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The King's Demons

Production Code: 6J

First Transmitted

1 - 15/03/1983 18:55

2 - 16/03/1983 18:45

Plot

The TARDIS materialises in 13th Century England during a joust held in the presence of King John. The King welcomes the Doctor, Tegan and Turlough as his 'demons', but his actions toward the family of his host Ranulf fitz William are decidedly hostile.

The Doctor discovers that what appears to be the King is in fact a shape-changing android called Kamelion whom the Master found on Xeriphas. The Master has disguised himself as the King's Champion, Sir Gilles Estram, and is using Kamelion in a plot to discredit the King and prevent the signing of the Magna Carta, thereby changing the course of history.

The Doctor manages to wrest control of Kamelion away from the Master, exposing his arch enemy's scheme.

Episode Endings

Sir Gilles' face blurs and changes into the more familiar visage of the Master, who aims his tissue compression eliminator at the Doctor.

To Turlough's surprise and Tegan's dismay, the Doctor accepts Kamelion as a new travelling companion aboard the TARDIS. Tegan insists that she does not wish to be returned home, however, and the Doctor admits that the co-ordinates are already set for the Eye of Orion.

Roots

The King refers to various demonic entities ('Can this be Lilith?').

Dialogue Triumphs

The King : "Do our demons come to visit us?"

Ranulf : [Speaking of Sir Gilles Estram] "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."

Double Entendre

Tegan : "Look at the size of that bed."

The Doctor : "Another way of keeping warm..."

Continuity

The Master used Kamelion, the tool of an earlier invader of Xeriphas (see Time Flight), to escape from the planet and then impersonate King John. Kamelion does have a mind of its own, but can be controlled psychokinetically. The Master's Tissue Compression Eliminator is referred to as a 'compressor' on several occasions.

The Doctor leaves the device switched on, which will affect the dimension circuits in the Master's TARDIS. Tegan is able to make the Doctor's TARDIS take off and land on her own [as with Four to Doomsday, much of this might be the ship acting to minimise potential damage].

At the end Turlough says that they were going to go to his home planet (still unnamed) [given his reaction in Planet of Fire it seems unlikely that he is referring to Trion. Perhaps he was trying to get the Doctor to visit somewhere else under false pretences?]. He has previously visited the Eye of Orion.

Location

England, 4 March 1215.

Trivia

In order to conceal the fact that the Master featured 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' being an anagram of 'Master's joke'.

An excellent guest cast includes: Frank Windsor, well known as Sergeant Watt in Z Cars and its Softly, Softly spin-offs; distinguished stage and television actress Isla Blair; and Gerald Flood, popular amongst telefantasy fans for his roles in early sixties ABC serials such as Pathfinders in Space and its sequels, amongst many other programmes.

This story marks the debut appearance of short-lived new 'companion' Kamelion - in reality a computer controlled, sound activated, animated robot created by software designer Mike Power and computer hardware expert Chris Padmore of a firm called CP Cybernetics.

Goofs

The Master's iron maiden TARDIS has an anachronistic Elizabethan ruff.

The history is rubbish, as the Magna Carta's importance was fabricated in the 17th century: it achieved very little in the 13th century.

French was still the language of the court in the early 13th century, so why does only Sir Gilles speak it?

Cast & Crew

Cast

The Doctor - Peter Davison

Tegan - Janet Fielding

Turlough - Mark Strickson

Hugh - Christopher Villiers

Isabella - Isla Blair

Jester - Peter Burroughs

Ranulf - Frank Windsor

Sir Geoffrey - Michael J Jackson

The King - Gerald Flood Gerald Flood also provided, uncredited, the voice of Kamelion in Part Two.

The Master - Anthony Ainley

Crew

Director - Tony Virgo

Assistant Floor Manager - Sue Hedden

Costumes - Colin Lavers

Designer - Ken Ledsham

Fight Arranger - John Waller

Film Cameraman - Remi Adefarasin

Film Editor - Mike Rowbotham

Incidental Music - Jonathan Gibbs

Incidental Music - Peter Howell

Lute Player - Jacob Lindberg

Make-Up - Elizabeth Rowell

Make-Up - Frances Hannon

Producer - John Nathan-Turner

Production Assistant - Sue Upton

Production Associate - June Collins

Script Editor - Eric Saward

Special Sounds - Dick Mills

Studio Lighting - Peter Smee

Studio Sound - Martin Ridout

Title Music - Ron Grainer and the BBC Radiophonic Workshop, arranged by Peter Howell

Visual Effects - Tony Harding

Writer - Terence Dudley

Bottom Line - from The Discontinuity Guide

'Do our demons come to visit us?' Some nice medieval dialogue, and the budget is just big enough to make the thing look convincing, but it's all very inconsequential, the Doctor admitting that the Master's plan to wreck the Magna Carta is 'small time villainy by his standards'.

Analysis - from Doctor Who, the Television Companion

The closing story of the twentieth season is just as disappointing as the opening one, and for basically the same reason: it is another case of style being given precedence over content.

The period settings and costumes as usual look wonderful, and the excellent cast give uniformly good performances. The location work is also extremely effective and pleasant on the eye. 'It was a lovely production - the jousting, feasting and lute playing were all captivating,' commented Saul Nassé in TARDIS Volume 8 Number 2, dated June 1983. 'It was really rather a shame that there had to be a story, and the Master (so obvious with one glance!) rather intruded on the atmosphere... These "historical" two-parters provide a welcome break from the other, more science-fictiony stories.'

This is the nub of the problem: the Master seems to have been shoe-horned into a story in which he does not really belong, and the rather feeble rationale offered for his presence is highly unconvincing. Why should the Master be interested in preventing the signing of the Magna Carta? Even the Doctor is moved to comment that this is small-time villainy by his standards, which is almost tantamount to giving an on-screen admission of the story's limitations. 'As always the Master had nothing to do,' complained Paul Dixon in the same issue of TARDIS, 'and once again we arrived when his plans were precisely nowhere, no grand plots, alliances with spectacular enemies or partially successful intergalactic schemes like the ones in Frontier in Space. To those people who will write the next Master stories a word in your ear about his plans: "Big is beautiful".' Robert Shearman, reviewing the story in Cloister Bell 6/7 in 1983, was also dissatisfied with the way in which the Master was presented: 'Why was the Master dressed up as Sir Gilles Estram (geddit?) [when, as in Time-Flight,] he had no reason [to disguise himself]? Once he had done that shimmering effect and changed into [his usual appearance] (how does he do that anyway, and if he can do it why can't the Doctor?) it didn't make much difference to the 13th Century characters. [And] why did Sir Gilles have such an abominable French accent?'

As with many of the earlier stories set in Earth's past, questions have been raised about the historical accuracy of The King's Demons. 'It is one thing to realise that Bad King John might not have been so bad after all,' noted Alec Charles, again in TARDIS Volume 8 Number 2. 'It is a totally different thing to claim that he wanted Magna Carta - and the Doctor's prattle about Magna Carta being at the base of our modern "democratic" system seems very unfounded. It appears that Terence Dudley skipped rather a lot of research work for this unrealistic two-parter. Magna Carta was in no way the long charter of general social liberties that the Doctor seems to think it was... The presentation of the baron as being a good guy in The King's Demons is also far from realistic.' Guy Clapperton, however, offered a rather different opinion in Shada 15, dated May/June 1983: 'The Doctor's disagreement with the textbook view of King John was interesting, and the link with the theory at the time that John himself was a demon gave the whole thing a well-researched feel.'

On one level The King's Demons is just an introductory vehicle for Kamelion but, as the android is hardly one of the most welcome or successful additions ever made to the series, this isn't really enough to satisfy. 'The whole story just seemed to dissolve into chaos,' suggested Johnathan L Pinkney in Aggedor Issue 4 in 1983, 'with the introduction of Kamelion, a C-3PO look-, sound- and act-alike, and no doubt a would-be K9-like problem solver.'

Clapperton, however, had some fair points to make in the story's defence: 'There will be many writers who will say that this story was a comedown after Enlightenment and should not have finished off the twentieth season of Doctor Who. In a way this statement is perfectly justified, but it must be borne in mind that The King's Demons was not intended as a big finish, it was a prelude to the next story - shelved due to an electricians' strike. This is made obvious by the unambitious plot and the fact that it was only two parts long. When... these factors [are considered] the story stands up quite well as entertainment, although it can never have a place amongst the classics.'

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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.



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