Doctor Who #302: The Daemons Part 2

"Benton, get on to the BBC. See if you can find out what’s going on down there."TECHNICAL SPECS: First aired May 29 1971.

IN THIS ONE... UNIT goes to Devil's End, but the Brig, at least, can't get through the heat barrier. A giant devil walks the countryside.

REVIEW: The apocalypse started and the UNIT boys missed it watching sports (aside from a very creepy image of Jo over the Doctor's prone body before the Beeb switched to a technical difficulties card) or in the case of the Brig, away on what seems like some indiscretion (catching up to him in bed is off-putting). After their phone line is cut, I was asking myself if UNIT had become SO useful to the Doctor, it had to be nerfed (unlikely), but Yates and Benton got to Devil's End fine, so I guess not. The Brigadier's still stuck behind a heat barrier that very effectively makes stuff blow up or burn. I think "Guy Leopold"'s script and/or Christopher Barry's direction may instead be trying to show a UNIT that's literally out of touch as a way to reinforce how this supernatural thriller is quite unlike the science fiction threats they've faced before. The Doctor and Jo may SAY the tomb looks like a spaceship, but I'm afraid I don't see it. One of the episode's few flaws, but one that supports what's good about The Daemons.

Some might ask if Doctor Who should be doing Gothic horror in the first place, even if superficially draped in science fiction ideas, but History has proven this a fruitful genre for the program. While the proportion in the past has leaned towards SF more strongly, one can hardly deny its strong Gothic elements, whether we're talking about the haunted city of The Daleks, the Cyber-mummies of Tomb of the Cybermen, or more recently the wounded Earth lashing out and creating werewolves in Inferno. The Daemons is more overt and a new story format for Who, overlaid though it is over the UNIT/Master era set-up. Chris Barry is a superlative choice to direct it, creating, for example, heat effects through color, camera filters and practical effects that outdo Inferno's by a wide margin. The 30-foot devil Azal is never seen, but Barry keeps the camera high to simulate its point of view, and this even in scenes where he isn't physically present. Note how his high priest, the Master, is often shot from above, as if watched over by some ethereal presence. The giant, scorched hoofprints are pretty cool too. As for the smaller, animated stone gargoyle, it's almost impossible to watch it today without thinking of it as a devilish antecedent of the Weeping Angels.

Like the Brigadier, the Doctor's initially out of action (thanks to another nicely done effect), frozen near death. He gets better, after a good example of a human denying the existence of the unexplained, i.e. the Doctor's dual hearts, in many ways the theme of these early Daemons episodes. Benton stepping up to be Part 2's action hero is a pleasant surprise, getting to show martial prowess in a better-than-average fight before stepping onto Azal's platform by mistake and doing some effective pain acting. From what has gone before, I didn't take John Levene for such a physical actor.

- I feel like I've used the word "effective" or some synonyms too many times in this review, but that's just what The Daemons Part 2 is. Effective. I'm enjoying it tremendously.


Eric TF Bat said...

I grew up with Doctor Who on ABC TV in Australia, but for some reason I never saw the episodes with the Master in them -- any of them. This would have been the late 1970s. Did they get pre-censored for us poor sensitive Antipodeans because Roger Delgado's beard was so terrifying, or did this particular season just suffer from the lost & found problems that plagued earlier Doctors? Any ideas?


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