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 aired.
The Doctor and Jo travel to the
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 Horner is 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 the release of Azal in order to gain his power. Of course the centuries old creature doesn't necessarily see things the 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 renegade Time Lord along with Azal and his lackey (an animated stone gargoyle that's 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 ended up reading it cover to cover several times. The first time I was able to see the whole adventure, years later, it 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 pen name Guy Leopold, knew what worked at this point in the series and accentuated those 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 soldiers who unflinchingly stand against aliens even thought they know they don't stand a 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 their moment in the sun, especially the latter. He gets a chase scene where he runs after The Doctor in his car Bessie being attacked by a baddie in a helicopter. Good stuff.
Jon Pertwee is in top form too, rattling off scientific jargon while telling an enlisted man how to construct a device to breach the force field but also throwing out some great lines that are good for a few 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 five at the last moment to save money or something, though none of the extras mention anything like that. Whatever the reason, the abrupt and fairly nonsensical conclusion doesn't significantly mar an otherwise outstanding adventure.
This release is a two-disc affair. The five-episode story is on disc one while the second one is reserved for the bulk of the special features.
This show comes with the original mono soundtrack that fits the show just fine. The dynamic range is nothing to write home about, but the dialog is 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 Team did their usual top-notch job. It's actually pretty amazing when it's revealed that the image was cobbled together from a B&W print in the BBC vaults and an off-air consumer color video tape recorded in the
This disc has some good extras included. The commentary track includes actors Katy 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 and this story in particular.
Most of the bonus material is found on disc two. The video features start out with The Devil Rides Out, a 28-minute behind the scenes featurette that talks about the genesis and filming 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 through his sons and coworkers, it's a very nice piece that made me appreciate the fact 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 World that talks about the 1992 restoration of this serial, and the entire first episode from that restoration which looks significantly worse than the image 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 also some interesting notes such as script changes that were made and background information on the supporting characters. The extras are rounded off with storyboard comparison, a trailer for the story, a photo gallery, and the listing from the Radio Times in .pdf format.