Doctor Who episode 101: The Abandoned Planet (22/1/1966)

An exercise in putting the audience on edge, The Abandoned Planet postpones any grand showdowns, largely removing both the Doctor and the Daleks for the majority of its running time. Even the Varga Plants have vanished. Instead, the focus is on Steven and Sara’s nervous expedition into the deserted Dalek ‘city of the dead’ in search both of the Doctor and the Time Destructor. The focus is also on Chen, whose ‘arrogance and greed have a further use’ to the Daleks.

Despite featuring very little incident, the episode is effective. The Planetarians gather again at the beginning for their ‘final conference’. Anyone familiar with the Star Wars films will remember the scene of the Separatist leaders gathering on Mustafar awaiting the arrival of Darth Vader – and there’s a very similar feeling here, as the delegates become increasingly fearful of Chen’s increasing influence and the true intentions of the Daleks.

Although this is missing, the environment is familiar from Day of Armageddon – but it’s even creepier: abandoned, with only the noise of the jungle – or the ominous, pulsing heartbeat of the Dalek City accompanying Steven and Sara’s expedition into its heart.

A quieter, atmospheric episode, this is all about building anticipation for the finale in much the same way as the Game of Thrones pre-battle instalments. As the duplicitous Chen corrals the captive Steven and Sara down the ramp into the Dalek bunker, the final shot perfectly sums up the episode’s theme: a long descent into the darkness.

Next episode: Destruction of Time



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