Doctor Doctor Who Guide

'The King's Demons' is one of only a handful of two part Doctor Who stories, but only the second that serves no real purpose. Whereas 'Inside the Spacehip' cemented the relationship of the original TARDIS crew, 'The Rescue' introduced Vicki, and 'Black Orchid' allowed the team of the Fifth Doctor, Tegan, Nyssa and Adric to relax and have fun together before Adric's death, 'The King's Demons', like 'The Sontaran Experiment' is pure filler. Whereas 'The Sontaran Experiment' was an interesting diversion however, 'The King's Demons' is a half-hearted waste of two episodes with an ill thought out plot.

My main objection to 'The King's Demons' is the Master. It is my opinion that the Master's motivation has always been reasonably consistent up to this point; during the Pertwee era he was motivated by a desire to humiliate and impress the Doctor, usually whilst gaining power for himself in the process. From 'The Deadly Assassin' onwards, he has also been motivated by survival, having been reduced to the state of an animated cadaver and then forced to survive by stealing a non Time Lord body. And then suddenly, he turns into the Meddling Monk. The Master's plan to prevent the Magna Carta is feeble beyond words; his intention, apparently, is to use Kamelion to muck about with history all over the universe. Suddenly and inexplicably interested in chaos (perhaps he's been working for the Black Guardian?) he intends to emerge as Master of a chaotic universe. Which is just silly, frankly. His insistence back in Season Eight that he wanted to bring order to the universe at least made some sense. Then there's his pointless disguise, which is as pointless as the one he adopted in 'Time-Flight', and as in that story serves only as a cheap plot device to provide a cliffhanger. To make matters worse, it isn't even a very good disguise, Estram being easily recognizable as Anthony Ainley. Furthermore, even though Ranulf sees Estram transform into the Master, they are still astonishingly easily convinced to trust him in Episode Two, with not so much as a question as to how he changed his appearance. 

But what really annoys me about 'The King's Demons' is the wasted potential. Terrance Dudley does something right, by showcasing the Doctor/Master rivalry rather well during their scenes together. The swordfight between them is just as gratuitous as the one in 'The Sea Devils', but is once again quite entertaining. And as in that story, the Doctor proves the better swordsman, which must really sting the Master's ego. The Master showing Kamelion off in Episode Two is a pure Dr Evil moment, since he just stands and explains his plan with a smug look, but his showing off does recapture the relationship of old between them. The problem is, the relationship of old is captured to the extent that, even after the Master's destruction of a large portion of the universe in 'Logopolis', the Doctor still pleads for the life of his former friend at the start of Episode Two. His tendency to get a mass murderer get away because they were once friends is intriguing at best, but after 'Logopolis' it makes the Doctor look horribly irresponsible. And there's Anthony Ainley himself; after indulging in a cod French accent as Sir Giles, he varies between restraint and ham from scene to scene. When he's keeping his performance under control, he's great; his battle of wits with the Doctor is an effective focus for their rivalry, and the fact that the Doctor wins must have been another blow to his ego. He also gets a great moment when a guard shoots Geoffrey, as he pats the guard on the shoulder with a smirk and says "excellent shot" as though he's discussing the weather. But he also chuckles too much, and he gets saddled with lines like "medieval misfits!" which virtually nobody could deliver without sounding awful. His final speaking scene shows him triumphantly announcing that the Doctor has not won yet, and with a manic glee on his face heads off to his TARDIS. We don't see him again after his TARDIS dematerializes, the Doctor casually explaining that he used the Tissue Compression Eliminator to sabotage the Master's TARDIS. It all just feels very anticlimactic, even if the Doctor does manage to deprive him of Kamelion and ensure that he can't steer his TARDIS. 

The regulars get very little to do, partly due to time constraints. Davison is as good as ever, and he and Ainley make the swordfight quite impressive and the Doctor's playing up to the ersatz King John gives an impression of his mind furiously trying to find ways to stop the Master. It is also quite interesting to consider that the Doctor's concern for life earns him the enmity of Hugh, who considers himself to have been dishonoured by Estram sparing him; it's an interesting twist on one of the Doctor's common methods of earning people's trust. Tegan and Turlough on the other hand get very little to do; Tegan does little except follow the Doctor around so that he can explain the plot, although the moment when she throws a knife at the Master is a nice touch, serving as a reminder of just how much cause she has to hate him. Turlough spends most of the story locked up, and aside from offering occasional caustic remarks does nothing of any note. 

At the start of this review, I suggested that 'The King's Demons' serves little purpose, but of course it is in fact designed to introduce Kamelion. The problem is, this is something of a non-event; as a plot device, Kamelion is a contrivance; as a new companion, he has potential, but due to the notorious behind the scenes tragedies associated with the prop, this potential was never explored on screen. With Gerald Flood now deceased, it seems unlikely that Big Finish will ever include Kamelion in an audio story, which leaves only Craig Hinton's 'The Crystal Bucephalus' (and to a lesser extent, Christopher Bulis' 'Imperial Moon') the only story that has made anything of him. All in all, this is a shame; a shape-shifting companion has great potential, as fans of comic strip (and occasionally audio) companion Frobisher can attest. Furthermore, I rather like the Kamelion prop, and Gerald Flood's prim and slightly haughty vocal performance works very well. The problem with Kamelion though is that although he has a mind of his own, he doesn't have time to develop a very distinctive personality in this story and he isn't seen again until 'Planet of Fire'; furthermore, the ability of others to bend him to their will means that he seems more like a tool than a person, which means that the overall impression left by 'The King's Demons' is that it is an insubstantial showcase for a mere gimmick. 

There isn't much else to say about 'The King's Demons' really. The guest cast is fine, although Frank Windsor is wasted and Gerald Flood gets a bit hammy as King John. Mind you, considering the stilted period dialogue he's given, this is not surprising. It all looks great too, with nice location work, decent sets and costumes, and it also has a good incidental score from Jonathon Gibbs. But 'The King's Demons' remains both deeply flawed and inconsequential, and is a very lacklustre ending to the generally rather strong Season Twenty.

Filters: Television Fifth Doctor Series 20