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21 September 2014

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

Day 629: The King’s Demons, Episode Two

Dear diary,

In hindsight, this episode looks largely like an introduction for Kamelion as a shape-shifting robot companion, getting us all up to speed on the various abilities that the robot possesses, and getting him aboard the TARDIS ready for adventures to continue. Obviously, as it turned out, that plan fell by the wayside due to the robot’s shortcomings in the studio… and I think that’s a real shame. Kamelion is one of those elements of the programme that Doctor Who fans discuss in hushed tones. More than once, I’ve seen him hailed as an example of John Nathan-Turner getting it so spectacularly wrong… and yet I love the idea.

I mean, let’s be honest, if you’re given the opportunity to add a new companion to the TARDIS team, one which is an actual robot, able to move its lips in time to pre-recorded dialogue, and tilt its head, and (according to the plans for the machine outlined in a special feature on the DVD of this story) eventually walk around, then it seems too good a chance to pass up. Peter Davison sums up in that same documentary where it all fell apart: if the current Doctor Who production team were offered a robot that could do all of this effectively and on their budget… alarm bells would start ringing.

It’s a real shame, I think, because the design of Kamelion is really rather nice. It somehow manages to create a whole new style all its own - almost an idea of what a futuristic art deco might look like. What we see if him on screen here is rather impressive, even when it’s just little tilts of the head, and I have to admit that he’s quite near the top of companions I’d like to see Character Options produce for the classic figure line - I’d love to display a little Kamelion next to the Fifth Doctor on the shelf! Heck, if I’m honest, I’d quite like a model of him sat in the chair with a lute!

As for the story here itself… it does come as a bit of a let down after yesterday’s episode. There, I commented about how much I’d enjoyed the build up of the mystery - that something wasn’t right with the king, and that these events are somehow in contrast to what history tells us. All of that is great. The revel of the king as a shape-shifting robot is great, too (and it’s a fantastic reveal, as the Doctor hears the king’s song from Episode One coming from inside a room of the castle, and we follow the Doctor’s reaction as he enters the room, before cutting to the reveal of Kamelion), but I think my problem comes from the fact that the Master is in here at all.

The whole scheme just doesn’t feel like something the Master would do. In fairness, I’d forgotten that he planned to then take the robot to other worlds and pull similar tricks there, but frankly the man just doesn’t have the patience for a scheme like this in his current incarnation. Delgado I could just about imagine doing it, but even that’s a stretch - this just isn’t a Master plan… it’s a Meddling Monk plan! A shame, because it does detract from the overall impact of the story. Were it simply any old alien with a robot pulling this stunt the nI think I’d go along with it, but making it the Master simply for the sake of bringing him back… I’m afraid that slightly ruins it for me. 

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