‘THE KING’S DEMONS’
Please feel free to comment on my review.
Bad King John
Ah, Kamelion – the robot companion of the Fifth Doctor!
I find it very easy to forget Kamelion at times. I’m afraid this was a ‘Doctor Who’ companion that didn’t work. Not because of lack of character, but the prop was malfunctioning a lot. Kamelion was an actual robot the production team thought they could utilise into being a fully-fledged companion.
There were high hopes for Kamelion, but these were sadly dashed. The robot only did two ‘Doctor Who’ stories on TV and they’re featured in the ‘Kamelion Tales’ DVD box-set. This includes his beginning and his end on board the TARDIS. Is Kamelion as a companion all worth it?! Let’s find out!
‘The King’s Demons’ is set in the past during the medieval period of 1215. This is a two-part story by Terence Dudley, who was also the writer of my favourite ‘Doctor Who’ TV adventure, ‘Black Orchid’.
The story has the Doctor, Tegan and Turlough meeting King John at the castle of Sir Ranulf Fitzwilliam. The King calls the Doctor and his friends ‘demons’, before he invites to stay at the castle.
But the Doctor suspects something is wrong at the castle and with King John. Very soon, the Doctor unravels the mystery when he discovers the King’s champion, Sir Giles Estram, is actually the Master!
Out of all the three ‘Doctor Who’ stories by Terence Dudley, I’m afraid that this one is by far his weakest. Now that’s not to say the story he wrote was bad. ‘The King’s Demons’ is very average one.
I like the 1215 historical setting during the reign of King John. It seems clear that Dudley did his research in presenting the historical accuracy of the castle; supporting characters; knights and so on.
But it feels pretty dull and was less exciting for me. Also, Dudley had the task of introducing Kamelion and having the Master appear. These sci-fi elements muddy the waters for this adventure.
The ending was also rather rushed. The conclusion was never justified with the Doctor simply stealing Kamelion from the Master, thinking that he would not be able to stop Magna Carta to happen.
I like Anthony Ainley as the Master, but I did find him slightly underused in this story. His disguise as a French knight is rather pathetic. You can see it is him through the disguise and the accent he does.
Peter Davison’s Doctor is great as always. I enjoyed Peter’s enthusiasm and energy in this. He gets to do a sword fight at ‘Part One’s end, which are skills acquired from Jon Pertwee’s Doctor of course! 😀
I found Janet Fielding as Tegan and Mark Strickson as Turlough, the Doctor’s friends, poorly developed in this. They don’t seem to do much and are whining and complaining to the Doctor a lot.
At least Tegan gets to be with the Doctor most of the time and gets to fly the TARDIS. But she seems rather moody throughout. Turlough gets his chance to meet the Master for the first time in this tale.
Of course, this story is famous for introducing Kamelion. Now to be fair, it’s not bad to have a robot ‘Doctor Who’ companion. It was paved with good intentions, but they soon subsided and lay waste.
The design’s great, but he couldn’t do anything. He couldn’t walk; move or talk as he was supposed to. But at least Kamelion had one fundamental quality. He could shape-shift into anybody he wants.
It was a good way to avoid having painful scenes where Kamelion had to walk, but couldn’t due to mechanical problems. This also adds a complication or a story point that sadly does not make sense.
I enjoyed Gerald Flood (who also voiced Kamelion) as King John in this. He gives a fruity, extravagant performance. But I couldn’t understand why Kamelion and King John didn’t act in the same manner.
As Peter Davison pointed out, it’s one thing to have Kamelion acting robotic. It’s another thing to have King John who is full of life and exuberant which is a contrast to how Kamelion behaved in this.
I did like it when we had the reveal of Kamelion in ‘Part Two’, as the Doctor comes into the King’s quarters. I also like how Kamelion looks up to see the Doctor enter and speaks in his King John voice.
The DVD special features are as follows. There’s the ‘Kamelion – Metal Man’ documentary with behind-the-scenes cast and crew interviews, the ‘Magna Carta’ documentary and a photo gallery of the story. There’s a commentary with Peter Davison, Isla Blair (Isabella) and script editor Eric Saward.
There’s also a bonus commentary with director Tony Virgo for ‘Part One’ only. There’s an isolated music option by Jonathan Gibbs; an info-text commentary option to enjoy and a ‘Radio Times Listings’ PDF for the story. There’s a ‘coming soon’ trailer for ‘The Dominators’ with Patrick Troughton, Frazer Hines and Wendy Padbury.
‘The King’s Demons’ is not a story I regard highly and consider one of my favourites. It’s okay, but it lacks pace and action. The story was pretty rushed in its ending and isn’t as ‘masterly’ for the Master.
It provided a decent introduction to Kamelion, who was a companion sadly not to be. The story became the Season 20 finale for ‘Doctor Who’. It’s not a fantastic finale for a season, but it is alright.
‘The King’s Demons’ rating – 5/10
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