There is an archaeological dig taking place in Devil’s End at the Bronze Age burial ground, the Devil’s Hump. A live outside broadcast is set up for BBC 3, but local inhabitants are being found dead and white witch Miss Hawthorne warns of great evil being unleashed when the dig takes place. Maybe the new local vicar will be able to put her mind at rest, or is he just another master of the Dark Arts? The Doctor and UNIT must try and stop the dig and prevent The Master summoning up an Alien Race which could spell the end for the Earth.
Season 8 finishes on a real high. “The Dæmons” is classic 70’s Doctor Who and a prime example of what works best in the Third Doctor’s Era. Genuinely unsettling, a story seemingly based on witch-craft and black magic, The Doctor explains it all as science and alien interference (Terrance Dicks steered it away from being too black magic related in case it was accused of being Satanist), but there is a lot of room for some supernatural thrills and chills. Gargoyle statues coming to life and references to the imminent arrival of the horned beast.
“The Dæmons” makes good use of the strength of the UNIT family ensemble cast and the background setting of the supposedly quiet English village (filmed in Aldbourne in Wiltshire) hosting the alien terror threat. There is a touch of The Wicker Man about it. Christopher Barry directs and keeps the show tight over 5 episodes, making the most of a well thought out script from Robert Sloman and Barry Letts.
The Master is back (again) but seems to have proper purpose, trying to use the power of the Dæmons for his own gain. Delgado excels as his Master revels in his appearance as a devil worshipping minister. The Brig, stuck outside the village for much of the story, is afforded great lines and directing a UNIT soldier to shoot at the dancing gargoyle Bok with the words, “Chap with wings, five rounds rapid” is genius, and rightly remembered as classic Brig. Benton and Yates along with Jo Grant make up the regulars and there are also some great guest appearances, especially Damaris Hayman as Olive Hawthorne and Stephen Thorne as the grim Azal.
Pertwee ends his second season relaxed and comfortable in the role, as do the rest of the regular cast. The Doctor is always the focal point but the ensemble work is one of the stand out features of this era. There is a real warmth and camaraderie and there is room for a little humour too. When the day is won, and The Master and his alien threat has been dealt with, The Doctor and Jo join in the village’s May Day celebrations. Yates asks the Brigadier if he fancies a dance, to which he replies that he’d sooner have a pint and they head off the the village pub, leaving the merrymakers dancing round the May pole.
“The Dæmons” is up there with the greats in 50 years of Doctor Who stories, playing to the shows’ strengths and with the cast and crew at the top of their game. It’s a story fondly remembered by many associated with the serial as their favourite that they worked on in their time on the show (there was even a Reeltime documentary Return To Devil’s End made with the cast/crew in 1993 looking back on the making of the story). I remember the excitement when “The Dæmons” was restored to colour and re-shown on TV/released on VHS, and it was much deserved. Nothing short of 10/10
Written and edited by Gavin Dunbar