Sunday, 7 June 2009

Doctor Who: The Dæmons

Part One

"I've had enough of your knavish tricks."

The story starts out looking as though it's going to be a lot of fun- a nice spooky opening with lots of wind and lightning, and the immediately entertaining Mith Hawthorne. The television stuff, with the announcer and Professor Hawthorne, is also good fun. The same can be said for most of this episode- the Master as a vicar is a particular joy.

There's lots of tension as the episode builds up to its climax, and the Master in his red cloak leading a Dennis Wheatley style black magic ritual is a delight. In fact this episode is generally great, apart from the Doctor's gratuitous rudeness to the regulars in the pub.

Part Two

"Jo! Did you fail Latin as well as science?"

Unfortunately it starts to fall apart here, with the first of four episodes in which not much happens. Especially after the exciting climax to last episode this is particularly frustrating. There's some obvious padding, perhaps the most blatant being the Doctor having a theory about what's happening but not wanting to tell anybody what it is yet.

Another unfortunate thing is that UNIT suddenly look very cosy indeed, and it's possible this may be the story in which they jump the shark. I realise that for the purposes of a continuing drama like Doctor Who, featuring a large organisation like UNIT, it can be useful to focus on a small number of characters. But the treatment of Yates and Benton here goes too far- why would a captain and a sergeant hang out together all the time? Why is Benton, a sergeant, seemingly one of the Brig's inner circle? Are there no other officers aside from Yates and the Brig? There's a strong "UNIT family" feel here, but the big problem with that is families are by definition quite small, and not at all synonymous with large and credible paramilitary organisations. In this story UNIT seems to consist of no more than the Brig, Yates, Benton, Sergeant Osgood and a couple of others. That's it.

Still, even if not much happens and UNIT are pratting about, at least parts of this effectively set a mood. The coven scenes are very Aleister Crowley, very The Devil Rides Out, and Delgado is perfect. The cliffhanger's good too, and Bok the gargoyle is particularly well-realised.

Part Three

"Close your eyes, my darling. Well, three of them at last!"

We get our first reference to the Venusian lullaby here, if not quite in its full final form. And at last the Doctor finally gets on with it and gives us the exposition we've been waiting a whole episode for. Apparently all of human achievement is essentially down to the Dæmons, and the human race can take no credit for it whatsoever.

The Doctor doesn't make himself very likeable by shouting at Jo for repeating his own earlier complaints about the Brig. in fact, I'm not sure I like the Doctor much this season. Except for when he was allowed to leave Earth in Colony in Space he's spent most of the season in a foul mood. As gar as I'm concerned the sooner his exile is over with the better. But reluctantly I can't put all my problems with this Doctor down to the character's frustrations about his exile. Pertwee's performance is notably less subtle than in Season Seven and he's beginning to overuse the same few mannerisms, especially the Neck Rub (tm).

I like the scenes between Osgood and the Doctor, but it's hard to miss the fact that this entire heat barrier subplot is only there to delay the arrival of the Brigadier into the plot proper.

Interesting cliffhanger, the Master in danger...

Part Four

"Elemental, my dear Benton."

Another "Reverse the polarity" from the Doctor here. And a bit of continuity awkwardness as Azal shouts "Remember Atlantis!" I'd rather not, thanks- The Underwater Menace is an experience I'd rather forget.

There's some good stuff this episode- Stephen Thorne's voice, the Doctor drawing the plan for his machine on the windscreen of his motorbike, and of course the Morris Dancers of Doom. I always knew Morris dancers were evil. And, of course, the Doctor manages to avoid being burned as a witch by, er, pretending to be a witch.

Part Five

"Fancy a dance, Brigadier?"

"Frankly, Captain Yates, I'd rather have a pint."

A very revealing line from Miss Hawthorne: "All we can do is wait". It seems we've been hearing similar sentiments from several characters right through the story, which is very revealing. Even in the final episode not an awful lot happens and then suddenly Jo offers to sacrifice herself and the story's over. Still, the Brigadier does get to say a certain line.

The Doctor's speech to Azal is quite political: man "can blow up the world and he probably will", and "can poison the water and the very air he breathes".

It's good to see some closure to the season as the Master is captured.

Well, overall I've not got much to say about this one. I found it slow, dull and frankly a bit of a struggle. 2/5, the second story of the season with that score. The season as a whole averages 3.4/5, making it my least favourite season so far. Still, as far as I remember the next season should be much better. We'll see...

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