Doctor Who: The Daemons (UK - DVD R2)
It goes without saying that The Wilson Bros can drink their five rounds rapid...
After taking a brief trip to the planet Uxaerius, The Doctor (Jon Pertwee) returns to Earth to continue his exile and travels to the little village of Devil's End, after watching live television coverage of the excavation of a Bronze Age burial site. The Doctor feels that something is wrong and a great evil is about to be unleashed. Once there, The Doctor and Jo Grant (Katy Manning) discover that not only is Azal, an ancient being from the planet Daemos about to awaken from his million year slumber, but the Reverend Majister, Devil's End's vicar, is actually an old nemesis of The Doctor...
The script of The Daemons - credited to the fictitious Guy Leopold, a pseudonym for writer Robert Sloman and Barry Letts - treads very carefully when it comes to dealing with the potentially controversial subject matter; having Satan appearing in a family teatime show was something that could have upset a lot of people (including self-righteous God-botherers like Mary Whitehouse), but Letts and Sloman cleverly tiptoe very carefully around the satanic elements by not directly having the Devil appear in the show, but having the Desolate One as a member of an alien race from who humans drew their inspiration in terms of a physical depiction of the ultimate evil. Barry Letts' interest in all things spiritual was the reason why this storyline took shape and his desire to explore the darker side of religious beliefs was ripe subject matter for Doctor Who - and this would be several years before Philip Hinchcliffe's "Gothic" period. The worries that the Powers-That-Be had with potentially controversial material were addressed and aspects of the script were toned down - even the incantation that The Master recites to summon up Azal is not satanic in the slightest, but is merely Mary Had a Little Lamb backwards (apparently, the legendary dirty poem, Eskimo Nell, was even suggested at one point, but it was decided to go for something more innocuous).
What separates The Daemons from any other story in the Jon Pertwee story is the attempt to show the event happening as though it is "real"; the faux television coverage by the BBC3 presenter (in stark contrast to the usual bollocks the real BBC3 screens) is wonderfully executed and really adds a unique atmosphere that draws the viewer in, coming across as a prototype live episode of Time Team.
The central premise that a group of extraterrestrials have been guiding the human race in the course of its development over the millennia isn't a particularly new one, but the idea that the otherworldly beings are using Earth and its indigenous inhabitants as a scientific experiment that it will eventually discard is utterly fascinating, recalling the opening monologue of Wells' War of the Worlds. The story of The Daemons involves The Master bafflingly getting in over his head, joining that elite group of Doctor Who adversaries who think that they can control a malevolent race to help them gain power and then discard them when the dirty work is done. The idea of The Master unleashing a power that he cannot control is very interesting, but it ultimately leaves the character somewhat diminished and seeming like a desperate wannabe, rather than the cold and calculating figure he had been up until this story.
The concept of the whole of Devil's End being cut-off by a domed heat barrier is an interesting one, and it certainly helps to avoid the simplistic military answer of having UNIT sending in bombers and blowing the living shit out of the church where Azal is lurking. It also adds to the drama, by separating the UNIT family and making the lower ranking members think for themselves and show initiative, rather than blind obedience. The only fault with the heat barrier comes during one scene where it has clearly been raining, which was obviously an unfortunate occurrence when filming, and could have been hidden by tighter shots, but this wasn't and shatters the illusion that they went to great lengths to set up. It could be argued that the height and circumference of the dome was so vast that it has its own weather system within, but that's pushing things - even for Doctor Who...
There are some great, witty lines peppered throughout the script, including local white witch Miss Hawthorne hitting someone braining an assailant with a crystal ball and wryly quipping "on these occasions, the outcome is a certainty" afterwards.
During the story, it becomes apparent that the inhabitants of Devil's End are generally a gullible bunch, as they are taken in en masse by The Master, posing as a fairly progressive vicar (given future events, it's a surprise that Mike Yates wasn't sucked in) and only the non-Christian, Miss Hawthorne, is able to resist his hypnotic abilities. Is this Barry Letts deliberately having a sly dig at Christianity, or organised religion in general, by saying that who embrace it are willing to swallow anything once they have been suitably indoctrinated? One of your humble reviewers is a hardened atheist and picked up on this most curious of subtexts. Anyway, The Master wearing a Christian dog-collar makes a change from his usual dark-suited Jehovah's Witness garb "I am The Master and you will obey ME! You will also accept a copy of The Watchtower!"
Jon Pertwee is clearly having fun in this story, though two critical factors in determining his enthusiasm for a story were probably how much location work it had and whether or not he got to ride a motorised vehicle, and in The Daemons, there was plenty of both. Bessie gets an outing in this story, saving the Doctor's bacon at a crucial moment and Pertwee gets to ride a motorbike, which he personally rides for all but the shot where The Doctor is required to come off the thing, then its stonkingly obvious that the double for him is not entirely convincing. Though Jon Pertwee is not exactly high on our list of favourite Doctors, we have come to appreciate what he brought to the role over the last couple of years and apart from the gung-ho attitude he had for action sequences, he brought a huge amount of sincerity and conviction to the part, not to mention charm - despite asking the writers to write some charm into the scripts for him. Pertwee stated numerous times that The Daemons was his favourite Doctor Who story and it's pretty obvious that he is in his element here and his enthusiasm is infectious.
Nicholas Courtney is as great as ever and gets to deliver what is regarded as his most quotable line of dialogue - when confronted with the hellish, winged manifestation, he coolly looks at it and then orders one of his men with the following understated command: "Chap with wings there - five rounds rapid!" It has been said that Courtney wanted his autobiography to have the latter half of that line as the title, but he was overruled on it, thinking that it might be mistaken for something heard in a pub.
Those who have read our Doctor Who reviews in the past will know that we have an unabashed love of Roger Delgado - his performance as The Master was the original and by far the best, mixing humour and menace that could be icy-cold, sadistic or business-like in turn. The big problem with Roger Delgado was not anything to do with the actor himself, it was that during season eight, The Master was behind every single dastardly scheme that The Doctor had to face; he had started to become Voldemort to The Doctor's Harry Potter. The following season started to shake things up a bit, with The Master only being in two stories, allowing for other enemies to be used, but even though he was such a great character, and Delgado a wonderful actor, the fact was that a less-is-more approach could have been employed, but seeing as Delgado had a tragic date with destiny in Turkey a mere two years after The Daemons, we should appreciate the handful of Doctor Who stories he appeared in.
Making his Doctor Who debut is Stephen Thorne, who provides the physical embodiment of Azal; though this ancient being matches the standard look of Satan, Thorne manages to make Azal stand apart from Old Scratch by lending his roaring, theatrical voice to the part, in what could be looked upon as a dry run for his later role as the one of the greatest Time Lords of all history, Omega, in The Three Doctors.
Captain Mike Yates (Richard Franklin) and Sergeant Benton (John Levene) are out of their UNIT uniforms and are allowed more screen-time than usual; we get to see a little more characterisation, giving Franklin and Levene to let their hair down somewhat and they make for an amusing pair that would have transferred into a spin-off series similar to Kolchak: The Night Stalker, or at the very least, Sapphire and Steel.
Whilst it's great to see John Levene getting more screen-time as Benton, it is a bit of a bummer to see him being beaten up by all and sundry during the course of the story; the well-trained army man Benton is even given a pasting by an untrained member of the public and is only saved thanks to the intervention of the local white witch - perhaps people don't like the civvy clobber he's wearing during most of The Daemons, especially those ghastly tight red trousers...
The guest cast are all great, with Damaris Hayman being particularly good as Miss Hawthorne, the white witch who has a will strong enough to resist being hypnotised by The Master; Hayman was predominantly given comedic roles and though there is a healthy vein of humour running through the part of Miss Hawthorne, Hayman has a commanding presence and is more than able to hold her own against such charismatic actors as Jon Pertwee and Roger Delgado. Robin Wentworth is wonderful as the crotchety (and appropriately named) Professor Horner, who is in charge of the archaeological dig at the Devil's Hump has a level of tolerance for television journalists that most people have for midges; it's just a shame that his appearance is all too short, as his depiction of the archetypal non-media savvy academic is hilarious to watch.
The more unusual episode length in this story works in its favour - six-part stories (especially Pertwee ones) tended to sag horribly in the middle and felt awfully protracted, but with five episodes, it allows for a less formulaic structure than a four part story and also lets the story breathe, giving some nice character scenes along the way. The Daemons would be the third five-part Doctor Who story in the show's history (with The Dominators and The Mind Robber being the previous ones) and would, somewhat sadly, be the final one, bringing to an end a short-lived anomaly in Doctor Who story structure.
The Daemons is most curious in terms of archiving - only one of the five episodes exists in the PAL format (episode four) and the rest were held as black and white film recordings. The wonderful guys at the Doctor Who Restoration Team originally worked on colourising The Daemons back in the early nineties, when the pioneering step of taking the NTSC colour signal (which had come from a domestic VCR recording of the story) and overlaying on the PAL monochrome film recording was nothing short of a miracle (remember the blurb on the back of the VHS release of this story, which boasted "technology worthy of The Doctor himself"?) the initial results were most impressive.
Two decades have elapsed since then and the tools at the fingertips of the Restoration Team have improved considerably; we didn't watch the VHS release, but we certainly remember the broadcast on television and we were impressed. The results shown in this DVD version are a quantum leap over what has been seen before - the videotaped studio material is generally wonderful, looking very similar to the original PAL material. The first few minutes of episode one are shot on film and whilst there's not a vast amount that can be done to restore the film sequences because of methods used to transfer film to video back then, it still looks better than it ever has (outside of the original Quad tapes, of course. When the action in episode one switches to video, down in the bowels of the church, the difference is so dramatic that it could be likened to Dorothy leaving the drab world of Kansas and awakening in the land of Oz. OK, so we might be overstating things a little, but you'll be surprised just how good it looks.
The quality of the newly-remastered image is not consistent, as each episode was at the mercy of the technical competency used when making the original film recordings. Episodes one and two look absolutely fabulous, often giving the viewer a feeling that they are watching copies direct from the Quad masters; episode five looks almost as good, with episode three bringing up the rear, looking somewhat soft in comparison.
No problems to report here - everything sounds fine, and the inability to hear dialogue during the forcefield scenes (due to the irritating white-noise sound effects applied) has been minimised.
Audio Commentary: Participating for all five episodes are director Christopher Barry, along with actors Dameris Hayman, Richard Franklin and Katy Manning. This has a different feel to more recent commentaries, feeling very much like one of the older Doctor Who commentary tracks, as there is no moderator and the line-up doesn’t change between episodes as though playing musical chairs. Leave it to Manning to kick things off as they mean to go on, with the opening shot of a cat sending her into a state of childlike wonder as she exclaims: “Ooh, look - pussycat!”
There is a real warmth generated by the gang gathered together, and this really comes through as they are watching it. Just listen out for the continuous stream of laughter and appreciation during the scene where the Brigadier is rudely awoken during the night to find that his helicopter has been commandeered. Manning notes that this was the first time the name of the Brig’s better-half was divulged, with Hayman succinctly pointing out that at that moment: “…he seems more interested in his helicopter than any sort of wife.”
The writing of The Daemons was rather tricky in more religion-orientated times, and guidelines were handed down about what was permissible in the script and which aspects were blatantly taboo. At the moment Pertwee is tied to the Maypole and scripture is preached, Hayman points out that: “…we’re allowed to quote the bible there, but we weren’t allowed to mention God… and he says it twice!” Sure, enough, Ms Manning follows it with a laugh as she notes that she wasn’t even aloud to say the word “Coccyx”.
You can rely on Manning to provide amusing, self-deprecating tales of herself, and doesn’t disappoint. She recalls the initial scene which required The Master to mesmerise Jo Grant, with the sequence almost needing no acting on her part. “I remember the first time, actually, that Roger did have to hypnotise me… because I so short-sighted, I see very centrally, and nearly went!” They should bring this woman in for every commentary, regardless of whether or not she's in the story.
Hayman really comes off very well, with no doubt that she‘s a very experienced, cultured woman with a razor-sharp memory, frequently picking up the others when their recollections are a little out. There is also a delicious sense of irony about her, particularly when it comes the BBC’s processes of getting the filming done on time. “If a camera broke, it mattered,” she muses about possible injury to the cast. “If an actor broke, there’s another one. Plenty of those where that came from.”
There is a streak of quiet innuendo running through the whole thing, as opposed to Manning’s way of just dragging it all out into the light. Many would snigger at how Franklin recalls when Jon Scott Martin played King Dalek in his Edinburgh play The Great T-Bag Mystery, and we certainly wouldn’t snigger at mention of Mr Franklin being in Mufty quite a lot, either. By this, they mean visiting the place with that particular name, of course. Be it intended or not, there are a lot of laughs, all wrapped up in a palpable sense of warmth and respect by the contributors, which spills over into the enjoyment of those listening. There are few capable to doing commentary tracks better than 2|Entertain, and their name on it is almost literally a hallmark of quality.
Production Subtitles: We might be wrong, but we think that there is probably a secure facility somewhere in which the compiler of Doctor Who information resides, a cruel overseer who commands a race of Oompa-Loompas, slaving away in the pursuit of acquiring all available facts to bring them to waiting fans. Sure, there have been numerous deaths from exhaustion whilst putting it all together, but what’s the death of a few Oompa-Loompas when the final product is as superb as it is. We’ll never forget Shorty, Stumpy or even Titch, and their bold contribution shines in every polished nugget of information made available to us, the waiting public.
The depth of factoids presented here really is phenomenal, as where else could you possibly hope to find out exactly when Stanley Mason’s three costume fittings for Bok were, let alone that of Richard Franklin and Damaris Hayman? Instances of improvisation are all dutifully logged, and not just the famous exchange between Franklin and Nick Courtney. Directorial spontaneity are not forgotten, either, including the ladder thoughtfully propped up against the side of the pub as Jo Grant makes her escape. Sure, it looks convenient to the script, but it was there because Manning’s eyesight was so bad, she might well have ended arse-over-tit and broken her neck. Now that would have certainly put them behind.
Like the track on the previous release ( The Face of Evil) there are strong accusations of thievery from an episode of Star Trek, along with a detailed breakdown of similarities between the two. In this case, the plaintiff is Who Mourns for Adonis, where the last surviving member of an alien race is worshipped on Earth in mythology. The Brigadier and Spock have the same task of trying to break through an impenetrable barrier, and the climaxes of both are almost identical. As fans of sci-fi shows who eat both snails and oysters, we can be objective and say that there is no doubt that Doctor Who ripped off Gene Roddenberry on this one.
For those of us still annoyed/baffled by the pre-decimal monetary system, our ever-helpful information track is there to lift the veil. We all remember that utterly hideous vase which gets wreck when The Master demonstrates his power for to a doubter, and through the means of painstaking research, we are told that it cost £7.25 to have made by the BBC. Well, for those us who weren’t born in the Dark Ages when fiscal denominations weren’t just to create local colour, it says that to have the equivalent in today’s money, you just have to times it by ten. Pounds, shillings and sense - utter crap!
The balance is a perfect as ever, with the customary humour to help keep the perils of dry academia at bay. Whoever said that irony and laced sarcasm don’t translate to print hasn’t has the pleasure of reading one of these beauties. When the fiery wrath of Azal bears down on the village as The Doctor is out for the count, the maelstrom subsides and out favourite Timelord springs out of bed and cries: “Eureka!” The information track thoughtfully points out that the word isn’t Greek for “This bath is too hot”, but meaning “I have found it”. Genuine facts combined with chuckles - we love you, oh mighty Information Track.
One of the most important things we’ve learned from this particular track is that on no account offer to let Kay Manning use your bathroom to do her washing in, as it’s asking for trouble. Damaris Hayman unwittingly found herself in this position, and came back from filming one time to discover about fifty pair of knickers hung up to dry around the place. There are certain Doctor Who fans who would have had a field-day going through individually sniffing each set of undercrackers. Speaking of the unfortunate woman who let the a mad woman use her bath, one of the very best revelations comes when Delgado bellows the name of “The Evil One” in order to dominate the invading forces, where ol’ Roger improvised a gag and said moniker turned out to be Dameris Hayman in reverse!
For those of us in love with the technical side of the process, there is a great wealth of info about the filming, and the subsequent problem of editing it all together. Few might realise just how much of a problem cutting between 16mm and videotape, but there were headaches all round with the intercutting eating valuable time in the editing suite. Did you know that The Daemons contains 53minutes and 35 seconds of film during the course of its running time? You certainly do now!
Ever reliable, always engaging and a hell of a lot of fun, we’re treated to another of the information tracks they always do so well, so make sure you click the appropriate option get the most out of The Daemons. The days of the Doctor Who Programme Subtitles are numbered, with only a finite amount of stories left to come out now. Cherish this, guys, if only to honour the glorious Oompa-Loompa dead.
Remembering Barry Letts: Along with Phillip Hinchcliffe, Barry Letts was the most successful producer to grace Doctor Who, both guiding the show into prosperous times and collecting high viewing figures. Both enjoyed creative freedom and personal success after leaving the series, and with The Android Invasion’s documentary Life After Who covering Hinchcliffe’s career, it’s only right that Letts gets the same treatment, as family and colleagues gather to celebrate the life of the man who brought us an entire legion of invading aliens.
The arts were seemingly in Letts' blood, getting a taste for acting whilst a child, with his path to the entertainment biz frowned upon by his father, who was only persuaded otherwise when the onset of war meant that it might be his one chance to do what he wanted shortly before being drafted and possibly killed in action. His sons, Crispin and Dominic Letts are on hand to recount the pretty extraordinary life of their father, and reveal that brakes were put on a thriving career when enlisted in the navy, with demobbing leaving him in the cold after a promises of stardom turned out to be hollow. Letts set his sites higher, and found work with Rank Studios. “I was convinced I was going to be a film-star… most actors think they are going to be a film star eventually, or a stage-star or whatever.”, recalls the man himself.
After meeting his wife on his final film, Letts fell into doing live dramas on the BBC, which gave in steady employment, but it was when he and friend Owen Holder were able to sell a script entitled Child and a Half that enabled Letts to get stuck into what really interested him: writing. After establishing himself as a dependable writer over the next decade, successfully taking a producer/director’s course at the Beeb, he was finally in the position he wanted. The Newcomers, Z Cars and Doctor Who soon followed, and Letts made damn sure that the rest was history in his new position as producer of the BBC’s flagship science-fiction programme.
Bringing fresh ideas to the show, he immediately formed an almost symbiotic relationship with Terence Dicks, with Lett‘s ecological and Buddhist beliefs balancing out the more cynical traits of his colleague, and managed to pull Doctor Who out of the poor writing/low figures quagmire it had gotten itself into. “Pertwee, against all the odds, was a terrific Doctor”, says Dicks, somewhat cryptically. Letts’ love of experimenting with the Colour Separation Overlay (CSO) system proved perfect for the series, giving it production values not seen before, prompting the great Ronald Marsh to frequently ask the producer: “How on earth did you achieve that?” at the innovative images cranked out.
After leaving Doctor Who, Letts decided to go back to the more artistic side of things, and found himself directing a very young Nicholas Lyndhurst in The Prince and the Pauper. With plaudits and a new job as producer of classic serials, Letts spent the next number of years successfully making a long line of literary adaptations, turning out masterly versions of the great English language novels, from A Tale of Two Cities to Treasure Island. His past and present happily collided in 1982, when he cast Tom Baker as Sherlock Holmes, for which the temperamental thespian was grateful to help put The Doctor in the past, and we are treated to some amusing footage of Letts talking to Baker on the actor's This is Your Life, noting that it was because of Letts that: ”I’m a big star in Abu Dhabi…”
Lett’s lingering illness really isn’t shied away from, and becomes a component part of the documentary, with interview footage from 2008 showing that cancer really was taking its toll on him. The death of his wife from the same illness a matter of months before he succumbed to it was particularly cruel, but Letts refused to let the cancer diminish him as a person. There are few people you can honestly say lived a life which was both aspirational and inspirational without sounding superficial, but Barry Letts was one whom you could.
Thanks to use of extensive video footage, 2|Entertain have been able to keep the late Mr Letts alive for the last couple of years, becoming Doctor Who’s very own version of Brian O’Blivion, but there must come a time that the material has to run out, and this is an excellent way to round out the work of a nice guy and very talented, resourceful man. The life of Barry Letts was a perfect balance of optimism, drive and humanity, and this documentary is the perfect way to remember a man who showed that you didn’t have to be a bastard to succeed in life. Damn good stuff.
Colourisation Test: What is classed as a “test” is actually the entire first episode of The Daemons, sporting the original attempts to undo the damage of the great BBC purge. There are very obvious differences to the ones which were used for the DVD, but the results are perfectly watchable, and a great way to archive the leaps and bounds made in the processes as both the years and technology advanced.
Tomorrow’s World: Fitting in very nicely with the above, Howard Stableford is your host for five minutes worth of technical bliss, as he looks into the way the colour for the wiped material was taken from an American U-Matic recording and grafted onto 16mm prints. While it was essentially a plug for a screening of the newly-restored copy of The Daemons, it’s great to see the BBC trumpeting just how much effort went into it.
Amusingly, Stableford also notes that episodes of Tomorrow’s World were also lost in the great videotape purge of the seventies, noting it how the move was “…a slight lapse of judgement I think there”. Comparisons are shown, along with what purports to be the original tape on which the NTSC recordings were made, and the whole thing is accessible for all, showing enough practical stuff for the fans whilst stopping short of being a total dissemination of the process and putting off casual viewers.
It was a real treat to see the old credits (both start and closing complete with that awful theme music) again, and we can only say that misstep comes when it commits the cardinal sin of not only allowing viewers to see right the way into the TARDIS prop, but also having the back way open, essentially using it as a threshold to another time, in this case, setting out the frame work for going back to 1971, and the original transmission of The Daemons. For giving us footage of the MILF-ish Judith Hann, we’re prepared to overlook such matters.
The Devil Rides Out: Although not slavishly loved by all fans, The Daemons is one with a lot of affection surrounding it, and 2|Entertain once more set out to explore the making of a classic episode of Doctor Who. Conjuring up those involved with the story might have been a task even too great for Rev. Magister, but the boys have come up trumps once again, as the spirits rise and Jon Pertwee rides off in a huff on a motorcycle.
Christopher Barry had left the Doctor Who fold a while before, and was pleased to have a fair amount of distance from the show, feeling that he had become perilously close to becoming a “Doctor Who director”, which is a label many find damning when attached to them. However, the black magic-themed script and location-shooting of The Daemons was too had to resist the pull of, and Barry signed on in spite of his very definite choices in his career. “The fact that there was so much film really did excite me,” explains Barry, “…[location] filming is hair-raising enough. But at least one feels one’s in control there, and we’re not going to have the plugs pulled out at 10.00 at night if you haven’t finished”.
The irrepressible Katy Manning is on had to recall her audition scene for the show, being the sequence from The Daemons when the form of Azal grows to monstrous proportions, but had to improvise the satanic menace from a fur-hat sitting on the floor. During filming she experienced a distinct feeling that it wasn’t the first time she’d faced-off against this particular foe, but looking far more menacing than an improvised chapeau. Some might argue that there are times when the impromptu headwear was better than a few earlier monsters…
Richard Franklin was one of the many who didn’t twig the identity of mysterious writer Guy Leopold: “I certainly didn’t realise it when I first read it. All I thought was ‘whoever has written this knows us. He must be part of the ensemble’”. The appreciation for the script was shared by most of the cast, with all the regulars given their moments to shine, as well as bringing out the best in the actors and their respective characters. “To give Richard Franklin his moment of riding that motorbike,” gushes Manning, “to give John Levene his favourite moment, which is, you know, punch-ups… it was beautifully, beautifully observed”.
We always break into a smile whenever actress Damaris Hayman pops up in something, as most people our age will remember her as the “Do you dig graves? I think their wonderful” woman from The Young Ones, or even from her appearance in Filthy, Rich and Catflap. Said smile was there again when she turned up to share her memories of The Daemons, proving herself to be more than just the doddery old woman she is usually cast as. A perfect choice to play Miss Hawthorne, Hayman was very knowledgeable on the subject of witchcraft, to the point where Head of Serials Ronnie Marsh selected her as the advisor for the production. Her unearthly powers must have been rather formidable, as she was able to persuade Barry to change her character from an “old fuddy-duddy” to a much more active woman. Well, the combined forces Barry Letts and Ronnie Marsh certainly influenced the spirits, anyway.
There is some time given to the irascible nature of Jon Pertwee, with many of the interviewees providing corroborating statements to the fact that he could sometimes be a bit of a pain in the arse to work with. Be it inclement weather, the production running behind or just plain getting out of bed on the wrong side, there were times when the Third Doctor was difficult to work with, and Barry made the mistake of allowing the temperamental actor a vehicle at the time of throwing a strop, and consequently went AWOL for a while. “Never give Jon Pertwee a motorbike when he’s having a hissy fit,” confirms Manning, “cause he’s not going to be around for very long!”
We’ve said before that there isn’t enough representation of the women who toiled behind the camera on Doctor Who, and it’s great that Assistant Floor Manager Sue Hedden is on hand to redress the balance. She’s a no bullshit kind of woman with real spirit and a good sense of humour, always ready to speak her mind and provide amusing tales. Our favourite has to be a rather brilliant piece of improvisation in order to get a performance out of the wee doggie - so what does an assistant floor manager do when an animal won’t do the most basic of things? Simple! Tie your woolly hat (which the dog is enamoured of) to a piece of string and have it chase it like a greyhound to a stuffed rabbit! Getting the besotted dog to give up his pursuit was seemingly another thing entirely!
With terrifically moody linking footage shot in a crypt, there is a hell of a lot to enjoy here, from the moment when Pertwee and Manning were flown in by helicopter to the location, consequently being mobbed by local kids, to the logistics of creating satanic weather conditions on a perfectly still, dry night. Ever wondered how Bok goes to the bog? Ponder no further, nor expend any more thought on just how you get professional Morris Dancers to break from their usual routine to duff up a Time Lord. It’s all here, and is another feather in the cap for 2|Entertain for parting the black clouds of The Daemons, and we have to assume that all these additions to their headwear must come from a particularly bald bird. Typically indispensable.
Location Film: Coming in full, blazing colour and sporting the official title-card of “The BBC’s Dr. Who on Location Aldbourne”, this silent, 8mm footage is the very definition of interesting, opening a window onto the filming of Jon Pertwee’s era, and much more refreshing for not being controlled by Auntie Beeb.
When the sun is blazing, you really get the feel of a hot summer’s day in the seventies, when life was much simpler, and you could still get onto a location shoot without having your chops busted by burly security guards. These days, the footage filmed here would be put on YouTube within an hour of being shot. Where else can you see John Levene having his makeup retouched, or the sight of Christopher Barry directing with the fiendish combination of shades, megaphone and striped trousers? Reluctantly using a cliché, but this is all-access filming, and there aren’t too many instances of it on classic Doctor Who.
Ever keen to grease the skates whilst on location, both Pertwee and Roger Delgado signing autographs for the fans. It’s very telling that it’s a very much adult enthusiast of the female variety getting signature of everybody’s favourite Master! It seems that the coolest cats hung out in Bessie, as Delgado, Damaris Hayman and a couple of women from the crew are seen shooting the breeze in the classic automobile. We can’t be sure, but one of the ladies might well be Assistant Floor Manager Sue Hedden. See - the chicks really can’t resist a bad dude in a bitchin’ car.
Those with a soft-spot for Bok might want to avoid watching this, as we are afforded an unforgettable look at Stanley Mason blocking out (or should that be Bokking out?) shots before putting his mask on, somewhat spoiling further viewing of The Daemons. Sure, we all knew it was a little gut in a suit, but where suspension of disbelief is everything, then it’s best to avoid any chinks in the armour. Worse still is a shot of the discarded mask and feet of the costume during breaks, looking as though certain members of UNIT tried something a little more primal than “five rounds rapid” to take care of the satanic little shit.
The content of the footage is very professional for an “amateur” effort, looking as though the person behind it wanted to document as much of the BBC location filming process as they could, and this foresight pays off handsomely, giving the fans sights they never though they would see. It’s sometimes educational, too, as thanks to a signpost, we learned that Aldbourne is only seven miles from the infamous village of Hungerford, where a greater evil than witchcraft eventually took place. We really ought to get words like “unmissable” and “sublime” made into rubber-stamps, as we end up employing them so often when reviewing extras for Doctor Who releases, but we wouldn’t call them anything less. Watch and enjoy!
Photo Gallery: Set the TARDIS coordinates for planet Fuzzy in the Memories system, as you’ll get a hell of a charge out this stunning collection of the time the BBC invaded a small village to save the world from evil. With more snaps from The Daemons than an entire stack of Doctor Who Monthly mags, it’s fun for all, and even the most jaded of fans will see at least something to make their jaws drop.
Much merriment around the Maypole give plenty of photo opportunities, and it wouldn’t be the Pertwee era without kiddies stepping over their friends to get a glimpse of The Doctor Himself. A couple of shots of Pertwee plunging a knife into the back of Ed “Stewpot” Stewart, but you can’t blame him, as Time Lords are obligated to stamp out evil things. Although most are location pictures, there are some from the filming on sets constructed at the BBC, which helps to break up the all-exterior feel which sneaks up on you.
Best of all are quite a few images of Azal in front of a blue-screen, and these look pretty cool by virtue of the background looking like they were taken as part of a very chic fashion-shoot. “This season, Azal is looking just darling wearing the latest in Cloven hooves. Next year, it’s wingtips for everyone”. Nobody does photo galleries like these guys, and you can be assured that they qualify was “exhaustive”.
PDF Materials: Along with the usual Radio Times listings, you get an archive interview with Katy Manning, talking about her character and even the incident with the map which was written into The Daemons. Not only that, but there also piece about the hard-working Jon Pertwee and his Humming-Bird-like ability to flit around the country in plays whilst still appearing on the show. Special mention must go to including the lovely illustration by Frank Bellamy, but we have to ask: why only the one? He painted two of them for this particular story. Our reference book of the matter contains both…
Coming Soon Trailer: Oh, God, it’s Nightmare of Eden, one which we disliked when it originally went out, hated when we saw it about six years ago, and there is an almost palpable sense of dread this time around. Who knows, with the usual complement of superb extras and pristine AV quality, it might perk up our opinion of it. Great trailer for it, though!
The Daemons represents a high point for the Jon Pertwee era; many of his stories that take place on Earth aren't particularly highly placed in our list of favourite Doctor Who stories - so many were overlong, or just flat-out dull, but The Daemons has an atmosphere that could be described as unique in Doctor Who history. The entire cast and crew are firing on all cylinders and Roger Delgado gives one of his finest performances as The Master.
The Doctor Who Restoration Team have used their own brand of technological wizardry to come up with a copy of this story that is as close to what was seen on the original broadcast as possible. The Daemons will continue to entertain for years to come because of their sterling efforts. The special features included here are the icing on an already enticing cake - this most certainly is a high point in the long series of Doctor Who DVD releases; be sure to summon up a copy for yourself!
Review by Wilson Bros
General viewing, but some scenes may be unsuitable for young children
Release Date: 19th March 2012
Disc Type: Single side, dual layer
Audio: Dolby Digital 2.0 English
Extras: Audio Commentary, The Devil Rides Out, Remembering Barry Letts, Location Film, Colourisation Test, Tomorrow’s World, Information Subtitles, Photo Gallery, Coming Soon Trailer, PDF Materials
Easter Egg: No
Director: Christopher Barry
Cast: Jon Pertwee, Katy Manning, Nicholas Courtney, Richard Franklin, John Levene, Stephen Thorne, "Do you dig graves?" from The Young Ones
Length: 125 minutes
Follow our updates
OTHER INTERESTING STUFF
Scary Movie 4: Unrated US - DVD R1 Descent, The: Special Edition UK - DVD R2 Doctor Who: Myths and Legends (II) UK - DVD R2 Justice League US - DVD R1 Who Saw Her Die? UK - DVD R2
Outlander: Season One, Volume One US - DVD R1 | BD RA Longmire: Season 3 US - DVD R1 Foxcatcher US - DVD R1 | BD RA Hunger Games: Mocking Jay: Part 1 US - DVD R1 | BD RA Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb US - DVD R1 | BD RA
Great Mouse Detective: Mystery in the Mist Edition, The US - DVD R1 Haute Tension HK - DVD R3 Masters of Horror: The Washingtonians US - DVD R1 Big Hero 6 US - BD RA God Told Me To US - BD