The BBC recently released the Doctor Who adventure The King's Demon, which introduced a
Kamelion, a real-life robot that joined The Doctor for a short while. At the same time they put out Planet
of Fire, Kamelion's second and final
appearance, and it happened none too soon.
While the character might have been less than desirable his last
story isn't bad and features the introduction of a new companion along
with the final appearance of another one (aside from Kamelion). This is wrapped up in a nice, if fairly
typical, story that has some nice aspects if you can overlook the plot
An archeological expedition discovers an odd artifact that
starts to emit, unbeknownst to the scientists who recovered it, a
signal. The Tardis picks up the
intermittent transmission and lands near the object, in 20th
Earth on the island of Lanzarote (one of the Canary
Islands). Turlough quickly
realizes that the signal is coming from a device is sending a signal to
his home planet and somewhere he does NOT want to go.
While he's trying to work out just how he'll
get The Doctor to ignore the signal Turlough spots Peri, an American
vacationing on the island with her archeologist step-father, drowning
sea. She's not able to swim 100 yards in
shallow water apparently. The young man
rescues the damsel in distress and brings her on the TARDIS. By an amazing coincidence, Peri just happens
to be carrying the Trion signal device, which is discovered by The
All of this is pretty irrelevant really, because the robot
Kamelion has been contacted mentally by The Master.
The Master takes control over his old servant
and has him program the TARDIS to materialize on Sarn, a volcanic world
has a small population of natives. They
worship the fire god of the volcano, Logar, and sacrifice unbelievers
the volcano starts to erupt. Their
religion has been created around the machinery that was left on the
Trion engineers and the wreck of a spaceship nearby.
Once on the planet, Kamelion mimics The Master's appearance
and sets out to manipulate the alien equipment in order to bring The
plan to fruition. In doing so, he also
appears to be fulfilling some ancient Sarn prophecy and uses the
religious leader to make things difficult for The Doctor and his
This was only Kamelion's second appearance, though he was
introduced at the end of the previous season.
He's spent the intervening five episodes out to sight and out of
without even being referenced according to a couple of sources. Basically this robot-actor was a failed
experiment. Prone to glitches and
mechanical failures, the actors hated working with Kamelion, but what's
is that his very limited movements and obvious 1980's technology only
remind viewers that they were watching a TV show. It's
hard to get lost in the plot and
characters when one of them looks like it a mannequin that's fallen
floor. At least K-9 looked the part.
The show suffers from the same problem a lot of Doctor Who
stories from this era
faced: they created it backwards. Instead of starting with a good story and
going from there, they started with the plot elements they wanted to
tried to cobble a story together from that.
They needed to have Turlough leave, get rid of Kamelion,
and they were going to film it on an island in the Atlantic. What story could they come up with those
pieces? It makes for some awkward
situations and a lot of plot holes: Just
how did the Trion artifact end up on Earth in the sea?
Why did The Master take over Kamelion when he
knew that bringing him to Sarn would also bring the only person in the
who could stop him, namely The Doctor?
How did a generations-old religion with all of the trappings
around machines that aren't very old (as was repeatedly stated) and a
was about 20 years old? The whole
pit-stop on Earth had nothing to do with the rest of the plot and only
to 1) get an American girl on board and 2) show off the scenic island
beaches. Other than that, why waste all
of that time? And did they really have
to go with the 'religion based on misunderstood technology with The
a prophecy' story again??
If you can look past those rather obvious flaws, it's
actually a pretty good story though.
There's a nice surprise when Peri discovers what's in the
inside The Master's TARDIS, and the scenery is very nicely used. They
discovered a fantastic room to use as a set for the Sarn leader's rooms. It looked very alien and quite
impressive. (The only problem was that
none of the other sets matched.) Running at four episodes the story doesn't
drag too long like some of the six parters tend to but was still long
flesh out the story, a problem that the two-part King's
Overall it was an enjoyable outing that fans of the show
will enjoy. It's not the episode that
I'd use to introduce someone to the world of Doctor Who,
but it's not the lowest point either.
The mono soundtrack is very good. It's
clean and clear with no hiss or
background noise to take away from the story.
The dialog is easy to discern and the background music and
never overpowering. Being a mono track,
there's really not much more to say about it.
The full frame video has been cleaned up by the Restoration
Team and looks fine though not stunning.
There's only so much you can do with 27 year old video tape. Some scenes are a bit soft, but generally the
image is clean and the colors are fine. There
is a section where guards with red capes enter a room, and the bright
blooms pretty noticeably. That was the
biggest defect however. If you've seen
the other restored Davison era stories, then you'll know what to expect.
This adventure gets the two-disc treatment, though I'm not
really sure it rates that much space. On
the first DVD, in addition to the entire story itself, are the best
items. There's a nice commentary track
with Peter Davison, Mark Strickson, Nicola
Fiona Cumming where the group remembers the island and has a few things
about working with the Kamelion robot.
It's a lively discussion that's fun to listen to.
There are a number of video featurettes too,
including Return To The Planet Of Fire,
a look at the island where the show was filmed today, Designs
on Sarn, a talk with designer Malcolm Thornton on how he
created to look of Sarn, and a series of Edits,
Deleted Scenes and Extended Scenes.
This last one had the completist in my overjoyed but the
thought it was a waste of time. It's
mainly reaction shots that were held for a second of two longer or an
angle on a scene. In the final scene
with The Master, viewers will be treated to Anthony Ainley looking to
for about a second and a half that doesn't appear in the final version. While I am glad they included this stuff,
it's not very earthshaking.
Finally, A Tribute To Anthony
Ainley is mainly a home recording of an
appearance the late actor made at a convention where he talks about his
The story also comes with an optional pop up trivia tracks
that's filled with information. Some of
it is minutia, the date the episodes were filmed and ever the time that
shoots wrapped, but also background info on the supporting and
characters and it points out on screen gaffs.
These are wonderful. There's also
a photo gallery, the Radio Times listings (in .pdf format), the
bumpers that led into and out of the show, and an isolated music track.
On disc two there's a re-edit of the story. They
did that with Enlightenment, a story the really cried
out to be edited down. That's not the
case with Planet of Fire, so the first question that pops up is: why do
this? I guess because they can. They recut this story into a 66 minute film
and updated the special effects, which were very minimal to begin with. I thought it was okay, but on the whole it's
superfluous and I'd rather they excluded it and lowered the price on
The biggest problem is that they left off the 25-minute
making of featurette, The Flames of
It was available on the R2 release and I've been told that a
rights issue to some of the music kept it off the R1 disc. That's really
too bad. They should port over all of the
extras from the R2 releases. It's bad
enough that we have to wait longer and don't get some of the cool
but leaving off extras is just silly, even if they have to replace some
While there are a few plot holes (read: a
lot), this is still a good story. Die-hard
fans will be happy with the release
(even though it's missing an extra) and to them it's recommended
while more fair weather fans can just rent it.