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Douglas Camfield had only recently embarked on his illustrious Doctor Who career when he directed The Daleks’ Master Plan from 1965 to 1966. This epic adventure would stretch his ingenuity, and his patience, to the limit…
Camfield faced one of the biggest challenges of his career in The Daleks’ Master Plan, a 12-part serial.
Writer and Dalek creator Terry Nation, pictured in late 1964.

Terry Nation’s Dalek serials could be problematic. Because Nation preferred to write each episode in one draft over a single weekend, he gravitated towards easily plotted travelogues; he also preferred not to go back and rewrite should he encounter an illogicality. In addition, his scripts were always expensive to realise, often requiring new settings and characters every week. In 1965 it was hoped to increase the budget for The Daleks’ Master Plan but, as it turned out, director Douglas Camfield was asked to reduce his costs.

At the heart of Nation’s 12-episode story was the simple idea of the Doctor (William Hartnell) discovering the Daleks’ scheme to conquer the universe with a deadly weapon called the Time Destructor. When he steals a vital component, the Daleks spend eight episodes or more chasing the Doctor and his evolving band of friends through space, and then through time, prior to regaining it. Nation wrote the first half of the serial and Dennis Spooner the second, except for a couple of episodes in the middle where they swapped around in order for Nation to write a Dalek-free instalment for transmission on Christmas Day.

Nicholas Courtney as Space Security agent Bret Vyon.

This was Camfield’s first taste of pulp science-fiction. When Nation’s scripts arrived, he immediately took against certain aspects of them and demanded changes, mostly practical but some cosmetic. For example, Nation wanted to set his half of the story in the year 1,000,000 AD, a big round figure to excite the children who were always his target audience. Camfield wanted it brought down to a more reasonable 4000 AD. He also reasoned that Nation’s character names – Tom, Ronald etc – would be as obsolete in the future as Saxon or Viking names are today. At the very least, the spelling and pronunciation would have changed over the millennia. Nation agreed, but insisted that names like Sara Kingdom and Mavick Chen (the ‘k’ on Mavick was later dropped) be retained. Nation congratulated Camfield, however, for coming up with a juicy, villainous name like Bors.

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About Doctor Who Magazine

“Space: the final frontier. Final, because it wants to kill us...” The TARDIS doesn’t just travel through time – stories set in space have been an essential part of Doctor Who for six decades. The inhospitable void between the stars has served as the backdrop to epic space operas and nerve-racking thrillers, while harbouring some of the most dangerous adversaries the Doctor has ever encountered. This lavish publication navigates a revealing course through the space lanes of Doctor Who, with exclusive interviews, rare images, and guides to some of the most memorable episodes.