Review: Doctor Who - The Daemons (PG) / Directed by: Christopher Barry /Written by: Robert Sloman, Barry Letts / Starring: Jon Pertwee, Katy Manning, Nicholas Courtney, Richard Franklin, John Levene / Release date: 19th March
There are a few Jon Pertwee stories that are held, by fans, in as high a regard as The Dæmons. A five part story which grabs the audience in the opening moments and doesn’t let go until the closing credits.
Yes, this story owes a lot to The Midwich Cuckoos/Village of the Damned and more than a nod in the direction of Quatermass but the unique twist that Doctor Who gives to these influences makes it something truly special.
The basic plot concerns the Masters' plans to release an ancient and powerful alien using the trappings of black magic and superstition, all in the location of a sleepy English village. The sort of place where visitors are met with a beer and a warning about the new vicar. Where the local Witch can handle herself and the gargoyles have a life of their own. Where the horned beast has wrinkled stockings and – most oddly of all – where BBC3 actually shows a documentary that people would really want to watch.
Guy Leopold, who is credited with writing the story, is a pseudonym for Robert Sloman and Barry Letts who was then the producer and was not allowed to officially write for his own show. His intimate knowledge of the cast and their characters has given a richness and depth to this story that still shines through forty years on.
The ending of this story marks the close of a series dominated by the criminal Time Lord, The Master, definitively played by the excellent Roger Delgado. It can be argued that having one villain at the centre of an entire series orchestrating the events in an ark, is a mistake that should not be repeated. But, then again what do we know about the structure of Doctor Who.
There are two central themes that are also seen in modern Doctor Who. The first is that Science trumps magic/religion and the other is that Love will conquer and defeat evil. These can be debated until the cows come home but it can’t be denied that these bed rocks of Doctor Who mythology still permeate and shape the modern show. From the Great Beast in the Impossible Planet through to the defeat of the Cybermen in Closing time.
So, let’s all say ‘Mary, Mary, quite contrary’ backwards and invoke the true spirit of Doctor Who.
Special Features: With disc one dominated by the main feature and commentary track, a second disc is more than justified to cover the extras. Value Added Material – as they call it at 2/entertain towers - has now reached such a high standard that we fans feel cheated when we feel that something is missing. Like spoilt children we will sulk when we realise that the extra feature we were expecting is missing - the fan produced Return to Devils End is nowhere to be seen. However there is more than enough VAM to make up for it.
A specially commissioned making of goes by the name of The Devil Rides Out while the shining gem of this set is the wonderful documentary Remembering Barry Letts which takes us through the life and works of a writer and producer who had such a lasting effect on the show. There is a delightful Mute amateur 8mm film shot at the location during filming of the story and the 1992 VHS Colorization test for episode one – allowing for comparison in quality. A short excerpt from BBC Televisions Tomorrow's World showing the early methods of recolourisation used. There is also a photo gallery and some PDF Radio Times listings. As always this release has been digitally remastered.