Friday 10 April 2020

Inspirations- The King's Demons

As we've previously mentioned, production on Doctor Who's 20th Anniversary season had not gone smoothly. Terminus had suffered from strike action and the need for overruns, and a decision was made to stage a remount after an overrun was cancelled at the last minute. This had a knock on effect for the remainder of the season. Some cast members who had rehearsed Enlightenment were no longer available for the rearranged studio dates and had to pull out.
One of the main problems faced by JNT and Eric Saward was the trilogy structure of these middle stories. There was no leeway to drop one of these in favour of a story from later in the season. They had to be completed in order for the trilogy to work.
The season was to have ended with a Dalek story - only to be expected in an anniversary year. Davros would also be returning, played once again by his original performer Michael Wisher. Peter Grimwade would direct, from a script by Saward written in a gap between contracts.
The knock on effect from the problems with Terminus meant that the Dalek story would have to be shelved for now, moved to the following season.
Which is why the 20th Anniversary season actually limps to its conclusion with a rather inconsequential two part pseudo-historical featuring the Master, and introducing problematic new companion Kamelion.

At the start of production on the season JNT had not deliberately set out to have it feature an element from the series' history in every story. It was merely a coincidence that we had Omega, then the Mara, then the Black Guardian, Master, and Daleks. This coincidence was commented upon by the series' unofficial continuity adviser Ian Levine, and JNT then used this in publicity as though it had been the plan all along.
The King's Demons is written by Terence Dudley, who had previously directed Meglos, then written A Girl's Best Friend and Black Orchid, the last two part story. He was an old friend of JNT, but Saward didn't care for his work at all.
The story features not only a real historical figure, King John, but a famous historical event - the signing of Magna Carta in 1215. Of course, it will transpire that it isn't the real King John at all, but Kamelion impersonating him at the Master's bidding.
John ascended to the throne in 1199 on the death of his older brother Richard (the Lionheart). In popular culture, John is best known from the Robin Hood legends. Left behind to look after the country in Richard's absence, on Crusade, he is usually portrayed as scheming to keep the throne for himself. There is a reference to this in the 1965 story The Crusade.

John is generally regarded as one of the "Bad Kings" in that his reign was characterised by constant strife both at home and abroad. He managed to lose most of Richard's territories in France, and fought against a series of rebellions with his own barons - which is the background to the signing of Magna Carta. He was actually a very good administrator, but had a reputation for petty mindedness and cruelty. He was also regarded as a godless man - prone to blasphemous remarks, not taking communion and doubting church doctrine. He is famous for losing the Crown Jewels, when a cart they were being transported on sank into the tidal mud of the Wash estuary.
Magna Carta - "Big Charter" - was forced upon John by the barons in June 1215 after a particularly disastrous campaign in France. The events of The King's Demons take place in March of that year, and the Doctor is suspicious because he knows that this is when John ought to be in London preparing to take the Crusader cross.
Magna Carta laid out a number of restrictions to the King's powers, devolving some of these to the barons. It is generally claimed to be the foundation stone of later parliamentary democracy - globally, as many nations used the British parliament as a model.
The Master's plan is to interfere with the signing (or sealing) of Magna Carta. It isn't specified if he intends that it never happens, or of he plans to alter it in some way. Kamelion is impersonating the King, not replacing him, which would be of more use to the Master. The Doctor claims that, even for him, this is relatively minor meddling. This is perfectly true, if we consider that the Master has previously attempted to hold the entire universe to ransom, and to have tried to make a pact with the Devil.
Once again the Master has a pointless disguise - as he isn't to know that the Doctor is going to turn up. He is playing a French knight named Sir Gilles Estram. Anthony Ainley was billed as "James Stoker" - an anagram of Master's Joke - to conceal his involvement in the story.

One of the first things JNT had decided on taking over as producer was the removal of K9. It was too clever, too useful, and the prop rarely ever worked properly - leading to all sorts of delays in studio. It was a surprise then to find him considering the inclusion of a real robot in the show as a potential on-going companion character. The robot's inventors had created it for use in advertising, but few offers had come in for its use. Having invested a lot of time and money, they decided to see if it could be used in film and TV and so sent brochures out to the BBC and other companies. JNT and Saward went to have a look at it and the former was impressed. he agreed to give it a role, so long as the promised upgrades were done. It could only speak in synch with a pre-recorded audio-tape and could not walk. Sadly, the robot's programmer was then killed in a boating accident, so none of the refinements were carried out by the time it came to have Kamelion in studio. What it was able to do wasn't even very good, and the prop proved to be even less reliable than poor old K9 had been.
Having committed himself, and seeing some publicity value in having it in this story, JNT then asked Saward to have it written out again as quickly as possible, and it is believed that it may have been intended to destroy it in the abandoned Dalek story that was to follow.
As it was, it would simply be forgotten about in the next two stories, with just a brief cameo in The Awakening, then forgotten about for another two stories before finally reappearing to be written out.
The cameo was recorded, but never broadcast, so Kamelion doesn't even get a mention for five consecutive stories between arrival and departure.
Clearly JNT and Saward missed a trick here, as they could have had the robot prop appear only very briefly in a static pose before transforming itself to look like a human guest actor for the rest of a story.
Next time: (nearly) everyone's back for the big anniversary special...

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