The final story of Season Eight – or The Master Season if you prefer – is one that is probably the most iconic of the Pertwee era.
The Daemons is probably the most typical example of what people think of a Third Doctor Story as being. It’s got UNIT, the Master, Jo Grant, a homely location and a big bad monster.
Judging this story has to be done on two fronts though.
- Does it work on its own?
- Does it work as part of a continuing series?
My thinking coming into this one was that as a story on its own merits it would live up to its iconic hype, but as the fifth Master story in a row, it might seem a bit stale.
Doctor Who – The Daemons Review: What’s This One About?
The Master – posing as a man of the cloth – uses the people of the village of the appropriately (and perhaps unimaginatively) named Devils End to try to summon – you guessed it – The Devil.
Well…not really. The ‘Devil’ is actually Azal, a Daemon from the planet Daemos. They are a race of creatures that have had a hand in the development of Earth for over a million
years as part of their own experiment or something. It gets a bit confused.
But the point is that the Master has helped summon him and wants Azal to hand him his power so he can rule the Earth. And of course the Doctor and UNIT have to stop him.
The Ultimate UNIT Story
So as I say, this is the ultimate UNIT story. It has helicopter chases, a lot more Yates & Benton than we’ve previously seen, the Master being up to no good, Jo getting herself captured & nearly sacrificed and of course the Brigadier saying ‘Chap with the wings there; five rounds rapid’.
It’s the one you’ve probably seen clips of even if you haven’t seen it and the one you identify the Pertwee Era with, as I’ve said above.
And on its own merits it’s perfectly enjoyable. It has a strong cast supported ably by the likes of the booming voiced Stephen Thorn (Azal), Damaris Hayman (Olive Hawthorn) and the snivelling Don McKillop (Bert the Landlord; and yes, that’s the official name of his character).
Beyond that it’s got Bok the Gargoyle (everyone remembers him) and the famous scene where the church gets blown up and people wrote in to Points of View to complain (some people thought the production team destroyed a real church. Jesus…)
But the problem is what I thought it would be, and that is that having been the villain in the four previous stories, the Master is getting a bit tired and samey.
And would you believe it, it ends in exactly the same way as his previous stories did – he gets in over his head and can’t control the people/thing he hopes to use to conquer the Earth/Universe.
So while I enjoyed it, I think I would enjoy it more if watched it in isolation rather than as part of a run through. But that’s not really how it’s supposed to work, is it?
The one thing that ruins the Daemons – regardless of the circumstances in which you watch it– is the ending.
Over the course of the five episodes, the story has built up well. Unlike other stories in this season, the cliffhangers were all good and served to build up and advance the plot week by week until Episode Four ends with Azal finally being revealed. A quality bit of storytelling, make no mistake.
But once Azal arrived he didn’t really do much other than have a chat; a chat in a wonderful booming voice right enough, but still just a chat.
And then what kills him is the notion that Jo would rather lay down her life to save the Doctor rather than let Azal kill him. That’s it. How pathetic is that? It was an absolutely
nonsensical cop-out that negated everything that had come before it. To me it seemed as though they had to finish the story and couldn’t think of a good and concise way to do it. Sloppy stuff from the writers.
The Modern Approach in Episode One
But to get back onto a positive train of thought, I particularly enjoyed the way Episode One told the story through the medium of a live TV show. It’s the sort of thing you would expect to see in a 2012 episode of Dr Who rather than a 1970s story. Good progressive storytelling and another example of foresight on the part of the writing staff by having the show being on BBC3. Of course, what makes me feel old is that the first few times I watched this story, BBC3 still seemed like a futuristic concept.
- Maybe it’s just me, but I hate it when there are one or two ‘paid’ extras in among rabbles. While everyone else gets to rhubarb (and no, that’s not an auto-correct error) to their heart’s content, the paid ones – i.e. the ones who actually get given lines to speak – just stick out like a sore thumb. For anyone who has seen The Ark, you’ll know the ‘That’s No Argument’ woman who tried to steal every scene she was in; well in this case it’s the tall skinny guy who looks like a mixture of comedian Graeme Garden and WWE wrestler Edge. You’ll know exactly who I’m on about.
- And speaking of him, I recently watched an episode of Whatever Happened To The Likely Lads and actually managed to recognise him purely from seeing the back of his head. A proud moment in my “Spotting random ZZZ list celebrities in old TV shows” career.
- I know the Doctor has seen many terrible things in his time, but surely Adolf Hitler has done enough to deserve being called something worse than a ‘Bounder’?
- The way the boy with the beard stands in a ‘fearful’ position while Bok shoots him might well be a necessary evil for the special effect to work, but it doesn’t half look shit, does it?
- Mr Quill is in this! Bill Burridge who played one half of legendary double act Mr. Oak and Mr. Quill appears as an extra in this story. Sadly we don’t see him opening his mouth really wide (what a party piece that is) as we only see the back of his head.
- Benton is a helluva shot is he not?
- Three times was one too many for the ‘Bessie has a remote control’ set-piece if you ask me.
- In all fairness, the special effects in this one are quite good. I’m not exactly sure how they did the fire effects at the heat barrier, but while I’m sure it must have been something quite simple, it was effective. Similarly the way Bok
gets destroyed and comes back together is also impressive for the time.
- The only thing that lets Bok down at all is when he moves and is clearly just a small bloke in a grey unitard and mask.
- People can be very rude sometimes can they not? What right did those guys in the pub have to take the piss out of the Doctor’s clothes? The cheeky bastards deserved what they eventually got.
Doctor Who – The Daemons Review: Final Thoughts
You’ll probably be able to guess my final thoughts since I summed them up earlier in the review.
In isolation this is an iconic and enjoyable story, but as part of a run through, it suffers from the Master’s over-exposure. Yes, he’ll be back three more times and in each case it’ll be almost exactly the same storyline again, but at least there will be breaks in between.
For now though, the Doctor needs new opposition…or old opposition as the case becomes.