makers. Of these short stories, only "Planet of the Bunnoids" make any positive reference to Galaxy 4, but it, too, forgets that Galaxy 4 is continuous with Myth. A more logical placement for "Mars" and "Backward" is between The Time Meddler and Galaxy 4, while "Bunnoids" is difficult to definitively place anywhere.

DVD, Video and Other Releases

  • No footage of this story survives in the archives, although the full audio does still exist.
  • This was was made available on CD as part of The Daleks' Master Plan, first released by the BBC Radio Collection in October 2001.


Main article: The Daleks' Master Plan Part 1: Mission to the Unknown
  • Novelised as part of The Daleks' Master Plan Part 1: Mission to the Unknown by John Peel in 1989.

See also

External Links

  • Official BBC Page for Mission to the Unknown
  • Doctor Who Reference Guide: Detailed Synopsis - Mission to the Unknown
  • Mission to the Unknown transcript
  • A Brief History of Time (Travel) entry for Mission to the Unknown
  • Loose Canon Productions reconstruction page for Mission to the Unknown
  • Encyclopedia of Fantastic Film and Television entry on Mission to the Unknown
Season 3
Galaxy 4  • Mission to the Unknown  • The Myth Makers  • The Daleks' Master Plan  • The Massacre of St Bartholomew's Eve  • The Ark  • The Celestial Toymaker  • The Gunfighters  • The Savages  • The War Machines
Dalek television stories
Major appearances: The Daleks  • The Dalek Invasion of Earth  • The Chase  • Mission to the Unknown  • The Daleks' Master Plan  • The Power of the Daleks  • The Evil of the Daleks  • Day of the Daleks  • Planet of the Daleks  • Death to the Daleks  • Genesis of the Daleks  • Destiny of the Daleks  • Resurrection of the Daleks  • Revelation of the Daleks  • Remembrance of the Daleks  • Dalek • Bad Wolf/ The Parting of the Ways  • Army of Ghosts/Doomsday  • Daleks in Manhattan / Evolution of the Daleks  • The Stolen Earth / Journey's End
Minor appearances: The Space Museum  • The Wheel in Space  • The War Games  • The Mind of Evil  • Frontier in Space  • Logopolis  • The Five Doctors  • The TV Movie  • Human Nature  • The Waters of Mars
Non-canonical: The Curse of Fatal Death
 • Complete List of Appearances •
This page uses content from the English Wikipedia. The original article was at Mission_to_the_Unknown. The list of authors can be seen in the page history. As with the TARDIS Index File, the text of Wikipedia is available under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike License 3.0 (Unported) (CC-BY-SA).

This article uses material from the "Mission to the Unknown" article on the Dr Who wiki at Wikia and is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike License.


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