One of my favorite classic Doctor Who stories makes its way to DVD at last!
The final story from Jon Pertwee's second season, The
Daemons is one of those adventures where nearly everything
falls into place and all of the characters are in top form. The result is a fun, spooky, and altogether
satisfying serial that is still enjoyable 40+ years after it first
The Doctor and Jo travel to the village of Devil's
End when they hear a news item reporting that Professor Horner (Robin
is going to open a burial mound known as The Devil's Hump at exactly
on April 30th. The Doctor
thinks that's an incredibly bad idea, and so does a local
witch, Olive Hawthorne (Damaris Hayman), who warns the Professor that
arise if he goes through with his plans.
Needless to say, the archeologist pays no heed to the
ravings of an old lunatic and proceeds as planned.
The Doctor, having been sidetracked by some
road signs that have been changes as if my magic, arrives just as
opening the chamber he's discovered and shouts a warning but it's too
late: a frozen blast engulfs both Horner
and The Doctor, and the devil Azal is free.
That would be bad enough but complicating matters is the new
local vicar, Reverend Magister. It turns
out that he's actually The Master (Roger Delgado) who has orchestrated
release of Azal in order to gain his power.
Of course the centuries old creature doesn't necessarily see
way The Master does, and may just destroy the Earth instead. With the entire town of Devil's End trapped
inside a force field, it's up to The Doctor, Jo, and UNIT to stop the
Time Lord along with Azal and his lackey (an animated stone gargoyle
indestructible) and that might not be possible at all.
I'll admit up front that I have a bias in favor of this adventure. When I was a kid in the 70's, I caught just
two of the five episodes in this story on the local PBS station. I was irked that I missed the final episode,
but as chance would have it, I discovered the imported Target paperback
adaptation a while later in a used book store.
Letting out an excited scream of discovery, I bought it and
reading it cover to cover several times.
The first time I was able to see the whole adventure, years
was just as fun as the book made it out to be.
How would it stand the test of time? Pretty
well actually. The story is still great
because the authors,
veterans BBC scribes Barry Letts and Robert Sloman writing under the
Guy Leopold, knew what worked at this point in the series and
aspects. It's a serial filled with only
the good bits.
UNIT sometimes comes across as a bunch of trigger happy
goons or bumbling idiots, but in the best shows they're courageous
unflinchingly stand against aliens even thought they know they don't
chance. That's the way it is in this
story. They don't stand a chance battling
against the invincible gargoyle Bok, but that doesn't stop them. The Brigadier is calm and in command (and not
arguing with The Doctor) and even Sgt. Benton and Capt. Yates have
in the sun, especially the latter. He
gets a chase scene where he runs after The Doctor in his car Bessie
attacked by a baddie in a helicopter.
Jon Pertwee is in top form too, rattling off scientific
jargon while telling an enlisted man how to construct a device to
force field but also throwing out some great lines that are good for a
laughs. He's both brilliant and
endearing... just the type of guy you want to have saving the planet.
The only real weakness is the resolution to the story.
It's wrapped up way too quickly in a deus ex
machina fashion that isn't very convincing.
It feels like it was a six-part episode that was truncated to
the last moment to save money or something, though none of the extras
anything like that. Whatever the reason,
the abrupt and fairly nonsensical conclusion doesn't significantly mar
otherwise outstanding adventure.
This release is a two-disc affair. The five-episode story is on disc
the second one is reserved for the bulk of the special features.
This show comes with the original mono soundtrack that fits the show
fine. The dynamic range is nothing to write home about, but the
generally crisp and clear and there is no background noise, tape hiss,
distortion or dropouts. There are optional subtitles in English.
I was pleased with the full frame color image. The Restoration
their usual top-notch job. It's actually
pretty amazing when it's revealed that the image was cobbled together
B&W print in the BBC vaults and an off-air consumer color video
recorded in the US. As improbable as it sounds, the colors are
nice and the fine detail is good too. The BBC never wiped their
episode four for some reason, and that chapter does look better than
others, but the difference isn't as great as I imagined it would
This disc has some good extras included.
The commentary track includes actors
Manning, Damaris Hayman, Richard Franklin and director Christopher Barry. Like most Who commentaries, it's a fun track to
listen to, as the participants reminisce about their time on the show
story in particular.
Most of the bonus material is found on disc two. The video
start out with The Devil Rides Out, a
28-minute behind the scenes featurette that talks about the genesis and
of the story. That's followed by one of
the nicest extra's I've seen in a long time, Remembering Barry Letts. This tribute to the Doctor Who
writer and producer runs over half an hour and is a
delightful look at the man's life. Told
his sons and coworkers, it's a very nice piece that made me appreciate
that he recorded as many commentary tracks as he did.
There's also a 6-minute silent 8mm home
movies of the location shoot, a 5-minute clip from the show Tomorrow's
that talks about the 1992 restoration of this serial, and the entire
episode from that restoration which looks significantly worse than the
presented in this set. I have to admit I
was scratching my head when I discovered this last item.
Why include a crappy looking copy of a more
primitive restoration method??
In addition there is a pop-up informational text option
which is very informative as always. It does give some dry
statistics, like how many people viewed each episode, but there are
interesting notes such as script changes that were made and background
information on the supporting characters. The extras are rounded
storyboard comparison, a trailer for the story, a photo gallery, and
listing from the Radio Times in .pdf format.
A great Doctor Who adventure with Pertwee, UNIT, and the supporting
cast all in
top form. If you've never seen an
adventure featuring the third Doctor, this wouldn't be a bad place to