Dr. Who: The Daemons, Part 5

The exciting final segment of this story.

Jo's sacrifice

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.

AzaelLike 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.

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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

Continue reading “Dr. Who: The Daemons, Part 4”

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.

Continue reading “Dr. Who: The Daemons, Part 3”

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.
Continue reading “Dr. Who: The Daemons, Part 2”

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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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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The Five Doctors, Part 4

The conclusion, with spoilers.

DoctorsThree of the four Doctors have reached Rassilon’s Tomb in the tower with their companions–Sarah Jane, Tegan, and Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart.

Amid some companion complaints and inter-Doctor badinage, the three Doctors examine and eventually translate the ancient inscription on a squat obelisk, which contains a welcome and an obscure warning.  Only Dr 1 has any idea what the latter might mean.

While Sarah Jane and Tegan helpfully tie up the Master (he was knocked out when the Brigadier slugged him), the Doctors then turn their attention to the task which they all came here to perform: lowering the forcefield that keeps the Tardis from moving so they can exit the Death Zone and get back to their respective times. There’s a control panel on the wall behind them, and it’s Dr 3 who gets the job done by “reversing the polarity of the neutron flow.”

Once the Tardis is free of the forcefield, it disappears from the misty countryside where it’s been parked just in time to avoid being blown up by another group of Cybermen, thus evading the least suspenseful menace in the entire show (and there have been some pretty tepid menaces).

Cyber-bombs

Turlough and Susan arrive to join the others, although I’m sorry to see that Drs 2 and 3 evince no interest in seeing Susan again. She’s their granddaughter too and they haven’t seen her since they were Dr 1. You’d think they’d at least say Hello. Continue reading “The Five Doctors, Part 4”

The Five Doctors, Part 3

One way or another, three of the four Doctors trapped in the Death Zone on Gallifrey have made it into the Tower. Dr 3 and Sarah Jane are heading down from the top, while Dr 2 with the Brigadier, and Dr 1 and Tegan go upstairs. The chamber containing the tomb of that legendary Time Lord Rassilon must be somewhere between.

The Tower

As they go along with their respective Doctors, Sarah Jane and Tegan each express a dreadful feeling of foreboding, as if they’re walking into disaster. Dr 3  tells Sarah that he feels it too; it’s the Mind of Rassilon reaching out to them as they get nearer to his tomb.

To demonstrate Rassilon’s powers, even though he’s been dead for quite some time, the Doctors run into a few minor obstacles. This is also the show’s opportunity to get in a few more old companions who were available.

Dr 3 runs into Liz Shaw and Mike Yeats, formerly of UNIT.  In answer to his question, they assure him that “the little fellow with the checked trousers” as well as his other selves are just ahead, waiting for him. They need his help. He believes them at first, but when he tries to go back to get Sarah Jane, whom he left sitting on the last stairway down, before going on with Mike and Liz, they try to stop him. Dr 3 then realizes that they’re only illusions and runs back down the corridor the way he came.

Fake Liz screams “stooopp hiiim” in a creepy echoing voice before both she and Fake Mike disappear.

Dr 3 now has his doubts about Sarah Jane too for a moment, but aside from being a bit more cranky than usual since she rolled down that ridiculously undangerous hill, she’s been perfectly normal. They head down another corridor.

When Tegan expresses her feelings of dread and danger, Dr 1 pooh-poohs it and tells her he doesn’t feel any such thing. It’s all illusion. Just ignore it. And he marches on, unperturbed. Tegan shudders but follows.

Unnoticed by them, the Master is sneaking up the stairs behind them.

Continue reading “The Five Doctors, Part 3”

The Five Doctors, Part 2

Trapped in the Death Zone on Gallifrey, two out of four Doctors are hiking toward Rassilon’s Tower with a companion.

The other two? They’re having a tea party inside the Tardis, although I don’t see any actual tea. Tegan and Turlough are enjoying what look like green cocktails. Susan’s apparently got some lemon meringue pie. There’s also a lavish fruit bowl.

Tardis Tea Party

It’s just a little scene, but whenever I watch episodes where Doctors and their future and/or previous companions meet up, I wish that everybody would hang around for a little while after the adventure is over and have a reunion party in the Tardis. This is the only time anything like that happens.

By the time we join them, Susan has had time to catch up with her Grandfathers (as far as I can tell, Dr 1 and Susan didn’t mention the Dalek). The two Doctors are now discussing their plans.

Another interesting thing about the scenes between Drs 1 and 5. Dr 1 has always been something of a cantankerous old Time Lord and doesn’t seem to like very many people. In The Three Doctors, he called Drs 2 and 3 “the clown and the dandy” and goodness knows what he would have made of Dr 4. But he likes this future self, calls him “my boy,” and isn’t at all tetchy during their conversations. He does have some run-ins with Tegan, however, as subsequent scenes will demonstrate.

Dr 5 brings up a primitive computer graphic image of Rassilon’s Tower on a screen on the Tardis’s control panel. There are three ways to get into the tower: Above, Between, or Below, as Dr 2 will sing later from an old Gallifreyan nursery rhyme.

The initial plan is that Dr 5 and the two women will walk over to the Dark Tower, pick an entrance, and go inside to shut off the forcefield generator and release the Tardis.  Above, between, or belowDr 1 then intends to bring the Tardis over to them in the tower so they can get out of here. I don’t think they’re aware yet that Drs 2 and 3 are wandering around nearby, but Dr 1 will pick them up on the Tardis sensors shortly.

The trio sets out, but they don’t get far before Dr 5 meets the Master and stops for a chat. He doesn’t believe the Master is there to help any more than Dr 3 did and Tegan, keeping a safe distance with Susan, doesn’t have any reason to trust the Master either (remembering how he shrunk her Auntie and pushed Dr 4 off a radio telescope, which is how she ended up here in the first place).

None of them notice the Cybermen coming down the hillside, until the squad has almost marched on top of the Doctor and Master. When they try to run, the Master gets zapped and knocked out. Dr 5 takes the transporter beacon, which the Master showed him during their conversation, uses it, and finds himself in the Time Lords’ Inner Council chamber.

When the Master comes to, he’s surrounded. He quickly makes friends with the Cybermen by pretending that he’s there to help them. Unlike the Doctors, the Cybermen believe him. Cyber-Suckers!

Continue reading “The Five Doctors, Part 2”