by Mark Greig
Karma karma karma karma, karma Kamelion, you come and go, you come and go, oh, oh, oh!
Of all the numerous companions that have travelled with the Doctor over the decades, none caused the show's production team more headaches than the shape shifting robot Kamelion. The prop (I refuse to even consider calling it a character) was created by freelance effects designer Richard Gregory and software designer Mike Power. John Nathan-Turner was so impressed by a demonstration they gave of the prototype that he commissioned a story to introduce Kamelion to the series. No doubt he was too busy foaming at the mouth of the all the potential merchandise that he never once stopped to consider if buying a prototype robot was a good idea.
Well, it wasn't.
The prop malfunctioned frequently, causing delays in filming. Things only got worse when Power tragically died in a boating accident shortly after filming and left no instructions behind on how to control the bloody thing. Subsequently, Kamelion only appeared in one more story after this one before being exiled (along with Katarina and Dodo) to the darkest, furthest fringes of fandom where they can only dream of the kind of fanatical devotion one story wonders like Sara Kingdom and Sally Sparrow receive. Heck, even the Fifth Doctor’s decorative vegetable probably has a larger fan club than that lot.
Malfunctioning robots aside, 'The King’s Demons' is a rather disposable two-parter that features the Master using Kamelion to muck about with British history to discredit King John (marrying a twelve-year-old obviously wasn’t discrediting enough) and stop the Magna Carta from being signed. Somehow this will all result in the Master taking over the entire universe but he’s fuzzy about the exact details (I know it’s an important document but, come on, it’s not that important). Anthony Ainley’s performance as the Master doesn’t improve matters, reducing the Doctor’s nemesis to a tenth rate pantomime villain, here slumming it with the sort of scheme even the Meddling Monk would consider frivolous.
It all looks nice and authentically medieval but the direction is flatter than the Kansas landscape and the acting almost unfit for a school play. Even the regulars are badly served. Tegan does nothing but moan and complain about everything, Turlough seems to spend the entire story chained up in the dungeon for no clear reason, and the Doctor gets into a sword fight with the Master that isn’t so much Errol Flynn and Douglas Fairbanks as cast of Last of the Summer Wine.
Luckily it’s only two episodes so we don’t have to endure it for very long.
Notes and Quotes
--To conceal the Master's part in this story the Radio Times credited him as Sir Gilles Estram played by James Stoker. 'Estram' being an anagram of 'Master' and 'James Stoker' an anagram of 'Master's joke'.
--Peter Davison and Anthony Ainley performed all their own stunts during the Doctor and Master's duel.
--The Master's TARDIS is disguised as an Iron Maiden.
--Bodiam Castle in East Sussex was used for exterior filming.
--Clearly the budget was so low at this point that the production crew was reduced to using second hand sex toys as props:
The Doctor: "You may disguise your features but you can never disguise your intent."
Ranulf: "He is said to be the best swordsman in France."
The Doctor: "Well, fortunately, we are in England."
The Master: "Oh my dear Doctor, you have been naïve."
Two out of four second hand sex toys.
Mark Greig is a robot in disguise. More Mark Greig