Wednesday 21 September 2011

303 The Dæmons: Episode Five

EPISODE: The Dæmons: Episode Five
TRANSMITTED: 19 June 1971
WRITER: "Guy Leopold" (pseudonym for Robert Sloman and Barry Letts)
DIRECTOR: Christopher Barry
SCRIPT EDITOR: Terrance Dicks
PRODUCER: Barry Letts
FORMAT: VHS: Doctor Who: The Dæmons
Episode Format: 16mm b&w film recording recoloured using 525 off air video

Jo is taken away to be prepared for sacrifice to Azal. Mike escapes from the cavern and tells the Doctor what's going on. Bok prevents the Doctor from entering the church. The Brigadier has the Doctor's machine activated and drives through the heat barrier. Azal and Bok are weakened while the machine is running but it blows up after they come through. The Doctor runs past the weakened Bok into the church before it can recover and menace Yates again. The newly arrived Brigadier has Bok shot at. The Doctor tries to bargain with Azal for Jo's life and demands he leaves. The Master demands Azal's power but Azal elects to pass it to the Doctor who refuses it. Benton sets a Bazooka up and destroys Bok but it reforms. Azal decides to kill the Doctor but Jo offers herself up instead causing Azal to destroy himself. Without Azal's power Bok becomes a statue again and the church is destroyed by a massive explosion from the crypt bellow while the spaceship at the dig self destructs and the barrier clears. The Master is captured by Unit. Jo & The Doctor and Benton & Miss Hawthorne join in the mayday celebrations while the Brigadier & Mike retire to the village inn for a quiet pint.

This is all working well until the point where Jo offers herself up as a sacrifice in exchange for the Doctor's life and ..... Azal clutches his head, starts yelling the Dæmon equivalent of "Does not compute" then collapses and explodes! I'm sorry but what is going on there? Deary me. Which is a shame because this episode has two of the series top quotes in it. First we have the Brigadier's memorable
Jenkins! Chap with wings, five rounds rapid.
followed by the Doctor trying to recall who the Master is reminding him of
Who was the bounder? Hitler. Yes, Adolf Hitler. Or was it Genghis Khan?
The closing moments of the story are superb with everyone enjoying themselves as the Brigadier and Yates sneak off for a drink. Then we get a lovely shot at the end, pulling back from the green, that must have been filmed from the church tower which is at that end of the village green.

I can see why The Dæmons was so popular for so long. The regular cast are superb throughout, with Benton & Yates being given loads to do, The Master being superb and only the Brigadier being relegated to the background but even then his brief moments on screen are superb and some of the best performances that Nick Courtney gives. Against that the serial is essentially a lot of mucking around in between the dig and Azal's final appearance, which in turn is one of the most ridiculous things I've seen in Doctor Who so far. The colour version is infinitely preferable to black & white, but it is quite a murky looking colour restoration, easily the worst of the four currently out there. I'm hoping that can be improved for the DVD version, but episode 4, still existing on it's original 625 line video, looks a bit murky compared with other existing Pertwee episodes.

Playing Jones, the cultist that interrupts Jo's sacrifice in this episode, is Matthew Corbett, son of Harry Corbett the creator of Sooty. The Dæmons was his television début. He went on to form a singing group with Rod Burton and his then wife Jane Tucker (daughter of Doctor Who director Rex Tucker) known as Rod, Jane & Matthew, who appeared in the children's TV series Rainbow becoming a fixture. When Matthew left the group to take over the Sooty role he was replaced by first Roger Walker and then Freddy Marks to eventually become Rod, Jane & Freddy. Three other Who Alumni have Rainbow associations: Daleks voice artists Peter Hawkins and Roy Skelton both provided voices for the puppets Zippy and George while Bungle the Bear was at one time played by K-9 voice artist John Leeson.

This episode of the Dæmons was the first to be released on video in March 1992, when a black & white copy accompanied Inferno episode 7 and Frontier in Space episode 6 in The Pertwee Years. Following the story's colour restoration the entire story was released on video in 1993. A phantom DVD listing for this story has existed for many years on Amazon UK. A commentary was recorded some time ago and it's believed that a DVD of this story, with new improved colour restoration, may be coming in 2012.

The novelization of this story was carried out by Barry Letts, one of it's co-authors. It's the only Doctor Who TV Series novelization that he wrote and, like the previous story The Colony in Space/The Doomsday Weapon, is still held in very high regard. If the BBC reprints of Target books go to a second round I'd expect to see these two representing the Pertwee/Third Doctor era.

The Dæmons was repeated on the 28th December 1971 in a 90 minute omnibus edition. The colour restored version was shown on BBC2 in 1992 from 20th November to 18th December.

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