The exciting final segment of this story.
It’s a rare thing for a Doctor Who serial to run 5 episodes. Usually, they’re 4 or 6, with the occasional 2-parter to fill out the year. To me, most of the 6-parters feel as if they go on too long, with the plot lagging around the 4th or 5th episode as the Doctor and his companion(s) sneak down endless corridors or are captured and escape–yet again.
One of the advantages of The Daemons as a story is that there is none of this lag; losing an episode tightens the narrative. And there’s not a corridor in sight.
Another advantage is that much of this story was filmed on location in and around Aldbourne: the village green, the churchyard, the barrow site, the meadows and country lanes that the Doctor zips along on a motorbike. No quarries, though. Only the interiors are studio sets, and this open-air setting gives the story a sense of freshness and just a bit of grounded, this-is-England reality to balance out the fantastic elements.
Like the giant Daemon who makes his appearance at the end of Part 4.
While the bluescreen effect as Azael grows from tiny to 30 feet tall is not as well done as his initial appearance–he doesn’t seem to be connected to his surroundings in the cavern–he is impressive once he’s up there towering over the coven.
His voice is recognizable; this is Stephen Thorne, the same booming-voiced actor who played Omega in The Three Doctors.
As usual, the energy Azael expends to grow to this size creates an earth tremor that knocks everyone in the village off their feet. Even out on the village green, they know that he’s returned.
While the coven is distracted, Jo Grant and Mike Yates try to run for it–but the stone gargoyle Bok is awake and blocks their exit with a few zaps.
The Master decides that a chicken isn’t the best blood sacrifice to get Azael on his side. A human being–Jo, in this case–will be a much better offering once she’s dressed for the part. Black-robed minions drag Jo off to prepare her to be sacrificed.
Back on the village green, the Doctor–who was last seen tied to a Maypole–has won the villagers over to his side by demonstrating the science behind his “wizard” trick of getting Bessie to drive by itself.
Seriously: was remote control so new a thing in the early ’70s that otherwise normal, grown-up people would take it for magic?
The Doctor explains about the Daemons not being demons, but aliens who feed on violent emotions; that’s what Azael has responded to in the Master’s Black Masses, not all his incantations. Miss Hawthorne still calls this magic, but the Doctor tells her that it’s psychokinetic energy. In the end, she accepts this solution to the supernatural versus science debate as something like a semantic quibble, since it’s a level of technology beyond current human understanding. And we are talking about people here who were amazed by a remote control device.
The one holdout is the newspaper-clad Mr. Thorpe, who persists in believing that the Master is the one with true magic at his disposal. Bessie should run over him again, but his fate will actually be nastier.
The Master’s coven left Mike tied up in the church; he escapes and runs to the village green to tell the Doctor what’s happened.
They rush back to the church to rescue Jo, but can’t get inside: Bok is standing guard at the churchyard gate and zap-disintegrates anyone who comes too close. That would be Thorpe, who thinks his loyalty to the Master gives him a free pass. There’s no getting past the little gargoyle.
Meanwhile, Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart’s team outside the barrier has finally managed to create an electrical-arc opening big enough to drive their vehicles through. This effect is simple and practical, and very nicely done: they made an arch out of shimmery tinsel, and once the camera filming it was properly lined up, smeared that part of the lens with Vaseline.
Once it’s inside the barrier, the oscillating machine–which was already boosted over its limits to create the opening, and which the Doctor was planning to use against Azael–explodes.
This drain on their energy makes Bok woozy and gives Azael a stabbing headache.
Bok’s dizzy spell gives the Doctor an opportunity to make a dash for it. He reaches the church door while the gargoyle is staggering, and heads down into the cavern in time to intervene before the Master can stab Jo with that red-jeweled dagger. She’s already on the altar in a white gown that, presumably, the Master kept handy just in case a sacrificial victim showed up.
The Brigadier’s car and the jeeps filled with armed UNIT soldiers arrive at the churchyard.
“What the blazes is that? Some kind of ornament?” the Brig asks when he sees Bok.
Yates explains the situation. The Brigadier responds by summoning one of his men (who looks like a young David Rintoul, but IMDB doesn’t tell me whether or nor it is); he then delivers the immortal line:
“Jenkins? Chap with the wings there–five rounds rapid.”
Jenkins shoots, but five rounds, rapid or otherwise, are ineffective. Neither does the bazooka that Sergeant Benton tries next accomplish the job. Bok bursts into fragments, then reconstitutes by running the film backward until he’s whole again.
Down in the cavern, while they’re all gathered around the altar, the Doctor, the Master, and Azael are engaged in a debate about the fate of humanity. The Daemons’ experiment on Earth is about to conclude, but Azael hasn’t yet decided which Time Lord to favor and to give his power to, or if he’s just going to destroy the whole thing as a failure.
The Doctor first tries to bluff that he has a functioning oscillator which he can use as a weapon against the Daemon, but Azael doesn’t believe it. He knows that the machine was destroyed and that there isn’t another one no matter what the Doctor claims.
The Master takes a more direct line against the Doctor and starts shouting, “Kill him! Kill him now!” He even commands that Azael do it.
Azael has to point out to the Master, again, that he’s not the one in charge here. The Master’s incantations didn’t summon him; the time for this choice had come.
The Doctor offers an alternative to bestowing power or destruction: Go away and leave Mankind alone. The Daemons have done enough already with their influence–with nuclear weapons and industrial pollution, humanity’s in a position to destroy itself if it wants to.
Azael must have found something appealing in this, since he finally decides to pass on his power… “but not to you,” he tells the disappointed Master, who was planning to become a fascist overlord. It’s the Doctor he chooses.
But the Doctor doesn’t want the Daemons’ power. He only wants Azael to leave Earth and give humanity “a chance to grow up.”
Azael answers that that isn’t an option. He has to give his power to someone. So the Master is happy after all, for a minute or two, when he thinks he’s won and Azael is about to zap the Doctor into oblivion.
It’s Jo who saves the day by demonstrating that she understands the true meaning of sacrifice–which has nothing to do with dressing up in white robes and lying down on an altar.
Placing herself between the Doctor and the zap, she confounds Azael, who’s apparently never run into any person who’s willing to give their life for someone else before.
Everybody in the cavern runs out of the church before it blows up. There’s a very good transition from the real church exterior to the model of the ruins under cover of the explosion.
No architecturally significant English churches were harmed in the making of this episode, but the BBC still got angry letters about it.
Our heroes, the surviving villagers, the Master, and the coven members who’ve wisely ditched their black robes all gather on the green to wind up the loose ends before the story can end.
A second explosion is heard, and UNIT men out at the barrow report via walkie-talkie that it’s also blown up; the Doctor explains that the Daemons’ spaceship has been destroyed. The barrier around the village is likewise gone.
The Master attempts to hijack Bessie and drive off, but the Doctor pulls his remote control trick one last time.
After the dastardly villain is hauled away by UNIT, and the villagers hiss and boo his departure, the May Day celebrations resume.
Miss Hawthorne invites Sergeant Benton to join her in a fertility dance. He’s somewhat bemused by the offer, but she grabs his arm and drags him off to take up ribbons and dance around the Maypole.
Jo snags the Doctor next. If you thought that the Doctor didn’t dance until he was Chris Eccleston, the previous example can be seen right here.
That leaves Mike and the Brigadier. It’s always been assumed that Mike is sweet on Jo, but surprisingly it’s his commanding officer he asks, “Fancy a dance, Brigadier?”
The Brigadier would rather have a pint. So the two of them head off to the Cloven Hoof to get a drink while the camera rises higher and higher above the people circling the May Pole on the village green. (This shot seems to be taken from the church tower–which we saw destroyed a few minutes earlier.)
Devil’s End has exorcised its Daemons.
The double-DVD set has a lot of nice extras, including the usual info-text and a commentary that features Katy Manning, Richard Franklin, Damaris Hayman, and director Chris Barry.
It was from this commentary that I learned that four of the five episodes, originally filmed in color, were lost. Only black and white prints remained. With the aid of color codes on these prints, the color has been restored. But they don’t tell you which four episodes these are. However, the second disc in the set has a couple of features about the color restoration, as well as a making-of documentary titled “The Devil Rides Out”. There’s also a tribute to the late Barry Letts, who was Doctor Who‘s producer at the time.