Introducing: The Dæmons

Doctor Who has a history with the occult. Look at all those clans, summoning strange forces and worshipping something far from their understanding. It’s laced throughout classics like The Masque of Mandragora, The Curse of Fenric, and The Brain of Morbius, while Gods and devils have manifested themselves in tales including Pyramids of Mars, The Impossible Planet/ The Satan Pit, and The Greatest Show in the Galaxy. It seems that anything the occult touches is bound to be a classic.

And The Dæmons is certainly evidence of this.

Mastering the Devil

An old burial mound is being excavated near the village of Devil’s End and evil is brewing. And the local vicar, Mr. Magister, looks suspiciously like the Master…

The Daemons Master Roger Delgado

It’s such an iconic image, deeply ingrained into Doctor Who fans: Roger Delgado’s Master as a vicar, holier than thou. So it’s not a great surprise when he turns up midway through episode one of the five-part story. But imagine what it must’ve been like for the 9.2 million viewers who watched its first transmission in 1971: the big reveal! The Master is back! Shock, shock, horror, horror!

Or not. Doctor Who Season 8 features the Master very heavily, actually. He originally turned up in the Robert Holmes-penned Terror of the Autons, but the Doctor’s ‘rival’ Time Lord then cropped up in the three following stories – The Mind of Evil, The Claws of Axos, and Colony in Space – before The Dæmons. The Master, wonderfully portrayed by Roger Delgado, appeared in every single storyline of Season 8, before the production team realised it was overkill… and sent him to prison!

The Master received a well-deserved break from the series for two serials, Day of the Daleks and The Curse of Peladon, before returning in The Sea Devils, taking over the jail using his hypnotic skills.

And it’s arguably the Master who shines above all in The Dæmons. In a previous issue of Doctor Who Magazine, Gary Gillatt mentioned that “the Doctor has a chip on his shoulder throughout.” Jo, arguably, is well characterised, but doesn’t play much of a part in events until the last episode. UNIT, including the Brigadier at the top of his game, are sidelined for quite some time, providing a fun bit of padding as they try to get through a heat barrier.

The Master, meanwhile, is… well, masterly.

Who’s that Guy?

The Daemons 3rd Third Jon Pertwee

But all the guest characters are fleshed out beautifully. Miss Hawthorne may be a stereotypical white witch, but she’s played with gusto by Damaris Hayman. Alistair Fergus, the BBC3 reporter, is wonderful as he locks horns with archaeologist, Professor Horner, while trying to create a sense of melodrama for his viewers. Even Jim, the man we see walking his collie at the beginning, is pitched well as he strolls through the graveyard and comes face-to-face with something terrifying. We never do find out what happened to his dog…

Aside from the sterling performances, credit must go to the writer, Guy Leopold, with The Dæmons as his sole Doctor Who work. Sort of.

Guy Leopold, of course, doesn’t exist; he is, in fact, a pseudonym for Barry Letts and Robert Sloman, slotting into a long line of fake names associated with the show. The Master was always being credited as someone else; Terry Molloy was credited as Roy Tromelly in Remembrance of the Daleks; while, more recently, companions have auditioned for roles under codenames: Karen Gillan, for instance, was originally up for a role in Panic Moon (the anagram addicts amongst you will quickly work out that it means ‘companion’), and Pearl Mackie’s was Mean Town. Andy Pryor, casting director, revealed:

“It’s an anagram of ‘Ten Woman’. Series 10, and also the tenth companion of the modern series… These anagrams are becoming harder to think of but they’re always fun. It’s really so that nobody reads an email over someone’s shoulder and the name pings out at them.”

My favourite, however, is The Brain of Morbuis writer, Robin Bland, a creation of Robert Holmes after Terrance Dicks was unhappy with re-writes and requested it be aired under a ‘bland pseudonym.’ Personally, whenever I hear ‘Guy Leopold,’ I recall The Simpsons (“Homer? Who is Homer? My name is Guy Incognito”).

Sloman was approached by Letts in 1972, 10 years after the former’s play, The Tinker, was turned into a movie, The Wild and the Willing. The two were friends, and The Dæmons was the first they wrote for Doctor Who. The pair continued to write together (with Letts remaining uncredited), collaborating on The Time MonsterThe Green Death (writing out Katy Manning’s Jo Grant), and Planet of the Spiders, which of course brought the Third Doctor’a era to a close.

Barry Letts was producer of the Third Doctor’s era (1970- 74), then the Fourth Doctor’s introductory tale, Robot, before returning for a final time on Logopolis, alongside John Nathan-Turner. He also directed six serials, including The Enemy of the World – which was recovered for the show’s 50th anniversary – Carnival of Monsters, and The Android Invasion. Though he died in 2009, Letts’ influence is still felt today.

A Matter of Perspective

Azal The Daemons

The Dæmons makes many horror allusions, most obviously a horned beast and a worship of the occult. An unearthly wind echoes through the village and they are all trapped in an idyllic (yet somehow sinister) location. A few, including the Time Team crew in the latest issue of the Doctor Who Magazine – commented that 2010’s The Hungry Earth/ Cold Blood felt like it came straight from the Jon Pertwee era. Overlooking the obvious link – the Silurians, Eocenes, or Homo Reptilia, whatever you want to call them – Cwmtaff is sealed off, much like Devil’s End.

(The current Doctor, Peter Capaldi, has often been called akin to the Third Doctor, but beyond his red-lined jacket, is there substance in this? In the Forest of the Night had environmental issues at its heart, and The Zygon Invasion/ The Zygon Inversion was very political, but there’s no further substantial links between these eras just yet. Maybe Series 10…? Hmm. Maybe that Osgood is named after )

Of course, much of this revolves around the idea of magic as alien technology; not wizardry, but something beyond human understanding. The notion is revisited in Image of the Fendahl, Battlefield, and The Shakespeare Code. Turlough got locked up for ‘conjuring demons’ in King John of England’s court in The King’s Demons; indeed, the supposed King was a little obsessed with calling the Doctor and co. demons.

In The Dæmons, the Doctor is accused of using magic too, leading him to be tied to a maypole, and sentenced to death, mimicking the practice of burning witches. The Sycorax also accused the Doctor of witchcraft after he regenerated his hand in The Christmas Invasion, to which he replies: “Time Lord.” This denial is quite different to the Doctor’s initial reaction in The Dæmons, calling himself “the Great Wizard Quiquaeqoud.” (The in-joke here? ‘Qui,’ ‘quae,’ and ‘quod’ are, respectively, the masculine, feminine and gender-neutral forms of ‘who’ in Latin.)

Oh, Bok

The Daemons 3rd Third Jon Pertwee 2

It’s these effective horror clichés that make The Dæmons such a memorable classic. And as Captain Yates says: “All we’ve got to deal with is something which is either too small to see or 30 feet tall, can incinerate you or freeze you to death, turn stone images into homicidal monsters, and looks like the devil.” Yes, Mike – exactly. Easy.

It’s just a shame no one knows how to pronounce the story’s title…

(Adapted from an article originally published on Kasterborous in April 2012.)

  • Dr. Moo

    An overhyped serial if ever there were one. It’s a good storyline that Delgado shines throughout and anything with the Brig’s immortal line-of-a-lifetime (you all know which one) has got to be good but overall The Dæmons doesn’t do much for me. If it were cropped from five episodes to three it could then be deserving of its reputation as a masterpiece, but as it stands such a reputation is thoroughly undeserved.

    • bar

      There’s lots of good things in it, fun references to things like The Wicker Man and the Midwich Cuckoos (forcefield), and The Doctor pole-dancing (now there’s an image you can’t get out of your head). But as cults go, it just doesn’t grab me like, say, Image of the Fendahl: mad scientists can do cult just as well as mad religion!
      I like that Miss Hawthorne and the Doctor argue about Science and Magic working in surprisingly similar ways (like the ‘superstition’ using salt successfully in Fendahl) but calling it something different, and she preferring the old traditional vicar to this trendy nonsense!
      But there’s no real faith – in Spiders you get the mad cult, but you ALSO get the real Buddhist characters to ground it. In God Complex you get genuine faith being what the monster feeds on, and in Fenric it’s the brilliantly-played Vicar’s abandonment of real faith that kills him. Maybe that’s why Daemons leaves me strangely unwarmed.

      • Dr. Moo

        I think you’ve hit the nail on its proverbial head there. Lots of good stuff but all done so much better elsewhere. The Dæmons did it first but didn’t do it best.

        • TimeChaser

          I think we can forgive that though, because it’s almost impossible for the one who does it first to do it best. It does it was best as it can, and while it may leave a bit lacking and be one episode too long, it paves the way for others to get it right later. Without The Daemons, those other stories wouldn’t be as good as they are in their portrayals of magic and faith. You always gotta start somewhere.

          • bar

            Except Delgado. still the original and best.

          • Dr. Moo

            Definitive maybe. Best? That’s a tough one to call. In a world where Gomez and MacQueen exist it’s much harder to name a “best” Master. He’s easily in the top three, no doubt about that.

  • TimeChaser

    Although it does have it’s flaws, most notably an extra episode worth of padding as UNIT stands there twiddling it’s thumbs, I’ve always enjoyed this story. Just like Carnival of Monsters, it was one of my earliest Pertwees and it sticks out for being different from most of the era. Plus I love it for being the genesis of that most excellent of Doctor Who stories about ancient powers being resurrected in a quiet English village.

  • Ranger

    I must have watched this when it was originally transmitted, but I don’t remember. So the first I was aware of it was through the Target novelisation, and I loved it – it was one of my favourite DW novels. So when I eventually got it on vhs, I was nervous. Yes, it is a bit creaky at the seams, but there is great acting from Delgado, Damaris Hayman is always great, no need to mention how completely fabulous the Brig is and it has the Doctor and a maypole. Nuff said. I love it. Plus – black cat!!

    There is a superficial physical likeness between Capaldi’s Doctor and Pertwee’s, but there any similarity ends. Capaldi’s Doctor is not really an establishment figure like the third Doctor.

    • bar

      Oh, there’s a whole article to be written about that Ranger – you fancy writing it? 3 was never vulnerable as 12 so often is, even at the end of Spiders, but couldn’t have done the wordless command with which 12 opened Hell Bent without a certain… flounce. 12’s authority is from deep within, but without the overt self-confidence of 3. I loved 3 as a child, but am never as moved/rivetted by him as I am by Capaldi.

      • Ranger

        Just so, Bar – it’s like you inhabit my brain – or I inhabit yours! 🙂

        12 is able to use the military set-up to further his own ends and still remain aloof, whereas 3, whilst there are flashes of disapproval (The Silurians) becomes embedded in the culture and uses it to promote himself. I suppose this is understandable – 12 can walk away, 3 is stuck in one place and one time, he needs to protect himself, that’s easier done as part of the establishment. Of course, 12 and his predecessors are all benefiting from 3’s worming into the establishment – saving the world/universe continuously would be a lot harder without the resources he can now call upon.

        • bar

          Oh, I wouldn’t inhabit my brain if I were you Ranger – dodgy place that it is. I’m sure the link is totally symbiotic.
          I like your sense of 3 starting something his later selves will draw on, and see it as based on relationship: yes as Scientific Advisor he has status, but it’s the joy with which 2 greets the Brig, and 11 and 12 care for Kate that are perhaps signs of this. Maybe all those years of living with the UNIT family mean it’s a personal relationship he calls on, not just rank and security clearance.
          I do see 12 as somehow younger, that rebel Time Lord thing, the way he has no clue of small talk, and his sort of adolescent geeky friendships: the social situations he feels at ease in are limited, wheras 3 was at home anywhere, & usually the boss!

          • Ranger

            That’s how I feel about 12, somehow, despite his appearance, he exhibits the behaviour of a teenager: moody, rebellious, temperamental, and pretending he doesn’t care about people, the deliberate rudeness. His willful continual calling of Danny as PE, is really adolescent – he knows it annoys Clara, so he keeps on with it; there’s no real maliciousness, just that teenager curiosity about how long can I keep this up before Mum cracks. It’s a nice twist – the outer appearance contrasting and conflicting with the behaviour. In contrast, 3 was the complete grown-up, with just a few of the occasional childish moments that all adults indulge in periodically. It’s almost like, with the new regeneration cycle given to 12, he’s reverted back to childhood.

          • bar

            There’s no point being a grown-up…’ oh; that was 4!