Who Review – The Daemons

Posted by Richo On January 29, 2013 3 COMMENTS

Welcome to the thirty-third instalment of Who Review, my ongoing quest to review all available episodes of TV’s longest running SF series, Doctor Who. This week, season 8 draws to a close with the Doctor investigating the seemingly supernatural mystery of The Daemons.


The Daemons


22 May–19 June 1971


Jon Pertwee


Jo Grant


Just outside of the small English village of Devil’s End an archaeological team is excavating the infamous Devil’s Hump, a Bronze Age burial mound. The excavation is being broadcast live on television. Excavation co-ordinator Professor Horner tells reporters that the Hump holds the treasure and tomb of a warrior chieftain. He plans to open the tomb at the stroke of midnight.

Miss Hawthorne, a local witch, arrives to protest, warning of the unleashing of a great horned beast of evil should the archaeologists continue. Her pleas fall on deaf ears.

Watching the excavation on television, the Doctor determines that Miss Hawthorne is correct and the dig must be stopped. He and Jo head to Devil’s End.

Back in the town, Miss Hawthorne visits the new local vicar for aid. Unfortunately, the vicar is actually The Master! He calms Miss Hawthorne and tries to assure her that her fears are unfounded, but his attempts to hypnotise her fail due to her strong will.

Arriving at the excavation site, The Doctor is too late to stop the opening of the burial mound, unleashing the evil within. An earthquake rocks the area and an intense blast of cold air freezes the Doctor and Professor Horner, seemingly killing them both.

In catacombs beneath the town’s church, The Master has created a satanic cult, conducting pagan ceremonies to summon the forces of evil. As the tomb opens and unleashes the dark power within, the Master calls upon the evil, naming it Azal. Using a ceremonial dagger, he marks a stone on the floor carved with ritualistic symbols as the “appointed place.” His efforts also bring a stone gargoyle called Bok to life.

Back at UNIT HQ, Captain Yates and Sargent Benton watch as the excavation broadcast goes dead. They receive a call from Jo and agree to travel to Devil’s End in the morning. Before they can learn more from Jo, the line goes dead. They attempt to contact the Brigadier, but he is unavailable.

Back in the village, the Doctor and Horton are taken to the pub, where the local doctor examines them. Horton is dead, but the Doctor still lives. Jo keeps a watch over him, hoping he will awaken.

At the dig, the earth begins to shake once more and a gigantic, ominous unseen figure emerges.

The next morning, Benton and Yates fly over the village in a helicopter, seeing burn marks in the nearby fields that resemble huge cloven hooves. Landing, Yates manages to contact the Brigadier while Benton explores the village. He enters the church and finds Miss Hawthorne imprisoned by one of the Master’s cultists.  A fight ensues, but when he falls onto the marked stone Benton suffers a seizure. He is taken prisoner, but when the unseen giant from the tomb arrives, the cultist is burned by a deadly fireball. Benton and Miss Hawthorne flee.

The heat from the fireball spreads, engulfing the village. The Doctor finally awakens. Benton and Miss Hawthorne catch up with Yates and together they make their way to the pub to reunite with the Doctor and Jo. Miss Hawthorne imparts her encounters with the local vicar and the Doctor realises that once again The Master is manipulating events. He and Jo head to the excavation site once more to investigate.

Meanwhile, a UNIT team led by the Brigadier arrive on the outskirts of Devil’s End, only to find that their way is barred by a field of intense heat. The Brigadier manages to contact Captain Yates who debriefs him on the situation.

At the burial mound, the Doctor and Jo discover a long buried spaceship. Before they can explore further, they are attacked by Bok, but The Doctor manages to ward the creature off.

They return to the pub, where the Doctor reveals that Azal is not a supernatural creature but an alien entity from the planet Daemos. The Daemons have been influencing Earth for millennia, becoming part of human myth and legend. They see Earth and its denizens as merely an experiment. Azal himself has been imprisoned on Earth for one hundred thousand years. The Master has summoned him once, but should he summon him three times it could mean the end of the world.

While The Doctor heads to the outskirts of town to work with UNIT scientists on breaking through the heat shield, The Master summons Azal a second time, demanding that the Daemon grant him power. Azal warns the Master not to treat him as a servant, and tells him that he has sensed the presence of another being like the Master in the village. The Daemon will speak with the Doctor and determine which of the two Time Lords is worthy to take over the world, and that he will reveal his decision upon his third summoning.

Having explained to UNIT scientists how to create a disruptor to destroy the heat barrier, the Doctor returns to the village. Unfortunately, the Master’s agents are at work and the Doctor is captured by an angry mob and tied to a maypole, where he is to be burned as a sacrifice. With the aid of Benton, Miss Hawthorne manages to convince the mob that the Doctor is a powerful wizard and he is released.

Meanwhile, Jo and Captain Yates have made their way into the church tomb, where the Master is preparing the third summoning of Azal. Jo attempts to stop the ritual but is too late; Azal arrives to pass judgment. Jo is taken prisoner but Yates manages to escape.

Back in the town square, The Doctor explains to the villagers that his “magic” was really tricks of science, as are the Master’s. The villain is drawing on the psychokinetic energy of the town, energy he needs to summon Azal. Yates arrives and informs the Doctor of the threat to Jo, and together they return to the Church to rescue her. Unfortunately, their path is blocked by Bok.

On the outskirts of town, UNIT completes the disruptor and break through the heat barrier. At the church, the activation of the disruptor weakens Bok and the Doctor manages to rush past him and enter the church catacombs. The UNIT troops arrive, but the disrupter has short-circuited and Bok has regained his power, barring their entrance.

Within the church, the Master pleads his case to Azal, claiming that he will rule the Earth for humanity’s own good. The Doctor counters that humanity should be given the chance to grow and evolve under their own self-guidance. Azal passes judgment, awarding power to The Master.

The Daemon then tries to kill the Doctor, but Jo steps between them, asking Azal to kill her instead.This sudden act of self-sacrifice is completely alien to Azal, and his confusion sends him into spasms of intense agony. He tells them all to leave as he is dying.

As they flee, the church explodes and Azal is destroyed. The Master attempts to escape in the Doctor’s car but is captured. With the threat passed, May Day celebrations in Devil’s End begin.


The Daemons is one of the more wonderfully bizarre Doctor Who storylines, combining traditional Who elements with horror and supernatural tenets. Much of the storyline reflects the classic Hammer horror approach; the small English village with its folklore and pagan rituals, its hidden demonic cult and secret mysteries. The story even features the seemingly crazy local whose warnings and portents are dismissed. Many of the scenes are shot is a traditional horror style of looming shadows and tense build-ups to horrific revelations.

Of course, this horror is balanced by the science and logic that is intrinsic to all Who storylines. It’s a difficult balance but writers Robert Sloman and Barry Letts (working under the pseudonym Guy Leopold) pull it off in fine fashion.

The Daemons actually began life as a short audition piece written by Barry Letts when casting began for a new companion after the departure of actress Caroline John (Liz Shaw). It was the piece that Katy Manning read when she auditioned for, and won, the role of Jo Grant. Script editor Terrence Dicks suggested to Letts that he write the piece into a supernatural story. However, Letts didn’t feel they could do a supernatural story in Doctor Who, but they could create the illusion of the supernatural so long as they could devise a reasonable scientific explanation for what was happening.

Possibly the only real weakness of The Daemons is its ending, with the defeat of Azal coming rather abruptly. I understand the thematic nature of Jo’s self-sacrifice, but the way in which this act causes Azal pain and leads to his demise is a little unsatisfying.

Despite this, The Daemons is still an excellent storyline and a fitting end to an entire season of the Doctor’s war with The Master. Finally the villain is captured and everything is right in the Doctor’s world, at least for now.


Jon Pertwee has stated on numerous occasions that The Daemons was his favourite storyline. He certainly seems to revel in the pseudo-supernatural environment, although the shoot was a difficult one. At one point during shooting, he hopped on a motorcycle and rode off without advising the crew as to where he was heading, only to return several hours later.


The Daemons gives all of the Who supporting characters a chance to shine. Jo is her usual rebellious and capable self, doing her best to help others even if it goes against the Doctor’s explicit orders. She’s really come into her own as a character during this season and this storyline highlights all of her best character qualities.

The real surprise, though, comes in the depiction of Sargent Benton and Captain Yates. Both are often played for laughs in other episodes, or are there merely as plot devices of UNIT window dressing. Here, they are given a chance to show how capable and courageous they are, working closely alongside the Doctor and Jo and helping to uncover the mystery of Devil’s End and disrupt the Master’s plan.


The Daemons brings to a close the season long storyline involving the Master, and does so in fine fashion. The villain has another fine showing here, although his efforts are not as complex or intriguing as his previous efforts in The Mind of Evil and Colony in Space. Still, I love the idea of the Master forming his own cult and attempting to summon an ancient Daemon to his service, even if it is an alien and not an actual demon.

Despite this, I’m happy to see the Master finally defeated. There was a sense of repetition in his constant appearances throughout the season, so much so that the revelation that he is the vicar in The Daemons comes as no surprise at all. The mystique of the villain has worn off by this point despite Roger Delgado’s excellent performance.

Azal is an amazing addition to the Who mythos, and it’s a surprise that this is the Daemon’s only appearance to date. Azal’s design is one of the strongest and best realised of the entire series, and he is an imposing and genuinely menacing threat. His unsatisfying defeating notwithstanding, I’d love to see Azal or another Daemon appear in the series once more.


The Daemons is a thoroughly satisfying and entertaining mix of classic Who SF and British supernatural horror that concludes a strong season of the war between the Doctor and the Master.

4.5 Lukes


After five years, the Daleks finally return to Doctor Who in Day of the Daleks.

3 Responses so far.

  1. Melthoid Serendipity says:

    Thanks again Richo for a great review…except for two glaring omissions for me. The first is that Bok is one of the greatest and most memorable of all the Pertwee era villain side-kicks. As this episode was released several years before the American film ‘Gargoyles’, it would be interesting to know whether Bok was an inspiration for the film. This character helped create one of the all-time great Dr Who lines when the Brigadeer says to Benton ‘what is it some kind of ornament?’ and ‘chap with wings five rounds rapid’ We’d have to wait until the Weeping Angels for anything similar. The second is the performance of the Brugadeer…it’s a birdseye view into the relationship between he and his UNIT team and he has so many great lines which of course he delivers with aplom.
    I do agree that only the ending stops it from being a 5 luke episode but the rest of it is so good it’s almost forgiveable.
    For us in Australia it was great to see it in colour for the very first time as the ABC only ever showed it in B&W

  2. Melthoid Serendipity says:

    PS. Sorry about the Brugadeer 🙂

    • Richo says:

      I can’t agrue with your comments on the Brigadeer. One of the great things about the The Daemons is how much time is devoted to UNIT. As I stated in the review, I loved the expanded roles given to Benton and Yates in this story.

      I also agree that this story is so close to being perfect its not funny. Just a little more in the ending would have ranked it right up there with The Dalek Invasion of Earth and the War Games.

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