One of the 97 missing episodes of Classic Doctor Who, 1965’s Mission to the Unknown, is being brought back to life. But unlike recent recreations which have paired a lost story’s surviving audio with brand new animation, this is an entirely new remake – one that’s being helmed primarily by students.
Mission to the Unknown is unique in Doctor Who history as the only story not to feature the Doctor or, indeed, any of the regular cast. Rather, it follows Space Security Agent Marc Cory as he attempts to warn Earth of the Daleks’ latest plot – a plot that the Doctor and his companions would later be embroiled in as part of the 12-part epic ‘The Daleks’ Master Plan’.
This made Mission to the Unknown ideal fodder for the University of Central Lancashire’s (UCLan) ‘Sci-fi in a Week’ project, which saw students, graduates and staff remake the episode in just five days of rehearsals and filming, after being given special permission from the BBC and the Terry Nation Estates.
The episode was directed and produced by UCLan Pro Vice-Chancellor (Digital and Creative Industries) Dr Andrew Ireland with the help of UCLan students, graduates and staff, as well as Accrington and Rossendale College pupils who were in charge of make-up and prosthetics. It meant that students on courses including acting, fashion and TV and media production could gain hands-on experience of creating a drama from scratch and were able to compare techniques from more than 50 years ago with modern-day drama production.
“We kept it as close to the original as we possibly could, so everything from the props and costumes to the acting style, pace and camera techniques are designed to be very 1960s,” Dr Ireland said. “It was filmed to simulate the low-resolution, black-and-white look of the era and we’ve been able to use the audio from the original recording to inform stage directions and the mood of the episode.”
The voice of the Daleks was meanwhile provided by none other than new series Dalek voice actor Nicholas Briggs, and classic series actors Peter Purves (who played companion Steven Taylor in The Daleks’ Master Plan) and Edward de Souza (who played Cory) even visited the set to take part in a special Q&A panel. Purves was particularly enthusiastic about the project, teasing the news on Twitter and later sharing photos of some of the four sets.
“This is an absolutely wonderful project,” Purves said.
“I am intrigued to see what has been done and hope it could be a precursor to more reconstructions in the future.”
Once post-production on the episode is completed, the UCLan team plans to present a copy to the BBC, which they are treating as their client for the project. The hope is that one day it will be released in some form so that the public may view this long-lost story once more.