Doctor Who – The King’s Demons Review (or ‘The Master Goes Small-Time’)

In 2013, the idea of a Season Finale is a very big deal.

Story arcs that have run throughout an entire season come to a head, bad shit goes down and things are left on a cliffhanger and a half, leaving you desperate for more and keeping you on the hook until the show returns.

Evidently this wasn’t a consideration back in the early 1980s for the Doctor Who production team.

In season 19, though they tried to have a slight cliffhanger of Tegan being left behind, the fact is that it would have been far more effective if the last episode of the season was Earthshock Episode 4.

Getting ahead of ourselves and moving to Season 21, they try to do something different by having the season end with the Twin Dilemma, but it should have concluded with the Caves of Androzani.

Season 20 meanwhile finishes without even the slightest hint of a cliffhanger, as things don’t exactly come to a head in the epic tale that is The King’s Demons.

Doctor Who – The King’s Demons Review: What’s This One About

The Master goes small time, The Doctor can’t identify someone if they are wearing a ginger wig and beard and someone on the production team utters the line “I’ve made a huge mistake” when they realise that fully operating, walking, talking,

"Mummy look, it's the Master". "Don't be silly dear, that's clearly Sir Gilles Estram. They look nothing alike"

“Mummy look, it’s the Master”. “Don’t be silly dear, that’s clearly Sir Gilles Estram. They look nothing alike. And anyway, everyone knows the Master should have stayed buried with Rock and Roll Hoochie Coo”

acting robots weren’t available to buy in 1983.

Thoughts –  The Master Goes Small Time

You have to wonder what quality of script ended up rejected by Eric Saward, because if this met with his approval, it really makes you think.

The King’s Demons is ludicrous.

It seems the Master – the same Master who only recently hatched a half baked scheme to control the entire universe – has decided that he wants to stop the signing of Magna Carta because…er…because it will prevent “parliamentary democracy” apparently. Even the Doctor says it’s small time for him.

Ooooh, what a plot.

So his plan is to discredit King John by using an android replica that will act as such a bad house-guest that people will rise up and kill him, despite the fact that King John is actually only a matter of hours away in London in full sight of everyone.

I mean…what?!

Really, it’s just a stupid idea that barely stretches over two episodes.

As to the Doctor’s involvement? Well either the Master somehow engineered for him to show up when he did – which is hinted at but not explicitly confirmed – or it happens by chance. If it’s the former, then the Master surely must realise that he’d be better off sorting the plan without the Doctor being there to inevitably stop it, and if it’s the latter, he really must be thinking “Oh for fuck’s sake” when he sees the TARDIS show up.

Either way, it’s a nonsensical plot that isn’t helped by the simply horrendous acting by the likes of Frank “Carriage Clock” Windsor, Christopher Villiers and Gerald Flood.

And what about the ending? The Doctor and his friends just leave. That’s it; there’s nothing even resembling a dramatic climax. It’s just a case of “Well, we’ve got your robot so we’re off”.

A truly rotten two-parter.

The Master of Disguise?

What also does for the King’s Demons is the pitiful attempt to disguise the Master.

Basically Sir Gilles Estram (oh look, Estram is an anagram of Master; isn’t that really clever) is Anthony Ainley in a ginger wig and beard putting on the most “Hee-haw-hee-haw” French accent seen on British TV.

Janet Fielding enters another powerful and interested performance as Tegan

Janet Fielding enters another powerful and interested performance as Tegan

Anyone with a keen sense of observance will see that Ainley is part of the cast within 1:40 of the story beginning.

And yet everyone pretends they don’t know it’s him. The Doctor has conversations with him nose to nose and doesn’t twig that the man with The Master’s face and voice is actually him.

Also, what’s up with the ginger beard and wig vanishing into thin air? Why not just have him take it off, like he did in Time Flight?

As I said above, it’s pitiful.

Tegan – Will She Ever Learn?

This is at least the third time that Tegan has decided she wants to try to fly the TARDIS, realises she can’t and then just hammers buttons until something lucky happens.

Why doesn’t the Doctor take the time to show her what to do?

Also – and this is key to why I don’t like the character – she’s a miserable cow. This is the second story in a row where she walks about with slumped shoulders and a sour look on her face, moaning about how she wants to get “beck to the TAHDISS”. Where’s the enjoyment for the viewer in watching a lead supporting character whose mantra is “This is shit and I want to go home”.

Then the Doctor calls her bluff and she all of a sudden wants to stay.

Doesn’t make sense.

Kamelion – Not A Good Idea

So there’s a new companion on board – a robot.

Now let’s give them credit; the production team actually went out and bought a robot. Unfortunately, whoever made is sold them the equivalent of magic beans.

"If we spend hours adjusting this robot into position and gingerly place a lute in his hands, it'll look like he's playing it himself" said the naive Doctor Who production team

“If we spend hours adjusting this robot into position and gingerly place a lute in his hands, it’ll look like he’s playing it himself” said the naive Doctor Who production team

You can imagine the sales pitch happened down a pub somewhere.

Shifty Man In The Pub: “I’ve got this robot that you can use in Doctor Who”

John Nathan Turner: “A robot. I didn’t know they actually existed yet. Does it work”

SMITB: “Oh sure boss, sure. No problem”

JNT: “So it can move around, has fully functioning legs and arms, can play a key part in future stories, is quick and easy to control, works within our budget and absolutely is not just an expensive metal prop that has to sit down and stay perfectly still”

SMITB: “Anything you like guv.”

JNT: “Sounds amazing. I don’t even need to see this in action before paying out for it. You have yourself a deal”.

SMITB: “Really?! I mean, lovely my boy, lovely”.

How on Earth could they think Kamelion was a good idea? And even if they paid for it, why not use better judgement and think “Ok, we’ll chalk this down to poor research and leave it”. But no, they bring it on board as a companion, and ignore it completely until its time to kill it off again.


The Fifth Doctor Timeline

Again, we’re talking about a story that lasts no more than a day.

The Master suggests to the Doctor that he needs to regenerate again.

Really? After about 3 weeks of screen time?

Random Observations

  • The Master’s plan to get back into his TARDIS by pretending that it’s some sort of torture cupboard that Sir Geoffrey is to be killed in, only to have the Doctor speak up against it, then have a sword fight against him, reveal himself to him
    You can't see this midget's face, but if you could, I'd bet it looks like Roy Castle

    You can’t see this midget’s face, but if you could, I’d bet it looks like Roy Castle

    and then make his escape to a room downstairs only to come back again immediately is about as nonsensical as it reads written down.

  • And the sword fight itself was – much like the rest of the story – pitiful. Two blokes, desperately trying not to hurt each other with their play swords.
  • In amongst all the over the top, cod Shakespeare acting, the worst line of the lot (or best depending upon your outlook) is Turlough’s grand “I’ve had just about enough of you, whoever you are. So don’t try me too far” line.
  • Hey look, Tegan’s changed her clothes.
  • The King’s attempt at singing isn’t the best. I’m not sure what “Total Woaaaah” even means.
  • To give the King’s Demons some level of credit, for as stupid as it is, it’s not boring and the costumes and setting are decent enough. But that really is about as much as you can say in its defence.
  • The midget in the jester’s costume – I bet he looks like Roy Castle; they all do. #PoliticallyIncorrectStatement
  • DWM Mighty 200 Ranking: #181

Doctor Who – The King’s Demons Review: Final Thoughts

So it’s a filler story that makes no sense, is no way to end a season and is just…so…stupid.

But you know what, as bad as that is, it’s still better than a story that is a boring drag.

I’d sooner watch this than the likes of Terminus or Time Flight.

Still, by no means is it worth you seeking out.

Get Involved In The Debate

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2 Responses to Doctor Who – The King’s Demons Review (or ‘The Master Goes Small-Time’)

  1. Slavin Ivanov says:

    “Season 20 meanwhile finishes without even the slightest hint of a cliffhanger, as things don’t exactly come to a head in the epic tale that is The King’s Demons.”

    Season 20 was supposed to end with a story called “The Return” featuring the Daleks, but due to another strike or something, it was abandoned. It eventually became “Resurrection of the Daleks”. 🙂

    I bet Kamelion would have creeped children out if he had been a regular companion. After all, K9 was much more child friendly.

  2. Martin says:

    Now I can agree with you for much of this review. But somehow this scrapes a 5/10 largely due to the lute song, and -ahem- the sword-fight which is just a bit of fun IMO.

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