20×6. The King’s Demons
Writer: Terence Dudley
Director: Tony Virgo
Script Editor: Eric Saward
Producer: John Nathan-Turner
Synopsis: The TARDIS arrives in 13th century England, where the crew are initially mistaken as demons and the Master is using a robot named Kamelion to impersonate King John and prevent the signature of the Magna Carta, so as to undermine the future of British democracy and further his plans for universal domination.
Review: Perhaps the most telling statement about “The King’s Demons” is that I can barely think of anything to say about it as a reviewer. About the only points worth comment, I’d say, are that (1) Turlough’s somewhat contrary nature is reinforced by the fact that he still dislikes Earth and is less than pleased to end up there again; (2) the crew get mistaken as demons because they appear to possess supernatural powers to a 13th century mind; and (3) the Fifth Doctor continues to be fallible when it comes to keeping his companions safe (in this case it’s Turlough who spends a while locked up before the Doctor and Tegan find an opportunity to do anything about it). Past that…well, it’s not exactly bad, but it’s hardly anything we haven’t seen before: once again, we have the standard-issue BBC medieval period piece (of which I’ve never been a fan), once again one of the TARDIS crew is captured and endangered, and once again the Master is trying to take over the universe. (And, as others have pointed out, surely undermining British democracy – to which the Magna Carta was not that important in the first place – could be but a tiny sliver of what he’d have to do if that’s really his goal.) The addition of Kamelion to the TARDIS crew has potential, but sadly it would end up largely wasted.
While the new Doctor Who series has found success with shorter stories, the two-parters in the original series have yet to produce anything close to a classic, and I think the problem is that they stick to the slower pace and style typical of the longer serials. The result is not so much a more efficient brand of storytelling as simply a slighter one, with the script managing to do little beyond check off the necessary boxes to get to the end.
Rating: ** (out of four)