Friday, 8 June 2018
Inspirations - The Daemons
The initial inspiration for this story comes from the audition piece which producer Barry Letts and script editor Terrance Dicks wrote for new companion Jo Grant. Those auditioning had to look at a hat on a hatstand and imagine that it transformed into the face of the Devil, and respond accordingly.
Letts and Dicks were aware of the popularity of books and films about black magic and the supernatural, but initially felt that this was incompatible with Doctor Who, which was supposed to reflect hard science. Dicks then pointed out that they could devise a plot with supernatural trappings - provided there was some scientific reason for it.
When Letts took over the programme, he really wanted to direct, and so had it agreed that he could direct the odd story - one per season as it turned out. Writing a story hadn't really figured in his thoughts at all, until he started working on the show. He came to feel that he could produce better scripts than some of those being offered to him by professional writers. He decided to devise a story of his own, using some supernatural trappings. His time being limited, and his writing abilities untested, he chose to collaborate with a friend of his wife - Robert Sloman. As he was already being credited with two roles on the programme, he felt it unwise to go for a third - or to upset the Writers Guild. The name chosen as author for "The Demons" was Guy Leopold. Guy was the name of Sloman's son, and Leopold was Letts' middle name.
As the final story of the 8th Season, it was decided that it would include the Master, as he had appeared in all the stories of this run. It had already been realised that this was a mistake, and so it was agreed that the character would be captured at the conclusion of the story and so rested for a time. Initial drafts of the script had the Master summoning up a demon-like alien whilst standing at the altar of a church, but Dicks warned that this could prove controversial for a family show - being frowned upon as blasphemous. The action was moved instead to the crypt of a church. This still posed problems with the upper echelons of the BBC, and so the space was renamed a cavern - though still located beneath a church. As it was, the designers gave the "cavern" a crypt-like appearance anyway.
The director chosen was Christopher Barry, who had last worked on the show back in 1966, with Patrick Troughton's debut. He had deliberately distanced himself from the show since then, feeling he was becoming too closely associated with a children's serial, but was intrigued by the script with its rural setting and its connections to archaeology - a passion of his. It was Barry who decided that the story should be renamed as The Daemons - a more archaic form of the word.
After an atmospheric opening sequence that could have come straight from a Hammer horror film, or one of the TV adaptations of the works of M R James, the story gets under way with the Doctor demonstrating a remote control unit he has built for "Bessie". This allows for a discussion about what constitutes "magic", with the Doctor showing how something apparently magical can have a scientific basis. Captain Yates then turns up and mentions a televised archaeological dig which he is looking forward to seeing. Jo mentions the "Age of Aquarius". As well as being the hit song from the musical Hair, this is an astrological term. Zodiacal periods last for some 2150 years, and much of our history has fallen in the Age of Pisces. A number of astrologers claimed that we would move into the Age of Aquarius in the late 20th Century. However, not everyone agrees, and some claim it won't begin until the 24th Century. The Doctor dismisses this non-scientific stuff, but mention of where the dig is to take place piques his interest - the village of Devil's End.
He sees part of the TV show, in which the archaeologist - Professor Horner - is harangued by the local white witch (or Wiccan) Miss Olive Hawthorne. Her concern isn't just with the dig itself, but its timing. It is to be conducted at Beltane. The name derives from Gaelic and is a spring festival, falling usually on 1st May, though some choose the mid point between the spring equinox and midsummer solstice. It is also known as Walpurgis Night (the night of 30th April / 1st May - named for St Walpurga, an 8th Century Frankish abbess). Beltane marks one of the eight Sabbats for neo-pagans.
The Doctor is sure that the name "Devil's End" has some meaning, but he can't recall what. It may be something from his travels which he has simply forgotten, or it could be something to do with the Time Lord blocks to his memory. He decides to go at once to the village and stop the dig, and Jo will accompany him.
The TV programme featuring the dig - "The Passing Parade" - is on BBC 3. The real BBC 3 did not start broadcasting until 2003, and it features youth orientated programming. It moved to being an on-line service a couple of years ago. An archaeological dig would feature on BBC 4 in the real world.
Back in 1968, BBC 2 decided to follow an archaeological dig at Silbury Hill, near Avebury in Wiltshire. This massive man-made mound had fascinated people for centuries, and it was rumoured to have the treasure of an ancient king buried at its heart. The Duke of Northumberland had dug a shaft into the mound in 1777, and there were later explorations in 1849 and 1922. The programme Chronicle covered the dig over many months. As it was, no treasure was found, and there wasn't any body to suggest that it was even a burial structure. The presenter of "The Passing Parade" - Alastair Fergus - mentions previous attempts to dig the Devil's Hump at Devil's End, though he adds that these were all cursed in some way. Recalling the Silbury Hill dig, Christopher Barry had wanted to film at a round barrow, but no suitable ones could be found near the Marlborough location base, so a long barrow was chosen instead.
Needless to say, the Master is already in the village, posing as the new vicar - Mr Magister. This is the Latin for Master - or teacher. He has come here to reawaken a slumbering alien, in the hope that it will hand over its powers to him, having set himself up as the leader of the local black magic coven. The alien is Azal - a member of the Daemon race of the planet Daemos.
His name derives from Azazel, a fallen angel. According to the Book of Enoch, he gave mankind knowledge of warfare and weapon making, as well as the secrets of witchcraft. In the story, Azal's race have influenced the human race since prehistoric times. They do this as an experiment. One of their number stays behind in hibernation to later judge the success of the experiment. If happy, he bestows his powers on a leader of this world and departs. If dissatisfied, he destroys the planet.
I is claimed (by Azal himself) that Atlantis' destruction was down to him. This will later be contradicted by a story by the same authors in only 12 month's time. A more recent story has claimed that Atlantis is the location for three temporal paradoxes - so all explanations can be equally valid.
When he does finally appear, Azal looks exactly like we expect the Devil to look - a Pan-like half-goat being, with horns, fangs and cloven hooves. The Doctor explains the similarity to legend through a slide show - demonstrating how horned devils have featured in the mythology of many civilisations down through the centuries. These were all based on some folk memory of the Daemons. This takes us into Nigel Kneale territory - specifically the third of the Quatermass serials - Quatermass and the Pit. This featured an almost identical slide show talk, as the alien influence in it also has a horned demonic appearance, and likewise seeded itself into the folk memory.
We should also mention Erich Von Daniken again, as with the previous story, as once more it is claimed our current civilisations are the product of earlier alien intervention.
Before the Master can resurrect Azal, he can already tap into his psionic powers. These allow him to animate a grotesque stone statue from the crypt, known as Bok. This creature he can then use as a weapon and to instill obedience in his new flock. He has been doing his homework, and already has some power over them through blackmail, having learned their various secrets.
Bok was based one of the more photogenic gargoyles from the cathedral of Notre Dame in Paris. He is not a gargoyle himself, however. A gargoyle is a specific form of architectural device - a decorative water spout for the run-off of rain water. Bok is clearly a full statue, carved sitting on a shelf in the cavern.
The Brigadier's famous line - "Chap with the wings there. Five rounds rapid..." was originally going to be cut by Dicks, but Nicholas Courtney protested and so it was kept in. (His closing line - "Rather have a pint" was an ad lib).
So far we haven't really mentioned the occult inspirations for this story. If there is one writer we could probably look to, it would be Dennis Wheatley (1897 - 1977). For such a prolific author, very few of his books have been made into movies (six in total, only three of which deal with the supernatural. Two of the others are thrillers, and the third is more of a monster fest - The Lost Continent). The most well-known adaptation is Hammer's 1968 film of The Devil Rides Out. Christopher Lee is on the side of the angels for a change, playing the Duke de Richleau. Charles Gray (The Rocky Horror Picture Show, Diamonds Are Forever etc). plays the satanist Mocata, who has ensnared one of the Duke's young friends.
The inclusion of an archaeological dig also hints at the works of M R James. Adaptations of some of his short stories were a fixture of Christmas television for a time, recently revived by BBC 4. Many of the protagonists in his stories are antiquarians, who - like Professor Horner - unleash some evil presence through their activities. They generally refuse to heed local superstition and obsessively pursue their researches, to their ultimate cost. One example is A Warning to the Curious, one of his best works. An archaeologist believes he knows where one of three ancient Anglo-Saxon crowns is buried - in a mound outside a small coastal village. He digs it up surreptitiously, only to then find himself haunted by the ghostly guardian of the treasure.
One other movie I am often reminded of when watching The Daemons is Curse of the Crimson Altar (Tigon, 1968). It also deals with black magic in a small English village, and it was written by the Yeti pair of Henry Lincoln and Mervyn Haisman. The hero is Mark (Marco Polo) Eden, and it also features horror icons Christopher Lee, Barbara Steele and Boris Karloff.
Finally, before we go, we should mention that the heat barrier might have been lifted from the low budget British science fiction film Invasion, from a story by Robert Holmes. Its cottage hospital setting was previously mentioned when we looked at Spearhead from Space.
The exploding helicopter was a piece of VFX footage made for the James Bond movie You Only Live Twice. Barry Letts had previously used another piece of this footage for The Enemy of the World.
Next time: They are back. They weren't supposed to be, but they are back. All three of them...