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4 November 2013

Will Brooks’ 50 Year Diary - watching Doctor Who one episode a day from the very start...

Day 308: The Dæmons, Episode Three

Dear diary,

When I wrote yesterday about this story reminding me of Quatermass and the Pit, I feared that it might be flippant of me. I was basing the link simply on the scene of the Doctor and Jo exploring the hidden spaceship and the fact that it had recently been discovered unexpectedly during a dig. Actually, though, this is very much like that third Quatermass serial, innit?

The mysterious spaceship turns out to be the craft of a species who periodically visits Earth and who have inspired our mythology - particularly when it comes to horned creatures being the devil. I have to say that this similarity isn't really heeling The Dæmons win me over any more, because suddenly I'm just too busy trying to spot other connections.

Earlier today, I was tying to explain the issues of 'popular' stories to my other half. I mused that The Dæmons probably isn't any better or worse than Colony in Space, but because I'm coming into the story expecting something from years of reputation, everything's just a bit of a let down. I'm automatically marking this story down a few points because it's just not as good as I'd expected it to be, and I think it's the same issue that's plagued stories from Evil of the Daleks to Fury From the Deep.

The thing is, there's still a lot to like here! It's the perfect example of the Pertwee years as being action packed, in a scene that sees a helicopter chase end with a big explosion! The Doctor takes off on a motorbike! Jo gets thrown (gently) from Bessie! I'm just not bothered by any of it. The direction isn't bad, but it's just very workaday. I was excited to see the return of Christopher Barry because the last two stories he directed fared pretty well with me… but then I remembered that neither existed in the archives, so what I'd enjoyed were the telesnaps! Going back to Barry's last surviving story - The Romans - I seem to recall it was nothing special there, either.

The Master is very good in this one, and it's nice to see him getting the chance to really use his powers of persuasion. He's somewhat hampered by calling in the gargoyle when things get out of hand, though. The design is nice enough, but when it's prancing around on the screen it just looks a bit naff - nowhere near as scary as I'd always assumed it to be. The effects when it disposes of someone are quite good, but it's still just a bit of a let down for me. At least Roger Delgado really suits those glasses.

To some extent, I'd been enjoying the relationship between the Doctor and Jo, and it had been helping me along a bit, but today he's just downright dismissive of her in places. It's the kind of character that I remember the Third Doctor as being, and I think it's the one I always associate with a dislike of the era. In yesterday's episode when he asks Jo if she failed latin as well as science, it comes across as a bit of a joke: just some banter between good friends. Today, he comes across as simply being a bit of an arse, and it's not really helping me to enjoy the story…

Once UNIT are properly in the village and we can get a big, end-of-season battle, I think I may start to get more involved, but it's looking increasingly like The Dæmons may end up on the pile of 'classics' that just don't appeal to me…

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