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The Devil Rides Out
“Chap with the wings there. Five rounds rapid.”
‘The Dæmons’ (pronounced ‘demons’ or ‘damons’ however you may say it) is a highly regarded classic story in ‘Doctor Who’ starring Jon Pertwee as the Doctor. It’s a favourite amongst the regular cast as well as the fans, as it is regarded a quintessential ‘Doctor Who’ adventure from the 1970s.
This is a five-part story by Guy Leopold (a pseudonym for producer Barry Letts and writer Robert Sloman). It’s well-directed by Christopher Barry, who directed ‘Doctor Who’ stories in the 60s with William Hartnell and Patrick Troughton and is the finale for Jon Pertwee’s second season (Season 8).
This is a 2-disc DVD set with Disc 1 containing the story and Disc 2 containing special features. I’ve had the DVD cover of ‘The Dæmons’ signed by the lovely Katy Manning; Richard Franklin and Damaris Hayman who I all saw at the same time at the ‘Time Warp’ convention in Weston-super-Mare in July 2014.
This story predates ‘The Impossible Planet’/’The Satan Pit’ as it features black magic and devilish proportions throughout. It also features a rural countryside atmosphere in the story as most of it is set on location in a sleepy English village called Devil’s End where most of the action takes place.
Dark forces are stirring in Devil’s End, as an archaeological dig is about to open a burial mound at night during Beltane. This is to be broadcast to viewers on BBC Three (in the 1970s already?!) on TV. But this is an evil omen, as the Doctor and Jo attempt to drive there in order to stop this happening.
Meanwhile at the church of Devil’s End, the new local vicar Rev. Magister, who turns out to be the Master, is planning to use these dark powers for his own ends. Using ceremonies in black magic, the Master calls and summons Azal, last of the Dæmons to give him power and control of everything.
There are lots of supernatural themes weaved into this adventure mixed in with the debate of science over magic. I admit I’m not a fan of these types of stories myself, but it was fun to watch and interesting to how the Doctor, Jo and U.N.I.T deal with these dark forces conjured up by the Master.
I like the quaintness of this story set in a local village with the unfortunate name of Devil’s End. It provides the familiarity and comforts of a rural English setting which is being tampered and threatened by the presence of someone who may well be the Devil and the dark forces unleashed.
It was interesting hearing from the Doctor who explains to everyone about the origins of the Dæmons, as he says they were here to influence the progression of humanity from the dark ages to the present. Of course, I don’t believe this for one moment but it was interesting and fun to watch.
As I said before, ‘The Dæmons’ is a favourite story amongst the regular cast. The story is so well-written for the characters and everyone in the U.N.I.T. family including the Doctor; Jo; the Brigadier; Mike Yates and Sergeant Benton are given plenty to do and many defining moments in this story.
Jon Pertwee is excellent as the Doctor in this adventure. Jon’s Doctor gets to enjoy being the action-hero in this adventure which includes driving his favourite car Bessie and also driving a motorbike. I liked it when he gets to control Bessie by remote control which surprises Jo who thinks it’s all magic.
The Doctor is put to the test when denying the existence of magic with science. He gets to be rather impatient in this story when dealing with Jo’s questions about the possibility of magic and explaining to Sgt Osgood to ‘reverse the polarity’. It was tense when the Doctor meets Azal towards the end.
Katy Manning is great as Jo. She’s ditsy as ever, but still lovely as she joins the Doctor to stop the dig at Devil’s Hump close to Devil’s End in Bessie. It was interesting that Jo is easily susceptible to believe in magic. She gets herself in trouble when she goes to the church after being knocked on the head.
Jo gets caught by the Master and is taken away to be sacrificed. I found Jo rather pretty in her sacrificial robes. Jo gets to express her fierce loyalty and compassion, especially when calling out and begging Azal to kill her instead and not the Doctor, which is a defining moment for her character.
Roger Delgado returns as the Master, who has been a recurring villain throughout Season 8. This is the best story for Roger Delgado’s Master who is the new vicar at Devil’s End village and a conjuror of black magic. He controls the villagers to his will and summons Azal during the wicked ceremonies.
The Master is desperate to have these powers given to him by Azal and is determined to get them by any means necessary. The Master looks so glorious and harrowing in his red ceremonial clothes and is so power-hungry and triumphant when his ceremonies of black magic work to summon Azal.
Nicholas Courtney stars as Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart. I loved it when I saw the Brigadier in his regimental jacket when going out to dinner. It was funny when the Brigadier is outraged about Mike Yates and Benton taking his helicopter, before he goes off to Devil’s End to find out what’s going on.
The Brig is commanding and militaristic as ever, but still loveable. One of the Brig’s memorable lines is in this story when he tells Jenkins to shoot at Bok saying, “Chap with the wings there! Five rounds rapid.” It was also funny to see the Brigadier frustrated when trying to get through the heat barrier.
Richard Franklin is great as Captain Mike Yates in this. Mike also gets to be an action hero, when fighting a villager out of a helicopter and getting to drive a motorcycle to warn the Doctor and Jo. It was interesting to see Mike in civilian clothes for a change when he and Benton go off to Devil’s End.
It was nice to see Mike Yates and Benton working together as a duo when making their way to Devil’s End. Mike is clearly fond of Jo and despite calling her ‘an idiot’ when she goes off on her own goes off to rescue her. He has a go at firing a gun on Bok and is with Jo when they’re at the church.
John Levene is equally great as Sergeant Benton. Benton, like Mike Yates, gets to where civilian clothes for a change when going to Devil’s End and also gets to have some action scenes when fighting the verger in the church and rescuing Miss Hawthorne from being trapped in a cupboard.
It was nice to see Benton getting more involved in the action of the story compared to previous stories where he isn’t so involved. He helps Miss Hawthorne to save the Doctor by convincing the villagers to fake some magic spells with a gun, and gets to ask some of the questions in this story.
Damaris Hayman guest stars as Miss Olive Hawthorne, the local white witch in Devil’s End. Miss Hawthorne is an interesting woman, who protests and tries to stop the dig at Devil’s Hump from happening when shown on TV. She is convinced of the black magic and knows the great evil coming.
I liked that moment when Miss Hawthorne tries to convince the Doctor that it’s magic whereas he says it’s science. Watching her, you wouldn’t think that Miss Hawthorne is a witch and it’s good Damaris Hayman played her convincingly and not ‘dithery’ as she was asked to behind-the-scenes.
Stephen Thorne guest stars as Azal, last of the Daemons. I know Stephen for voicing Treebeard in ‘The Lord of the Rings’ radio series as well as playing Omega later on in ‘The Three Doctors’. He looks pretty scary as Azal, when the Master summons him and he’s grows to be taller than everyone else.
The look of Azal is impressive and menacing. Azal looks like an evil Faun from ‘The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe’ with the goat legs and naked hairy torso. But with evil eyes and menacing voice I was convinced otherwise. It was interesting how he’s not revealed until the end of ‘Episode Four’.
Stanley Mason guest stars as Bok, a stone gargoyle statue summoned to life at the church in Devil’s End. He doesn’t speak and is bulletproof when the Brig; Mike; Benton and U.N.I.T. soldiers try to shoot him. The Master summons him to serve Azal. Bok kills people with one shot from his hand.
The main guest star is Aldbourne village in Wiltshire as Devil’s End. I love the village setting of this story and it puts me in mind of Stockbridge village who the Fifth Doctor visits in the Big Finish audios. I like the church; the pub and also the May Day dances that are performed by the Morris Dancers.
I was dissatisfied with the rushed climax that happened when Azal was defeated. Although Jo’s plea for self-sacrifice was a lovely moment, I felt that Azal’s demise at this when he doesn’t understand self-sacrifice in rage was weak. It needed more explaining, as this should have been made as a six-part story.
In the end, Azal is defeated and everyone flees as the church gets blown up which is very impressive effects work by director Christopher Barry. The Master gets caught; arrested andtaken away to prison by the Brigadier and U.N.IT. Everyone is happy as the May Day dance celebrations continue.
I liked it when the story closes with Benton invited to dance by Miss Hawthorne and the Doctor and Jo joining in. It was funny when Mike Yates asks the Brigadier for a dance and he’d have a pint instead. Nicholas Courtney describes the Brigadier as an alcoholic and Mike Yates as gay. 😀
The DVD special features are as follows. On Disc 1, there is an audio commentary option to watch with Katy Manning; Richard Franklin; Damaris Hayman and director Christopher Barry discussing ‘The Dæmons’. There is also an info-text commentary option to watch and enjoy.
On Disc 2, there is ‘The Devil Rides Out’ making-of documentary with cast and crew interviews. There’s also the ‘Remembering Barry Letts’ tribute documentary and a ‘location film’.
There’s also a colourisation test; a ‘Tomorrow’s World’ item; a photo gallery and a ‘Radio Times Listings’ PDF. There is also a ‘coming soon’ trailer for ‘Nightmare of Eden’ with Tom Baker and Lalla Ward.
‘The Dæmons’ has been a fascinating and enjoyable ‘Doctor Who’ story to watch with Jon Pertwee’s Doctor; Katy Manning as Jo and Roger Delgado as the Master. It’s a great story written with love for the Third Doctor era and is very quaint and quintessential set in a rural English village during the 70s.
I fancy going to an English village for a holiday someday. Hopefully nothing bad will happen when I get there and I hope to enjoy the sleepiness of it without the presence of evil dark forces waiting.
‘The Dæmons’ rating – 7/10
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