Frontier in Space – Planet of the Daleks
The much herald return of the Daleks after a five year absence from the program in “Day of the Daleks” was not greeted with high scores by most of the programs staunchest fans. While the overall story was sound one and well suited for the Daleks, the overall poor production values add to the rather obviously small Dalek force (the BBC had only three working Dalek props for that production, all painted three separate colors), made the episode look rather silly. Fortunately for the next story, the problems that plagued the previous one were quickly overcome. “Frontier in Space/Planet of the Daleks” creates a 12 part story arc that returned the Dalek’s on screen presence to their 1960’s glory. It was a much anticipated return of the Doctor’s greatest enemy.
The teaming of the Daleks and the Master was a great innovation, allowing the Doctor to spar with the original Master for the last time, as Roger Delgado died in June 1973. Keeping the Daleks hidden throughout the first half of the story added to the mystery, and their appearance at the end of part six of “Frontier in Space” was a great surprise. While the before mentioned three Daleks (one gray, one dark gray and one gold) from “Day of the Daleks” make their appearance at the end of “Frontier,” the concluding “Planet” story line presented four newly constructed, and painted Daleks, which were added to the ranks of the other three, which also received new paint jobs. In addition an Aaru film prop (which had been presented to Terry Nation and used in the episode as the Dalek Supreme) made its second television appearance outfitted with jam jars for dome lights and a flashlight for the eyepiece! The first appearance was during “The Chase” where two Daleks sporting dark domes can be seen in the Dalek time capsule (standing next to the lift with the card board Dalek on it), to boost up their ranks. Astute views will also notice the absence of shoulder slats (these Daleks were from the first film) and base sections, the latter being removed to make the film props the same height as their TV counter-parts.
“Frontier/Planet” also established the connection between The Master and The Daleks that author Terrance Dicks used in his New Adventure novel “The Eight Doctors,” to explain the situation presented in the Doctor Who FOX television movie (unofficially titled, “The Enemy Within”). Having the Master’s “trial & execution” presented as an elaborate ploy by both the Daleks and The Master to trap the Doctor, answers the question from the TV movie as to why the Daleks did not just exterminate the Doctor as soon as he arrived on Skaro to collect The Master’s “ashes.” In addition the Master’s defeat at the end of “Frontier” can establish the reason for his horrible condition in “The Deadly Assassin,” as it was caused by The Daleks “exterminating” him after his failure. This is a much better explanation than the one used in the televised episode where it is explained that he just “used up” his regenerations. In addition the “extermination” explanation is much better that John Peel’s explanation in “Legacy of the Daleks” where the Doctor’s granddaughter Susan is the cause for his condition. Although John’s version does answer the question of where Susan is regarding Earth’s future history after David has died and she regenerated. For the purposes of this tome however, it has been decided to leave this question of the Master’s fate alone for a while, as both version (The Daleks caused it; Susan caused it), have merit.
As soon as The Master has stepped from his TARDIS the Daleks immediately arrested and transported him to a holding cell deep within the lower chambers of Central Command. Not exactly sure if this was the Doctor or not, and completely weary of all other races, the Supreme Council was not ready to accept this “Master’s” claims that he and he alone could bring the Daleks ultimate power. Locking him in one of the security cells deep within the Dalek City, the Master was left to wait, while Dalek scientists began a through examination of his TARDIS. Besides, the Daleks had more pressing problems at the moment. Weakened when their time travel technology had been damaged by the Doctor (when he destroyed the alternate Earth timeline), the Thals, who had been living on the outer planets of the Skaroian system, were amassing a force on their outer frontiers. This was seen as a small problem for the Supreme Council, for Dalek forces were confidant that their numbers could easily defeat the Thals. But soon the Thals began to attack several of the Dalek’s establishments, and the Supreme Council was faced with engaging once again, in a full-scale war with their ancestral enemies.
This however was not the only problem the daleks had to face. With the destruction of the alternate timeline, the earth Federation returned as a serious threat to Dalek control of the galaxy. Looking for any development that would give them the advantage, the Dalek scientific expeditions began searching their corner of the galaxy for anything that might give them the advantage. Reports soon reached Skaro, via one of these expeditions, that the inhabitants of the planet Spiridon had developed the technology to bend light around any object, thus perfecting individualized cloaking technology. This was something that the Daleks could definitely use. The claims of this “Master” were unimportant for the moment, for the Supreme Council knew that had to take advantage of this discovery. Quickly amassing a small fleet, the Daleks set off towards Spiridon.
Although an extremely hostile planet, the people of the planet Spiridon were basically peaceful. Never interested in the mysteries of space, Spiridoian society turned their sciences toward survival on their hostile planet. What resulted was an artistic joining of art and science in all their endeavors. Their cities were monuments to simplicity, yet functional in artistic design. Although developing this cloaking device, they held no aggressive tendencies, and maintained little to no planetary defenses. From high orbit above the planet, and without any warning, the Dalek fleet bombarded the surface of Spiridon with the bacteria bombs which had served them so well in the past. Almost immediately all animal life was wiped out. Dalek attack ships swooped down onto the Spiridoian surface, destroying all of the major cities. As soon as Dalek saucers landed on the surface of the planet, Dalek scientists quickly began investigating the Spiridoian cloaking technology. After a few short months, all resistance on the planet was subjugated, and Spiridon belonged to the Daleks. Armed with the Spiridoians as a new slave work force, the Daleks quickly began to take full advantage of their new position. Concerned over the Earth Federation learning of their presence, they quickly entombed themselves deep within the planet’s surface, setting up their command base several miles under the ruins of the Spiridoian capital city. Secured in the knowledge that the Earth forces had no idea of their conquest of the planet, the Daleks began exploring the surface of the planet, searching for any and all raw materials that could be looted and taken back to Skaro. As ship after ship full of plunder left the planet surface, scientists began to investigate Spiridon’s strange liquid ice core. Soon their scientists realized that Spiridon would be the perfect point from which to launch a new conquest of the galaxy. Although the Thal threat still existed on Skaro, once again the Daleks turned their attention to the conquest of the galaxy.
For the Thals, life on the outer planets was harsh. Survival on a day to day bases was a constant struggle. And yet, the events of the past few years had brought hope to their nation. With Dalek space and time technology severely damaged by the re-setting of the timelines, the Thals took the advantage to re-establish themselves in the isolated sections of the Drammankin mountains. From there, they carried out a series of successive raids on Dalek installations.
Throughout the galaxy the Earth Federation had begun to fragment. As the Federation expanded further into the galaxy it became more and more impossible to quell corruption and misuse of authority along the outer fringes. As had been the case with Rome over 4,000 years earlier, Federation policy makers struggled with the impossible task of administrating to over 100 billion life forms. Added to this the attacks on Federation outpost by bandit raiders from Galaxy 5, tensions between the Federation members were high, and something had to give. The breaking point came during negotiations with the newly encountered Draconian Empire.
The Draconians, a reptile like race, had been exploring their half of the Milky Way galaxy for as long as the humans from Earth had been. An honorable and noble people, they were as nervous and mistrusting as the humans were when their two great space fleets eventually encountered each other. Not sure what to make of each other, it was decided that a negotiating team should from each side should meet to “introduce” themselves to each other. A mistake in judgment however, during that first encounter resulted in the destruction of the Draconian ambassador’s flagship, and war broke out. As Earth and Draconian ships volleyed shots at each other, smaller republics within the Earth Federation ‘chafed at the bit’ for independence. Soon the armed conflict came to and end, with each side agreeing to a frontier zone between the two respective empires. On Skaro, the Daleks followed the conflict with great interest. The Dalek Prime knew that both Draconia and Earth were the two strongest power bases in the galaxy, but if both should destroy each other, then the way would be cleared for a Dalek conquest.
Sitting in his cell almost forgotten, The Master secretly followed the activities between Earth and Draconia with keen interest. Soon, he knew the Daleks would be coming to see him. Meanwhile all was not going well for the Dalek scientists assigned to unlock the secrets of the Master’s TARDIS. Having taken several weeks to just gain access to the craft, accessing the ships systems proved impossible. Although their conquest of Spiridon had gone well (the Dalek task force stationed their was soon approaching 10,000), the Supreme Council knew that every time they were about to achieve a major victory, the Doctor would show up to ruin their plans. In addition the Thal problem had begun to get out of hand, as several successful raids on Dalek outposts had secured for the Thals the secrets of Dalek trans-warp technology for their space fleet. If they were fully to understand the secrets of the 4th dimension, find a final solution to the Thal question, and stop the Doctor, the Daleks would finally have to deal with this Master. Armed with a team of their best scientists, the Dalek Supreme headed to the detention area to question their prisoner.
Completely expecting the situation, the Master impressed the Dalek Supreme by revealing his entire knowledge of the current situation between Earth and Draconia. Arguing with the Supreme Council that he and he alone could insure war between the two empires, the Master convinced the Daleks that he could now play his part, and as a gesture of his good intentions, he offered the Daleks the secrets of the TimeLords. Desperate to get their suckers on these secrets, they agreed to a partnership. The Master proved true to his word, providing the Daleks with confidential information on the TimeLords, regeneration, and the Doctor. Then he turned his attention to Dalek time technology, showing Dalek scientists how to improve on their time corridor devices, and temporal scanners. He even went so far as to re-engineer their temporal barriers, placing Skaro in a similar state of temporal grace as his home planet of Gallifrey. Armed with this new technology, the Daleks were ready to conquer the universe!
Editor’s Note: We know that much of this is major conjecture, but this situation can be supported by facts within the series. We know that the Master was working with the Daleks in “Frontier in Space,” and we also know that he had stolen several important and confidential information from the Matrix on Gallifrey (see “Colony in Space”). In addition, after “Genesis of the Daleks” the Daleks seem to know a lot about the Doctor, regeneration (Davros is not surprised at the Doctor’s appearance in “Resurrection”), and the TimeLords. They can even track the TARDIS in the vortex (okay something they could do during “The Chase”), and trap it in a time corridor (something they could not do in “The Chase”). Since it is established in “Frontier in Space” that the Master intends to control the Daleks, it is not unreasonable to believe that his ego would allow him to arm the Daleks with all this information and technology, as he never saw them as a threat to his plans in the first place.
Assigned a unit of Ogron troops to command, The Master was given the responsibility of escalating the war between Earth and Draconia. Despite his help with their technology, the Supreme Council still did not completely trust him. To insure his complete loyalty, the Supreme Council held his TARDIS. The Master however, was not about to allow these “tin boxes” to hold the upper hand, but knew that he just needed to bide his time before striking at his “allies.” Requisitioning ships and supplies, and accompanied by his Ogron troops, the Master established his base of operation on the Ogron home planet, which was located deep within Draconian space. Armed with a special hypnotic device of his own design (which caused humans to see Draconians and Draconians to see humans), the Master ordered his Ogron troops to begin attacking cargo vessels of both sides along the frontier. As the Master expected, tensions between the two empires mounted, as each side accused the other of breaking the peace. On Spiridon, the Daleks continued amassing their invasion army, held in cryo-suspension to conserve power. Spiridoian cloaking technology proved however, to be too costly to maintain, as the magnetic forces needed to bend light around the travel machine destroyed the Dalek mutant inside. Unit after unit, fitted with the technology, suffered from what Dalek scientists named “light wave sickens.” As it had been on Earth in 2174, magnetic forces were still deadly to Daleks. Yet despite the ineffectiveness of the cloaking devices, Spiridon still sat at the perfect strategic position from which to launch attacks on both empires. All the Daleks needed to do was wait.
In the far reaches of space, an Earth cargo vessel slowly makes it way through the void. Just as the ship begins to enter hyper space, a small rotating blue box appears in it’s path. Jumping out of hyper space to avoid a collision, the crew notices that the blue box has mysteriously disappeared. In the cargo hole, accompanied by a low grinding noise, the Doctor’s TARDIS materializes…
…Almost immediately the ship is attacked by another vessel. As the Doctor and Jo emerge from the cargo hold the crew ‘see’ them as their enemies, the Draconians, the alien humanoid race rivaling Earth for control of the galaxy. The Doctor and Jo, however, see the true face of the attackers: Ogrons! The Ogrons overpower the crew and steal its cargo, including the TARDIS. A rescue ship, responding to the cargo crew’s distress call, takes the Doctor and Jo back to Earth, where they are accused of being Draconian spies. The Doctor protest their innocence, but neither the President of the earth Federation, nor the Draconian ambassador believe him. Meanwhile tensions on Earth are running high, as the people demand war with Draconia. The Draconian ambassador however, believes that the Doctor is an agent of General Williams, whom he believes wishes to start another war with Draconia (it was Williams who had started the first war). Hoping to prove that the Doctor is, in reality, working for General Williams, the Draconians arrange for an escape. The Doctor however has no luck convincing his Draconian captors of the truth either.
The prison break of the Doctor by the Draconians convinces the President that he is, in fact a Draconian spy, and upon his recapture he is exile to the Moon prison colony, where he is almost killed. But the Master, who had discovered the Doctor’s TARDIS among the “loot” of the cargo ship, poses as a security officer and convinces the President to release both Jo and the Doctor into his custody. While transporting his two prisoners back to his base, the three are captured by the Draconians, who believe them to be agents’ provocateur from Earth.
On Draconia however, the Doctor is known, having helped cure a space plague while in his first incarnation. He pleads with the Emperor to convince him that it is not Earth attacking Draconian ships, but the Emperor is not convinced. After an Ogron attack on the Emperor’s throne room, in which the Master escapes, The Doctor succeeds in convincing the Draconians of the truth. On their way to inform Earth’s authorities of the deception, the Ogrons attack, and Jo is recaptured by the Master. Taken to the bleak terrifying Ogron planet, the Master sets a trap for the Doctor.
Back on Earth the Doctor convinces both the President and General Williams of the truth. Lead by General Williams, the Doctor heads toward the Ogron planet in the hopes of rescuing Jo. On their arrival however they are captured by the Master and the true masterminds behind the whole plot: The Daleks! The Gold Dalek, who had been assigned by the Supreme Council to monitor the Master’s progress, reports back to Skaro that war should soon be breaking out between Earth and Draconia. Satisfied, the Council then orders the Gold Dalek to proceed to Spiridon and report on the Dalek army there. Meanwhile the Doctor, Jo, General Williams and the Draconian ambassador are all locked in cells waiting to learn their fate. Using the Master’s hypnotic device however (which Jo had managed to steal from the renegade TimeLord), the Doctor scares off his Ogron guards and he and the group escape. General Williams and the Draconian ambassador flee to warn Earth of the Dalek plot as Jo and the Doctor head for the TARDIS. They are ambushed by the Master and his Ogron troops, but the Doctor switches on the hypnotic device placing the Ogrons in a state of panic. They scatter wildly and the Doctor and Jo rush into the TARDIS, but not before the Doctor is severely wounded by the Master.
Upon arrival on Spiridon the Gold Dalek finds everything proceeding as planned, and begins to continue its tour of Dalek installations. Before leaving Spiridon however, the Gold Dalek radios Skaro that the Dalek task force of 10,000 is ready for activation. Unknown to the Daleks, the radio message is intercepted by the Thals.
…Although severely wounded, the Doctor manages to send a message to the TimeLords (asking that they send the TARDIS after the Gold Dalek’s ship), before falling into a coma. Escaping from the Ogron planet, the TARDIS materializes on the planet Spiridon. The Doctor has not yet recovered and Jo does not know of his recuperative powers. Setting out alone to find help, she is amazed at the varying life forms living on the planet. While examining one of the planets, her hand is sprayed by one of the plants with a fome-like substance. Continuing to explore she stumbles upon a crashed spaceship, it’s pilot dead it the controls. Frightened, she soon learns that the ship belongs to old allies of the TimeLord, the Thals, who are on a suicide mission to destroy the Daleks. Imploring the Thals to help the Doctor, Jo stays behind in the ship, only to discover that she has contracted a fungal disease (growing from her hand and up her arm). Overwhelmed by the infection she passes out.
Meanwhile, Taron, the Thal expedition second-in-command, tells the Doctor, now recovered, that there are thousands of Daleks on Spiridon, immobilized by cold but ready to become an army and conquer the Galaxy (with the unwilling help of the Spiridon’s invisibility). While heading back to the Thals ship to recover Jo they are intersected by a Dalek patrol. Stunning the Doctor the Daleks destroy the spacecraft, the Doctor believing Jo still inside. Saddened and unable to act, the Doctor is lead off by the Daleks to Dalek Control. Jo however is not dead, having been rescued and cured by a friendly but invisible Spiridon named Wester.
Inside the Dalek base, the Doctor is locked in a cell with Codal, a Thal scientist who has also been captured. On the surface another Thal ship arrives but crashes on landing. The second ship was bringing news that the Dalek task force has reached 10,000. Determined to stop the Daleks, Taron orders a two front attack on Dalek Control, one group attacking the main entrance, the other attacking through the ice tunnels. Back in the Dalek base the Doctor and Codal manage to escape, by constructing a device which scrambles the Dalek machine’s control circuits. Penetrating the Dalek base, the Doctor meets up with Taron and his attack group. Exploring the lower sections of the city they soon discover the whereabouts of the Dalek army.
Meanwhile Jo, with the help of Wester, has sneaked into Dalek Control with the hope of finding the Doctor. She soon realizes this is hopeless and decides to follow two Daleks as they attempt to locate the Thal store of explosives. In the lower sections of the city the Daleks have located the Doctor and his party, who escape extermination by floating up a ventilation shaft (the Doctor making a make-shift parasol). In the forest Jo and the Doctor are reunited, the Doctor is surprised to see that his friend had survived. The Doctor then convinces Taron that they must keep the Dalek army from being activated, and a plan is formed to attack Dalek Control.
At Dalek Command, concern over the inability to capture the Doctor and his Thal allies convinces the Supreme Council to unleash a biological weapon that will kill all life, plant and animal, on the surface. To insure the safety of the Dalek task force, the Dalek commander orders that all Daleks and Spiridon slave workers are to report to command to receive an immunity to the bacteria.
Out in the forest, the Doctor, Jo and the Thals lure two Daleks into the icy waters of one of Spiridon’s ice pools, the sudden drop in temperature killing the Dalek mutants. With Rebec inside one of the Dalek machines and Taron, the Doctor and Codal disguised in the cloaks the Spiridonians wear to ward off the cold, the group enter Dalek Control just as the bacteria is ready to be released. Before the Doctor can act, the container containing the virus is smashed inside the Dalek laboratory, trapping the Dalek scientists inside (the Daleks had not completed immunizing their work force yet). Jo’s friend Wester had entered the lab and given his life for his people. In the confusion the Doctor and Thals rush to the lower sections of the city. The Doctor’s determined to keep the Dalek army from activating.
Concerned over the set backs caused by the Doctor and the Thals, the Dalek Supreme arrives on Spiridon to supervise the reactivating of their army. But the Doctor succeeds in planting a bomb in a fissure in the wall of the main chamber, reactivating an ice volcano. The rising ice refreezes and destroys the entire Dalek army, destroying the Dalek base and trapping the Dalek Supreme. With the Dalek threat to the galaxy ended, the Thals return to Skaro using the Dalek Supreme’s spaceship, and the Doctor takes Jo back to the 20th century.
Editor’s Note: The official BBC “history” places “Planet of the Daleks,” before the events in “Day of the Daleks” and “Evil of the Daleks.” We feel that this placement is impossible, as the Daleks have no knowledge of the 3rd Doctor in “Day of the Daleks,” and they should if indeed they had encountered him before in “Planet of the Daleks.” We have also read some accounts that place this story as taking place before “The Dead Planet,” suggesting that the city bound Daleks shown in the first story are all that are left after the Dalek Civil War. But this also is impossible. In “Planet of the Daleks” the Thals know of the Doctor as “something out of [their] legends,” where he and three companions, Barbara, Ian and Susan, helped the Thals defeat the Daleks long ago. It is our guess that the confusion in the placement of these episodes comes from the Doctor’s guess that he and Jo have arrived in the 26th Century. Another example of the production teams arbitrarily choosing of dates in which to set the adventures.
Text and Concept ©1999, 2002 Visagraph Films International/John Rocco Roberto.
Revised edition© 2003/2005 John Rocco Roberto
Doctor Who series and photographs © 1963, 1999 British Broadcasting Company.
Special thanks to Robert Moore for providing the video captures from “Frontier in Space” and “Planet of the Daleks.” “Frontier in Space” and “Planet of the Daleks” summaries taken from “The Programme Guide” by Jean-Marc Lofficier, Target Books, 1989.