Doctor Who #610: The King's Demons Part 2

"You may disguise your features, but you can never disguise your intent."
TECHNICAL SPECS: First aired Mar.16 1983.

IN THIS ONE... King John is revealed to be the show's worst companion yet, Kamelion.

REVIEW: Part 2 of The King's Demons is a collection of things I find unconvincing. Chief among these, of course, is Kamelion. One of JNT's worst ideas/decisions, even on paper, the idea of a programmable robot as a companion, no matter how functional it might be is a stupid gimmick. Programmable is the key word here, K9 fans. As it was, it wasn't practical to spend all that time to choreograph Kamelion, and worse, the thing doesn't really work. It's barely a mannequin, and any movement is ultimately quite creepy. Sure, it can shapeshift and somehow become quite animated, but that's another thing that doesn't convince. There's no way that limited robot can turn into real-moving people. What were they going to do every week? Have him talk with King John's voice, or cast an actor who would make using the automaton pointless? As it turns out, we get a "companion joining" scene that makes us side with Tegan - the Doctor's a bit too quick to trust the Master's pawn, especially when the thing can be "turned" by anyone with enough willpower (and telepathy?) - and Kamelion promptly disappears for the length of a season, forgotten until someone mercifully writes him out.

The Master's plan also fails to be credible, but that's expected at this point. His plans will always be too convoluted and insane, but I suppose this one disappoints by how quickly it's resolved. We spent so much time in Part 1 setting up the environment, the plot itself dribbles by all too quickly in Part 2. Rumbled, the Master paints himself as a hero opposing the "demons" much too easily. And even if he loses his pet robot, he's still left in 13th-century England where he could still cause trouble and meddle with history. Who even understands what the Doctor did to his TARDIS with the tissue compressor? Unsatisfying. And of course, we get yet another scene where Tegan operated the TARDIS controls. The old girl really has to stop letting the companions pilot her.

So is there anything I like? Sure. Tegan throwing a knife at the Master is a feisty bit of business, and there's an attempt to make the Master a physical threat, the way he catches it. The lighting inside the Master's TARDIS is further proof that atmospheric lighting is way better for the set than the flat white light habitually used. The Doctor gets knighted, but I guess it doesn't count. He's pretty smart the way he plays his role as King's champion. And Tegan learns her lesson about whining when the Doctor threatens to take her home against her will. At this point, I'm wondering when she last smiled. In the Brig's company maybe? Tegan should really be a brighter character. Compare Black Orchid to almost everything else; that's where she was most charming.

VERSIONS: The Target novelization makes the Doctor save Sir Geoffrey's life.

REWATCHABILITY: Medium-Low - This story needed more room to breathe. It ends too quickly to be in any way remarkable except for the new character it introduces. And by remarkable, I mean I remark on it. Negatively.

STORY REWATCHABILITY: Medium-Low - When it dawns on you that this short story was all a set-up for introducing the hunk of junk that is Kamelion, it really cheapens any qualities it might otherwise have had.


Jeff R. said...

I've always thought that it's interesting/odd that they went to the 'male companion==potential betrayer of the Doctor' plot three times in a row...

Siskoid said...

I suppose technically Kamelion was a neuter and could have been played by actresses (he's briefly Tegan in this episode).


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