|Dates||May 22, 1971 -
Jun. 19, 1971
With Jon Pertwee, Katy Manning, Nicolas Courtney,
Richard Franklin, John Levene, and Roger Delgado as "The Master".
Written by Guy Leopold (Barry Letts and Robert Sloman).
Script-edited by Terrance Dicks. Directed by Christopher Barry.
Produced by Barry Letts.
|Synopsis: The Master prepares to summon the Devil in the small English village of Devil's End, threatening to destroy, or dominate, the world.|
My Vote for the Best by Daniel Callahan 1/3/97
This is my vote as the best Doctor Who story of all time. Or at least its a close tie with Inferno. The Daemons provides that strong sense of place in the ficticious village of Devils End that cannot be faked or otherwise substituted. This sense of place was a factor that helped make Northern Exposure a hit, and its lack can be observed in The Awakening and the disintegrate-as-you-watch second season of Twin Peaks.
The indicental characters are average for a Doctor Who story. Damaris Hayman compels me to believe she is a witch, if only because her acting is so bad that I wonder if she is a complete natural. But the true heart of the performances lies with the regulars. All five are in top form throughout, reaching a pinnacle of chemistry even through the separation with the Brigadier. In fact, the sub-plot to reunite the Brig with his team reinforces the urgency of the story.
That urgency begins with the Doctors sudden and apparent reversal on the existence of magic, and the tension doesnt let up until the finale in the Cavern. For once, all five episodes contribute to the drive and pace of a story without the obvious padding that kills the overall momentum, like episode three of The Enemy of the World. And when the tension lets up, its not entirely due to the skill of the makers of this story. Making the Devil an extraterrestrial and killing Azal through Jos sacrifice were forced and not well-thought out. But the rest of the story succeeds to such an extent that I tend to overlook these flaws.
The television documentary on Prof. Horners dig is probably the best single innovation of The Daemons. The characters of Doctor Who become as engrossed in their program as we are in ours, an effect which makes the younger viewers suspect that this science-fiction program might be true after all.
It may be unfashionable for a long-time fan to admit that. Were all (supposed to be) beyond the stage where we believe Jon Pertweee was the Doctor, and that we can still pretend we havent read several books that cover the Pertwee years alone. But there was a time before that when we did watch Doctor Who with a childs wish that it were true, and The Daemons uses that wish to suck its viewers in and not let go until the final shot of the village square in the distance.
Numero Ten Perhaps by Dennis McDermott 30/5/97
I have to take issue with Mr. Callahan. The Daemons is a fine show, but number one? There is far too much padding in it for my taste. The chase scenes were overly long, not in the least suspenseful, and seemed designed mostly to get Pertwee in a helicopter or Mike Yates on a motorcycle. And yes, the smoldering stick was good, but the Daemon himself wasn't. A good yarn, sure, but I don't think it would make my top ten.
A Review by John Riordan 27/6/97
I really do love this story. All of the cast are in top form, the action is steady and perfectly paced, and the script does a great job of exploiting British folklore and mythology. The story receives extra urgency from the fact that so much action of such grave importance is confined to a small area: rather than on whole planets and galaxies, the fate of the universe hinges on an old, quaint English town with roots deep in black magic and the occult. The size of the setting lends a taut dramatic tension that is almost relentless. I have the "restored" color version of The Daemons on video. Having grown up with the black-and-white version, I feel a little let down by this one. The story really did work terrifically in B&W.
The Occult and all that Magic Bit by Tom May Updated 3/5/04 (originally 17/2/98)
DOCTOR: (Whispers.) Magister! Yes, of course, I should have known!Criticism of The Daemons was a bit of no-go area on these pages, and within Dr Who fandom until the 1990s, and back in 1998 my review here set about it with some gusto. I am hereinafter going to fashion a new review of the story through squaring my reactions of six years ago with how I feel today; I will quote from the old review selectively.
JO: What? [...]
DOCTOR: Jo, did you fail Latin as well as science?
(JO hangs her head.)
DOCTOR: Magister is the Latin word for Master!
When I first viewed The Daemons, which was shown in November 1992 over five Friday evenings on BBC-2, I loved it; it was highly atmospheric and made me feel that precise nostalgia for an age I never lived in. But when I watched it in 1998, as a callow and rather more critical 15-year-old, I could find little substance to it; it appeared "overlong, cheap and rather smug [...] It's often the way with Doctor Who stories such as this that you simply grow out of them". Well, I had certainly went beyond taking it at face value and enjoying the romp in a childish way, and now in 2004 I can certainly say that such logical criticisms are justified.
But... I think in 1998 I was buying into the anti-Pertwee era agenda wholesale; while Seasons 8-11 are still one of my least favourite areas of Dr Who, I think my harshness was inconsistent: if I were to take such a holistic approach to all past TV Dr Who, I would probably find that the comfortable majority of stories are something an adult critic would "simply grow out of". This is the crux question with Pertwee Who for me; while Letts and Dicks established a greater surface realism for the show, aiming at an older audience demographic, the stories only rarely actually managed to do anything interesting. On the one hand you had thoughtful, drawn-out moralistic action-epics like in Season 7 and the occasional clever bit of satire (Carnival of Monsters) or time-travel conceptualism (Day of the Daleks). But too often you had retreads; The Sea Devils is excused by me because of the fantastic score and the atmosphere of the first half, but then I present as exhibits for the prosecution the following: Planet of the Daleks, The Mutants and The Monster of Peladon. Oh, and I would touch upon the Blue Peter-"I made this one earlier"-Pertwee Who farce that is The Time Monster, and, erm, the "story" by the name of Death To The Daleks... Plots, as I outline, were re-hashed and characters were simplistic - look at Walker in The Sea Devils, or numerous tramps, "petty" civil servants and politicians.
There is a cosy rapport between the regulars that a lot of the time lacks any spark; Katy Manning was often atrociously served by the script-writers, having to play an air-headed bimbo rather than a resourceful companion - this story is a prime example of Jo at her most beleaguered. It was only late in the day, in Season 10 when the writers pulled out a few stops and gave Manning some gutsy material to play; she carries the show very nicely in Planet of the Daleks 1, finally seems to have gotten to grips with the Master in Frontier In Space, and blossoms beautifully in The Green Death - in which she still has that rather dotty clumsiness but it becomes charming alongside her new principled quality and the ignition of certain sparks with Cliff Jones.
UNIT however were far from their lowest ebb here - which was in Seasons 9-11. The whole operation works reasonably well in the naturalistic Aldbourne setting; very little crummy studio-work here. And Courtney, Levene and Franklin are reasonably good; keeping up some level of credibility, while also being cosily likeable. The fashions are amusing; I said in my 1998 review "while fashion was never a virtue of Miss Josephine Grant, you can all point and laugh at the attire of Yates and Benton here". Rather an irascible comment, and I don't see why I was worked up about it. It all adds to my deeply held argument that the Pertwee UNIT stories were actually set in the 1970s. And Jo's fashions? How could I have missed recalling the unquestionably fab "gear" she wears in The Sea Devils, or the more restrained Season 10 costumes? In 2004, I am more generally disposed to looking on it favourably and as enjoyable light viewing in general; having studied literature, and become absorbed in so much music, film and television in these six years, I more able to put Dr Who in context, rather than regard it as the be-all-and-end-all.
Much is saved by Roger Delgado, as suavely likeable as ever and given two enjoyably off-kilter cliff-hangers and a winsome final scene, with villagers and kiddies tepidly booing the Master as he is taken away to prison. Episode 1's conclusion creates a genuine sense of mystery, and Episode 3's is startling on the first viewing, hilarious on the tenth, as the Master is clearly shown to have "bottled it" in the cavern. Now more than ever, Azal seems a rather ham-fisted monster-villain; the Pertwee era had trouble endowing any of its non-Master opponents with any memorable qualities, and Azal is no different. The unexplained happenings of the early episodes have a lot of impact, and it is the inevitable explanations - which lead us to this goatish daddy-long-legs - which let the story down. The Master is a much more compulsive and entertaining figure to centre such a story around - though this was his fifth appearance in a five-story Season. Admittedly, he is by now so much part of the "UNIT family" furniture that he cannot seem a credible, serious threat, but Delgado is so damn good at playing the mischievous, slightly loveable rogue that it hardly matters. His Master is more than an equal match for Pertwee's Doctor, and watching it now, I suspect I would actually be cheering him on at many points, my voice bellowing in profane echo of the mighty words: "ECO-ECO... AZAAAAAALLL!".
In 1998 I said "Yet, the somewhat unbelievably ridiculous scenes near the end, where the Master is booed by the kids/villagers, only bring out the pantomime side of the character" as if this were a particularly bad thing! Let's face it, there always was a pantomime quality to the Master and his narrative function of licensed villainy - his beard and schemes were as constant as Sweeney Todd's barbershop trap-door and "I'd like to polish him off!" refrain - up until Survival, which admittedly paints him in a more deathly, deadly light. His final, moral comeuppance here is most amusing for a student of Victorian melodrama such as myself, and the booing is a rare example in DW of a choric focus other than the companion.
The Aldbourne setting adds immeasurably to this tale's charm; as I imply above, this greater grounding gives the story an edge over adventures like Claws of Axos, which lacks a sense of scale and variety. While it is a stereotypically idyllic Little England setting, this works perfectly for Dr Who, which is an unreal, stylised concoction of a very singular kind. As some have noted, DW actually used such a setting as this very rarely; it was always really The Avengers that by turns capitalised upon and sent up the small-village archetypes. One is not sure where the villager characters arise from, however; they seem closer to the misshapen yokels of Sam Peckinpah's 1971 Cornish-set film Straw Dogs or like more wallyish English cousins of The Wicker Man's locals. They seem malevolent but rather weedy and easily beaten off by Benton and Yates, and the accents... well, I think the word "variable" would be overly kind. And note once more, the chauvinistic basis of the show; the only other female character at all is Miss Hawthorne - an admittedly well-played Joyce Grenfel-type eccentric. Don't look to Pertwee DW if you want to see anything of the feminine point of view; Sarah-Jane Smith was rather more than overdue, but there will still no other female guest characters to be seen until the Tom Baker years came along.
Aside from such tangential - if certainly justifiable - concerns, The Daemons is by no means the worst example of how to make Dr Who; along with the beguiling location work, the early scenes with the wonderfully bluff Yorkshireman Professor Horner and the hapless, RP-speaking BBC-3 presenter Alistair Fergus work very well. This comedic pairing, and the absurd nature of the "BBC-3" broadcasts, provides a rare case of Pertwee era comedy being carried off with aplomb. The actors ought to be applauded, as it is very deftly played, only adding to the scenario of batty old witches and sinister vicars called Magister.
Six years on, I do still feel that The Daemons is "well overrated"; certainly by those who would bandy the term "classic" about, as if discussing Lear, Godot or Tristram Shandy; only a limited number of Dr Who stories - and none from these middle Pertwee years - can be described as genuinely great within the telefantasy context. I can however, fully sympathise with those who praise this as nostalgic old Dennis Wheatley-esque, English village-set clatrap, which can be immensely enjoyed if one is in the right mood. Imaginative children may still be thrilled by the early parts' sense of eerie mystery, and I would direct all archive TV fans towards this as a choice example of the nostalgic "Pertwee charm" at its height. But I wouldn't say it would go down well with others expecting anything else.
In 1998, I described The Daemons as "untrue to the original spirit of Doctor Who - when was that ever about championing violence and militaristic values? That, is why this cannot be truly classed as classic Doctor Who." Well, what about the various acts of petty violence perpetrated by Hartnell's Doctor in the series' original season? Or Tom Baker in the wonderful Dr Who that is The Seeds of Doom? I see the greater problems now as being the inexplicable plot holes, and the way the whole thing's credibility and mood just sags in the last few episodes. UNIT here are hardly a monstrous, serious military force comparable with the coalition forces in Iraq at this minute; indeed, Courtney's Brigadier represents a rather more restrained, pragmatic way of going about things: one indeed expressed in the Taskforce's UN status [That's the answer to building a new Iraq; send in the UN... with Nick Courtney as interim administrator! ;-)]. While the unfortunate Bok is, indeed, targeted by the UNIT foot soldiers, one must remember he is a fantastical creation, and in no way an allegorical one.
The Daemons is untrue to Sydney Newman and Verity Lambert's original designs for the show, and that show - which materialised in the early historicals, a few of the non-monster science-fiction yarns and above all in Ian and Barbara - might have been a more consistent, credible show, compared to what Dr Who became. But we have to judge this both within Dr Who's overall context, as well as television per se. As the immortal Alistair Fergus ordained to say, "I could go on all day", but like that consummate television professional, I won't prolong the fray. I'll merely say that The Daemons is generally not very good, and also generally very enjoyable viewing. It is genuinely likeable, cosy Dr Who, personified by that idyllic maypole ending: a vision that grows more forlorn with the passing of each year in t' real world.
A Review by Stuart Gutteridge 25/11/98
It isn`t hard to see why so many people enjoy The Daemons as much as they do, as the tale has a great deal working in its favour. The formula and setting make for ideal saturday teatime viewing, as does the atmosphere of the story. Combining the themes of black magic (something new to Doctor Who at the time) and alien invasion, this builds into something special.
Characterisation is spot on as well with The Doctor inventing gadgetry from nothing, Jo screaming and being equally charming in all the right places, and UNIT getting a piece of the action (even if the Brigadier is out of it, trapped behind an energy barrier for much of the story).
Roger Delgado in particular deserves special mention, evoking charming evil and pity when confronted by Azal. The supporting cast also deserve mention, the character of Miss Hawthorne being the most memorable. For a change, Benton and Mike Yates get more to do than save the innocent, working together as a team.
Production values are generally high, enhanced by the location work, although some of the CSO is a little glaring. As the season began with a high introducing The Master, so it ended with his capture by perhaps the forgotten star of the Pertwee era, Bessie, reaching the same heights as the more memorable Doctor Who tales did.
Get your chatty friend to interview him! by Will Jones 21/6/99
The Daemons is one of those stories that has recently been 'reassessed' by fandom, basically since it was repeated in 1992 and people's fond memories of the tale were confronted with the truth. Reading the above reviews gives some impression of the division between fans over this story.
Myself, I fit firmly into the 'old guard'. The Daemons is one of the most entertaining of all Pertwee's stories. It's got just about everything: the old Doctor v Master battle (even though Pertwee and Delgado share only a handful of scenes), UNIT, depicted more than ever as a bunch of ordinary blokes doing a job in the army, a terrible threat to the universe and another great performance by Jon as the Third Doctor.
Mr May above criticises it for "championing violence", arguing that this goes against the original spirit of the show. But The Daemons is no more violent than any other Third Doctor/UNIT story. Guns are used just as much to trick the villagers into thinking that the Doctor's a sorcerer as to shoot at people. UNIT, in fact, don't kill one human being during this show; only Bok is blown up, and even he is allowed to reassemble. Yes the conclusion is an explosion of the church, but this is only due to Azal overheating thanks to Jo's self-sacrifice.
I do admit that this is the weakest aspect of the show: the tragically flawed ending. Azal blows up because he can't understand self-sacrifice? Please! Not very well-thought out by Sloman and Letts. D- for that, but A for the rest of the story.
It's a tremendous hodgepodge of insane vicars, magic v science (coming out in favour of science - how very Doctor Who), chase sequences, technobabble, living gargoyles, the visitation of the Devil and people getting knocked unconscious (which happens more here than in any other story). I don't think Pertwee-era Doctor Who was ever this much all-out fun. Other stories may be better - none have the same lunatic energy, superb pace and quality feel (thanks to all the location filming which creates a very convincing world).
There's not really much meat to the tale, though, but hey! Who cares? Certainly not the seven-year-olds this was made for, and you, oh sceptical 90s viewer, should watch it with the eyes of a seven-year-old. It's a lot more fun that way. 8/10
Devil's AgEnda by Andrew Wixon 14/12/01
It's not all that many years ago that The Daemons was voted the best DW story ever made. Of course, the anti-Pertwee jihad of the early 90s put paid to that little concept, and now it's considered to be... what? An enjoyable romp? The best of Season Eight's fairly indifferent bunch? Hmmm. Perhaps a bit of an injustice is being perpetrated.
The Daemons has several great advantages over the rest of the season: first of all, a script by a series insider (stand up, Uncle Baz), who knows the characters and actors backwards and writes for them with a familiarity born of many months work. The actors themselves have had at least a year to get into their characters, which is another boon. The story is also one of the few contemporary third Doctor tales not to be set in a research centre or other government installation - locating it in a community gives it a unique and welcome feel. And while there a relatively few major guest roles (most of them only last an episode or two), they nearly all acquit themselves well, and several (most obviously Damaris Hayman) are outstanding.
It's an interesting script in several ways - it's clearly meant as an elaboration of Barry Letts' humanist, rationalist, moral agenda for the series, and manages to succeed without being too dogmatic or preachy (sadly, a difficult trick to achieve!). It's also clearly a product of the early 1970s with all the material about the Age of Aquarius, the von Daniken themes, New Age philosophy... sheesh. The exclusion of the Brigadier and the troops from much of the action is a clever ploy as it heightens the sense of threat, while allowing Benton and Yates their moment in the limelight.
But this is one of those gossamer stories that falls spectacularly apart if you so much as look at it. The climax is plainly a ludicrous deus ex machina. The Master and the Doctor barely even meet, having spent most of the story hiding in the cavern and the pub respectively. It has morris-dancing in it, for heaven's sake (although the sight of the Doctor being forced to dance round the maypole brought a rather sadistic grin to my face).
This is a buffet of a story, but an excellent one: you won't remember it for the plot, because there isn't much of one. But there are stackloads of memorable and entertaining characters (Miss Hawthorne, Osgood, the landlord, Azal), some wonderfully droll dialogue (the Brigadier gets the lion's share in this department), and magic moments aplenty (the signpost in episode one, Benton's sharpshooting prowess). The whole is greater than the sum of its parts - by far the best story of the season, and devilishly good fun.
The usual and unusual by Tim Roll-Pickering 28/3/02
The Daemons is often cited by those who worked on it as their favourite story of all and for many years was hailed as the epitome of all that the Pertwee years stand for. Whilst this is not entirely true as there are many familiar elements missing (for instance politicians/civil servants or invading aliens to name but two) the story does nevertheless stand out as a strong example of how to use the formulaic elements properly.
There's a lot that's unusual about The Daemons as well, such as the story's length at five episodes or the appearance of Benton and Yates in civilian clothes for most of the story. For once the threat isn't the invasion of the Earth but rather the Master's quest to acquire the power of the Daemons for his own ends. This is a story that strongly relies on charecterisation and acting, and it works with many well portrayed individuals ranging from Bert the pub landlord to Miss Hawthorne the local white witch. Each of the main guest characters comes across as fully believable and there's a genuine tragedy in some of their fates, especially Bert's as he realises how unimportant he is regarded as by 'Mr Magister'.
The story itself is full of strong ideas, revolving around the notion of humanity's development as an experiment that is being put through the final test. Whilst some of the elements, such as the sabbath, have been done to death in many other forms of fiction over the years, here they are given a new twist in the conflict between science and magic. There is much in this story to think about and it is aiding by some excellent direction and design work.
The story today only survives as a recolourised version of four episodes alongside the original master of Episode Four and in many areas this has actually benefited it, since the studio interiors now appear to have been filmed on location. This is let down by the original master material from Episode Four, but otherwise the story has benefited immensely and now seems much 'realer' than many of its contemporaries preserved in one videotape format or another. Of the design work, there is little to criticse except perhaps the aerial shots of Azal's hooves, whilst the direction is strong and well paced, giving all the right signs of urgency and this is backed up by a strong music score.
The main weakness of the story stems from the fact that the Brigadier and UNIT spend a couple of episodes building the energy exchanger only for it to explode as soon as it has allowed them to penetrate the heat barrier. Whilst it is believable that such a machine could explode after its first use, it does nevertheless come across as far too obviously a convenient plot device. But this is only a minor thing and otherwise the story is a strong tale in which the elements all complement one another to produce a story that may not be the greatest Doctor Who tale ever told but is certainly a strong one. 10/10
What to do (and what not to do) by Jason Thompson 29/5/02
The Daemons is a thoroughly enjoyable tale, and being set in a village gives it an almost unique feel for a Dr Who story. It certainly has its flaws, which I'll come to in a moment, but overall it's really rather good.
OK, let's get the flaws out of the way first (if you've read my reviews of The Daleks' Master Plan and The Two Doctors, you'll be spotting a pattern here!). The climax is utter rubbish. It all builds up to a great finale, right up until the point when Azal says he will bequeath his power to the Doctor, who cries out: "No! No, I don't want it!" Excellent stuff, but then Jo makes her attempt at self-sacrifice, Azal goes bright pink, thrashes about a bit, then blows up. Oh dear. Add to that Jo's sudden, and virtually inexplicable, determination to go to the cavern in part four (which appears to be little more than a poorly thought out way to get her there so the Master can offer her as a sacrifice, which is also entirely unnecessary), her being daft enough to try reading a map upside-down in part one (which is even dafter because we're supposed to think they're lost because of that rotating signpost, not her map reading skills), and her referring to the book pages being scattered by the forcefield in the cavern as a "horrible conjuring trick," despite having seen Bok and the heat barrier in action, and you begin to wonder how eager to get to the end of the season the team actually was by this point to have allowed these things to be left in. Finally, the Master? Again? Roger Delgado is excellent in the part, but by this point he had been in every episode this season bar parts 1-3 of Colony in Space. For every viewer who cheered his return, I'm sure there was one who thought: "oh bloody hell, not again?!"
Still, for all the parts that make you want to kick the screen, there are sections that give you a nice comfortable feeling while watching as well. This is Benton and Yates's story, beyond a doubt. We get to see them in civvies for most of the story, and at the start they're engrossed in a televised sporting event, which gives an extra facet to their characters; an idea that they have some interests other than soldiering. It's also nice to have the obligatory explanation from the Doctor without the Brigadier impatiently snapping at him to make sense. Benton and Yates are actually interested in what the Doctor is saying. There's also a lovely moment when the Doctor rounds on Jo after she tries to join him in his "blowing things up is a stupid, militaristic plan" attitude. This shows the sort of regard the Doctor has for the Brigadier: he can call him a military buffoon, but woe betide anyone else who tries it. Marvellous.
The whole story centres around the magic v science debate, which has cropped up many times before. Given that, I'm surprised that the idea that highly advanced races would have capabilities we would consider magical simply because we are unable to understand their basis in science was never mentioned. After all, show a man from a few hundred years ago anything operated by remote control, such as Bessie, and he would call it magic because he would have no other basis on which to describe it. I did like the heat wave being caused by Azal's losing mass and dissipating it as energy (as the Doctor says, it has to go somewhere), but somewhere along the line the freezing effect of his expansion was lost. the idea that aliens visiting Earth in the past would fall into legend as gods is also not new, and in fact makes a good deal of sense as a possible explanation for the legends of the gods in various religions (and before anyone who subscribes to such religions posts angry responses, I did say only a possible explanation!).
So what else is there? Well, it's nice to see the villagers as people who are able to think for themselves. They are initially led astray by the Master, but all come over to the Doctor when he is given the chance to talk to them. All too often in such stories as these, the townspeople are portrayed as faceless cyphers with absolutely no will of their own. They follow the villain for no adequately explored reason, then disappear near the climax because the writer can't think what to do with them once the villain has been thwarted. Not so with Guy Leopold, who makes them seem like real people.
I'm sure by now you're asking what the point of this review is going to be. So far I've mentioned some of the problems with the story, and some of the things that recommend it. To sum up, The Daemons is a story that showcases what not to do in a story, as well as what sort of things to add to a story to make it just that little bit different and enjoyable to watch. It also shows how to end a story well, even if the climax is rubbish. The Doctor and Jo dancing round the maypole ("well you were right Jo, there is magic in the world after all!"), and Yates and the Brig going for a pint, all help to show how normality has returned and the characters can enjoy themselves for a bit. Of course, if every ending was like this they'd get boring, but for the end of a season it's near perfect.
And I didn't mention the "chap with the wings there, five rounds rapid," order once. Oh dammit...
The essense of the Pertwee years by Michael Hickerson 20/7/03
Back in the days before the large scale release of Doctor Who on VHS, several stories from the first ten years of the program were always brought up when long-term fans attemmpted to make the arguement, "It's not as good as it used to be." Two of these stories were Patrick Troughton's Tomb of the Cybermen and Jon Pertwee's The Daemons.
Thankfully, now with the release of most of the available Dr Who stories on VHS (just in time for us to purchase them all again on DVD!) fans have access to stories and can make the decision for themselves. Are the stories that were once labelled classics really classics and were certain stories that got a bit of a bid rap actually better than we were lead to believe?
I will admit, that when the debate over "It's not as good as it used to be" would erupt on the pages of Doctor Who Magazine (this was long before the Intenet brought us all together to debate stories and argue about them on a more or less daily basis) and I'd see that The Daemons was held up as one of the examples of classic Who, the argument lost me a bit. I was fortunate that when I began my magnificent Who obsession, I was near a PBS station that bought the entire run of Who in syndication -- including the recently recovered "lost" Pertwee stories. I'd seen The Daemons and my thoughts on it were that it was in black and white and it surely wasn't quite as good as every one remembered it to be. Several years went by before I could see it again, and my reaction was still the same -- good story, but not quite a classic.
Then, along came the restoration team. Ah, those early days when all they had to do was the incredibly tedious process of overlaying the original color images over the rather degraded black and white master tapes the Beeb still had in their possession. I remember what a huge stir it caused when they did this -- and how I was eager to see the work, if only to see a story in color that was filmed in color. Finally, the VHS release made it to our shores and I was able to run out and buy a copy. I have to admit, that for a story that up until that point I'd dismissed as a decent but not great story, I was rather excited to get to see it again. It was almost like a new Dr. Who story.
And on that viewing, something in the story just clicked. It took a couple of tries, but suddenly the enitre story just came together and I saw the magic. The Daemons stunned me with how good it was and how much I'd been missing. Maybe it was the excitment of seeing it for the first time in color and made me approach it as a fresh story, I'm not sure. But I will have to say that I consider The Daemons to be one of the definitive stories of the Pertwee years.
Obviously, I'm not alone. The production team and cast from that era all seem to endorse The Daemons as one of those stories they just all enjoyed working on together. And that enjoyment shows through on screen. The cast is having a marvellous time. The sense of a family UNIT (pun fully intended) is evident here. Yes, UNIT has fallen a few pegs from being the crack military group it was in Troughton years and season seven (Yates and Benton both seem to have glass jaws... one punch and down they go!), but they still aren't the foils for Pertwee that they will later become in the series.
The story itself is pretty much your standard Pertwee era Master story. The Master has hatched some ingenious scheme to get some kind of power that will make his either the ruler of the universe or the destroyer of Earth and he's going to take out the Doctor in the bargain. And as with a lot of the Master's plan, he hasn't alwys thought the whole thing through and ends up having to ask the Doctor to help bail him out of whatever mess he's gotten hismelf into this time. The one cliche that doesn't make it through is that the Master doesn't somehow or other escape to fight another day in this one (and Benton captures him! Go figure!).
But taking that rather standard story, writer Barry Letts (under the pen name of Guy Leopold) runs with the structure and makes it into something more. We get an examination of the nature of magic -- almost a debate on the merits of technology vs. magic. We also see the Pertwee era sensibilty of man being his own worst enemy -- there are several lines of dialogue about our ability to pollute everything now thanks to the wisdom given to us by Azal and his people. We also see a bit of the misunderstanding and outcasting of all things different -- indeed, the only person in the village who doesn't give into Mr. Magister's promises is the outcast local white witch, Ms. Hawthorne (who apparnetly has the hots for Benton). The script is an absolute delight from start to finish and I'll give you that some of episode five is a bit padded (Azal's repeated threats of "No, seriously I am going to destroy you now... or maybe now" make him seem a bit like Dr. Evil from the Austin Powers movies, but that's OK), but it's so enjoyable I don't really mind. Kind of like my feelings on Inferno -- yes, the final episode drags a bit, but the whole ride getting there makes you overlook a few slow moments as things wrap up.
The relationship between the Doctor and Jo (no, not that kind!) is at its most real here. We see the Doctor acting as a kindly uncle to her -- encouraging her to stretch her mind a bit and complimenting her when she does actually use her brain cells and then getting after her when she criticizes the Brigadier. The give and take between Pertwee and Katy Manning seems very real here and I like that. Honestly, Jo is not my favorite companion so anytime I see merit to her being there, it's a huge deal.
There are also a lot of small moments that push the story from the merely good into the great category -- poor Sgt. Osgood, seeing the Brig at home, Bessie driving herself around. All in all, I can't think of five episodes that more suitable capture the essense of what the Pertwee years are all about. I'd argue there are better overall stories, but not many that really capture all the elements that made the Pertwee years so much fun to watch.
And that's more than enough to rate this story as a classic, not only of its era, but also of the series as a whole.
A Review by Terrence Keenan 27/7/03
I think that most fans have a certain Who story they wanted to like, due to reputation, but can't. The Daemons is one such story for me. For every fun character, or scene, you have two or three that are just bad.
The good stuff:
Professor Horner is a hoot. Droll, grumpy, untelegenic, he's the highlight of the first episode. He gets the best line of the serial. The Producer asks Horner what if the Devil should appear. "Use your initiative. Get your chatty friend to interview him" is his reply.
I like Olive Hawthorne. I can't help it. She's the other top written character in the story. Part Occultist, part town busybody, veddy English. I wanted to hug her. Between her shouts of impending doom, her arguments with the Doctor over Magic and Science, her blatant hitting on Benton, she gives The Daemons a much-needed spark.
Speaking of Benton, he's everyone's bitch in this one. Gets his ass whooped by a Verger, invisible spirits, and a Morris Dancer (What the fuck is a Morris Dancer, by the way?). Yet, he still is willing to help, frets about his friends, comrades and superiors, and gets up time and again to do what he can. Also nice to see him in Civies.
The best scene in is in episode 4, where the Doctor, with a little help from Olive and Benton, manage to convince the townsfolk of his magic powers. Well thought out and executed.
The bad stuff:
This is Big Roger Delgado's worst effort. Big Rog has little charm, and even worse, little menace. In the black mass scenes and the scenes with Azal, he hams it up to the point where no scenery or co-star is left unchewed.
Why do the villagers boo the Master when he's driven away? Even moreso, why was this bad idea not cut from the story?
Katy Manning is really bad in this one. Watch this and The Claws of Axos, and it makes you wonder why the ballsy version of Jo in The Mind of Evil was ever done in the first place.
Pertwee is in cruise control in this one. I almost choked when I heard the "that bounder... Hitler" line. His only bright moment is the in the aforementioned Wizard scene in ep 4.
It's du riguer to mention the climax. I suppose I should mention its lack of logic, and hamola acting by everyone. But why flog a dead horse? The casting of Stephen Thorne set the inevitable tone for this doozy of an ending.
I'll leave Nic Courtney alone. It just isn't one of his better efforts. That infamous line is just the topping of a mediocre performance.
Overall, The Daemons is just bad. And I really do want to like it. Every time I pop the tape in, I think this is the time that I will finally understand why this was called a classic for so many years.
Alas, it hasn't happened yet.
"Use your initiative. Get your chatty friend to interview him."
Ahh, The Daemons. Pro Big Nose/Anti Big Nose dividing line serial. For some, this is everything that is great about the Pertwee years: UNIT, small-town shenanigans, the Doc and Jo and the Brig and Benton and Yates and the Master. For others, it's just crap. It sums up everything that Who was never supposed to be: cozy, childish, derivative storytelling with a pro-Establishment Doctor using the military to blow everything up.
The reality is far different. The Daemons is the first of four key Barry Letts/Robert Sloman episodes that are used to define the Pertwee Doctor: a mix of science, Zen Buddhism and spiritual growth. The key moment is when the Doctor is offered Azal's gift and denies it. He denies it because to have ultimate power, even to use it for good, is not right. His alter ego, Old Beardy Head, will do anything for it. The whole of season eight builds up to this...
And then Jo decides to sacrifice herself and the Daemon goes boom just to get a big explosion in.
I do understand why fans like The Daemons. It's playing with Big Myth territory: ultimate power, God-like alien entities, an alter-ego arch enemy. Combine that with the "strange little town" horror setting #10, some line crossing between sci-fi and fantasy, and you have all those juicy elements that, if done right, could be truly epic...
Alas, the big problem with The Daemons is with the nuts and bolts of storytelling, with certain parts of characterization, with That Ending. After an interesting first episode, it flops about with good and very bad set pieces and odd delays (some people refer to this as padding) before we finally get to the big confrontation between Big Nose, Big Rog and Goat Legs. The action bits feel arbitrary and unnecessary. All the regulars get whingy around the Doctor, who acts bitchy back at them. The worst of these is when the Doc gives Alistair an earful over the walkie talkie, and then slams Jo for agreeing with him. Can you picture Big Nose doing the same thing to Liz Shaw or Sarah Jane Smith without getting a bollicking back? Oh, hell no. Benton gets his ass whupped by a forcefield and a Morris Dancer. Yates is used by the Coven members as a punching bag. The Brig is a mere sideshow to events, issuing silly orders and whinging at everyone.
Not all is bad, though. As mentioned before, episode one is very, very good. Featuring two of my all time favorite one-off characters, Olive Hawthorne and Professor Horner, they make part one special. After Horner kicks the bucket, my favorite moments center around Olive, who is one of the three greatest Daffy Old Bats in Who (along with Amelia Ducat & Professor Amelia Rumford). It's quite obvious that she's in love with Benton, sometimes in a motherly way, other times in a "I want the cabana boy to ravage me" way. And then there's the "Great Wizard" scene, where Olive bluffs the Doctor out of being the main course at his own barbecue. At story's end, she's doing fertility dances with Benton. Woo-Hoo!
That Ending is a summing up of the whole serial. It starts off well, with the Doctor announcing that he knew he was dead the moment he enters the cavern, and looking like he really means it. And then it bogs down into a boring old chat fest. Where Stephen Thorne's Azal yells, Big Rog hams it up, and Big Nose says things like "What was that bounder's name... Hitler. Adolph Hitler," with all the sincerity of a Tannoy announcement. The Doc is offered ultimate power and rejects it. The Master is given it on the rebound, but alas, little Jo makes her play while Big Nose gurns... and well, you know what happens next. Meanwhile, outside the church, twenty crack soldiers who can't hit the side of a barn take on a fat man in a body stocking who points at things and emits smoke from his fingers. This goes on for ever, and is the very definition of gratuitous action stuff. Then Bok the gargoyle sits down and changes back to stone. Just in time for the church to go boom.
The Daemons is a wholly frustrating story for me, as there are some good moments, and strong ideas, but too many naff moments and That Ending eliminate any good will the story had left. There is one good thing, however. Letts and Sloman would manage to pull things together after another bad misstep (The Time Monster) and give us the brill The Green Death and flawed-but-worthy Planet of the Spiders.
A Review by Brian May 11/12/03
Ah, the fickledom of fandom! That's what The Daemons has had to endure. Long lauded as the definitive tale of the third Doctor's era, held in high esteem - it was given that very salubrious title - a "classic". But that was then, and this is now. Since the Pertwee backlash, polite Doctor Who fan society now looks on this story as a mere nostalgia trip; a story that's not that good; a story whose praises belong in the more innocent days of 1970s fan circles, not today's cynical, postmodern elite.
So where does the truth lie? Well, as in most cases, it lies somewhere in between. The Daemons is not the brilliant story it was always made out to be - it was never a favourite of mine. But it has some wonderfully enjoyable moments. There's a lot of fun to be had here, especially in the first couple of episodes.
For atmosphere, part one cannot be beaten. The opening is a classy take on the "dark and stormy night" scenario; the slow build-up is wonderfully moody. The scenes in UNIT headquarters are nice and understated, but the best moments are when the Doctor and Jo are driving in Bessie at night (helped by some wonderful sound effects), the twirling signpost, the scenes in the pub and the televised dig. Add to that the ceremony led by the Master and his band of Satanists - including the genuinely frightening activation of Bok the gargoyle - and you have a ripper of an episode.
Episode two keeps this momentum going as things unfold. The pair of red eyes that glow from the excavated hump make the spine tingle. The story has a genuine Hammeresque feel to it - all the hoary old chestnuts of this genre are unashamedly plundered - aided by the night filming. The sense of mystery also prevails - things are as yet unexplained - which is always a positive factor in Doctor Who stories. Unfortunately, the flipside of the coin also applies - when explanations occur, the mystery vanishes and so does a lot of atmosphere, which is definitely what happens in The Daemons.
This all happens in episode three. Oh, it's just another alien race. No more mystery. As the adventure continues, it peters out and become less involving. Parts three and four just seem to consist of a lot of action scenes involving helicopters and motorbikes. While these were a staple of the Jon Pertwee era, they seem out of place in a tale like this. A change from gothic suspense to all-out action is a sudden shift in mood that just doesn't do justice to the story. The scenes with the Doctor, the Brigadier and Osgood discussing the heat barrier are overlong, tiresome and filled with technobabble. In this part of the story, there are very few interesting scenes - an exception is the village meeting - but aside from this, it's all rather bland.
The final episode is also unexciting. There's another dreary UNIT gun-battle. All that Quiquaequod stuff is rather silly, and what's with Bert's newspaper get-up? The realisation of Azal is passable, but not fantastic. The final confrontation in the crypt actually has some good moments - the arguments made as the Doctor and the Master confront Azal are well written. Actually, most of this scene is well written (apart from the Doctor's "man has polluted his planet" thank-you-Barry-Letts-for-making-the-show-so-issue-conscious diatribe). And of course, the resolution - Azal's short circuit at the concept of self-sacrifice, is ridiculous, convenient and sudden. Another case of ideas running out as time runs out. However, the charming ending, particularly the final shot, are a saving grace.
The Daemons also benefits from solid production values. The direction is excellent, with small touches that make all the difference - for example, the shadow of the unseen Daemon over the constable's face as it descends upon him, and the point of view shots as Azal bears down on the Master at the end of part three. The location footage is great. Most of the performances are strong. The villagers are rather clichéd rural characters, but they are for the most part well realised (Damaris Hayman is absolutely wonderful as Miss Hawthorne). Roger Delgado makes the Master a more interesting character as well - I love the village meeting he calls, and how he reveals the secrets of those present. The UNIT trio all have good outings as well, with some long overdue character development for Yates and Benton.
Unfortunately the same cannot be said for Jo. This is not to criticise Katy Manning, but her character is once again reduced to the screaming, nitwit companion. At the beginning we have the Doctor rebuffing her for all her "Age of Aquarius" talk (which seems to be lifted straight from "Hair"); she's then scolded by the Doctor for criticising the Brigadier's plan to blast through the heat barrier (but the Doctor did the same thing a few seconds before). She reads a map upside down; she runs off to the cavern in part four, seemingly just to create a situation where she has to be rescued; and then she screams at the impending sacrifice of a chicken, so getting herself and Mike captured! What a silly girl! But that's how she's written.
It also seems to be one of Jon Pertwee's more arrogant performances as the Doctor. He's patronising and at times somewhat hypocritical. Two such examples I have just listed in the above paragraph - the criticism of the Brigadier's plan, and Jo's "Age of Aquarius" comments. For the latter, he condescendingly pooh-poohs what she says as superstitious rubbish - then, when he becomes interested in the dig, he suddenly takes it all seriously. Then there's his smug "Magic!" "Science!" rebuttals to Miss Hawthorne - he takes an intellectual high ground without explaining anything (at least not till the next episode). For these reasons, the Doctor is not a very pleasant character to watch in parts of this story (as was the case in Terror of the Autons).
There are also a few niggling little goofs. Of course, there's the question of the heat barrier - 1 mile or 5? Then there's the opening scene - as I mentioned before, it's very good, but what kills the man leaving the pub? It can't be Azal, as he has't been released yet! In episode two, when Dr Reeves is tending to the frozen Doctor in the pub, there are people in the background drinking, but this is all taking place well after midnight! (And Bert did mention that he had called time.) And why does Bert cut the phone line when Jo is talking to Mike? Wouldn't that just arouse more suspicion?
There is a lot to commend about The Daemons. Parts one and two are terrific. The night filming creates an exquisite, creeping and suspenseful atmosphere. But after this it deteriorates, losing the feel that made the beginning so wonderful. The final episodes aren't terrible - they're just a shadow of the earlier ones. It's a story that can only be partially enjoyed, despite being well made. On a side note, I don't really like the colour restoration on the VHS. I think this story is much better in black and white (it enhances the atmosphere of the early episodes, and the Azal scenes in part five are much better viewed this way.) 6.5/10
"You know Jo, I think there is magic in the world after all!" by Joe Ford 18/12/03
There are several things you have to think about when reviewing an excepted 'classic'. Can it possibly live up to expectations? Does it exist in the shadow of reputation of years gone by? Do the ingredients that it has been so positively judged by actually any good? Are those re-evauluists (erm a new word invented by me to describe the Vanessa Bishops of this world who seem to enjoy taking accepted classics and ripping them to shreds, eg The Sun Makers, The Tomb of the Cybermen) being too hard, trying to find fault just because it is so popular?
For a relatively stable period of Doctor Who, The Daemons sits comfortably in its heart. Its popularity may come from the fact that it possesses in abundance that which you would expect from a Jon Pertwee story. A nice Earthy location, a ruthlessly rude Conservative Doctor, dippy Jo Grant, the chummy UNIT team, a satanically challenged Master (I mean that beard... how can he be anything but thoroughly despicable?), some gun play, a huge threat to all of humanity and of course a bloody great explosion. If you were in the mood for a charming piece of 70's Who then you've come to the right place. In respect to its carefully constructed era, it is pricelessly accurate.
When I watch my Doctor Who videos now I try to imagine what it would be like to a viewer at the time. One episode a week, capped with an exciting cliff-hanger with only mindless espionage nonsense like The Man From Uncle as an alternative... is it any wonder the fans fell in love? It was a far cry from the latter Tom Baker era, a period when Doctor Who was quite serious (albeit with a cheeky edge) and you could believe in that the Master and the Doctor were real enemies. There was some serious hardware on display, some impressive action sequences and the plot was built on some very steady foundations...
But is our love for this story now just a nostalgic look back at a simpler time. Certainly by today's standards of a thousand camera shots per minute, racy sex plots, intense arc 'revelations' and gorgeous faces on display the Daemons doesn't stand a chance. Does it?
Quite honestly yes. I would rather watch this quaint five parter than an entire series of 24, Buffy, Deep Space Nine or Dark Angel (and I absolutely adore each of these shows!). Why? Because not only does it use all the Pertwee cliches but it uses them really, really well, almost perfectly. At this stage the formula had been perfected and it was all down hill after this story.
Take the Master. A nice guy? You must be joking! What a complete bastard! He has the original vicar of Devils End killed (well that's a guess actually but the Master's sudden replacement of a man who was suddenly taken ill and had to leave is highly suspicious), has the entire town enthralled to his will, kills the Squire, tries to have the Doctor shot, wants to slice open innocent Jo as a sacrifice and wants to have all the power of the Daemons transferred to him so he can take over the world! Not mention what he was going to do to that defenceless ickle chicken! Has this wanker ever been this corrupt? And he does it all with a smile too, a smarmy charm that forces you to admire him despite his wicked actions. Delgado oozes charm from every pore; he steals every scene he is in with that malevolent grin of his.
The Doctor is at his height too. Jon Pertwee, such a fabulous actor really manages to bring home the seriousness of the event. His dramatic "What does anybody do with a failed experiment... chucks it in the rubbish bin!" still gives me the goose bumps no matter how many times I've watched it. Equally impressive is his severe reaction to his adversary in episode five, walking into the Master's lair at the mercy of the Daemon he viscously fires "I've got nothing to lose now. So you better watch it!" And you don't doubt him for a second.
The third Doctor always did have a problem with his manners and his disgraceful mistreatment of many of the characters is a joy to watch. He verbally abuses Jo, treats the Brig like a military idiot, refuses to back down to Ms Hawthorne... and yet he is the hero every step of the way speeding along in Bessie, dodging bullets on a motorbike, rushing into a blizzard and commiting suicide by dashing into the church to save Jo.
The story's location has always been much admired and why not? My boyfriend has long wished for us to move to a quaint little village such as Devils End. The story must have been written around the location since it has everything exactly right. The sunlight chuchyard, the charming village green, the local pub... it's just gorgeous in every way. So quintessentially British and spruced up with some proper actors you are genuinely convinced this is a living, breathing community. And with Doctor Who's expert ability to mix the everyday with the supernatural it seems almost natural for there to be a sinister cult lurking nearby, walking gargoyles on the prowl and the Devil waiting to spring up and call judgement on us all.
The Devil is an alien? Surely that eco-centric loony Barry Letts must've cooked that one up! But it really works. Thanks to the Doctor's pep talk using the horned representatives through Earth mythology the viewer is convinced that the Daemons have been helping push humanity forwards (probably great pals with the Jagaroth then!). It's nice to see the writers engaging our brains as well as satisfying our action-lust.
This is perhaps the only time I can take that limp wristed aristocrat Mike Yates seriously. It might have something to do with ditching the uniform (which always seemed like kinky stuff anyway, an obvious poofter who looked dreadfully uncomfortable in such manly gear!) or the fact that he actually contributes something to the plot (he sums up the problem superbly in episode three) or maybe it is because he finally gets some juicy action scenes that he looks fairly convincing in. Whipping along on a motorbike firing hails of bullets at a UNIT helicopter, he finally looks comfortably like a real soldgier. Bravo.
Jo is at her all time thickest but I still love her anyway. Katy Manning is so beautiful and her personality slips invisibly into the role all the time. Why does Jo leave the pub to look for the Master? Why does Jo run out of hiding to stop the chicken being slaughtered knowing full well she would make a far better sacrifice? God knows... but she's still got a hell of a smile! Katy and Jon are obviously in love (in the strictest plutonic sense of course!) and their character's obsessive devotion to each other was rarely matched.
I love Ms Hawthorne too, one of a few genuinely nice people in Doctor Who. You can't help but admire how she pluckily takes on the Doctor in debates about science/magic or how she rescues Benton by whacking that thug over the head with her crystal ball! Her purpose is imparting important information, reminding us of the satanic connections but she becomes much more than just window-dressing. Her brilliant ruse, turning the Doctor into the 'great wizard Que-qui-quod!' is in turns clever and hugely embarrassing. I love it. My Mum, a genuine witch (although they prefer mediums) no less, thought she was fabulous!
A lot of the trappings are better than your average Pertwee too; Bok makes one of the better 'monsters' of the era, looking extremely convincing as an animated statue, the sets, usually bare and under funded are all detailed and persuasive, the pub and the vestry in particular. I love the music, Dudley Simpson making all the racket he can to convince these are dramatic times. And I don't think I even saw the Brigadier's moustache slip once... amazing.
The unfortunate truth is that the cliched statement that there is an atmosphere to this story is true and is helped no end by behind the scenes revelations. We all know how much everyone enjoyed this story and there is a definite fizzle between the actors, knowing this joy cannot last forever but getting off on the high while they can.
So it looks amazing, the actors all acquit themselves well and the storyline is interesting... what is there not to like here? The story even climaxes on the extremely satisfactory capture of the Master, a long overdue event that is triumphed by all the "BOOS!" he receives.
Watch out for the following scenes, each of them superb:
Dappy old Devil.
So no, this isn't a slave to its reputation, rather it fits quite snugly into it. Re-evaluate this all you want you'll still have the Pertwee era at its peak, a story that gives everyone good stuff, never fails to convince and reminds you why the Doctor was a lucky bastard to be trapped on Earth in the early seventies.
The CSO devil rides out in a veddy English village by Steve Cassidy 25/1/05
Let me explain one thing.
I have no baggage when reviewing The Daemons. I am not one of the Pertwee old guard who cite it as the best ever produced and as a blossoming flower of the Letts/Dicks era. Nor am I a Pertwee revisionist, who cite its very flaws, decree that it is overrated, and shake their fists at the heavens regarding Azal's silly destruction.
I am just a simple punter who has never seen it before, and got it for a fiver on ebay.
Of course I am aware of its reputation, that's why I bought it. I prefer the Pertwee era to almost any other due to the originality of the stories and my predeliction for the wonderful rudeness of the third Doctor (cranky old men in capes have almost disappeared from our terrestial screens in 2005 - shame). And what do I think of it? It's good, in fact it's bloody good. Strong characterisation, storytelling and dialogue - I can see me watching it again in the coming weeks. And who isn't partial to a good black magic story?
And that was one thing which struck me about this story how veddy English it is. The medieval village of Devil's End is a perfect place to set a gothic tale. All the cliches we love about this kind of story kick off in the first episode - stormy nights, swaying pub signs, undisturbed ancient barrows, prophesing white witches, gossiping yokels. It smacks of Hammer horror or Dennis Wheatlely. In fact it has one of the strongest episode ones in the entire 26 year run. This is a terrific hook, and I must admit this may be one of the Who adventures to show your friends. Part one has very little embarassing about it except maybe Jo's fashions and the corned-beef sandwiches.
There are some wonderful characterisations in episode one. Professor Horner is a favourite of mine. A wonderful rumpled old curmudgeon who has no time for fools, and certainly has a lousy opinion on that new fangled medium of television and the people who appear in front of it. A man who has lost all fear of offending others and his run-ins with the equally eccentric Olive Hawthorne are some of the most entertaining parts of the story. I was sorry when he was destroyed in the icy blast opening the barrow. The Doctor had Jo to fuss all over his postrate body, but everyone had forgotten about irascible old Horner lying there like a frozen haddock.
And Olive Hawthorne? Damaris Layman is one of those faces from the seventies that seemed to appear in everything usually playing the middle-class neighbour or the chairperson of the local music society. She was the Penelope Keith of the early seventies. In fact, you could fit Ms Keith into Hawthornes immaculately coiffed sandals and the character would work. If you wander around Glastonbury or Wells there are plenty of Miss Hawthornes still about - dabbling in the occult, sipping their herbal tea, and reading what she wants to see in "the cards". Of course, she exemplifies the conflict of science versus mysticism in this adventure. And her flirting with Benton is highly amusing.
Does the story work? Well, yes... the first episode sets the tone and allows the audience to wonder whether the devil actually is going to be unearthed in a quiet English village? Numbers two and three introduce the Master and allow the Doctor to rationalise the appearance with interplanetary explanations. Episode four throws obstacles in the way of the main protagonists, and the denouement comes in episode five. There's not a sagging minute in the entire thing, it moves from one scene to effortlessly. The editing and direction are so good that the final episode with UNIT stitching together the power oscillator in time becomes nailbiting. And who would be Sergeant Osgood? Must be his worse day at work ever?
And the action quotent is higher with this one. A couple of chases, lots of bangs and puffs, Benton throwing people about - plus a helicopter exploding over a heat barrier. Hold on, wind the tape back... ah, yes, I recognise that - they've nicked that shot from "From Russia With Love". Still the BBC budget can't pay for everything. It must have been stretched as it is with expensive pyrotechnics and midgets dressed up in winged costumes. And how are the villains? Well, its one of my favourite Master stories. He seems to fit into a black magic coven very well and all his ranting meglomania truly spills out here. And as for the boos as he is driven away by UNIT? The Master was always a cliched pantomine villain. He is no three dimensional Iago, he is there to boo and hiss at. His exit is extremely fitting.
Azal and his experimentation with mankind is a little different from the usual monser wants to destroy the world plotline. What a wonderfully powerful villain. We won't see another villain this omnipotent until Sutekh in Pyramids of Mars. The CSO of him growing in the cavern isn't too bad and there is a wonderful shot of everyone cowering between his hooved furry legs. But my favourite part has to be his buildup and when Benton and Yates spot his hooveprints stamped all over the countryside from his helicopter. And talking of Benton and Yates... aren't they good? These two action men are the reason you could probably show this to your non-Who mates. And the Brigadier works as well. The scene where he and the Doctor trade put-downs across the heat barrier just shows how right they were for each other. Two obstinate men to whom giving ground is a foreign country.
Does it have any weak points? Well, yes - Josephine Grant. I so far have not really mentioned her as I am far too polite. Come on! We know how good Jo can be. Previously we saw her take on Axons, Autons, space colonists - not to mention quell a prison riot. Why is the character portrayed as such an idiot here. She is written as a child, not just a child but an idiot child. She runs out from hiding to save a chicken, she breaks into tears every five minutes, she takes the Doctor's admonishments like a ten year old. What is going on? I'm surprised Katy Manning didn't leave on the spot. The blame must go equally to the producer/scriptwriter. And we all know who Guy Leopold really was. They did not serve her well. Interesting to put Pertwee's other two companions in the same story. Liz Shaw would have stayed behind with the Brigadier to assemble the oscillator whilst fending off his exhortations with sarcasm, and Sarah Jane Smith would have fitted this story like a glove. I can almost see her creep around the church crypts in a bid to find out what is really going on at Devil's End.
And what of Jon Pertwee? I've heard him damned in this adventure as too overbearing and patrician. Everybody seems to get it from his sharp tongue. Yes, this is true - perhaps his recent space jaunt in Colony in Space has made him realise what he is missing and he is taking it out on everyone around him. If so then this would be keeping in character. But there are cracks of the true third Doctor here as well, he is genuinely concerned for the world as he is the only person who recognises the Daemon and realises what it means for mankind. And the expression on his face when Azal offers him his powers at the end means he is dead set against such powers being given to one man. Pertwee is on excellent form here and at the end of his second season is off and running at full speed.
So there we have it. Is The Daemons the masterpiece that those watching in 1971 espoused? Or an overrated piece of Letts cosiness which hasn't stood the test of time? Having no baggage I tend towards the former. It stands up very well in 2005. It may not be the greatest Pertwee, it may not be as good as Silurians, Carnival of Monsters and the unforgettable Inferno. But I'd say it was top five.
A haiku by Finn Clark 24/9/20
Interchangeable plot beats
But iconic charm.
'Come, it is time to keep your appointment with The Daemons!' by Gareth McG 5/9/22
The Daemons was the story that reignited my love affair for Doctor Who in the early-90's after it had gradually faded in the late-80's. It's not hard to see why, as it has little touches of all my favourite movies from that era --- Connery and Moore-era Bond, The Exorcist and The Wicker Man --- and to its great credit, it includes just about as many iconic moments and performances as any of those classic movies (an honourable mention must go to The Brigadier's classic "Chap with wings... five rounds rapid"). The Wicker Man is the one with which it shares most similarities of course, with both heavily based around sacrifice on May Day, not least the threat of the lead character being burnt to death. It's a comparison that prompts one to recognise that despite much being made of the Doctor's lack of manners in this story, his behaviour still pales in comparison to Sergeant Howie's. Crucially, he remains just enough on the right side of charming to convince others that his skin is worth saving. In contrast, the charmless Howie with his relentless moral superiority evokes such limited sympathy amongst the natives and viewers alike as to end up sealing his own grizzly fate.
That's the genius of The Wicker Man of course --- that the baddies somehow appeal so much more than the goodies. The Daemons is more conventional in that sense. Roger Delgado's Master, for instance, fails to charm the residents of Devil's End in the same way as Christopher Lee's Lord Summerisle (despite almost matching his brilliantly charismatic performance) and consequently has to resort to fear and manipulation to get them on side. Miss Hawthorne actually evokes more similarities. It's her heavy sway of the townspeople that seals the Doctor's survival after all, but one can just as easily imagine her rejoicing in a victory chant amongst the throngs on Summerisle whilst Howie is being sacrificed to the Sun Gods. How intriguing it might have been therefore had she rather than The Master been the corrupting influence calling for the Doctor's incineration in The Daemons. And even if that may have been a little too heavy to inflict on younger viewers, then it's not beyond the bounds of possibility that this missed opportunity inspired those involved in The Wicker Man to realise their own horrific version a couple of years later. There are certainly enough shades of The Daemons in that movie --- the village pub, the maypole/ fertility dance, Jo being sacrificed in a white gown --- to suggest that the producers were watching closely. And that's another great credit to The Daemons, in contrast to the highly lauded homages of the Baker/Holmes/Hinchcliffe era that followed a few years later; it feels completely fresh, original and ground-breaking.
As with most ground-breakers, however, The Daemons doesn't get everything right, and its biggest flaw is almost unanimously acknowledged as indefensible. For all the criticisms that the conclusion has received, though, there are surprisingly few suggestions as to how a more satisfying ending could have been achieved. So let's give it some thought. The most obvious resolution would have been to just stick with the original plan of using the energy exchanger to overcome Azal. Or if that felt too much like killing two birds with one stone, then perhaps the Master could have accidentally but permanently shrunk him back down to size and limited his powers in the process. Or maybe the serial would have just been better off without Azal altogether (along with some of the other dodgy sci-fi elements for that matter). All moot points now, of course, but tragic to consider that if the denouements to both The Daemons and The Wicker Man were removed, then there'd really not be a whole lot to separate them. The reality of course is that the latter quite literally fades off into the sunset by executing one of the greatest movie climaxes of all time, whilst the former falls flat with one of the most lamentable conclusions the series has known. I've even tried to convince myself that the finale to The Daemons was so bad that it maybe prompted the producers of The Wicker Man to make sure they got their own right. Far-fetched I know, but also about the only good I can think that might actually have come out of it.
One other minor triumph worth mentioning for The Wicker Man over The Daemons was the decision to premiere it in winter when it should be watched rather than on the verge of summer when it's set. Both are wonderfully atmospheric of course, but there's no doubt that Halloween or winter viewings dial things up a few notches further. It's no surprise in that sense that the omnibus broadcast in Christmas 1971 was the only time in the series' history that a repeat garnered more viewers than its original transmission (and no surprise either if this was this was when the producers of The Wicker Man tuned in whilst searching for inspiration). My own first exposure to The Daemons on the cold, wintery Friday evenings of 1992 when the BBC next repeated it also made the experience all the more memorable and magical. Then again, even in its most serene days, Devil's End still manages to retain the quiet menace of a village with a sinister past. That was at least my impression when I visited it on a glorious summer's day about a decade ago when the birds were cheeping but where a faint whistle similar to the heat barrier also hung in the air. In that sense, The Daemons retains a sense of magic beyond just the black magic elements themselves. Even the title evokes something magical. 'The Demons' just wouldn't feel the same somehow!