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Doctor Who: The Dӕmons

“Azal! Azal! Azzzaaalll!”

For a long time ‘The Dӕmons’ was considered to be an all-time classic. Fans only used to talk about it in reverence. Jon Pertwee even stated that it was his favourite story. But that was then and this is now and ‘The Dӕmons’ isn't a story that stands up well to critical reappraisal.

Everything starts out well. The first episode is actually quite creepy with an atmosphere of approaching dread. With its witches, satanic cults, sinister vicars, scientist hero and aliens influencing human evolution ‘The Dӕmons’ is like some mad fusion of Nigel Kneale and Dennis Wheatley. But this is a family programme so the more horrific elements have been stripped out for teatime broadcast. No buckets of blood or heaving bosoms here.

But by episode two it all starts to go wrong. This is one of those stories that gets progressively worse and worse as it goes on. Even with all the occult goings on this is still very much a Jon Pertwee story with lots of racing around on cars and motorcycles and a helicopter attack featuring some fantastic stock footage. Not to mention loads of scientific jiggery pokery and hullabaloo. Heck, a polarity even gets reversed at one point.

But in-between all the action too much time is spent sitting around the pub while the Doctor explains everything. With a slide shows, no less. Good thing he didn't have PowerPoint otherwise this pointless exercise could've gone on for hours. When they do get out, our heroes find themselves making the most idiotic decisions simply because the plot needs them to be in a certain place at a certain time. There is no reason for Jo to sneak out of the pub (using the most conveniently placed ladder in the universe) and to go to the church to get captured. But the writers need her there for the finale so off she goes.

And then Azal finally shows up at the end of episode four and the whole thing just falls apart.


Throughout the story Azal is built up to be this powerful and terrifying creature, capable of destroying the world on a whim. But then he shows up looking like a drunken Dave Lee Travis after a Halloween party before being defeated with the flimsiest deus ex machina this side of Russell T. Davies.

But that's not the worst of it. Oh no, just when you think it can't get any worse, the Morris dancers show up. Demons, witches and devil worship are one thing but this goes too far. For heaven's sake, there are children watching. They shouldn't be forced to watch such indecent behaviour. Where is Mary Whitehouse when you need her?

Notes and Quotes

--The Unit gang are all watching the dig on BBC3. Nowadays its hard to imagine such a programme going out on the same channel that gave us Snog, Marry, Avoid?, Geordie Finishing School for Girls, The World's Strictest Parents, Underage and Pregnant, Don't Tell the Bride, World's Craziest Fools with Mr. T and, of course, the legend that is The Real Hustle.

--The story is credited to Guy Leopold, a pseudonym for producer Barry Letts and his collaborator Robert Sloman.

--I just love the Master posing as the local vicar. Another chance for Rodger Delgado to steal the show again for the umpteenth time this season.

--The Doctor makes everyone sit through his dreary slide show presentation and not once does he offer to get a round in.

--Yates and Benton should never be allowed out of uniform ever again.

--It's hard not to snigger when everyone keeps saying 'devil's hump'.

The Doctor: “Klokeda partha menin klatch.”

Man: “You one of these TV chaps, then?”
The Doctor: “I am no sort of chap, sir.”
Man: “Forgive me but I thought, the costume, the wig...”
The Doctor: “Wig?”

The Master: “I only need two things: your submission and your obeisance to my will.”
Squire: “What's all this of obeisance and submission? You said we were going to rule?”
The Master: “You rule? You’re all less than dust beneath my feet.”
--Way to win the crowd, mate.

The Brigadier: “I see, Captain Yates. So the Doctor was frozen stiff at the barrow, then revived by a freak heatwave. Benton was beaten up by invisible forces, and the local white witch claims she's seen the devil.”
Captain Yates: “I know it sounds a bit wild.”
The Brigadier: “It does indeed, Yates.”

Captain Yates: "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."
The Doctor: "Exactly."

The Brigadier: “Do you know what you're doing?”
The Doctor: “My dear chap, I can't wait to find out.”

The Brigadier: “Chap with the wings, five rounds rapid.”

Jo: “As if blowing things up solves anything.”
The Doctor: “Jo, the Brigadier is doing his best to cope with an almost impossible situation. And since he is your superior officer you at least might show him a little respect.”
--Pot, say hello to kettle.

Captain Yates: “Fancy a dance sir?”
The Brigadier: “Kind of you, Captain. I think I'd rather have a pint.”
--You now, I'm starting to suspect that Jack Harkness wasn't the show's first bisexual character.

Miss Hawthorne: “We're dealing with the supernatural, the occult, magic!”
The Doctor: “Science.”
Miss Hawthorne: “Magic!”
The Doctor: “Science, Miss Hawthorne.”

The Doctor: “I'm not a wizard or a magician or anything of the sort.”
Landlord: “See, I told you.”
The Doctor: “But neither is the Master. I tricked you, yes, but only to save you from him.”
Landlord: “To save your own life you mean.”
The Doctor: “Yes, of course, that too.”

Two and a half out of four rounds rapid.
--
Mark Greig has been writing for Doux Reviews since 2011. More Mark Greig.

1 comment:

  1. I remember this episode vividly. Particularly the Morris Dancers. And Damaris Hayman, who played white witch, Miss Hawthorn. I also have the Barry Letts' novelization. I wonder if it's worth anything? It's not something I'll be reading again.

    How odd to think that, back in those days, BBC3 was purely fictional. Mind you, the way the BBC are going, it may well end up being fictional again. And soon.

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