BBC HomeExplore the BBC
This page has been archived and is no longer updated. Find out more about page archiving.

24 September 2014

BBC Homepage

Entertainment Cult

Contact Us

The Daemons

Production Code: JJJ

First Transmitted

1 - 22/05/1971 18:15

2 - 29/05/1971 18:10

3 - 05/06/1971 18:10

4 - 12/06/1971 18:10

5 - 19/06/1971 18:10


The Doctor becomes alarmed on seeing television coverage of an archaeological dig by a Professor Horner into an ancient barrow near the village of Devil's End. He hurries to the scene with Jo.

The Master is posing as the local vicar, Mr Magister, and using black magic rituals to summon Azal, the last of a race known as the Dæmons, whose miniaturised spaceship is buried within the barrow. Benton and Yates arrive in a UNIT helicopter but, before the Brigadier and his troops can join them, a heat barrier appears and cuts the village off from the outside world.

Azal will appear three times and on the last of these occasions will decide whether to transfer his awesome powers to another or to destroy the planet as a failed experiment. The Master hopes to be the recipient of the powers, but in the event Azal offers them to the Doctor instead. The Doctor declines, arguing that the human race should be allowed to develop at its own pace.

Azal decides to kill him, but Jo then offers to take his place and, unable to comprehend this act of self-sacrifice, the Dæmon self-destructs. The Master is finally captured by UNIT and taken away to await trial for his crimes against humanity.

Episode Endings

The Doctor and Jo arrive at the site of the dig at the stroke of midnight, just as Professor Horner breaks through a stone wall that he has uncovered. A freezing wind blasts through the hole, apparently killing both Horner and the Doctor.

The Doctor and Jo enter the barrow to investigate further. They find what looks like a model spaceship but the Doctor explains that it is a real ship that has been miniaturised. Suddenly, a gargoyle-like creature sent by the Master attacks them.

In a cavern beneath the village church, the Master summons Azal the Daemon. There is what appears to be a minor earthquake and the Master falls back, urging the Daemon to obey him.

The Master summons Azal once more, this time in a black magic ceremony involving his full coven of acolytes. Jo, who has been watching from hiding, tries to stop him. It is too late, as Azal materialises and grows to giant size before her eyes.

Azal's death results in a huge explosion that destroys the church. The Master is then captured by UNIT troops and driven away. As Devil's End starts to return to normal, the Doctor, Jo and Benton join the local white witch Miss Hawthorne in a dance around the maypole while the Brigadier and Yates retire to the pub for a drink.


The witchcraft comes via 60s British horror films like The Witches, Curse of the Crimson Altar and The Devil Rides Out, and the novels of Dennis Wheatley, with their village covens led by the vicar.

Quatermass and the Pit.

The Night of the Big Heat.

Invasion (specifically the heat barrier).

The Quatermass Experiment (interrupted TV broadcast).

Star Trek's Who Mourns for Adonis?

The Avengers' The House that Jack Built (the revolving signpost).

Arthur C. Clarke's Childhood's End.

The Midwich Cuckoos.

Village of the Damned.

Erich von Daniken.

There's a Conan Doyle pun ('Elemental, my dear Benton').

Benton carries a Walther 38, not quite James Bond's gun but close enough.

Jo mentions 'The Age of Aquarius' (Hair).

BBC2's live Chronicle broadcast of the Silbury Hill dig.

The Master's Black Mass is 'Mary Had a Little Lamb' backwards.

Lord Aldbourne's 18th century parody of black magic is mentioned, and there is a reference to Matthew Hopkins (Witchfinder General).

Miss Hawthorne modernizes and quotes Chaucer's Prologue to Canterbury Tales ('a very perfect gentle knight').

The Bok design derives from a Notre Dame gargoyle.

Dialogue Triumphs

Miss Hawthorne : [To the Master in the guise of Mr. Magister.] "A rationalist, existentialist priest indeed!"

Captain Mike 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."

Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart : "Jenkins... chap with wings, there. Five rounds rapid."

Azal : [To the Master] "Take care, creature. With your few pitiful grains of knowledge, you have summoned me here. But I am not your slave, and you are not immortal!'"

Professor Horner : [is asked by Harry the TV producer what to do if the Devil puts in an appearance on live TV] "Use your initiative, lad, get your chatty friend to interview him!"


Azal is the last of his race, from the planet Dæmos, which is 60,000 light years from Earth [on the other side of the Milky Way]. The Dæmons came to Earth 100,000 years ago to engineer mankind's genetic development. Azal says 'my race destroys its failures. Remember Atlantis' (cf. The Underwater Menace, The Time Monster).

The Dæmons arrived in time 'to help Homo Sapiens kick out Neanderthal Man... The Greek civilisation, the Renaissance, the Industrial Revolution, they were all inspired by the Dæmons.' [Either through Azal's psychic influence or the Doctor simply means that Neanderthals wouldn't have achieved all that.] Azal can control his size, and that of objects, [and can create or animate stone robot creatures like Bok].

Yates and Benton watch highlights of a Rugby international [judging from Bill McLaren's commentary, it's England versus Scotland], while the Brigadier goes to a regimental dinner. Afterwards, they discover he has 'gone on somewhere' [with somebody, it seems]. Benton pilots the UNIT helicopter to Devil's End. The Brigadier's car has the numberplate OLR 461 E [dating it to contemporary times]. He mentions having contacted Nuton in episode 4 (meaning that the station has been rebuilt since The Claws of Axos).

Alastair Fergus is the linkman for BBC3's The Passing Parade.


A Short History of Atlantis


Aliens and Mankind


Devil's End, [Wiltshire, 30 April-1 May 1971].



The Doctor has possibly met Hitler and/or Genghis Khan [whom he hadn't when he met Kublai Khan].


The area under the church is always referred to as 'the cavern' and never 'the crypt'. This was a BBC requirement to avoid the risk of causing offence to viewers with religious sensibilities. Similarly, much to director Christopher Barry's amazement, no mention of God was permitted to be made in the story's dialogue, although references to the Devil were acceptable.

Azal at one point implies that his race were responsible for the destruction of Atlantis (apparently at odds with events seen in The Underwater Menace).

Matthew Corbett, whose father Harry created and operated the popular children's puppet character Sooty and eventually sold the rights to him, appears as one of the Master's devil-worshipping acolytes in Episode Five. He was a late addition to the cast, replacing Bill Wiesner.


There was originally a sixth episode. (This was an April Fool's joke in the fanzine DWB.)

A helicopter was destroyed during the making of this story. (Although a helicopter is seen to explode as it hits the heat barrier, this was actually a piece of footage taken from the James Bond film From Russia With Love.)

The original intention was that Michael Kilgarriff, seen previously in the series as the Cyberman Controller in The Tomb of the Cybermen, would play Azal on screen and that Stephen Thorne would provide only his voice. (The original intention was that Thorne would play Azal on screen and vocal artist Anthony Jackson would provide his voice. In the end, Thorne both played and voiced the character.)

Jo Grant's own clothes are left behind in the cavern when she escapes dressed in a sacrificial tabard just before the church explodes, and yet she is seen wearing them again at the end of the story. (Jo is clearly seen carrying her clothes under her arm when she escapes from the church.)


Phrases like 'an EHF wide band width, variable phase oscillator, with a negative feedback circuit' and 'negative diathermy buffer [sic] the molecular movement of the air with reverse phase shortwaves' will cause heart attacks for anybody with a Physics 'O' level.


A signpost next to the heat barrier says: 'Devil's End 1'. However, in episode two, the barrier has a five mile radius, centered on the church.

In the same episode, Garvin holds his broken shotgun together during his fight with Benton.

In episode three, the energy exchanger interferes with radio communication, but by episode five it has lost this annoying side effect.

How do Yates and Benton have time to change into civvies?

Cast & Crew


The Doctor - Jon Pertwee

Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart - Nicholas Courtney

Captain Mike Yates - Richard Franklin

Jo Grant - Katy Manning

Sergeant Benton - John Levene

Alastair Fergus - David Simeon

Azal - Stephen Thorne

Baker's Man - Gerald Taylor

Bert the Landlord - Don McKillop

Bok - Stanley Mason

Dr. Reeves - Eric Hillyard

Garvin - John Joyce

Harry - James Snell

Jones - Matthew Corbett

Miss Hawthorne - Damaris Hayman

Morris Dancers - The Headington Quarry Men

PC Groom - Christopher Wray

Prof. Horner - Robert Wentworth

Sgt. Osgood - Alec Linstead

The Master - Roger Delgado

Thorpe - John Owens

Tom Girton - John Croft

Winstanley - Rollo Gamble


Director - Christopher Barry

Assistant Floor Manager - Sue Hedden

Costumes - Barbara Lane

Designer - Roger Ford

Fight Arranger - Peter Diamond

Film Cameraman - Fred Hamilton

Film Editor - Chris Wimble

Incidental Music - Dudley Simpson

Make-Up - Jan Harrison

Producer - Barry Letts

Production Assistant - Peter Grimwade

Script Editor - Terrance Dicks

Special Sounds - Brian Hodgson

Studio Lighting - Tony Millier

Studio Sound - Ralph Walton

Title Music - Ron Grainer and the BBC Radiophonic Workshop, arranged by Delia Derbyshire

Visual Effects - Peter Day

Writer - Guy Leopold This was a pseudonym for Robert Sloman and Barry Letts

Bottom Line - from The Discontinuity Guide

'When Beltane is come tread softly for, lo, the Prince himself is nigh!' For a certain age group this story is the most memorable example of 70s Doctor Who. However, The Dæmons isn't really very good. Its denouement is risible, and even the much praised church explosion effect looks cheap. The final scene is charming ('You see Jo, there is magic in the world after all') with a memorable Brigadier/Yates exchange: 'Fancy a dance sir?' 'Kind of you Captain... I think I'd rather have a pint!'

Analysis - from Doctor Who, the Television Companion

The Dæmons is often cited, by those who worked on it and reviewers alike, as the best of the third Doctor's stories, and it is easy to see how this view has arisen. Like The Claws of Axos, it encapsulates all the era's most well-remembered aspects - such as the UNIT 'family' and the Master - in a story with an interesting background, including in this case black magic rituals and an archaeological dig, and some scary 'monsters'.

The production too is excellent, boasting some extensive and impressive location filming in the Wiltshire village of Aldbourne, and Christopher Barry's direction is well up to scratch. As J Jeremy Bentham wrote in Oracle Volume 3 Number 4, dated January 1980, 'Every so often... a story comes along with the capacity to stun the viewer with the sheer excellence of its presentation, and for me The Dæmons was such a story.'

Admittedly the plot is not the most groundbreaking to have been presented in the series. The 'clandestine witchcraft in an English village' story is, indeed, almost a staple ingredient of television action-adventure series, and there are echoes of Nigel Kneale's 1958/59 serial Quatermass and the Pit. The idea of a village cut off by an impenetrable dome-shaped barrier had previously been used in John Wyndham's The Midwich Cuckoos and, although it is at least handled with a degree of originality here, the rationale for its inclusion is less than clear. It would suggest that Azal feels the need to protect himself, but why? He is, after all, immensely powerful, can kill at a glance, and intends either to pass on his power or to destroy the Earth. Hardly the sort of creature that needs to hide himself away.

On the subject of Azal, it must be acknowledged that his on-screen realisation is one of the weaker aspects of the production, being achieved via the wonders of CSO. As Bentham pointed out, 'This serial perfectly emphasised the value of keeping the principal creature hidden from the viewing public until the last possible moment. That way millions of minds were at work trying to visualise Azal long before his emergence at the end of Episode [Four].'

The story's underlying theme, that of science versus magic, is established early in the first episode in a nice scene where the Doctor demonstrates to Jo and Captain Yates that something should never be assumed to be 'magic' just because the explanation for it is not immediately apparent. It is then explored throughout the remainder of the five episodes (an unusual but effective story length), in which the viewer learns that many of the magical traditions and images are in fact a product of the Dæmons' secret 'psionic science'.

The fact that this scientific basis for magic was never developed further in later stories is surprising - one can certainly imagine the Master finding many uses for it. It is a fascinating idea and allows for the presentation of many elements (or should that be elementals?) that would otherwise be beyond the bounds of credibility. A nice example is the stone gargoyle Bok that comes to life (although whether as a result of the Master's rituals or simply as a side effect of Azal's appearance is never made clear) and even flies. Another is the Dæmon's ability to shrink or grow at will - and the fact that such changes are accompanied by a rush of energy shows that the writers have, commendably, given some consideration to the physics involved.

The point is perhaps stretched a little too far, however, in the suggestion that the Dæmons are able also to miniaturise their own spaceships, as this immediately raises the question why they do not simply build small spaceships in the first place, achieving considerable savings in energy and raw materials, and then adjust their own size to fit.

The story's guest characters are all well written and acted. The short-lived Professor Horner is a joy to watch as he puts down the pushy television reporter Alastair Fergus. Miss Hawthorne is very memorable as well, and Damaris Hayman is perfectly cast in the role, her engaging performance adding much to the story. The regulars too are generally very well served. It is nice to see Yates and Benton in 'civvies' for once; the Brigadier gets some good action and dialogue; and the Master is the epitome of evil charm, looking wonderful both when posing as Mr. Magister in his vicar's garb - complete with dog collar - and later when leading the coven in his scarlet ceremonial robes.

'The Master, alias Mr. Magister, was used remarkably well,' agreed Alan Early, writing in Ark in Space No.7, dated May 1983, 'and this was no mean feat considering that it was the fifth consecutive story the character had appeared in. Delgado was in top form, and it was at about this time that the... Master threatened [to rival] the popularity of the [Doctor]. I can think of no other villain in Doctor Who who merited a cliffhanger ending when his life was threatened.'

Given that The Dæmons is so archetypal of Barry Letts' period as producer, it is no surprise that the minority of fans who greatly dislike the approach that he brought to the series have, contrary to the general reaction, been vociferously critical of it. Perhaps the most scathing review of all was by Chris Newbold in Perigosto Stick Issue Two, dated August 1991: 'It is my considered opinion, as someone who has seen almost all the Doctor Who stories it is possible to see, that The Dæmons is without doubt one of the worst. I say that in full possession of the knowledge that it is thought of as an example of the very best of Doctor Who, an "all-time classic". Naturally I find it hard to see how this view can possibly have come about, unless it is part of a more general belief that the Pertwee years represent Doctor Who at its best. I do not subscribe to such a view.'

Newbold's criticisms were wide ranging. He disliked the story's opening, disapproved of the use of pseudo-science to overcome the heat barrier and took issue with the general handling of the science-versus-magic theme. His major problem, however, was with the Doctor himself: 'The story... succeeds in emphasising all that is bad about the third Doctor's character. In the "with horns" scene in Episode Three he behaves like the archetypal bad parent - intolerant, patriarchal, inconsistent in attitude and impossible to please. He is a patronising know-it-all who deliberately gives either ambiguous or oversimplified explanations, expects everyone to know what he is talking about and snaps at them if they don't. Obviously these "nuances" to his character are intended to convey his irritation at being exiled on a planet of "primitives", but their result is to render him utterly unlikeable.'

It is difficult to disagree with many of Newbold's observations, and it has to be admitted that - surprisingly, given that Letts was one of the writers - the characterisation of the third Doctor in this story is rather odd, the most cringe-inducing moment coming in the fifth episode with his monumentally inappropriate description of Hitler as a 'bounder'. To focus exclusively on these aspects of his character, however, while ignoring his undeniable charm and charisma, and the compassion and kindness he often shows to the weak and oppressed, is to present only half the picture.

The Dæmons may not be perfect, but it has earned its place as one of the most widely admired and acclaimed adventures of the Pertwee era.

< Colony in SpaceThird DoctorDay of the Daleks >

This episode guide is made up of the text of The Discontinuity Guide by Paul Cornell, Martin Day and Keith Topping, and Doctor Who: The Television Companion by David J. Howe and Stephen James Walker.

The Discontinuity Guide © Paul Cornell, Martin Day and Keith Topping 1995.
Doctor Who: The Television Companion © David J Howe and Stephen James Walker 1998, 2003.

About the BBC | Help | Terms of Use | Privacy & Cookies Policy