Far too much jousting, jesting and lute’ing.
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It’s a quarter past lunchtime, or the year 1215 as some would have it, and the not-so-good King John has rocked up at some Lord’s castle to squeeze a bit more tax out of him. The Lord politely declines, the King’s champion gets pissed off (well he is a hot-blooded Frenchman, allegedly) and, before you can say “I hope this doesn’t turn into a boring joust scene”, there’s a boring joust scene happening between the Lord’s son and Frenchie McNoAccent.
What better time and place for the TARDIS to arrive than slap bang in the middle of the joust! It’s okay though, as no one seems that freaked out by a big blue, wooden box appearing out of nowhere and then some weird looking people stepping out of it. Probably demons after all. Head Demon, aka The Doctor, soon works out that King John is most likely an imposter and a very short quest begins to find out who or what he really is and what devilish scheme is underfoot.
Not in this serial, but here’s the robot pic that Derek sent in (check out his mini below) — thanks very much, Derek!
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It’s another pseudo historical, now with Master-rama action!
It’s amazing how perfectly the master works as the villain in adventures set in the past. His scheming is very reminiscent of the Meddling Monk or the villains of the War Games. They are the antithesis of the Doctor, bounding through history and destroying everything they can. It’s a role I’m surprised the Master hasn’t really played before this and I look forward to seeing it again.
The sets and costumes are great, the tall knight helmets look like they’re straight out of Monty’s Python’s Holy Grail, I love it!
While the historical accuracy of the story is iffy it is incredibly entertaining.
Chameleon is an interesting addition, a rather impressive novelty that I don’t think would have gotten much screen time regardless of the nightmares behind the scenes. I think he’s the kind of character the better suited for the new series both in terms of concept and technology.
Overall this story earns 3.5 crudely applied ginger beards out of 5
Steven From Canada
So to finish Season 20 we have the second Davison two-parter and it’s an improvement over the previous one. We have the return of the Master(!) complete with dodgy disguise. Compared to his previous two disguises, this one is really obvious it’s him. The face and the voice are barely hidden. So he’s trying to change history with a shapeshifting robot. Hmm, ok. Not the worst plan and actually the Doctor and co turning up actually plays directly into his hands. The thing that spoils this one is the ending. It feels very rushed and all of a sudden. This may be a problem of the two-parter format as the writers are too used to the space of a four-parter to allow things to grow and develop naturally.
Kamelion joining the Tardis? Well, we’ll have to keep an eye on that. And the Eye of Orion for next time? I’m sure nothing will happen at all…
Not bad, just the ending letting it down for me 3.4/5
Davison’s second season is a little mixed but I feel he is more comfortable in the role. And we don’t have Adric, so all’s good. Now for a special and Davison’s last season. Let’s see what you make of that.
The TARDIS arrives in the 13th century and Doc tells us he doesn’t know how he got here. I have learned by now that this isn’t the writer setting up a mystery; it’s code for “I haven’t come up with a reason for him to be here”. Really? Not even, “Hey Tegan we’re here to watch Magna Carta get signed; it’s the cornerstone of your democracy. Oh Dear we’re a bit early, whoops!” and that’s just off the top-of-my-head.
The Master does have a reason to be here. His plan is even more pointless than usual. The idea that Magna Carta was some noble endeavour John was instigating is a bit naïve. It’s debatable that The Master’s plan to lower John’s popularity would have long-term effects (and if John is essential to Magna Carta, just murder him, it’s not like you’re worried about affecting the timelines).
The writer leaves no way out for The Doctor, so lets him win simply by taking control of Kamelion from the Master by looking at him intently. So the big climax turns out to be one of the World Stare-Out Championship finals from Big Train.
Normally Doc turns up and everyone distrusts him, then he spends the serial winning them over. Here he starts off generally well-liked, but by the time he leaves, he has not a single ally in the castle. When it comes to the battle for hearts and minds, the Master was for once the definitive winner.
Summary: a could-have-been classic.
Rating: 2.2/5 poor souls subjected to the iron maiden, though sadly not Turlough.
Hello Leon and Jim!
The King’s Demons is this season’s only (quasi) historical story, set in 1215, with the Doctor meeting King John. Or does he? It turns out this is just another ploy of the Master to change Earth’s history. I enjoyed the ambiance and costuming of the castle setting; as an American I can’t get enough of the Old Country feel. Also, as an American, this one did serve as an educational show, in that it made me look up (pre-internet) the Magna Carta and King John’s role in it, as our schools don’t teach British or European history, and it was all new to me.
Turlough is slowly fitting into the TARDIS crew, but I don’t think Tegan will ever trust him. This is the first time Turlough has met the Master, and I don’t think he realises how sinister the Master actually is.
Some Mark Strickson trivia: After Doctor Who, he went into the production side. Strickson subsequently became a documentary producer and director, especially of wildlife documentary programmes. He has produced programmes for, amongst others, the Discovery Channel, the BBC, ITV, Channel 4 and Animal Planet. It was he who, in this capacity, brought Steve Irwin, the “Crocodile Hunter”, to public attention with such shows as The Ten Deadliest Snakes in the World.
I don’t know whether it is a trope, but the dialog between the Doctor and the Master about being the better swordsman is reminiscent of the dialog between Picard and Sir Guy of Guisbourne in ST:TNG episode “Qpid” (s4 ep 20), where Sir Guy says he’s “the greatest swordsman in all of Nottingham!”, and Picard replies that he’s *not* from Nottingham. Of course, “The king’s Demons” was broadcast 8 years earlier.
I think this story was a nice diversion, but lacked much substance. My rating is 2.2 out of 5.
In order to properly prepare for the next story, “The Five Doctors”, which is the 20th anniversary special, you should review all the Gallifrey stories (Deadly Assassin, Invasion of Time, and Arc of Infinity), or at least their Who Back When podcasts. Also, you should watch Matt Smith’s farewell episode, “The Time of the Doctor” afterward to see all the easter eggs Steven Moffett put in from “The Five Doctors”.
Greetings Brave Sir Leon and Sir James and hey-nonny-nonny podcastland
The Master is back!! What will his plan be this time? Destruction of Earth? Universal domination? Errrrr nope he’s going to prevent the signing of Magna Carta. Now for a cartoon supervillain it’s a bit of a crap plan, isn’t it?
As for the inhabitants of Fitzwilliam castle they change their minds about the Doctor so often it makes me dizzy!
A totally forgettable story
I award this 1.1 dodgy French accents out of 5
GOOD MORROW YOU MISCHIEVOUS DEMONS!
I really love the 5th Doctor 2-parters! Except this one.
The opening episode is pretty good to be fair. I like the location work outside that mighty castle. The joust is a really well done action sequence and the TARDIS arrival is a belter. Davison as always gives a strong performance and the guest cast are trying their best. The King is pretty creepy and the Master’s French accent is pretty awful. I love Ainley but the Master is a bit of a twat in this one. No wonder Tegan tries to knife him!
Speaking of Tegan, her new shirt is very 80’s. Creepy King sings a medieval banger then we get a semi-decent sword fight. Kamelion is discovered and they kidnap him. The End!
Not much else to say. The 2nd episode is a drag and even the cast look bored.
I don’t hate it but I’m thankful it’s only short.
Rating – 2.2
At two episodes in length, The King’s Demons doesn’t get much chance to develop a plot or story, but it’s an interesting diversion with some fun elements. The character of Kamelion is fascinating, although due to the unreliable nature of the prop he only appears in one more TV serial (he does, however, reappear in novels and Big Finish audios).
I love the sword fights, particularly the one between the Doctor and the Master, and the Doctor’s deadpan response to being told his opponent is the best swordsman in France: “fortunately, we are in England”. Turlough seems to be able to handle himself well too, although he does spend most of the story locked up in a dungeon.
There are a few unanswered questions of course. Why is the Master intervening in Earth history? His actions might muck up the timeline a bit, but it’s a far cry from holding the universe to ransom in Logopolis. It also seems a bit odd that King John has a French champion, when the French caused him so much trouble and he lost his territories in Normandy. And why does everyone ask Sir Geoffrey who shot him… in the back?
Overall, this is a satisfactory filling between two excellent stories.
I look forward with baited breath as to your opinions on the greatest of all companions, by that I mean “what the fuck is this?”, Kamelion. It appears as if the producers of Doctor Who in the 1980s fell in love with anything that looked futuristic, but had to be cheap. If the grand Doctor and his companions found an Apple IIe computer, they would have made it a companion. Oh wait, they did—just look at the Tardis console. I am so glad they did not run into anything else, such as this “robot”, the Heathkit Hero (FYI, the company that made this later went bankrupt.
[Pic attached above]
As for a rating, well this series pretty much blows, but it is only two episodes long, so a total of 2 out of 5 poorly made robots that will probably go insane by the end.
Derek, I love the rating!
Hey hey hello!
I had only recently seen The King’s Demons for the first time – with first time viewings being a personal rarity for classic Who nowadays. Having found the episode on VHS at a deceased estate, the traditionally painted cover art really drew me in, with cosmic bursts of pink and orange along with the unnerving depiction of a silver android, Kamelion, suggesting a wondrous pseudo-historical. Since watching the episode that same afternoon, I now wish it had been buried with its owner.
My biggest gripe, aside from the fact that the whole story feels like an inconsequential mess, is that Tegan seems to take one-thousand-and-one steps back in character development. She is, in my humble opinion, the most annoying in her entire tenure throughout this story. The prosthetics applied to Anthony Ainley aren’t bad per se, but do little (if anything at all) in boosting the ‘twist’ that he’s been involved in goings-on (shocker). The Doctor’s bland, Turlough’s bland, everyone’s bland.
What do I think of Kamelion at this very moment? Death penalty, for being so damn bland.
The sets are quite nice – as are the costumes -, but the direction from Tony Virgo does little to highlight this as he composes shots and orchestrates scenes that evoke the same riveting feeling only a plain rice cracker could provide.
Can’t say I’m the biggest fan of this story, although I love Teagan’s weird patchwork coat, so I’d give it a 1/5.
Caleb from Australia.
(I haven’t finished listening yet (up to the minis) but I don’t see my review here so I assume it got lost. I’ve posted it below.)
Exactly what do we make of this character study whose sole purposes are to introduce Chameleon and fill two empty episode slots? It has a ton going for it. The characters are well rounded and superbly portrayed, the locations, props, set decoration and costumes are all but flawless. There’s action, intrigue, plot twists. The music is supportive, and there’s a very cool robot companion with some nice effects both practical and special. It’s all great, right?
My younger self disagrees. I like this story more now than I did then. Younger me was often bored. Current me marvels at the subtlety and expertise of Gerald Flood’s acting. He not only plays a slightly off king but upon closer examination is perfectly playing a mechanical machine impersonating a human playing a king. My hat is tipped sir.
With Nyssa gone (I’m still heartbroken) Tegan’s bond with the doctor really comes to light, and this above all else is the true hidden gem of this story. They are finally perfect antagonist cohorts for one another. Turlough is neglected here, but all must admit when Strickson gets some lines he’s totally brilliant. Ainley is a wonder as usual and is perfect performing with Davison.
Ultimately, there’s just not much here. It’s a small tale with comparatively small stakes. Big Finish would call this a short trip. I’d call it average. It’s not younger me dull, but it’s not older me fascinating. 2.6
P.S. Iron Maiden rules! (not this Iron Maiden, that Iron Maiden)
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I remember learning a good deal of Magna Carta in grade school world history. I totally agree with your assessment that this is a 4 part story in a two part package. Truly a rarity. Usually the problem is the opposite. It’s a great observaiton that I felt but never was able to put into words. Thank you!
Hey Peter, so sorry we missed your review! You’re absolutely right — it was still lurking, tragically unread, in our inbox. Thanks very much for sending it in. Love your assessment of Gerald Flood, as a human pretending to be a robot pretending to be a human pretending to be king!