Dr. Who: The Daemons, Part 4

At the barrier

The Doctor’s companion Jo Grant, who was concussed when she jumped out of Bessie in Part 3, wakes up in her bedroom at the Cloven Hoof pub during the latest earth tremor that signals the appearance of the Daemon. Before the local doctor sedated her, she was insistent on going to the cavern under the church in search of the Master. Now that she’s conscious again, it’s the first thing on her mind.

Her UNIT friends, Sergeant Benton and Mike Yates, along with Miss Hawthorne, are right at the foot of the stairs, blocking her exit. So Jo sneaks out  instead, climbing out of her window, walking across a flat part of the roof, and finding a handy ladder to get down so she doesn’t have to make another dangerous jump.

Jo climbs out the window

I thought for a moment that she was intending to hijack Bessie, parked nearby, but she only slips around the car on her way to the church.

The Doctor, meanwhile, is still at the barrier that encircles the village of Devil’s End and prevents anyone from getting in or out by incinerating them. He’s advising the UNIT technical team on the other side of barrier about how to generate sufficient electrical power to supply the oscillator he described in the previous episode so they can create an opening in the barrier big enough to drive their van through.

How to do it? “Reverse the polarity!”

You knew he was going to say that sooner or later

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Dr. Who: The Daemons, Part 3

Doctor on a motorbike

Part 2 ended with the Doctor explaining to Jo that the “tomb” in the longbarrow is actually a container for the shrunk-down but still very heavy spaceship they’ve found on the floor.

While they’ve been talking, the little gargoyle from the cavern under the Devil’s End church has followed them down into the barrow. As Part 3 begins, it stands at the tomb entrance, blocking their way out.

But it’s difficult to feel that Jo and the Doctor are threatened by this creature (whose name is Bok); whenever I see it, I can’t help thinking of the Flying Monkeys from Oz.

The Doctor isn’t intimidated by it either. Brandishing a small object made of iron–a trowel, I think–he shouts some words in an unfamiliar language at it. Even though the Master, back at the church, is mentally urging the little monster on, Bok cringes before this “incantation” and retreats.

BokAfter the gargoyle has gone, the Doctor tells Jo that the words were lyrics to a old Venusian lullaby. Roughly translated:

“Close your eyes, my darling, or three of them at least.”

 

The Doctor doesn’t believe in magic spells, but Bok does and that’s what matters.

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Dr. Who: The Daemons, Part 2

While Part 1 had a good set-up, with a stormy night, an archeological dig into an ancient longbarrow burial mound with the ominous name of the Devil’s Hump, and a Black Mass calling up something evil, but this second episode is where the daemons of the title really start to get out and around. The Master

Part 2 begins just where the first part ended; Mr. Magister (aka the Master), having successfully summoned up a certain powerful being, is shouting “Azael! Azael!” His cowering coven notice that the stone gargoyle in the corner of the cavern now has glowing red eyes.

Back at UNIT HQ, Mike Yates and Sergeant Benton are watching a rugby game on the office telly and realize they’ve missed the midnight archeology program about the opening of the Devil’s Hump longbarrow–which the Doctor had wanted to prevent. They switch channels to try to catch the end of the show, and the first thing they see is Jo sobbing over the supine and frosty form of the Doctor. The transmission breaks off.

The two men first attempt to contact the Brigadier, who’s out for the evening dining in his dress uniform. When they can’t get hold of him,  they decide to head for the village of Devil’s End themselves.

The Doctor has been frozen by the blast of snow and icy wind that emerged from the Devil’s Hump barrow once Professor Horner opened it. I assume the professor was killed by the same blast, since we never hear another word about him. Other people who were a little bit farther from the opening seem to have survived.

The village doctor gently tells the sobbing Jo that her Doctor is indeed dead–but before he can turn into Tom Baker ahead of schedule, a faint pulse is detected. The small-d doctor is confused by what sounds like two heartbeats in his patient’s chest, but he has the Doctor conveyed to a bed in one of the rooms at the Cloven Hoof to be thawed out.

BokThe television news team at the barrow site swiftly pack up their gear, eager to get away. After they depart, we see a pair of larger red eyes glowing in the dark from within the barrow.

In the morning, even though his coven has gone, the Master is still down in the cavern below the church quietly praying. I take it that his duties as parish vicar don’t require him to do any morning services up in the church. As if in response to his prayers, some very large creature we don’t see comes stomping out; it casts its shadow over the hapless constable, who was sitting on guard at the gate of the barrow field.
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Dr. Who: The Daemons, Part 1

While I did first see Doctor Who during the early part of Jon Pertwee’s run, those episodes that involve UNIT fighting off various alien invasions of Earth never engaged me very much. They still don’t–apart from this one.

What makes this particular story stand out for me is that its alien invasion is dressed up as a Hammer-type horror movie. Its setting in an English country village and the trappings of witchcraft throughout the story evoke films like The Witches and The Wicker Man. And yet, in the end, the film it’s most closely related to turns out to be Nigel Kneale’s Quatermass and the Pit.

The Daemons

This first episode of The Daemons begins on a dark and stormy night in a village called Devil’s End (actually, Aldbourne in Wiltshire). We get close-ups of a toad watching from the underbrush, a cat peeking out from shelter, and something black and slinky crawling along beside the road (actually, it’s a furry hat pulled on a string). A man is leaving the local pub, the Cloven Hoof, with his dog, when the dog breaks free of its leash and chases the creature up into the churchyard. The man follows it there, where he sees something horrible.

The man is found dead the next morning. The village doctor tells a concerned middle-aged lady dressed in a cloak belonging to Margaret Rutherford that the death was caused by a heart attack, but the lady, Miss Hawthorne (Damaris Hayman), vehemently disagrees. She sees it as part of something more dark and disastrous that’s going on.

“The signs are there for all to see,” she insists. “I cast the runes this morning!”

At UNIT HQ, the Doctor and his assistant Jo March (Katy Manning) are debating the central theme of this story: science versus superstition. Jo is very much an Age of Aquarius girl. The Doctor doesn’t believe in the supernatural, but is certain that there are always scientific explanations for phenomena that aren’t yet understood.  He despairs of ever making a scientist of her.

As a demonstration, he shows her and Captain Mike Yates some “magic” by making his car Bessie start up and drive around the garage yard by herself. The two are astonished, until the Doctor reveals that he’s doing it all via a remote-control device in his coat pocket. Did they really think that it could be anything else?

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Wits in Felixstowe

A Documentary

Wits in Felixstowe

This extra feature on the DVD for Robert Lloyd Parry’s dramatic story-telling of Oh, Whistle, and I’ll Come To You, My Lad takes us around sites related to the creation of one of M.R. James’s best known stories. Mr. Parry, our guide, also discusses other influences that may have led the story’s creation.

The primary location of interest is the Lodge at Felixstowe (the Burnstow of Oh, Whistle). It was the seaside home of Felix Cobbold, a senior fellow of King’s College at Cambridge in the 1880s and ’90s. During the university’s Christmas break, Cobbold would retreat to the Lodge and invite a few friends, M.R. James among them.

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The Paternoster Gang: Heritage 2

This second audio-drama boxed set from Big Finish carries on the adventures of detective Madame Vastra and her assistants as presented in The Paternoster Gang: Heritage 1.

The Paternoster Gang: Heritage 2

Dining With Death

The first episode is noteworthy in that it’s written by Dan Starkey, who plays Strax.

Even back in the 1890s, Earth was a common meeting-place for various aliens, being both an out-of-the-way galactic backwater and neutral territory. When representatives of two great empires, attempting to negotiate a peace settlement, are blown up along with half the restaurant where they were having dinner, Madame Vastra ends up agreeing to act as a facilitator for further diplomatic talks–which will take place at her home.

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The Paternoster Gang: Heritage 1

The Paternoster Gang

Madame Vastra, the prehistoric Silurian lizard-lady and Victorian detective, made her initial appearance on Doctor Who along with her cheeky Cockney wife Jenny and the battle-loving but lovable Sontaran Strax in the episode A Good Man Goes to War. We first meet them as old friends of the Doctor’s, which for a long time led me to believe I’d missed an important episode.

The trio appeared in several subsequent episodes during Matt Smith’s run as the Doctor, as well as in Peter Capaldi’s introductory story. I know I wasn’t the only fan who wanted them to have their own spinoff series, solving bizarre mysteries on the gaslight streets of 1890s London, but a period costume drama with science-fiction style special effects, plus two of the three stars in heavy alien makeup every week was more than the BBC was willing to budget for.

But these expensive production difficulties disappear with audio drama. Big Finish has done four boxed sets of stories under the title of “Heritage,” featuring Neve McIntosh, Dan Starkey, and Catrin Stewart as Vastra and her companions. The first set contains three adventures and a bonus disk.

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H. P. Lovecraft Film Festival: Best of 2019

When I attended the NecronomiCon in Providence last summer, I had the opportunity to view a number of the Film Festival candidates and to offer my opinions on some of them, if not an actual vote on which ones I thought were the best.

So I’m not surprised to see some of the films on this latest DVD from the Film Festival, although I am a little disappointed that other short films I did like were not included.

The Colour

Ammi Pierce and the meteorite

This German adaptation of The Colour Out of Space is a wonderfully done 10-minute stop animation film with some interesting live effects: Steam rises from the tea kettle, smoke or mists curl around within the rooms of an old house and, best of all, blue goop drips upward from between the slats of the wooden floor.

Ammi Pierce is writing in his journal as if he’s addressing his long deceased friend–presumably Nahum Gardner, although that name is never used.

In this version of the story, there was no Gardner family to be afflicted by whatever came in with the meteorite from outer space, and what happened 50 years ago occurred on a remote farm that Ammi and his friend worked together. It also appears as if Ammi has been living in the old house alone ever since the disaster, with the glowing meteorite sitting in a back room.

Meteorite Drawn to the well

The meteorite’s glow projects silent images upon the wall; Ammi watches and remembers that day when it came shooting down from the sky and crashed into the well. Ammi looked away from the light, but his friend was drawn toward it, even fighting Ammi when he tried to stop him from going to the well to meet his doom.

At last, Ammi takes a sledgehammer and goes out to deal with the meteorite once and for all. Hitting it isn’t really a good idea, but I suppose at this point he’s past caring.

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The Whisperer in Darkness

Sketch of a Mi-Go on Round HillOne of my earliest reviews on this blog was of the HP Lovecraft Historical Society’s film version of Lovecraft’s story.  HPLHS has returned to The Whisperer in Darkness a second time for the latest episode of Dark Adventure Radio Theatre.

This audio play is especially noteworthy in that it’s been produced, rehearsed, and recorded during these months that much the world has been shut down by the COVID-19 virus; since in-person meetings were impossible, the work was done by a number of individuals in separate locations.

While the film version of The Whisperer in Darkness expanded on Lovecraft’s original short story, adding new characters and a third act after Albert Wilmarth’s panicked exit from the Akeley farmhouse, this audio adaptation is trimmed down, even for a DART drama.

Akeley and WilmarthWilmarth’s correspondence with a man who claims to have proof that old legends of flying creatures from other worlds living in the remote hills of Vermont are not only true, but that these beings still exist, as well as his subsequent trip to Vermont are told via “found footage.” Most of the recordings are in the form of wax Dictaphone cylinders dated from the winter of 1927 through September 1928.

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Oh, Whistle, and I’ll Come To You, My Lad

I saw Robert Lloyd Parry, self-described storyteller, perform twice last summer at the NecronomiCon in Providence, Rhode Island. Seated in a darkened theatre lit only by candles, he didn’t simple tell us stories, but rendered highly dramatic recitations of M.R. James’s ghostly tales with character voices, one or two props, and expressive emotion whenever the narrative called for it. He was the surprise sensation of the Con; I wasn’t the only person present who’d never heard of him before, but came away a fan of his work.

MR James readings set

When I found out earlier this year that some of his performances were available on DVD, I ordered a couple. The one I was most interested in getting a copy of was Oh, Whistle, and I’ll Come To You, My Lad, the first story I saw performed in Providence.

You can read MR James’s original story online. I’ve also previously reviewed the 1968 BBC adaptation starring Michael Hordern as the rationalist Professor  Parkins, whose views on the supernatural are drastically altered when he finds an ancient whistle and accidentally summons a spirit that forms a body for itself from the sheets on the spare bed in his hotel room.

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