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Rantings from a Greyhound Bus

By Jon Preddle

You would be surprised at the sorts of things that pop into your head while you're travelling across the United States in a greyhound bus. Here's one of the many odd ideas that flashed into my brain by the time I got to Phoenix...

As most fans know, The Stones of Blood is the 100th Doctor Who story. But this is only because we count Mission to the Unknown as a separate story. But why do we treat Mission separately from The Daleks' Master Plan? After all, Mission takes place on the planet Kembel, the location of the 12-part Dalek epic, and even goes as far as setting up the plot, so if anything, it's the illegitimate first episode for what is effectively a 13-part adventure. I think the fact that The Myth Makers separates the episodes is irrelevant. And the fact that Mission was novelised with Master Plan says a lot for this argument.

We don't count the third and fourth episodes of The Ark as a separate adventure despite the fact that these episodes feature a wholly new cast and the setting is some millions of light years and 700 years away from the setting of the first two episodes. So why is Mission counted as a separate tale, when it shares so much with Master Plan? And as for production codes, no one can agree upon what the code for Mission is - or whether or not it even had a code, so it doesn't really matter that it isn't the same as Serial V. The fact that Mission wasn't directed by Douglas Camfield is also irrelevant. It wasn't uncommon for several of the earlier Doctor Who stories to have more than one director calling the shots, so we could apply the same here.

So, if we were to lump Mission with Master Plan and alter the story numbering, then the true 100th story is The Androids of Tara - so it's probably just as well they didn't film that birthday cake scene in Stones then, isn't it!

But before all the pedants throw up their arms in outrage, all is not lost. In order to preserve the numbering system I propose that we review the status of another First Doctor story. We currently count all four episodes of Serial A as one story, and yet there is a clearly defined split in terms of location and narrative. We are more than happy to count Serial 7C (The Trial of a Time Lord episodes 9-14) as being two different adventures, so why not apply the same to Serial A?

So, what I think we should do is regard Serial A as a one-part story entitled An Unearthly Child, followed by a three-parter called 100,000 BC. And hey, this also helps us to resolve the argument as to what to call the first Doctor Who story!

What do you reckon? Am I on to something here, or should I continue taking my travel sickness pills?

This item appeared in TSV 59 (January 2000).

Index nodes: Mission to the Unknown, The Daleks' Master Plan, 100,000 BC/An Unearthly Child