Third Doctor, Season Eight, Serial Five
reviewed by Tom-Tom
Ah, finally a Doctor Who serial suitable for Halloween. It begins on a dark stormy night in a village called Devil’s End with a creeping toad, a disconsolately mewing black cat, and a homely, old ogre of a man emerging into the downpour with his black dog. A stately woman with a Margaret Thatcher-like cadence calls out black warnings of an immediate threat. The scene has been set for a spooky good time. If you have been paying attention at all this season, you will already have figured out who the nefarious (Time Lord) nemesis will probably be. What’s amusing is the guise he adopts this time.
Scientifically debunking the occult and finding its alien origins is a rather new pattern at this point and will continue on to feature in some of the later Doctor Who stories. Some of the incantations of the conjuring “vicar” are quite creepy. The eyes of horned devil statues glow red and inexplicable cave-ins occur.
The Doctor finds himself in mortal peril rather early on in this serial and while being filmed on live television no less. The stately woman turns out to be a practicing witch and an honest to God moving stone gargoyle named Bok (Midsummer’s Night Dream reference perchance?) descends into a cave to scare the crap out of the Doctor and Jo Grant. Perhaps great weather wasn’t the best setting to show our beastie. The “special”effects don’t stand up well to bright sunlight. There’s an intriguing discussion of the origin of horned beasts as signs of power throughout human history and how certain alien forces may have nudged civilization along its merry way providing the origin for legends of the supernatural. Daemons (the Doctor pronounces it as Day-moans) from Daemos. Currently, they seem to be lending the “vicar” supernatural powers of the elements. A turn of events similar to but preceding Stephen King’s “Under the Dome” novel takes place with the Doctor, Jo, the resident witch, and select members of UNIT find themselves caught in the middle. What continues is a series of weird happenings from the larger than life Daemon summoned by the “vicar” and viewed from behind his ankles, a morris dance in which dancers attack UNIT members and tie up the Doctor for burning, with the Time Lord effecting a sort of Wizard of Oz hold on everyone with his “magical” show of power (it may have influenced the “Return of the Jedi’s” C3PO as a god scene). There are a couple of clumsily staged fight sequences which make little sense but are unintentionally amusing to watch. All the while the gargoyle in a leotard is literally a hop, skip, and a jump away from blasting any and everyone out of existence. At one point, the Brigadier orders one of his men, “Jenkins. Chap with the wings. Five rounds rapid.” Must have taken a few bouts of chuckles to do the shot perfectly.
There’s a really corny finish with a lot of yelling from Azal, the Daemon summoned by the “vicar” who seems to have been conjured from a Jacob Marley role rather than from another plane of existence. But altogether, this episode runs the gamut: comedy, action, suspense, camp, and a compelling rethinking of the horned devil tale.