And so, leading directly on from the last episode of the previous serial (a neat little touch that was common throughout most of the Hartnell era), we find ourselves on the first alien planet in the show's history in only it's second story (it would take the revived series a good deal longer to venture outside of Earth's gravitational pull).
It's a creepy little episode that features only the four regular cast members. It's also Terry Nation's first script for the series, and several of his hallmarks are on full display here. Like several scripts to come, we see features of the TARDIS that we would seldom or never see again (the fault locator, the food machine) that are there to a) show off the features of the Ship; and/or b) fill time. We also have that old Nation standby where the crew gets split up, and a shock revelation of a monster at the end of Episode 1.
The main plot of The Dead Planet seems to be to introduce the
The last shot of the episode is far and away the best cliffhanger in the show's history. Here's an interesting fact - a technical problem forced the production team to re-record this episode at a later date (not a cheap endeavour, especially considering the miniscule budget the show had to work with at the time). I'm so glad they had to. I'm sure that everything of the original recording was fantastic, but I can't imagine that last shot in any other way than it was presented. Tristram Cary's eccentric score jumps in at that moment with intensity, but what sells it is Jacqueline Hill's bloodcurdling scream as the screen fades to black. Never again would a POV shot of a plunger appear so terrifying!
Respect, Dame Jackie Hill.