In the village of Devil’s End, the Master is at working summoning cloven-hoofed demons to bow the residents to his will. With the village sealed off to the outside world, the Doctor and Jo have to race against time to stop the Master destroying the whole world.
The Dæmons is possibly the most quintessential Third Doctor stories, and your individual reaction to this story will largely depend on your opinion of his era. It will come as no surprise to people who have read my other blogs on this era that this is one of my favourites, and I particularly love the UNIT family, so it’s safe to say that I really enjoyed this one. That’s not to say that this story is without flaws, however, and it’s certainly a divisive story in certain sectors of the fan community.
My main issue with this story is that it feels a bit too long, even though it is only five parts and I feel that it may have been a push if it had been six parts as originally intended. Whilst I like the delay in UNIT getting involved in the story, it does feel as though these scenes, as well as those with the Brigadier and Sergeant Osgood being held outside of Devil’s End by the heat barrier are just padding. In my opinion, The Dæmons would work better as a tight four-part story with fewer of these scenes. The Brigadier also gets some suspect dialogue, and it is a testament to Nicholas Courtney’s acting ability that he makes these feel real.
Despite this, the story in general is strong and feels as though the writers had done their research, or were at least aided by Damaris Hayman, playing Miss Hawthorne. The story deals with her character surprisingly sympathetically, as Miss Hawthorne is a white witch and it would be all too easy to characterise her as a bit crazy. Instead, she is shown as resourceful and a great help to the Doctor and his allies, especially Benton. The story also gives what seems like a perfectly feasible endgame for the Master after his repeated appearances in Pertwee’s second season, with his aim being world domination, if not, global destruction. The presence of a BBC News crew (from BBC 3, no less) gives this story a feeling of urgency and some degree of scale, which is needed before the Doctor turns up. With producer Barry Letts writing the backbone of this story, it is unsurprising that the regulars all get their moments to shine, even if the Brigadier has to wait a bit longer for his. The story benefits from the direction of Christopher Barry, who uses simple and effective tools to cover up the perennial problem of not having the budget to effectively tell the whole story, along with some strong demonic imagery which make this effective. Of all the effects, the one of Bok reforming after enduring heavy fire from the UNIT troops is fantastic. Barry also makes the action sequences synonymous with the Pertwee era look great, especially the sequence with Girton in the helicopter attempting to get the Doctor to drive into the heat barrier around Devil’s End. Barry also deserves a lot of credit for not making the sequence with the Morris Dancers surrounding the Doctor look laughable, which it so easily could have done in other hands. It would be remiss of me to not mention the location filming in Aldbourne, which is another of the stars and was a great choice for the sleepy village.
The regulars here are all on fine form. Jon Pertwee and Katy Manning are fantastic as the Doctor and Jo, and for moments where the Doctor is condescending to her, we get scenes like the one before they go into the Barrow where he shows real concern for her well-being by giving her the option to stay outside, which of course, she refuses! Jo is of course responsible for the ultimate defeat of Azal by putting her life on the line for the Doctor, a move that he cannot comprehend. It is lovely to see Benton and Yates in their civvies, and the Brigadier all dressed up. All three actors put in great performances, but Courtney is the real stand out, especially in the scene where he learns that Benton and Yates have gone to Devil’s End. I haven’t really suffered with ‘Master fatigue’ due to the way that I’m watching stories in order to post these reviews, and Delgado is good here again.
The Dæmons are used quite effectively here. As mentioned above, Barry only shows us Azal sparingly so that we can avoid the use of too much Colour Separation Overlay (CSO), and although Bok is clearly a man in a costume, he is quite effectively creepy and I didn’t have any trouble buying him as a gargoyle who had started moving about. Stephen Thorne is great as Azal, and it is easy to see why the production team would call him back to play similarly intimidating characters later on in the future.
Verdict: A good fun episode, which could only potentially be improved by reducing the run time, The Dæmons is deserves its place in the best stories of Jon Pertwee’s era. 8/10
Cast: Jon Pertwee (The Doctor), Katy Manning (Jo Grant), Nicholas Courtney (Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart), Roger Delgado (The Master), Richard Franklin (Captain Mike Yates), John Levene (Sergeant Benton), Damaris Hayman (Miss Hawthorne), Don McKillop (Bert the Landlord), Rollo Gamble (Winstanley), Robin Wentworth (Prof. Horner), David Simeon (Alastair Fergus), James Snell (Harry), John Joyce (Garvin), Eric Hillyard (Dr. Reeves), Jon Croft (Tom Girton), Christopher Wray (PC Groom), Gerald Taylor (Baker’s Man), Stanley Mason (Bok), Alec Linstead (Sergeant Osgood), John Owens (Thorpe), Stephen Thorne (Azal), The Headington Quarry Men (Morris Dancers) & Matthew Corbett (Jones).
Writer: Guy Leopold (Robert Sloman & Barry Letts)
Director: Christopher Barry
Behind the Scenes
- One of the eleven televised stories not to feature the Doctor’s TARDIS.
- The story was filmed in Aldbourne in Wiltshire.
- The shot of the exploded helicopter was an used shot from the James Bond film From Russia With Love. The shot was so convincing that some members of the audience were convinced that a real helicopter had been destroyed.
- This story concludes a season-long run of stories featuring the Master. Roger Delgado would appear in the following two seasons, appearing in two stories in Season 9 and one in Season 10.
- The last five part Doctor Who story.
- The incantation used by the Master is ‘Mary had a Little Lamb’ backwards. It was originally The Lord’s Prayer spoken backwards but BBC bosses objected.
- Many viewers believed that the model of the church destroyed in the final episode was the actual church and the BBC received complaints.
- It was originally intended to be a six-part story but was cut down due to production difficulties.
- David Simeon had previously appeared in Inferno.
- Damaris Hayman acted as an unofficial adviser whilst on the show as she had an interest in the supernatural.
- Stephen Thorne would go on to appear as further costumed villains in The Three Doctors, Frontier in Space and The Hand of Fear.
I see. So all we’ve got to deal with is something which is either too small to see or thirty feet tall, can incinerate you or freeze you to death, turn stone images into homicidal monsters and looks like the devil.
Exactly.Mike Yates and the Third Doctor
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