Tuesday, 26 May 2015

Story 128 - The King's Demons

In which King John is visiting the castle of Sir Ranulf Fitzwilliam. It is March, 1215. The King is seeking money for his interminable conflict with his rebel barons. When he appears to accuse Sir Ranulf of stinting on this, the host's hot-headed son Hugh loses his temper. He finds himself challenged by the King's Champion - his French bodyguard Sir Gilles D'Estram. They will compete in a joust. The contest gets underway and Sir Gilles soon gains the upper hand. They are interrupted by the sudden materialisation of the TARDIS. When the time travelers emerge, the Doctor is surprised by the King's reaction. He names them his demons, and seems to accept them without any further thought. When he learns the date, he realises that something is wrong. The King should not be here at this time.
A feast takes place later, to which the Doctor, Tegan and Turlough are invited. Sir Ranulf's brother-in-law - Sir Geoffrey - arrives at the castle. He is shocked to see the King - as he has just left him in London. The Doctor and Sir Gilles get into an argument - and a duel is proposed. The Doctor manages to disarm the French knight. However, Sir Gilles suddenly produces a distinctive black weapon - a Tissue Compression Eliminator. His features blur and change - to reveal those of the Master.

The Doctor manages to get it from him and takes him prisoner. The King orders an iron maiden to be brought in. Despite the Doctor's pleas for clemency, the Master is thrown into the device. However, it proves to be his disguised TARDIS. It disappears. The Doctor finds himself knighted and appointed the new King's Champion. The Master has not gone far, and he strives to turn Sir Ranulf and his family against the "demons". Turlough finds himself locked up in the dungeons. The Doctor meets with Sir Geoffrey and sends him off to get warn the barons of the deception. The Master has him shot as he rides away. The Doctor goes to the King's chambers and learns the truth of how he can be in two places at once. This King is really an android called Kamelion. It can alter its appearance through the mental efforts of its controller. The Master found it on Xeriphas, where it had been left behind after an earlier invasion. He plans to use it to sabotage Magna Carta in order to change the course of history. The Doctor fights a mental duel with the Master for control over Kamelion. He wins. The android is bundled into the TARDIS along with Tegan and Turlough and they depart.

This two part adventure was written by Terence Dudley, and was broadcast on the 15th and 16th of March, 1983. It is the final story of Season 20 - though never intended as such. It introduces the short-lived companion Kamelion - the first non-humanoid TARDIS traveler since K9.
The story makes for a disappointing conclusion to the anniversary series. Even the Doctor is unimpressed at the scope of the Master's plan - to stop Magna Carta being "signed". The Doctor and he get to battle with swords - a bit of a rematch from The Sea Devils. The Fourth Doctor had been a dab hand with the sword, but we won't see another Doctor wield one until The Christmas Invasion.
As usual when it comes to historical period settings on the BBC, the costumes and sets are very good.
The story of Kamelion's genesis is well known. Supposedly a fully functioning robot, which could be programmed with speech and movement, producer JNT and script editor Eric Saward went to see it put through its paces. Both had reservations about the practicalities of using it in the studio, but JNT saw the potential. Unfortunately, one of the programmers was killed soon afterwards in an accident. Kamelion would never be able to achieve all that was promised of it.
Few people would have been fooled by Anthony Ainley's make-up and ze dreadful Fronch accent. JNT thought they would be, and to hide the fact that it was the Master Sir Gilles is billed as being played by one James Stoker - an anagram of Master's Joke.

The human guest cast is strong. Frank Windsor, best known for Softly, Softly, plays Sir Ranulf. he will return in Ghostlight. His wife, Lady Isabella, is Isla Blair (Mrs Julian Glover). Their son, Hugh, is Christopher Villiers - who was seen recently in Mummy on the Orient Express. Sir Geoffrey is Michael J Jackson, best known for a long running role in Channel 4's soap opera Brookside. The King John version of Kamelion is Gerald Flood - no stranger to TV science fiction. He had appeared in the Pathfinders series.
Episode endings are:
  1. Sir Gilles has been defeated, but it transpires that he is really the Master in disguise...
  2. Kamelion joins the TARDIS crew...

Overall, as mentioned above, a bit disappointing for a series finale. As a two part pseudo-historical story it is okay. Anthony Ainley seems to be enjoying things, but it is poor for a Master tale.
Things you might like to know:
  • We've just had the 800th anniversary of Magna Carta. The consensus among the historians and other experts then seemed to be that the document was important. It took a long time for its provisions to be adopted. No sooner had he put his seal to it, John asked the Pope to free him from it as he had been coerced. His son, Henry III, scrapped it at least twice during his reign. 
  • It was widely believed at the time that John did consort with demons and was on good terms with the Devil.
  • Part One of this story was promoted as the 600th episode of Doctor Who. It made little difference to the ratings. This story was the worst rated of the Davison era. Time has done it no favours. The DWM 50th anniversary poll has it second lowest Davison story.
  • One blatant anachronism is the iron maiden. They did exist in the early 13th Century though they were more popular on the continent than in England. The one featured in this is of too late a design (note it has a ruff).
  • On a musical note, despite only being two episodes long, the story had two composers - Peter Howell and Jonathon Gibb. King John's bloodthirsty song was not a period piece, but was written for this.
  • No stunt performers took part in the sword fight between the Doctor and the Master. It's all Davison and Ainley.

No comments:

Post a Comment