The Crystal Bucephalus
The King's Demons
|Dates||Mar. 15, 1983 -
Mar. 16, 1983
With Peter Davison, Janet Fielding, Mark Strickson,
and Gerald Flood as the voice of "Kamelion".
Written by Terence Dudley. Script-edited by Eric Saward.
Directed by Tony Virgo. Produced by John Nathan-Turner.
|Synopsis: The Doctor lands in the court of King John and quickly earn favor, although evidence mounts that the king may be an impostor.|
A Review by Matt Michael 22/4/98
I have to admit, The King's Demons is very cynically packaged with The Five Doctors: Collector's Edition which is probably the only reason why I own it. Otherwise, I would almost certainly never have shelled out for it!
Which is a pity, because The King's Demons is actually rather good. True, as pseudo-historicals go it's probably one of the weakest, but when competing against Pyramids of Mars and The Talons of Weng-Chiang, this is hardly a major criticism. The worst failing of the story is that the Master's plot seems rather pointless and small-minded, even the Doctor says "It's small time villainy on his scale"!
However, the story's strengths do outweigh its weaknesses. The acting is generally of high quality, and the Davison-Ainley interplay is wonderful-- the best Doctor-Master pairing since Delgado and Pertwee. The budget also stretches to make the whole production look convincing. Even the Kamelion android isn't too bad in its first appearance, although I'm glad it didn't become a major character in the series.
Unfortunately, the story follows the highly-regarded Black Guardian Trilogy, and due to the cancellation of Season 20's final serial, it ends the year on a bit of an anti-climax. Nevertheless, as with the other Davison two-parters, the plot has little time to become dull, and all in all it's a decent effort all round. 7/10 for trying.
A Review by Stuart Gutteridge 8/9/99
The King`s Demons is more of a curiosity than anything else. Tacked onto the end of a season and following the acclaimed Black Guardian Trilogy. However it does serve its purpose in managing to entertain and reintroduce The Master to the series. Unfortunately what lets it down is also The Master, with The Doctor virtually admitting that his latest bid for power is nonsensical. Further to this, Anthony Ainley's portrayal of Giles Estram defies description. This aside though, the acting is of a high standard, complete with banter between the two Time Lords.
The King`s Demons will always be remembered however for the introduction of Kamelion, who as androids go doesn`t look too bad, although it is perhaps better that he wasn`t used on a regular basis for reasons of practicality rather than anything else. The other factor that gets the story a plus point is the atmosphere, it certainly has the feel and charm of Olde England, thus adding authenticity. On the whole then enjoyable if not compulsive viewing.
Medieval Misfits! by John Wilson 4/12/01
The King's Demons is filler, basically. There are some good moments. The medieval period is well realized. The scenes between Peter Davison and Anthony Ainley's Master are some of their best confrontations. And I always thought that the concept of Kamelion as a companion was a cool one. But that's all this story has going for it.
The Master's plan to take over the world by stopping Magna Carta is hare-brained ("small time villainy by his standards…" says the Doctor at one point). The supporting characters are a gullible, unsympathetic lot. You don't really feel sorry for them. And now that Turlough's "Kill the Doctor" storyline is over he'll more or less be mis-used by just about every author 'til he leaves the show, being locked up in a dungeon (as he is here) or cell for the majority of a story while Tegan gets most of the good lines.
And then there's poor old Kamelion. Kamelion was a real (albeit, remote controlled) robot that was to be a regular character on the show. Unfortunately, it's designer, and the only person who knew how to operate it, died shortly after this story was in the can. So now the production team was left with a toy that no one knew how to play with. As a result, the character of Kamelion would disappear (presumably to a storage closet in the TARDIS) and not be mentioned or seen from again until his last show.
A Review by Richard Radcliffe 3/5/02
I have established a routine with my Doctor Who viewing these days. I am past the days when I would try to fit as much DW in to an evening as I possibly could. 6 episodes or more would be watched on the bounce, so to speak - the impact of what Doctor Who was originally intended to be was lost. And so now I don't watch more than 2 episodes an evening (and that's not every evening I hasten to add!). It is not quite as originally intended, and I certainly don't go a week between viewings either - but is enough to watch in one sitting, yet be wanting more all the same.
We visit friends of ours quite regularly. Recently there has been a renewed interest in DW from all of us, Planet of the Daleks was watched over a weekend a few months ago (see review elsewhere) and that started it off. Most of the time though we only have an evening together. 6 parters are certainly out of the question, even 4 parters stretch things a bit - and so the 2 parters are a godsend. Trouble is there is so few of them, we will run out pretty quickly.
But for now there are a handful there to be enjoyed whenever the 5 of us (Myself, wife Ruth, mate EZ, his wife Nealm, and 3 year old Nikita) get together. Kings Demons is the first of a run of stories I expect will include such stories as Awakening, Black Orchid, Sontaran Experiment, Inside the Spaceship, The Rescue. The great thing about 2 parters is that you are rarely bored with what's on offer. The story has barely started before the resolution is upon you. They never outstay their welcome, which cannot be said for the longer stories. Padding is a common complaint heard on this Website - there will be none of that in a 2-parter review!
I hadn't seen Kings Demons for donkey's years, and I was quite looking forward to it. It tends to get lost between the Black Guardian run of stories and the 20th Anniversary Special, its length doesn't help. I was intrigued too, about this dubious History that is often cited when discussing its lack of merits.
The star of the show is undoubtedly Peter Davison as the 5th Doctor. His hair had got completely out of control by this stage, he gets to do some swordfighting, becomes King's Champion, and wins a mind contest with the Master - What a Hero! He always looks great when he emerges from the TARDIS into an English Countryside, that Cricketing outfit perfectly complemented by that hat that suits him so well. The 2 Companions are surplus to requirements it seems though. Tegan was always a whinger, but it reaches an all time low in this story - what a misery! Turlough spends much of the time locked up (as usual), but he does get to protect the Doctor right at the end.
The rest of the cast are excellent, for a small story there are a lot of good actors in there. The Master's return, however low key it is (which even the Doctor agrees too), is a good one. That Giles Estram accent was very dubious, changing as it did between Welsh, Indian with a little French thrown in - but when the Master does emerge, he cackles well and makes the most of his limited role.
The History IS dubious, there is no doubting that. The Magna Carta was significant in that it took some power away from the King, and that it was approved by the King - but as a foundation of Democracy it ranks quite low. Terence Dudley just must have decided on a middle age setting and took an Historical event, without a great deal of thought to its importance. Historicals are great though, even shortened ones. You can't deny too that the realization of the 13th Century was very good.
As for the introduction of Kamelion, I actually thought a shapeshifter was a good idea. I was disappointed when it did not emerge for the 21st season, and when it did emerge in Planet of Fire, it was only to kill it off - what a pointless waste.
You are probably intrigued to know what my fellow watchers thought of it. Common consensus was of an average story, with companions who did nothing, a new companion nobody wanted, and a simple yet reasonably entertaining story. I think that pretty much sums it up. 7/10
"He is the EVIL one!" "Oh well, a quick plot device here should sort him out...." by David Barnes 4/2/03
I recently acquired this story from Ebay, along with that Five Doctors Special Edition thingy. To be honest, I didn't really want the Five Doctors, I just wanted King's Demons but anyway...
This story has always come under a lot of stick. The main reason is that it is a two parter and therefore doesn't count for much. And the Master appears for no reason. And that daft singing android comes into it. And the companions do nothing. And...
Well, be that as it may, this is one of my favourite Davison stories. No, I'm not saying it's good because the others are rubbish by default! The Kings Demons is an easy 9/10!
I think the length has something to do with my fondness for it. Usually, I find it difficult to sit through a TV show over an hour long (which is why I split up most Who stories into 2 episode chunks). So, with these two part stories, I get an entire adventure in one go! It helps that most of the 50 minute Who stories are good (only The Sontaran Experiment isn't any good). The Kings Demons does have parts where nothing seems to be going anywhere, but I still like it.
We open with some rather nice sets and period costumes. The BBC are always very good at doing things like these you see. We have lots of people sitting round some tables, including King John. Who doesn't look very happy. He has a conversation with some bloke which goes roughly like:
John: Give us some money.
John: That's it, you're stuffed.
Suddenly some young chap walks up and says "Ah hello, I fancy a fight!" This distresses the old bloke a bit, and suddenly Anthony Ainley in an orange beard and a Welsh accent appears and says "Come on then!" The King laughs and says that they can duel tomorrow.
Later that hour they duel. The TARDIS appears and the Doctor leaves after Tegan gets annoyed ("That man doesn't look very friendly!" she says when confronted with a kettle on the scanner screen). King John laughs and smiles a lot and shoves some poor sods out of their seats so that the Doctor and co. can have a sit down, even though they haven't got a season ticket. Two knights fight, the young chap and Anthony, and the young man falls off his horse. The Doctor asks if the young man can be spared and gets shouted at by the man for his troubles. King John laughs.
Later, at the castle, Turlough is captured by some knights for looking out of a window. Anthony Ainley orders that the old man's wife be put in prison, so she is. The old bloke who owns the castle goes and gets angry at the Doctor and Tegan, despite the glaring fact that they have done nothing except discuss warmth in beds (oo er!) The Doctor, being the clever man that he is, says that the King is an impostor to someone who is very loyal to him. The old man is not very pleased.
Meanwhile in the dungeon, Turlough is to be put in an iron maiden by the young bloke. Luckily, the iron maiden is taken by some guards and plonked in the dining room so that the King can look at it. The young chap is chained to a wall in the dungeon as well for a laugh.
Some chap on a horse arrives and is beaten up by the staff. He is taken to the dining room and is to be put in the iron maiden. The Doctor gets annoyed and has a sword fight with Anthony Ainley. He wins. Anthony then reveals that he is the Master. Shock horror.
Tegan throws a knife at the Master, who catches it and laughs. No-one seems remotely surprised by the fact he has just changed appearance. However, King John doesn't like the Master's beard and so chucks him in the iron maiden, which disappears. Everyone gasps and then continue eating.
The Master lets some prisoners go and plans to turn them against the Doctor. He succeeds after smiling a bit. Turlough mucks up his only significant line and the Master smiles. After they leave, the Doctor arrives and sticks the Masters TCE behind the iron maiden. He realises that, although he has won, there is still about 15 minutes left and wanders about aimlessly for a while and meets a singing robot. The robot says hello and the Doctor looks perturbed.
Oh, some other people do some stuff. But they're uninteresting.
The Master appears and laughs at the Doctor. They stare at each other and the robot, Kamelion, turns into King John and then goes wonky. Some guards arrive and do sod all. The TARDIS arrives and Kamelion turns into Tegan for some reason. The Doctor and Kamelion climb aboard the TARDIS. Turlough, who has been brought by the guards, attempts to do something interesting but Peter Davison just grabs him by the scruff of the neck and drags him into the TARDIS. It disappears. The Master goes into the iron maiden and leaves.
Then, in the space of 3 minutes, the Doctor explains the plot and that the TCE he placed has done something bad to the Master's TARDIS. So everything is all right. Kamelion boasts about how good he is and Tegan gets annoyed. The Doctor smiles and rocks on his heels until the end credits.
Well, that is a brief (and probably inaccurate!) run down of the plot. The plot is very confusing at times, as lots of people switch alliances and run around with their weapons drawn (oo-er!), seemingly for no reason. Acting is, on the whole, pretty good, though only Gerald Flood as King John stands out from the guest cast.
Some have complained that the Master's plan (to prevent the signing of the Magna Carta) is stupid. However, not every evil genius can create a huge and innovative plan at the drop of a hat! I find it refreshing to see an evil plan not concerned with the destruction of the Universe. And it could be argued that this is just a training ground for the Master to test Kamelion.
Ah yes, Kamelion. That companion no one likes. Well, I've already written a review about what I think of him on this site, but I'd like to repeat a few things! Kamelion is, I think, a very good character. He looks marvellous and has a very alien voice. If only he was used more often, he could have been great (think back to Tom arguing with K9), but, for obvious reasons, this wasn't possible. Kamelion was stuffed in a closet until Planet of Fire, where he wandered round the console room screaming and got shot. However, he has the best entrance of any companion. That slow close up on him, as he sings in King John's voice, is one of the top 10 moments in the Davison era, and for me, of Doctor Who as a whole!
My feelings of Kamelion probably overshadow my feelings of the story itself, as it really isn't that much good on the face of it. However, I just happen to like it, that's all!
Medieval misfit by Tim Roll-Pickering 22/4/03
At first it seems as though this story is more than just a vehicle to introduce Kamelion to the series, but the rest of the plot is weak and the result is a story that is mercifully only two episodes long and so it doesn't overstay its welcome considerably. The setting is a medieval English castle, one of the dullest and most boring periods the series has ever visited already in The Time Warrior, and there's little here that enlivens matters. We are treated to all the traditional elements of banquets, jousting and torture but there's very little excitement at all in these scenes.
The story is notable for featuring the first appearance by an actual historical character (almost) since The Gunfighters. There is an attempt to challenge the popular myth of 'Bad King John' by suggesting that he was in favour of Magna Carta and could have crushed the Barons' rebellion easily, but this is not elaborated upon and so we are left with the actions of the impostor and the notion that these are worse than the real King. It is not a particularly satisfying state of affairs and Gerald Flood's performance as the King is not particularly regal at all. The Master returns in this story, after adopting a poor disguise in Part One that is not at all successful in concealing his identity. Worse still dialogue establishes that King John has not favoured French knights before, making the disguise all the more questionable. The Master's plan is not explained properly and quickly dismissed by the Doctor as 'small time villainy by his standards', a virtual admission of the story's weaknesses. The casting is mundane whilst the regulars are not used to their maximum potential. Turlough seems to spend most of his time as a prisoner in one form or another, suggesting that he was a late addition to the story, whilst Tegan does little more than whinge about the cold and take off in the TARDIS on a pre set course. The Doctor does get some good scenes though, including a sword fight with 'Sir Giles' which is noticeable for the fact that both Peter Davison and Anthony Ainley clearly appear in every shot without stunt doubles, as well as the mental battle with the Master to seize control of Kamelion.
Productionwise there is very little demanding other than Kamelion. The sets are standard fare for a castle, whilst the location work is faithful but not much more than some exterior work. Kamelion is the story's real marvel. Adding an android to the TARDIS crew was a cliché for science-fiction back in 1983 but the Kamelion robot looks especially complex even though it does not appear particularly sturdy for action scenes. Making the robot a shape-shifter helps to get around these problems but ultimately the character is not especially exciting and it is easy to see why the robot disappears completely for the next five stories. This in turn undermines the main purpose for The King's Demons' existence and so ultimately this story could be so easily forgotten completely. 3/10
A Review by Paul Rees 24/7/03
An odd one, this. Looking at it objectively, The King's Demons is a pretty insubstantial story... but I always find it to be hugely enjoyable.
Let's get the negative stuff out of the way first. The plot, it has to be said, is absolute pants. Firstly, it is a pretty silly plan of the Master: he usually prefers world domination or destruction, but here he's subtle enough to be concerned with the destruction of British parliamentary democracy? It doesn't ring true at all. And secondly, as has been pointed out by other fans, the Magna Carta simply did not have the significance that the Doctor says it does: it didn't lay the foundations for parliamentary democracy at all. So even if the Master had succeeded, then it would have had very little effect on Britain's long-term history anyway.
So, the whole thing is pretty inconsequential. But it looks very pretty, the sets are pretty good and the acting is excellent. 'King John' is particularly chilling, coming over as being in equal measure regal and ruthless; and the regulars are all on form here. The Master's disguise as Estram is pretty weak, however, and certainly much less effective than his disguise as Kalid in the previous season (and why disguise himself anyway?)
The identity of Kamelion is kept pretty well hidden until towards the end, meaning that the revelation comes as something of a surprise. It's a shame that Kamelion is so immobile, however, and I'm still not quite sure exactly how the Doctor disables the Master's TARDIS using the tissue compression eliminator. Technobable rears its ugly head there, one suspects.
For what it is - a lightweight, enjoyable romp - The King's Demons succeeds pretty well. Entertaining, but still rather pointless. 7/10
A Review by Will Berridge 14/9/03
Master's Diary, 4th March 1215: Simple opportunity to kill off Doctor #134 down the drain. Stupid, stupid.
I mean why doesn't he just save himself a lot of bother and splat him with the Tissue Compression Eliminator when he gets the chance? Nobody in the banqueting hall would have stopped him because he could have just got his friend 'King John' to shut them up! So WHY doesn't he? You could almost understand with Delgado's Master- there was a sort of 'Oh, I know we're diametrically opposed individuals and I want to destroy everything you've ever loved and cared for, but I hope we can still get on' sentiment with him. Ainley's Master tries to substitute charm with ruthlessness but fails in both departments. He can't put on a decent French accent either - his apology for one in this adventure sounds bizarrely like his voicing of 'Khalid' from Time Flight.
The story is, incidentally, thoroughly inconsequential. Even if King John was deposed and the Magna Carta was never signed, the advent of British parliamentary democracy would not have been in any great way hindered. Even if it was somehow prevented by the non-signature of the Magna Carta, it would still have caught on some time, some place else. One action rarely alters the course of history. But the writers were confident enough to include the self aware 'small time villainy' line, so they must have believed King's Demons would be able to attract praise in the same way as Androids of Tara, being fun for its own sake, not because of the stakes. Unfortunately it isn't.
Androids of Tara is a pleasant enough diversion in that it detaches itself from the rest of the DW universe, a fairytale devoid of cruel and sadistic beings like Daleks, Cybermen, and the Master. The King's Demons has the Master, and it has the Master spouting all his typically cliched dialogue about becoming lord of all the universe to boot. Matt Michael in his review seems to think it's worth lauding that Davison and Ainley made the best Doctor/Master pairing since Pertwee and Delgado. The only other candidates being Tom Baker and.a cadaver. I actually preferred Tom and the cadaver. Davison's verbal sparring with Ainley is less than impressive:
(Starting off)DOCTOR: So. You escaped from Xeraphas. (Oh, so he escaped from Xeraphas then. Why couldn't Davison have been around for Mark of the Rani? 'So. You escaped from the centre of that white hot pillar of flame which had just engulfed and consumed your very being.')If a story exists only for its intrinsic worth then it should be filled with engaging characters, abundant style and at the very least some witty dialogue. What do we get? A half-good Davison one-liner. The actors perform capably, but in roles that are not fit for a star studded guest cast. All I can remember is some young chap who was obsessed about people being 'in hell'. We don't get to meet any real historical figures, either- King John turns out to really be a polymorphic robot thing. The full extent of what we get to know about the real King John is contained in some passing remark by the Doctor that he is quite a nice chap, for his times. And then there's the two companions, who only seem to be there for the Doctor to fall out with at the weekend. The final scene mirrors scenes between The Brigadier and the 3rd Doctor (in Inferno), and Peri and the 6th Doctor (Timelash, I think), all readily combustible personalities. These scenes, however, were pulled of with a certain element of wit and charm, whilst Davison just comes across as sulking - his Doctor was never quite able to be amusingly abrasive in the same way as 1,3,4, or 6.
(Trying to persuade him to lay off the universe)DOCTOR: You won't succeed. Ultimately. (Well he's right, of course. But he's going to have to try a little harder to make the Master listen.)
(Getting defeated. Again.) MASTER: Medieval Misfiiiits! (Oh dear.)
The plotting is also lackadaisical. It revolves around Kamelion impersonating King John, but doesn't seem to take into account for the first three quarters of the story that he is actually not the head of the realm, but the Master's servant. Otherwise why else does he treat the Doctor and co. as honoured guests, instead of chucking them in a dungeon to stop them interfering? Why give the Doctor all the more power to meddle by knighting him the King's champion? Why doesn't the Master just use him to have the Doctor thrown in boiling oil at any point? Eh? Why?
Unimportant, uninvolving, and irritating all in one go. 3/10. (Because we get away with 2 episodes, and there's some reasonably atmospheric banqueting scenes with the king playing on his lyre.)
"Fools! Medieval misfits!" (or how to not write a Doctor Who story) by Joe Ford 26/4/04
We open the story in a particularly unrealistic looking medieval castle. There are lots of people gorging themselves and a short, fat dwarf buggering about in a jesters outfit. King John is at the head of the table and he takes great offence to his hosts behaviour, Sir Ranulf.
"You insult ze King!" cries Sir Giles, the King's champion who despite being a French man sounds astonishingly like an Indian. Plus he has a rather fake looking ginger beard. Maybe it is in fashion.
It appears the only way to sort this out is for the champion and Ranulf's son to have a duel. To which Ranulf himself pleads against, in a manner that would embarrass a first year am dram student he cries out "I beg your majesty! Take my goods, my lands, my chattel, even the robes I stand but spare my only son!"
The King will not be deterred and night becomes day over which an especially irritating John Gibbs score is played. This music, cod medieval style but played on a synthesiser, pollutes the entire story. A brief pause for some action as the duel commences. Although some entertainment is provided by the woman sitting next to the King who looks alarmingly like Tubbs from The League of Gentlemen.
Enter the TARDIS. Inside Tegan is being as positive as ever. "When is it!!?" she demands harshly. "Could it be a Black Guardian trap?" she suggests pessimistically. "That man looks distinctly unfriendly to me!" she informs.
Outside Sir Giles is unconcerned by the appearance of the strange blue box. Indeed he looks at the camera and declares, "I need no help from Lucifer!"
Amazingly rather than being executed on the spot the Doctor and co are welcomed by King John as his own personal demons. In his new role the Doctor saves Ranulf's son from the sharp edge of Sir Giles' sword. Rather ungratefully the spoilt brat turns on the Doctor and declares "(I am) No friend to you!", the miserable little shit.
"Who cares?" Tegan moans as the Doctor fears a terrible plot (despite there being no indications of one at all at this point). "All I care about is getting back to the TARDIS where it's nice and warm!" Well at least she has her priorities right.
However it appears strange things are afoot! Has the King alighted to Ranulf's castle on angel wings? When Sir Geoffrey visits he is astounded as he only left the King in London four hours ago. Can there be two King Johns???
The Doctor is accused of bewitching the King, as he appears to be behaving quite out of character of late. To which the Doctor replies, "Please believe that we are friends", and suddenly Ranulf (who has burst into his room with his sword) invites him to dinner as if everything is sorted. Although I must add quite wonderfully that the Doctor comes up with a little character description of Sir Giles ("A French knight!") as his name is mentioned just in case we weren't paying attention or thought he was Indian.
At dinner the sadistic Sir Giles offers torturous (guffaw) entertainment in the form of squeezing Sir Geoffrey into a TORTURE BOX! But the Doctor cannot allow such a travesty of justice! He verbally attacks Sir Giles and he is "insulted!" but never fear he "fears no hellhounds" and challenges the Doctor to a swordfight.
Shudder! Gasp! In what has to be the slowest and least effectively choreographed fight scene in the whole of Doctor Who the Doctor and Sir Giles battle it out in front of the King. At least the crowd are impressed. And the King keeps stuffing his face.
But what's this? Misdirection's afoot when suddenly there is a dramatic close up on Sir Giles and his face shimmers away to reveal... the Master! Oh my God! Well that explains the fake beard and silly French/Indian accent then. Oh wait, no it doesn't. Why the hell does he need to be in disguise if he doesn't know the Doctor is coming? But never fear the Doctor bridges the gap between this and Time-Flight with his perfectly timed "You escaped from Xeraphis!"
Tegan is also on hand to exclaim "The tissue compression eliminator!" to anyone in the audience who may not know what the bizarre, phallic shaped object the Master is holding is. The Master offers the weapon to the Doctor and he accepts. But as the Master points out "This is useless in your hands! You have moral scruples!"
The Master is shoved into the torture box, which turns out to be... his TARDIS! "He he he he he he he!" he says! The devilish fiend!
Turlough is on hand to explain to the medieval characters who this giggling devil is. "He is the Evil One!" he eloquently puts it.
"Would you mind telling me what's going on!" moans Tegan, one of her handful of lines in the whole episode. At least SOMEBODY said it! "He (The Master) wants to rob the world of Magna Carta. Small time villainy by his standards." Hmm, when the writer admits that the plot for the story is crap we are in deep trouble.
"Look lets all get out of here while we've still got the chance." Tegan, of course.
The Doctor has the brilliant plan of sending Sir Geoffrey to London to inform the King of his imposter and possible trouble. "He he he he he he" says the Master as he gets some knave to shoot him in the back before he even reaches the forest.
Tegan rushes into the TARDIS as Ranulf and his family turn on her and the Doctor. "I must distract them somehow!" she thoughtfully informs us! She dematerialises the TARDIS giving the Doctor time to escape. "The demon has vanished!" cries Ranulf when in fact he has gone up the stairs.
We are suddenly privy to the Master's evil scheme. He is using a rather ineffective android known as Kamelion, a shapeshifter and to demonstrate his ability Kamelion merges into the Doctor and then the Master. "Quite Masterly!" he quips. 'Masterly'... geddit?
The Doctor threatens to disrupt the Master's pathetic plans. "I still have my wits!" the Master informs him. When the Doctor attempts to break control away from Kamelion he fails miserably. "He he he he!" the Master giggles "you're getting old Doctor, your will is weak!"
Time for the grandiose rant from the Master. "Chaos will reign!" he declares with a twitch of the beard "and I shall be its ruler!" Has this guy ever been more OTT?
Turlough to rescue as he threatens the Master and his schemers with a sword. "I've had quite enough out of you WHOEVER YOU ARE! So don't try me TOO FAR!" It's almost as if Mark Strickston wanted so badly to get in on the melodramatic shouting he overdoes this deliberately.
Argh! The Master's plans are utterly wrecked when the Doctor grabs Kamelion and forces him into the TARDIS. The Master stares at the camera, defeated and declares "Fools! Medieval misfits!" That's it? That's the climax I have waited for for fifty agonising minutes? THEY JUST LEAVE?
Tegan rounds up the story with another of her friendly welcomes into the TARDIS for new crew member Kamelion... "You can have my room for all I care!"
It's not as if it is fifty minutes of horrific acting, tone deaf music, stilted dialogue, weak direction and cheap set design. No, actually it is. I just want to know WHY? There is no point to this exercise at all but to expose just how ludicrously out of control and lacking the show was in its twentieth year.
PURE UNADULTERATED CRAP
Karma Kamelion by Andrew Wixon 20/10/04
There's something rather endearingly crap about The King's Demons. It's an all-pervasive sort of crapness that can't really be attributed to a single source. Some of it is down to the strictures of the two-episode format. Some of it is down to the heavy load the script has to bear thanks to the production team deciding to include not just the Master but also the Kamelion prop. And some of it is just a result of bad creative decisions.
I could go on at quite some length about all the things that are wrong with The King's Demons - the rushed damp squib of an ending, the fact the Doctor makes no attempt to capture or in any way hinder the Master (he basically says 'Oh, well, he's harmless enough now we've nicked his robot' - harmless? The Master? Really, Doctor?), the pointlessness of the Master's plan, the let's-bang-our-swords-together-really-slowly-and-gently sword fight, the rotten dialogue ('Medieval misfits!'), the woefully underwritten guest characters - but I won't. Honest, all that is just scratching the surface. Because I come not to bury The King's Demons but to say nice things about it.
And I'm not going to laugh up my sleeve about it either and enjoy it in an ironic way, although let's face it, there's plenty of scope for that, too. No, there are unequivocally good things about The King's Demons, mostly to do with the presentation of the Doctor and Tegan. (Turlough is, regrettably, almost wholly superfluous to the plot.) I'm no great fan of the fifth Doctor, for reasons I've talked about at some length on this site in the past, but basically I just find him a bit too mild and passive and conventional. Now, although I don't think this is a great way to present the Doctor, I will happily agree that Davison does a fantastic job with it - you can't fault his performance. And his rapport with Tegan in this story is great, too - the rather uncomfortable look they exchange during the King's bloodthirsty song speaks volumes about both their characters. You can sense the Doctor's frustration as time and again in this story he lets the Master turn his better nature against him. Terence Dudley's dialogue doesn't sparkle quite as much as it did in his season 19 scripts, but he does have an awful lot of plot to cram into under 50 minutes, and there are some quietly great lines here anyway.
The King's Demons would be no-one's idea of a great way of wrapping up a season and nor was it intended to be. The brute fact is that this is a worse-than-average story with only some good central performances and acceptable production values to redeem it, but by no means is it wholly without merit.
A defence by Emily Monaghan 1/9/08
Come on, it's not that bad...
It's hard to go against the grain in a fandom as large as ours. Some episodes I love, despite their failings. But I genuinely believe this is a good episode with a undeserved reputation.
The Doctor is on his merciful finest form here, trying to save everyone, in various ways and with mixed results. The Doctor's open offer of help to the family defines his motives just as the Master's "universe domination" speech spells out his ultimate goal. While the Doc comments that the Master's plan is only "small time" villainy, to me it seemed thoroughly consistent with his character. It works through disguise and subtlety; he manipulates the robot-king, the Doctor and his hosts in turn, and this is one of his few plans cunning enough to actually succeed. The idea isn't that the loss of the Magna Carta will suddenly destroy English democracy; it's just part of a long term plan. With Kamelion, the Master can chip away at the King's reputation for as long as he needs to until chaos sets in. I love all the double dealing that goes on, each of them adapting to the changing situation with that poor family stuck in the middle.
Their final scene also made me understand their relationship better than ever before. Despite the lives at stake, I felt a genuine sense of chess honour in their dealings, like a sophisticated game for the two higher beings. The Doctor or the Master could have permanently stopped the other hundreds of times; here, there is a sense that to do that would be very unsporting and not at all cricket - especially with the Master's claim that the challenge "inspires me". The Master does eventually get to cry "kill the Doctor!", but in my reading of the episodes I've seen (excepting, um, Logopolis), I don't believe he would actually let it happen - not permanently. The Doctor's language here reinforces the image: his reminder that humans are "a primitive people" and his question "Can anyone play?" As much a game to both of them? Once the Doctor liberates Kamelion, he doesn't press his advantage (does he ever?). He dashes off, with an unspoken agreement that the Master will leave too. He could have easily continued without the robot; instead, he too leaves immediately. The Doctor even leaves the Tissue Compression Eliminator - a blatantly terrible idea from a moral standpoint, but not in terms of a game. Screwing up his TARDIS is part of the fun and well within the rules; confiscating it would put it on an all too serious level. Particularly coming straight after Enlightenment, another story about rival higher beings who are entertaining themselves at the expense of everyone else. There, the Doctor is naturally horrified; but there is something similar in his dealings with the Master.
The Master gets a lot of fun in this story. Once he has lost the swordfight (which is terribly fun in its own right), his control over the robot-king could have easily followed up on the Doctor's unwillingness to kill him, and let him depart in a simple way. Instead, he demonstrates how he knows his old friend and gives him a good moral twist: letting the robot-king condemn him to death, making the Doctor choose between them, and knowing that he will be forced to "kill" him by a different route. These adversaries go way back: the Master's accusation of "moral scruples", or suggestion he regenerate is as much the banter of friends. And I like the idea he disguises himself even when not expecting the Doctor; he does it so often, you've got to assume he actually enjoys it (argument also valid for why he spends two episodes of Time Flight as Khalid when he doesn't strictly need to).
That's pretty much all the fun that is to be had here. The medieval background is atmospheric and nicely done - especially the musical interlude, which sets the scene and makes for a creepy reveal. The supporting characters are about as good as ever they are, although the faux-Shakesperian talk got old quickly. King John is also excellent: sinister, powerful, and pantomime in the best of ways.
As for the companions, Tegan again gets to demonstrate why she polarises people: on the one hand, all she does is moan; on the other, she is a fully rounded human being, who takes objection to being cold and threatened with death when they could be on a warm space-beach instead (it's interesting to see her attempt murder too, just a few episodes after a great conversation between her and Turlough on the topic in Terminus; it's easy to forget Auntie Vanessa, but boy doesn't she get vital). We also get to see the Doctor finally react to her nagging, in a scene which says a lot about both of them. Certain quarters could also have a field day with Kamelion turning into Tegan, and the suggestion that that image is the strongest in the Doctor's mind. I leave that romantic minefield to you...
Turlough doesn't have as much to do, although he whines just as much without the Black Guardian over his shoulder as with. His final line to the Master is pretty good too; it's nice to allow the boy a flash of heroism once in a while, even if provoked by irritation. Companions are always fatally underwritten, especially in the older bits of the old series. Turlough has always been for me a triumph of performance over script: he really can wring an interesting role even out of the most mundane dialogue, as here.
It also contains one of the few "goofy moments" the Fifth Doctor would ever pull. The Doctor is, at his core, a curious and arrogant genius who tries to help people, while mucking about to disguise how dark and scary he can get. You could give points, if you like: 3 was more arrogant and less dark, 4 was predominantly daft arrogance, 7 is famously darker and scarier. When you cut it down to points, the 5th Doctor does seem to be lacking in several quarters. He can be all of those things at times, but just isn't. This backs up my theory that he is the "midlife crisis Doctor" (the gist is, he does all the things he's always done, but somehow it doesn't work as well - Midnight in slow motion, spread over 3 years if you like).
Sir Extra -"But he is the best swordsman in France!"All in all, an enjoyable episode which is unfairly maligned. It certainly comes highly recommended for AinleyMaster fans, because I think it's one of his best. 9/10. Yes, really. It's that good; now give it a fair rewatch!
The Doctor - "Luckily, we are in England..."
A Review by Harry O'Driscoll 20/4/10
This story is one of the most inconsequential stories I have ever watched, existing as nothing but filler and far too short to make any sort of impression.
The Master has been totally shoe-horned into this story and is seen as little more than a moustache-twirling villain, coming up with terrible cliched lines like "Oh Doctor you have been naive." His schemes are at the most petty they've ever been.
By trying to stop the Magna Carta being signed, it's as if the Master has given up on total domination and hopes to cause just random disarray. The writing is terribly contrived as the Master comes disguised for no apparent reason (again) just so there can be a good clifhanger. There used to be a time where the Master had plans for total destruction with powerful allies and a cunning plan. Whenever you write a Master story, there is only one word on how to write it: epic!
The whole story exists primarily to introduce Kamelion and it fails miserably. John Nathan-Turner made the decision to get rid of K9 and now he brings what is obviously intended as a replacement which looks for less practical than K9. Besides, K9 was funny and endearing whereas Kamelion just appears to be another boring logical robot.
The production is one of the best things to be said about the story with it all looking real. However, that can never outweigh how all this story tried to do was fill two episodes and is easily forgotten nowadays.
Throne of Games by Jason A. Miller 22/11/18
As a tween growing up in the New York City suburbs, I was particularly fascinated with the Middle Ages. Not sure why that is, although we do have the Cloisters museum in Manhattan, which I've still never visited and I'm almost 45 now. But, other than not having been to the foremost medieval museum in America, I still do have a Middle Ages obsession. When I first saw The King's Demons, at age 11, the medieval setting immediately spoke to me, and I mentally made this story one of my favorites. Granted, it was only my fourth Doctor Who story at the time, but it keeps high on my list of favorites, even as new stories come in behind it.
Clearly, I'm one of the very few people who feel this way about The King's Demons.
Let's get all the valid complaints out of the way. If you look at any story 35 years after it was made, you'll see a lot of seams. Anthony Ainley's French disguise as Sir Gilles throughout Part One is clearly ridiculous. The original script clearly didn't have Turlough in it, and neither author Terence Dudley nor script editor Eric Saward made any visible effort to work him into the tale. Mark Strickson does lend manic intensity to the few lines he's given in Part Two, so bored as he must have been during the rest of videotaping, but this is clearly one of the acting jobs that drove him into wildlife-documentary production.
Part Two is not the most tightly plotted bit of business and has a rather anti-climactic ending. The Doctor and the Master spend most of the time bickering with one another, playing out their game in a castle of confused 13th-century nobility and servants. And then they both just leave, without having clearly established a victory over one another. It's just two Time Lords circling a game around the throne of King John. Were this to be remade today, there'd be a lot more action and substance to the final 20 minutes.
But so what if the story has seams? Two things more than compensate for the thin plot and anti-climactic ending. For one thing is the high quality of the production: the casting and the crew. I mean, good Lord, Jim, check out the chemistry between Peter Davison and Janet Fielding, with Tegan being almost the sole Doctor's companion in Part One. The constant bickering and serious side-eye between the two of them is glorious. As I type this review in June 2018 (hard approaching the eight hundred and third anniversary of the Magna Carta), the story is still about a month away from being streamed on Twitch, but I suspect that the core Twitch audience (which at this point appears to be about 80% established Who fans in their late 30s or older and 20% young gamers taking a break from live-streaming video games, but it's still a lot of fun following that livestream chat) is going to really enjoy the byplay between those two.
The rest of the guest cast are embodiments of the reason BBC actors are so much superior to their bland American counterparts. They'll make even a less-than-inspired script into a soaring epic of the human spirit. It's a small role, but Isla Blair (or, as Steven Spielberg called her in the end credits to Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, "Mrs. Glover") shows remarkable spine as the wife of the local Lord, Fitzwilliam. Christopher Villiers, as the Lord's rebellious teenage son, is fondly remembered for his eventual return appearance to the show in Mummy on the Orient Express. And Frank Windsor (better remembered from Ghost Light as the cream of Scotland Yard) has a bit of a thankless role as Fitzwilliam himself, changing allegiances in every scene (Terence Dudley fixes this in the novelization, as I detailed in my review there a number of years ago), but does quite good work acting against Davison or the King or the Master, as each conflicting scene demands it. When a high percentage of the guest cast was invited back to work on the show again or given a cameo in a Spielberg movie, you know you're dealing with something special.
Oh, and Gerald Flood is magnetic as the impostor King John. My biggest takeaway from the story at age 11 was the song; I actually asked my parents for lute lessons , so that I could learn to play the song for myself. Listen to how Flood savors his words. "Waarrrh". "Ab-horrrrh". And you can't help but love the extras bopping and nodding along to Flood's performance in the studio. This song is an earworm and I can't wait for the Twitch crowd to learn it.
 No I didn't. But I should have.
Dudley hands in a nice script here, even if the second half isn't ideal. One of the first words in the story is "parsimony". He drops the sadly forgotten insult "caitiff", and mixes in a history lesson or two. There's the great joke "He is said to be the best swordsman in France" / "Yes, well, fortunately, we're in England" -- although that doesn't appear in the novelization, so perhaps it was an ad lib devised in rehearsal. Dudley saved his better work for the novelization -- adapting a slight two-part story into the same page count ordinarily granted a four-part script, he has plenty of time to rework the ending to make the story that much more dramatically satisfying in print. But the material he was adapting still clearly has merit in script form.
I'm also a fan of the music, which Joe Ford took shots at a few reviews above (and 14 years before) this one. That's Peter Howell with the lute music and King John's song. Jonathan Gibbs did the rest of the score, and, yes, while it wasn't medieval-period-appropriate, it was the house style at the time, and Gibbs does incorporate Howell's song into the score over the next couple of scenes, which is a point in his favor.
Apart from the production, something else makes this story more fun, 35 years after the fact. C'mon, people, this is Doctor Who's one effort at staging Game of Thrones. Minus the dragons, incest, high body count, Red Wedding, Purple Wedding, dismemberments and castrations, of course, but, otherwise, it's all there. Think it through before you finish laughing at me. The Doctor is pitted between the shifting loyalties of a capricious King, that King's manipulative and treacherous advisors, and a noble Lord whose wife and son are both held captive to the King's whims. There's even a dwarf and wolfhounds seen in Castle Fitzwilliam. The story may be set in March, yes -- but it was filmed in December, bad weather scuttling a number of scripted location shots that would have made the final story stronger, and you can see the actors' breath in clear white puffs, calling out to you from across the years. Terence Dudley was merely laying the groundwork that George R.R. Martin would later finish (or half-finish).
So, yeah. The action takes place in March 1215, days away from spring, but, make no mistake, this is Doctor Who landing in Westeros for a little Game of Thrones action, and winter is coming.