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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 27 October 2014
A devilishly fine tale of pastoral horror, with demonic rites, sacrifice, witchcraft and Morris dancing! Spin this magical DVD and unleash the power of `The Dæmons'! 5*

All was quiet in the sleepy village, dreaming in the spring sunshine on the chalk downs of Wiltshire - until one day the Vicar popped round to raise the devil. `The Reverend Mr. Magister' is not reverent at all, but a fallen Time Lord with a greed for power and a secret alien science at his command, though the `devil' he wants to raise is real enough ...

`The Dæmons' may well be the best of all the Jon Pertwee-era stories. It's a strong field (`The Sea Devils', `Inferno', `Day of the Daleks' and more) but this is a serious contender for the prize, because it combines all the classic elements that make up this era and it's very nearly perfect. This is quite a long review, so thanks if you get to the end, but this is one of my all-time favourite stories and the definitive `Doctor Who' tale of good over evil.

Almost half the story is location filming and Aldbourne looks perfect as the `stunt double' for `Devil's End'. Christopher Barry's direction and experimental multi-camera technique get the best out of their two weeks on location; the English countryside in spring looks beautiful and is put to great use in the story. Roger Ford's studio sets are so believable - the pub, the vicarage and the church. You won't find a hellish cavern crypt under many English churches (!) but that looks great too, as do most of the special effects - the famous model work in the final episode is impressively realistic no matter how many times you've seen it.

The storyline is less unbelievable than the fact that the BBC junked all but one colour episode of this enchanting creation. In an impressive display of technical wizardry, surviving mono film was mixed with a personal NTSC colour recording in some electronic cauldron to raise `The Dæmons' back to life. I still remember the excitement in 1992 when this was first done and watching one of the TV classics of my childhood again. This new, colour reprocessed DVD release is even better. The sound is still slightly harsh in some places and episode 4 does stand above the others in all its original colour glory, but the overall result is - magic.

Producer Barry Letts and Robert Sloman wrote a superb script, under the pseudonym `Guy Leopold' because of sensitivity at the BBC about producers writing their own shows. It's wonderfully atmospheric, with pitch-perfect dialogue between the regulars, well written guest characters and a terrific pace. Admittedly it does borrow elements from `Quatermass' and `The Midwich Cuckoos', but an unmistakably `Doctor Who' twist is put on them to create an unforgettable story - fiendish horror fit for a teatime audience and a `black magic' plot which is revealed to be science fiction.

Miss Hawthorne is convinced it *is* black magic. As the local (good) witch, she's horrified by the plans of the BBC and Professor Horner the distinguished archaeologist to open the mysterious Bronze Age barrow known locally as `The Devil's Hump'. If that wasn't bad enough, they plan to do it live on TV, at midnight on April 30th - Beltane, second only to Halloween in the occult calendar.
Damaris Hayman is superb as the good witch; there was a suggestion she should play the character as more `dithery', which would have been a major mistake. Fortunately, her wish to give a serious performance was granted and she conjures up one of the most memorable `good' guest characters of the Pertwee years.

Because Miss Hawthorne really is a witch; some of the villagers, chatting over their pints at `The Cloven Hoof', think she's more than eccentric but her otherworldliness and visions are the sort of thing that happens if you grow up in the village of Devil's End, where strange forces have been at work for centuries. She taps into fragments of that power for `good' as a white witch; the Master has greater knowledge and very different plans but the source of his power is the same. The idea that identical knowledge may be used for good or evil, and that a choice must be made, is at the heart of this story and is ultimately played out with the Doctor and the Master representing the two `sides'. It's a constant theme of `Doctor Who' but never expressed more clearly than here.

Back at UNIT HQ, the Doctor is watching the archaeological dig on television, sees Miss Hawthorne prophesying doom (live on BBC3(!)) and dashes off to Devil's End in Bessie, not helped much by Jo Grant's map reading skills! The Brigadier is off out to a dinner (and looking very smart in his regimental mess jacket), while Captain Yates and Sgt. Benton are left on duty with TV rugby and corned beef sarnies ... by the time they switch back to watching the dig, all hell has broken loose in Devil's End and the Doctor is at death's door, so off they fly to the rescue ("MY helicopter?" demands the Brig. in outrage!) The opening episode is possibly the best ever, superb writing and filming and the first of four terrific cliffhangers.

The Doctor and Jo need all the help they can get, because from the ancient, pagan cavern beneath the church at Devil's End, the Master and his village coven are raising the primeval force that lay sleeping in the barrow - Azal, last of the Dæmons. His presence is felt throughout the whole story with special effects and camera work, but cleverly, we never actually see him until the episode 4 cliffhanger, when Stephen Thorne explodes onto the screen, bringing Azal to thunderous life. It's a full-on performance and exactly right for Azal's Earth-shaking personality.

Even the Master is afraid - he's in control of the village, through a mix of fear, hypnotism and temptation, but the Dæmon is beyond anyone's control - though that won't stop the Master from trying every incantation he knows, in a brilliant performance. This is probably Roger Delgado's best story; always excellent, in this one he brings new range to the Master - the rational `Vicar', the scheming would-be dictator, the Time Lord fearful of what he has summoned but driven on by pride and a lust for the power he assumes is his for the taking - but the choice is not his to make.

Flying in to the rescue at Devil's End (above a track of terrifyingly large hoof prints ...) Richard Franklin and John Levene have two great roles as Yates and Benton, and slightly unfortunate 1970s taste in `plain clothes'! There's plenty of action to share around, Mike Yates joins an exciting chase sequence and Sgt. Benton is faintly embarrassed to become Miss Hawthorne's "very perfect gentle knight" after he rescues her. She later returns the favour, wielding a deadly handbag containing a witch's secret weapon ...

All the UNIT `family' have beautifully written parts and play them perfectly. Nicholas Courtney gives the Brigadier a wonderful blend of determination and exasperation at his inability to do anything very useful! By the time he reaches Devil's End the village is sealed off behind a barrier of hellish heat, and it takes all of the Doctor's scientific genius, some shouting and the just-about-adequate skills (the bloke's not a Time Lord!) of Technical Sergeant Osgood (Alec Linstead) to break through it.

When he finally confronts the enemy, the Brig. is coolness personified: "Chap with the wings there. Five rounds, rapid." It doesn't do any good (as usual) because the "chap with the wings" is called Bok, shoots fire from his fingers and is made of stone ... The costume, makeup and Stanley Mason's performance combine perfectly to create this horrible little gargoyle. It would have been great to see Bok actually fly but I suppose the resources weren't available then, though it could certainly have used more Axon-style smoke and effects when some unfortunate villager gets vaporised.

Jon Pertwee gives a definitive performance and must have really enjoyed all his driving and motorcycle action filming. As the Doctor, he keeps everyone focused on the truth - they are facing "science, not sorcery", even if the science is from far beyond the Earth. And only he realises how great the danger is - it makes him quite tetchy at times; perhaps even the Doctor doesn't have a way to win, but he'll risk everything in the attempt. Katy Manning does seem to have quite a lot of getting into trouble to do as Jo Grant, but companions usually do; she has some lovely character moments, well written and acted and her choice at the end is Jo's finest hour, totally in character and an iconic moment.

To play devil's advocate for a second, you could say Azal's ending is slightly illogical in the context of "science, not sorcery", but having raised such an all-powerful adversary it was always going to be difficult to find a totally scientific way to defeat him. Perhaps there was some actual magic on May Day in Devil's End after all ...

This is a superb example of all that's best in Jon Pertwee-era `Doctor Who'. To have every story now available on DVD is a delight; to grow up watching this wonderful series was even better. In 1971, the thrilling final episode was the first colour television programme I ever saw, at a friend's house. A Saturday afternoon in June, but we were indoors and glued to the TV - no power on Earth (or from beneath it, or beyond it) was going to make us miss the last of `The Dæmons'!

"DVD with `The Dæmons' there. Five stars, rapid." 5*

DVD Special Features:
The commentary is excellent, as director Christopher Barry, Katy Manning, Richard Franklin and Damaris Hayman enjoy reliving the memories of a happy production. It takes a few minutes to `warm up' then it's fun and informative right through.
`The Devil Rides Out' (29 minutes) - a good `making of' feature with a nicely theatrical opening sequence but I think I enjoyed the commentary even more.
`Remembering Barry Letts' (34 minutes) - an excellent feature looking back at the life of the well-liked `Doctor Who' legend, with many contributions from family and friends. It's a reminder that the classic era was this good because of the quality of the people who worked on it. Producer, director and writer - and he could have guest-starred too!
`Location Film' (7 minutes) - this is a little gem, an 8mm silent colour film shot on the village green in Aldbourne during the story's location filming. So many details to take in, you'll want to watch this a few times. The amateur filmmaker isn't credited but deserves a big `thank-you' from fans.
`Colourisation Test' (25 minutes) - episode 1 as it looked after the first test of recolourisation in 1992. A very impressive demonstration, as is the improvement from there to the new DVD quality.
`Tomorrow's World' (5 minutes) - a segment from 1992 explaining the colourisation process, just before the re-broadcast of `The Dæmons'. This programme was *the* science magazine to watch, broadcast weekly on BBC1 in primetime for decades and very popular. Just like `Doctor Who' - and the BBC dumped both of them!
`Photo Gallery' (6 minutes) - a very good collection with some fun location pictures, and a little surprise ...
`Radio Times' Listings as a PDF, including a short interview feature with Katy Manning.
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on 14 June 2018
The Doctor and Jo travel to what seems to be a peaceful village until certain forces are disturbed at a burial ground where a news reporting is doing a story on a dig and a woman who the villagers think she is a crazy old lady thinking she is has gone round the twist has forseen death and danger and tries to warn everyone. The Doctor goes to investigate when a mighty explosion occurs and he is knocked out, giving those around him the thought he has died and are shocked when they discover he has 2 hearts.

Captain Mike Yates and Sgt Benton arrive after they try to get in touch with the film crew about what happened at the explosion and even try to contact the Brigadier so decide on their own to use the Brigs helicopter to fly down and find out how Jo and the Doctor are and what is going on.

Look out for the Master who is going around the village dressed as the local vicar but calling himself Majester and the Doctor soon realises his old foe is up to something and has to try and stop him from unleashing the Daemon and creating hell all over the world.

The makers of Knight Rider must have watched this and got inspiration for Kitt who can drive himself as the Doctor plays a little trick on Jo where Bessie looks like she is driving herself.

We also get some Morris dancing and we see The Doctor, Jo, Sgt Benton and the white witch otherwise known as Miss Hawthorne dancing around the maypole at the end which is very funny and the Brigs reaction to Cpt Mike Yates is he'd rather have a pint!
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on 24 October 2013
Perhaps it was just the age of Aquarius, but I'm inclined to hope that there was more to this singular success than pseudo-science and a quote from Hair.

The script, certainly; penned by Robert Sloman and Barry Letts, it is tailored very strongly to the traits and strengths of well-known characters, the Brigadier getting most of the best lines, while Yates and Benton agreeably bicker about rugby and grumble about food - to be continued in the following story. The UNIT 'family' functioning at its best, and they're all out in the country for a picnic with Dennis Wheatley.

I don't think I've ever met a Satanist; Avebury, where I lived for a Summer season, had its magic (or is that Majick?) shop, but nobody ever introduced himself as 'I'm Damien; I'm a Satanist' (I did meet a self-confessed 'black magician' in Cardiff, come to think of it, but he just seemed to be a poorly-turned-out fraud with tomato soup in his whiskers, and his magical adventures seemed more inclined to summon the constabulary than the Lord of Flies). Be that as it may, in the Whoniverse every village - be it Devil's End, Fetchborough, the one nearest to the Nine Travellers, or Moreton Harwood - has its blood sacrifice cult* - providing that the local cannibals haven't eaten them - and this is the original example, the master print, if you like.

There is still a delicious double irony in the Master working as a country vicar - and moonlighting (literally) as the head of a Satanist coven. And you can see what might attract him; he needs to summon up the devil, therefore he needs the cult, but Satanism is taboo so he needs a legit occupation, so he could also be the leader of a different cult as a day job - same line of work, just for different firms. The fact that the two cults are supposed (by some humans anyway) to be on opposite sides of the moral coin is just one more twist on the joke, and the Master does love his little joke. I like it that his take on Christianity is to talk about rationalism and existentialism - rather as if he has a copy of Jesus For Dummies somewhere but hasn't actually got beyond the magazine 'Philosophy Today' that he got in the newsagent.

In terms of Satanic Black Magic, the Deamons really has got the lot; animated stone imps, hissing black cats, sudden death in the churchyard, possessed policeman, the aforesaid black-robed cult, widespread local corruption, and a village witch.

Now witches I have met, and in some number, and Damaris Hayman's portrayal of Miss Olive Hawthorne is pretty damn true to what form I've seen. I seem to recall her expressing at least a nodding acquaintance with magic in The Making Of, and it really does not surprise me, she is highly plausible, and Miss Hawthorne quite clearly knows her stuff - witness her banishing the evil influence that's possessing Constable Groom - whatever the power or rationale behind it, magic clearly works.

And this is one of the strengths of the story; whatever it tells us, it says it with a perfectly straight face - there is the BBC, there is the country village, there is rugby football, there is black magic, there is a fifty foot Deamon, there is the heat barrier, and that must be real because it's set fire to a bread van. The devil is a big idea, it doesn't matter if we really believe in him or not; this story makes him plausible by not getting operatic about him.

The village of Aldbourne is a delightful location, and still does quite well for Deamons tourists. A 'Third Lord Aldbourne' gets mentioned by the BBC anchorman. The 1957 film, Night of the Demon, is referenced more than once; the pictures of demons and the wind storm feature in both, as do massive footprints. Miss Hawthorne's cat 'Greymalkin' - named in the excellent novel though not the TV - is the namesake of Karswell's feline demon.

My only misgiving is the explanation, and indeed the denouement. The idea of god legends being inspired by alien visitors was coined by Erich von Daniken in Chariots of the Gods three years earlier, and Dr Who returns to the notion (doing it rather better) in Pyramids of Mars, but while I can buy the 'Satan was an alien' bit, I'm not sure I'm so comfortable with the 'Humanity is an experiment' idea, or with the 'I'm going to hand on my powers to someone else' bit. It all seems a bit pat, when compared to the honest to badness 'I am the Devil, and I'm going to eat everyone's soul'.

And if Azal were simply the Devil, then Jo's melodramatic attempt at self-sacrifice might well banish him back to his pit of fire and brimstone, but if the horn'd beast is really just a disappointed scientist, he'd just knock Jo aside with a spatula and get on with killing the Dr.

Nice church explosion though, and the Morris Dancing set piece is wonderful, and the heat barrier is beautifully realised, and the ending is a delight.

*Or, in one conspicuous example, ridiculously well-equipped re-enactment society.
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on 16 March 2015
Jon Pertwee, Rodger Delgardo, and that famous line "chap with wings there, five rounds rapid" are all in this slugfest of 70's Dr Who, what do you want, "jam on it son?" this story is a hoot from beginning to end, mystery force fields, strange aliens, the master. you couldn't squeeze anything else in if you tried, no doubt Steven King was watching this when he wrote the under the dome story, sorry, the Doctor's been there, seen it, done that !
The actor playing the deamon really chews the scenery, all the characters are played with believable inoccence or menace and Jon Pertwee is in his element cobbling things together to do for the alien, since then I have regarded maypole dancening with suspicion and beware country pubs with learing locals, just in case. And not to mention vicars with exploding churches with alien spacecraft underneath.
Watch it and see.
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on 13 February 2016
What can you say??

The best ever Pertwee story?? A good candidate for best ever story in the Who annals??

VERY POSSIBLY!

Love the old English atmosphere, the sense of genuine menace, the eccentric English characters and some effective monsters. I always love the whole occult meets scifi premise as used here and so many years later in Tennant's The Satan Pit. Its a fav genre of mine with classics like Quatermass & The Pit and The Stone Tape.

I for one love the earthbound Who of the 1970s, its never been bettered for atmosphere. The Master is on top form here, beguiling and menacing at the same time

This is one for feel alongside Image Of The Fendahl and Horror Of Fang Rock, maybe Terror Of The Zygons and Green Death - nothing better than seeing our heritage terrorised by otherworldly forces!!
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on 25 July 2014
The closer of Jon Pertwee's second season, this five parter by show runner Barry Letts sees Doctor #3 and U.N.I.T investigate strange goings on at at the little village of Devil's End, brought on by a local archaeological dig. Once again, The Master is up to no good, disguised as the village Reverend, intending to awaken a power from the depths of humanity's past. This story has suffered a sort of odd reputation among fans; once hailed as all time classic, its release on home media has since lead to a downgrade in reception. So, where do I stand?

Actually, I think this is a fine serial. Aside from yet another terrific cast, the U.N.I.T family as strong as it ever was while Delgado relishes his villainy, the story boasts a classic Horror style, very much in the vain of Hammer, be it the satanic rituals in the church crypt, or the unsettling opening in the village during a stormy night. This is Who's production team at its best, taking the low budget and simple setting and crafting a solid atmosphere.

Of course, this is then leads to Letts' script; for the most part, he pulls it off. The small setting, enhanced by a later trap in part three, creates a tense, pot-boiling atmosphere as our heroes try to thwart the Master's schemes, who literally has the whole village under his spell. Mixed with that thick layer of visual atmosphere, and you have a consistently enjoyable serial, though due to the limited locations, there is a bit of a 'running around' feel to the later parts that does feel a tad pad-ish, and Pertwee's Doctor is at his brashest, often condescending and demanding, so its not easy to get behind him as our hero.

As for the DVD release itself, 2Entertain's Classic Who series delivers yet again, with a commentary, several featurettes and the PDF materials from the serial's original transmission, spread across two discs so this is a pretty meaty release. To close, while the serial does stretch a little at points, it doesn't change the fact that 'Daemons' is a good story, laced with great characters and a very intense, evocative atmosphere.
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on 13 April 2013
The Daemons (where's the symbol to combine the a and e?) is often held up as a classic example of good 70s Doctor Who, and I am in full agreement. It has all the usual ingredients:
* UNIT family at the top of their game;
* the Doctor both stern and tender;
* lots of action; and
* the Master both suave, evil and likeable.

The occult framing device works well, as we get to see the Doctor's unswerving belief in science pitted against the villagers embracing devil worship.

Personally, I always felt the Daemons lacked something. I'm not even quite sure what it is. Perhaps the plot meanders just a bit too much... And yet I love The Sea Devils, which I'm sure the same accusation could be levelled at too.

I find myself agreeing with Terrance Dicks (in one of the extras) that the ending isn't totally satisfying.

The extras are all good, and the picture quality is excellent. Definitely worth buying.
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on 13 January 2017
What makes a classic Who adventure? A dashing Doctor, a spunky companion, military might, an evil enemy, sudden deaths, unexplained weather, witches and maypoles? Well, this story has all of those, plus the very devil himself!

Thanks to being jammed packed with all these elements, this is my absolute favourite Who story and takes place in the Golden Era of Who, with sterling support from the team at UNIT. I love the relationship between the Doctor and Jo Grant in this story - she is the heart of their partnership, whilst he provides the maturity and scepticism. The Master is at his maniacal best here, using "black magic" to summon forth a powerful alien creature in the hopes of using its power to fulfil his own nefarious ends, whilst The Brigadier just wants to shoot things ("Chap with wings,five rounds rapid")!

This is classic Who; a great story, lots of interesting supporting characters and, as always, good triumphs over evil.
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on 21 September 2015
Simply classic Doctor Who with the best portrayal of The Master ever from Rodger Delgado ! As always, the special effects are not the best but do represent the best that could be done at the time with the budgets and technology available. This is, however, a very good story with some good comic lines, the best of which is from the Brigadier in response to the threatening appearance of a stone grotesque statue coming to life with the immortal, "Jenkins.....chap with the wings, there. Five rounds rapid". Whilst the standard of acting is variable it is in the main pretty good and the cliff-hanger episode endings are all excellent.
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on 15 February 2015
An awsome offering from the Pertwee era, spread over five episodes the Daemons has the Master convincing the local population of Devils End that they must follow him to gain everything they've ever wanted, There's a white witch trying to warn everybody of inpending doom and U.N.I.T doing there thing, all being fimed by a news team from BBC 3 !! How did they know there'd be a BBC 3 way back in 1971. There are plenty of extra's on a separate dvd including a very touching tribute to the late producer Barry Letts. All in all a very watchable and thrilling tale.
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