...with a look at “The Daemons,” a five-part Pertwee era episode initially transmitted May-June 1971. The script is credited to Guy Leopold - Leopold is actually Producer Barry Lettsand co-writer Robert Sloman.
Many original tapes of this story were wiped by BBC back in the 70s, but an extremely solid restoration of the episode...
...was subsequently accomplished through fascinating means referenced below.
THIS piece at SFX reveals that BBC Three has evidently decided against another Series/Season of THE FADES, per an interview with the amazing Johnny Harris.,..who played beleaguered yet madly driven Neil in the first Season/Series of that show.
THE FADES was easily one of televisions boldest works of recent years, driven by an uncompromising truth and unpredictability which many found unnerving. It's currently available on Blu-ray HERE in the U.S. and HERE in the U.K. It's also streamable in HD via iTunes (U.S.), and via Amazon HERE in the U.S.
THE FADES was produced by Carloine Skinner, who is joining the forthcoming Season/Series 7 of DOCTOR WHO.
WARIS HUSSEIN TALKS WHO GENESIS IN NEW YORK CITY APRIL 10!!!
The great Waris Hussein, director of the first ever DOCTOR WHO story ("An Unearthly Child") and an integral part of the show's formative/development process back in the day, will be speaking at an event called DOCTOR WHO: HOW IT ALL BEGAN in New York City on April 10th.
If I'd heard about this sooner (I only recently found out - not sure I can pull together resources in time), I would've moved Heaven and Earth to attend this event. It's an opportunity which is unique, infrequent, significant, and one many U.S. WHOvians may, at the risk of being crass, never have again.
The newest Issue of DOCTOR WHO MAGAZINE evidently offers the "audition script" used to read actresses for the new companion roll which will be unveiled during this year's Christmas Special. This role, we recently learned, went to the lovely Jenna Louise-Coleman. You can find said audition script HERE.
Many people are drawing inferences from this mini-script…the character's name, for example…or that the scene presented might somehow represent an actual sequence we'll eventually see on the show.
This could be correct, but is not necessarily correct. An audition script is just that…a script fragment generated for an audition. They are often specifically designed to challenge prospective actors to make sure they're up to the task being put before them, and frequently have nothing whatsoever to do with what eventually ends up on-screen.
SOMETIMES the material is used or cannibalized. Sometimes it is not. Sometimes, the material is apparent somewhere down the road…but takes on a different form. For example: the episode we discuss below…"The Daemons"…grew out of a script fragment written by Producer Barry Letts to audition for the Doctor's new companion (in "The Daemons" DVD extras, Katy Manning recounts elements of that story's script feeling familiar to her when she read it, only to remember that some movements were clearly inspired by the material she was given to read when auditioning for her part - Jo Grant). Sometimes, an audition script is comprised of previously used elements and dialogue from a show - another way of ensuring whomever's reading it "fits in" to the vibe The Powers That Be are trying to uphold.
So, who knows whether we'll eventually see a paranormal-flavored sequence featuring a companion named Jasmine. It's certainly possible, but don't take it to the bank.
How crazy can the audition process be?
“...suppose something was to happen and nobody knew the explanation? Well, nobody in the world. In the Universe. That would be magic, wouldn’t it?” - Jo Grant , “The Daemons” Episode 1
"The Daemons" opens in a town called Devils’ End with a parade of horror/nightmare tropes, including a dark and stormy night, a miserable looking cat, backlit tombstones, an awkwardly creeping shadow which blurs across the ground with uneasy stealth, and a hapless townsman who braves the elements with his adorably floppy dog.
The man quickly encounters...something...and dies of an heart attack, so says the local Doctor (Eric Hillyard). But local supernaturalist Olive Hawthorne (Damaris Hayman) warns that if nearby, long-sealed barrows are opened up via a current archeological dig, “disaster” will befall the people of Devils End. “This is just the beginning!” she insists, fearing that dark and terrible forces may soon be unleashed.
Naturally, said an incredulous archeological team proceeds with plans to penetrate the subterranean chamber, despite Miss Hawthorne’s warning. This is to occur during a BBC Three press op at midnight April 30 - Bletane - “the greatest occult festival of the year, bar Halloween.” And, not-so-coincidentally, the night before the release of a new book by Professor Horner (Robin Wentworth), leader of the dig.
Sensing that Miss Hawthorne’s concern may be well founded, the Doctor (Jon Pertwee) and Jo (Katy Manning) race to stop Horner and his team from unsealing the barrows, arriving just in time to witness the release of ancient and terrifying forces...
...whose arrival, unbeknownst to the Doctor, is greeted enthusiastically by his long-time adversary, the Master (Roger Delgado)!
“The Daemons” (pronounced several ways during the course of the story) is something of a paradox: it’s primarily memorable for what DOESN’T happen. While this sounds like slight, it isn’t intended to be so. Rather, view it as a validation of the tale’s nicely executed slow-brew, generally uneasy atmosphere - “The Daemons” is often most effective when it’s making the least in-you-face efforts. There’s a solid, classic, “suspenseful” simmer at work here, providing an unsettling undercurrent for a grander back story.
Said back story posits that many invaluable moments in human development and history were influenced by a Satyr-like species called the Daemons, a gag perhaps influenced in some small part by the Devilish ‘Overlords’ of Arthur C. Clarke’s CHILDHOOD’S END (1953). Cribbed or not, the Daemon’s involvement with mankind’s history is both a compelling and stirring notion - albeit one which is never explored quite as fully as it might’ve been herein.
(l) The Doctor (Jon Pertwee) and Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart (Nicholas Courtney). So close, yet separated by a wickedly dangerous incineration barrier deployed around, and over, the town of Devil's End.
Delgado seems to be having a fun time as the Master here, this time posing as a local Vicar in Devil’s End...where he’s marshaling and manipulating hapless townsfolk into doing his dirty work. Delgado’s Master often seems surprised by (and uncertain of) the fearsome intensity of his encounters with the Daemons...a nice touch demonstrating how precarious his scheme really is, and that even someone as intelligent and cunning as the Master can still be unnerved by ancient and elemental powers and uncertainties. The Master’s scheme in this instance often feels like more of a desperate and reckless power grab than a well-considered (excuse the pun) master-plan whose consequences have been carefully weighed.
The notion of one of DOCTOR WHO’s ‘big bads’ having to plead his case to an evidently superior force is slyly humorous, as is seeing traditionally uniformed UNIT personnel operating in the real world, in plain clothes (this may be a frequently used conceit in DOCTOR WHO, but this is the first time I’ve encountered it in my not-always-chronological journey). Sergeant Benton’s openly stated antipathy towards Morris Dancers (they ARE rather weird) affords the character a smart and welcomed touch of accessibility and “everyman” credibility - a lovely and ironic set-up for a subsequent transformation by those same dancers into marauding servants of evil (not much of a stretch to imagine such a thing).
David Simeon as Alistair Fergus - a BBC Three reporter.
"The Daemons" portends the arrival of that network by over three decades.
“The Daemons” is never terribly bold in concept - save for its introduction of the title species and their frustratingly underutilized back story - nor does the adventure conclude with any sense of particular mythological resonance. In fact, “The Daemons” is one of those occasional DOCTOR WHO episodes which could, with small tweaks here and there, stand more or less on its own - outside of the WHOverse (John Carpenter’s PRINCE OF DARKNESS comes to mind). But what the story lacks in overall gravity is more than compensated for by its irresistible tone and sheer force of its personality. Scripters Letts and Sloman have woven so much human charm into he fabric here (the slightly ditsy but somehow completely on-top-of-it Olive Hawthorne, Yates and Benton becoming distracted by television sports while on duty), that embracing the heart of this piece isn’t difficult at all. A few effects here are as dodgy as one might expect from an early 70s WHO story (the tights covering a Daemon's leg are clearly sloppily bagging around the ankles in one sequence) - but "Daemons" also features a few truly dazzling moves (a hole blasted through a relatively invisible energy shield, and various heat/lighting distortions for example). These moments were so well realized that I was compelled to ask The Powers That Be whether these sequences featured some form of digital enhancement or trickery. Evidently, they did not...which means...they're that good by today's standards, and were to begin with. They're subtle and simple, as many of the best effects should be. But they're also rather amazing.
Alien Satyrs, a ‘crazy’ but probably right witch lady, a perennially beleaguered Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart, Roger Delgado swaying between intense leader of men to a sniveling suitor of greater power, and ample Bessie collide to make “The Daemons” strangely memorable and effective, in a disarmingly and surprisingly unassuming way.
“The Daemons” is available HERE in the U.S. and HERE in the U.K.
“The Devil Rides Out: Making The Daemons” (28:39)
-- Terrance Dicks (Script Editor)
-- Katy Maning (companion Jo Grant)
-- Richard Franklin (Captain Mike Yates)
-- Christopher Barry (Director)
-- Damaris Hayman (Olive Hawthorne)
-- Sue Hedden (Assistant Floor Manager)
** Discusses how "Daemons" story grew out of a small scene scripted by Producer Barry Letts to audition the Doctor’s new companion (Manning got the job).
** Barry Letts (2008 interview) - discusses how network politics at the time could have scuttled his efforts to write for DOCTOR WHO, so he and co-author Robert Sloman scripted “The Daemons” under the name Guy Leopold (‘Leopold’ being Letts’ middle name and ‘Guy’ being the name of Sloman’s son)
** The dog in the opening of the episode kept chasing the object used to create the black shadowy shape crawling the ground in the story’s opening moments...the dog had to be taken somewhere else so the crew could ge tthe shot.
** "Never give Jon Pertwee a motorbike when he’s having a hissy fit...” - Katy Manning
“Remembering Barry Letts” (33:36)
Memories and perspective from...
-- Crispin Letts (son)
-- Dominic Letts (son)
-- Barry Letts (2008 interview)
-- Terrance Dicks
-- Derrick Sherwin (DW Producer 69-70)
-- Ronald Marsh (BBC Head of Serials 1970-74)
** A fascinating insight into the life and career of actor/producer/writer/director Barry Letts, who narrowly missed probable movie stardom when he was called to service during World War II. He ultimately found his way to television performance, and segued into writing, producing, and directing from there.
** Letts discusses his initial reticence to take on a producing role on DW.
** Discuses Letts’ fascination with (and “pioneering” efforts in ) CSO - Color Separation Overlay - a progenitor of contemporary video Chroma Key and “blue screen” techniques.
** Briefly touches on the casting of Tom Baker
“Location Film” (6:42)
A reel of behind-the-scenes footage of the story’s location shoot at Aldbourne (standing in for Devil’s End)
“Colourisation Test” (25:01) and “Tomorrow’s World” (5:13)
Most of “The Daemons” tapes were wiped by the BBC as part of their standard housekeeping process. However black & white film reels...used to sell the show to regions where tape was not yet being used...were still in existence. Those B&W reels are the basis for this “restored” version of the story, which represents a hybridization of the B&W reels and a color home video recording from the United States (a technical process overlayed the color from the U.S. tape on top of the sharper video quality of the B&W image, then some subsequent tweaks were made to further enhance the image).
Radio Times Listings
Coming Soon (1:55)
A trailer for the forthcoming DVD of “Nightmare of Eden” (T. Baker, Story # 107).
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