By Roy Mathur, on 2024-01-15, at 23:55:20--00:36:55 GMT, for Captain Roy's Rusty Rocket Radio Show
And... more than two months later, welcome to a historic moment for the revisit. Since starting in 2024, this is the first classic episode I watched on iPlayer's spanking new Whoniverse and not my RPi set top box.
The tea and crumpets will have to wait tonight, as I'm smothered in ibuprofen gel and necked a paracetamol and a Pro Plus earlier.
I'm back on the Shure SM7B... Don't. Just don't.
Cast: Fifth Doctor: Peter Davison, Tegan Jovanka: Janet Fielding, Vislor Turlough: Mark Strickson, King John/Kamelion: Gerald Flood; prolific stage and screen actor; inc. TV sci-fi/genre: Pathfinders, The Champions, Strange Report, Randall and Hopkirk (Deceased)
Director: Tony Virgo IMDB: "...born on 29 September 1948 in Harrow, Middlesex, England...producer and director, known for Angels, Emmerdale Farm, EastEnders, etc. and this Doctor Who story".
Writer: Terence Dudley: prolific BBC director; inc. Meglos, producer; inc. Doomwatch, Survivors, but turned down Blake's 7, and screenwriter; inc. Doomsday, Black Orchid, The King's Demons, K-9 and Company Producer: John Nathan-Turner
Location: Bodiam Castle, Bodiam, East Sussex and BBC Television Centre, Studio TC1, Shepherd's Bush (1982)
Broadcast: Season 20 (finale), serial 6, story 128, following Enlightenment covered in 505, 2 x c. 25 minute episodes, first broadcast from 15 March--16 March 1983
Media: Target novelization by Terence Dudley (1986), VHS with The Five Doctors (1995), DVD with Plant of Fire (2010), Blu-ray Doctor Who: The Collection Box Set: Arc Of Infinity, Snakedance, Mawdryn Undead, Terminus, Enlightenment, The King's Demons, The Five Doctors 20th Anniversary Special (2023)
On the 15th of March 1983 the UK number 1 song was Total Eclipse of the Heart by Bonnie Tyler. In the 80s I had either a poster of Bonnie Tyler or Farrah Fawcett or both from Look-in magazine on my Action Man-wallpapered bedroom.
King John is trying to wring tax from Sir Ranulf Fitzwilliam to finance his crusade. Honour besmirched, Fitzwilliam's son Hugh duels with the King's champion Sir Gilles Estram, but is interrupted by the arrival of the TARDIS. King John welcomes the "demons" and invites them to dinner.
The Doctor discovers the date is 1215, three months before the signing of the Magna Carta, and that the King is an imposter. Sir Geoffrey de Lacy, Fitzwilliam's cousin, newly returned from a meeting at the Tower of London with the real King, confirms his suspicions.
The Doctor picks a fight with the King's champion and wins. Gilles is revealed as the Master and escapes to his TARDIS diguised as an iron maiden in the dungeon. Thereupon, the Doctor is knighted "Sir Doctor" and made the new champion.
The Doctor finds the King really an alien spy robot called Kamelion, who the Master discovered and controlled during his banishment to Xeriphas (Time-Flight covered in 487). He plans to use it to prevent the Magna Carta, stifling any chance of democracy, thence, he says, "...With Kamelion's unique ability at my command, it's only a matter of time before I undermine the key civilisations of the universe. Chaos will reign, and I shall be its emperor." The Doctor and Master duel psychically for control of Kamelion and the Doctor wins.
Kamelion joins the Doctor in the TARDIS. When the Doctor talks of taking Tegan back to Earth, she protests and they set course for the Eye of Orion, said by Turlough to be "very beautiful".
Gerald Flood's portrayal of sadistic King John is deliciously evil. He would have made a superb Master (sorry, Anthony). It is a testament to this acting ability that he also does such a good job voicing the very different and gentle Kamelion robot.
King John's lute ballad solo is beautiful sounding, but the words are repugnant.
We sing in praise of total war
Against the Saracen we abhor
To free the tomb of Christ our Lord
We'll put the known world to the sword
The moment I saw the iron maiden (Maiden! Sorry, heavy metal joke), I knew it was the Master's TARDIS. I mean that's just so him.
The Master's disguise is pretty appalling, as is Ainley's French accent.
The swordfight between Davison and Ainley is a replay of the Pertwee and Delgado duel in The Sea Devils (pod 273), itself based on Errol Flynn and Basil Rathbone's epic fight in The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938). In short, it was a lovely nostalgic echo of past times, albeit Davison and Ainley do not come close to Pertwee and Delgado in swordsmanship. Did I tell you I once challenged a man to a duel? Rhetorical.
The Doctor also engages the Master in a "Scanner" battle over control of Kamelion.
When the King knights the Doctor, the Doctor is still wearing his cricket jumper under the medieval garb.
The Master's parting shot: "Mediaeval misfits!" is very Captain Haddock and coincidentally I read a Tintin book (The Secret of the Unicorn) after revisiting this story.
It was a short, to the (sword) point adventure. I enjoyed it, even though it was one of those loosely historical Doctor Who edutainments. I was really very impressed by the Kamelion prop. I honestly wasn't sure there if there may have been a skinny suit actor in there for moment or two, until I saw that the arms were definitely mechanical. It's a pity the tech wasn't up to snuff to make the android walk.
The filming location of Bodium Castle, built around 1385 by Sir Edward Dallingridge, was my favourite family day trip destination as a child. We visited frequently and even picnicked there. My favourite photograph of my mother was taken there in the 70s with a cracked Kodak Brownie 127 that leaked light and was badly patched with a sticking plaster. That is the source of the ethereal picture you see in the shownotes.
I do not remember Kamelion at all and certainly not as a companion, but the creature design is fantastic, as is Gerald Flood's voice acting. I lost interest halfway through an article about an extras DVD describing it's origin, but in brief: JNT wanted a robot after the K9 and Company debacle. Richard Gregory, whose FX company Imagineering had previously worked on Doctor Who, got in touch with JNT about a robot made by VFX guy Chris Padmore and SW guy Mike Power of C.P. Cybernetics. JNT and Eric Saward were demo'd the robot and agreed to test it as a possible companion. Unfortunately, Mike Power died in a sailing accident, so after The King's Demons Kamelion put in a few appearances before being phased out.