Tuesday, 15 May 2012

Doctor Who & The Dæmons

The Dæmons is a classic story from the 70s era of Doctor Who. With my growing interest in the retro-occult I was keen to watch this tale of daemonic incursions into rural Britain.

The story sees Jon Pertwee, the third Doctor, and his assistant investigate the opening of a barrow mound in modern (read: '70s) rural England. Needless to say, the tales of the supernatural which surround the burial ground prove to be true, and unnatural forces are released. In the vein of Who, the gribblies are cosmic rather than occult and the Doctor's long-standing enemy, The Master, shows up to throw more spanners in the works. UNIT, the fictional section of the UN set up to investigate the unnatural and paranormal, play a central role in the story, as does an animated gargoyle named Bok.

Unfortunately the tale is over-long, prone to bouts of silliness and fails to conjure the kind of ancient horror which other occult-themed TV series manage so well. There are nods to the work of Nigel Kneale and Dennis Wheateley, but the way these authors steadily build a sense of foreboding is beyond the talents of writer 'Guy Leopold' (actually a pseudonym for Barry Letts and Robert Sloman). The story starts well, and features many standard devices in the occult genre (lackey-servants, rumors of ancient evil, devious clergymen, a white witch and even morris dancing). However, as with other Who tales, one feels that the plot is stretched too thinly over five episodes, and there is much grasping at straws in the middle. Some rather silly costumes, hammy acting and very bad sound effects further detract.

The idea is nice - that aliens are the cause of demonic myths and one is buried inside a barrow mound, but beyond that I would unswervingly recommend Quatermass and the Pit or The Devil Rides Out. If you want unnerving Who, try the excellent Ghost Light.

On a final note, here's a much longer and rather good review of The Dæmons.




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