In case anyone missed this:
The Daleks are back! In black and white, and on YouTube! The metal monsters are once again menacing secret service agents from Earth on the planet Kembel, in a recreation of a Doctor Who adventure not seen since 1965.
Using the original script, replica props, vintage TV methods and the contemporary voice of the Daleks, Nicholas Briggs, the missing episode Mission to the Unknown has been remade by film and media students at the University of Central Lancashire. The recreation premiered on the official BBC Doctor Who YouTube channel at 5:50pm on 9 October, exactly 54 years after the story was broadcast for the one and only time.
It is unique in the original Doctor Who series for being the only episode not to feature the Tardis, Doctor or any of his companions. Instead, it was a standalone story starring arch-enemies the Daleks, which acted as a prequel to a later 12-part adventure The Daleks’ Master Plan (and quite possibly, in the mind of Dalek creator Terry Nation, as a pilot for a Dalek spinoff series that never materialised.)
Would a Dalek spinoff have worked in 1965? On this evidence, yes.
The episode sets up a galactic war between humans and Daleks, and an undercover security force sent from Earth to thwart them. It introduces an alliance of alien races, who are determined to invade the solar system alongside the Daleks. You can easily imagine a multitude of further stories set in this universe.
It is probably the only Doctor Who episode that could be completely remade convincingly in this way. The lack of regular cast involvement means there’s nobody trying to imitate William Hartnell as the Doctor, and the characters of Marc Cory and Gordon Lowery (played by Marco Simioni and Dan Gilligan) get to establish themselves on their own basis over the 25 minutes.
Inevitably, given the source material, it is a bit stilted, stagey and even slapstick at points. But the recreation of the Daleks, and the way they are shot in stark black-and-white, is effective. The Kembel jungle and the dangerous Varga plants look comparable to 60s Doctor Who sets, and the Dalek death ray effect is true to the source. The storyline is quite slight, though, making this an interesting curiosity rather than a ‘must see’.
It says something about the mythical status of the missing Doctor Who episodes that what is essentially a student project has ended up getting a run-out on the BBC’s official YouTube channel.
There are still 97 episodes of 60s Doctor Who missing. They occasionally turn up, most recently in October 2013. However, Mission to the Unknown was never sold overseas, meaning there is virtually zero chance of it ever being found.
The production took five days in February 2019, and former Blue Peter presenter Peter Purves, who played the Doctor’s companion Steven in 1965, visited the set, saying: “This is an absolutely wonderful project. I can remember at the time that Bill Hartnell and I were a bit miffed not to be included in any way at all … but it was a nice week off in the end!”