Chapter 107. Doctor Who – The King’s Demons (1986)

Synopsis: King John is an honoured guest at the home of Ranulph and his wife Isabella. When the Doctor, Tegan and Turlough unexpectedly drop in, the King welcomes them and dubs him his ‘Demons’. The King’s champion Sir Gilles views the intrusion with irritation – unsurprisingly, as he is the Master in disguise. But the Master is not the only one pretending to be something he’s not.

Chapter Titles

  • 1. The Challenge
  • 2. The Demons
  • 3. The King Takes A Hostage
  • 4. The Iron Maiden
  • 5. Command Performance
  • 6. An Old Enemy
  • 7. Doctor Captures King’s Knight
  • 8. ‘Find These Demons!’
  • 9. Kamelion
  • 10. A Battle of Wills

Background: Terence Dudley adapts his own scripts from the 1983 serial, completing the run of stories from Season 20.

Notes: Ranulf Fitzwilliam has been a loyal servant and friend of King John for twelve years [since the French Wars that saw the King lose his hold on the Duchy of Normandy]. He is immediately suspicious of the ‘King’ who sits next to him now, identical to the one he knows, but his manner is vastly different – the way he consumes food ‘like a starving Flemish mercenary’. The King’s eyes are – metaphorically – described as ‘metallic’ and ‘ferrous’. 

Turlough is aware of the Doctor’s ability to regenerate, or as he calls it cheekily, ‘a refit’, and later tells the incredulous Hugh that the Doctor has two hearts and is ‘getting on for eight hundred years old’. He manages to escape from Hugh in the dungeon and is about to flee the cell when Sir Gilles returns with his prisoner, Isabella. Sir Gilles questions Turlough about the Doctor’s ‘blue engine’ and Turlough accidentally reveals that it can only be opened by a key in the Doctor’s possession. The Doctor tells Tegan that Shakespeare did not write history, so cannot be trusted as a factual source. He also shows off knowledge of the King’s mother, Eleanor of Aquitane, and claims that she had told her son, the future King, about the legends of Melusine, the alleged daughter of Satan, which might explain King John’s insistence that the travellers are demons. Tegan recalls her aunt’s murder at the hands of the Master [see Logopolis].

The Doctor and Tegan both recognise the Tissue Compression Eliminator weapon and realise too late that Sir Gilles is the Master; he doesn’t remove his disguise here. He accuses the Doctor of being ‘obtuse’, not naive’. as on telly Tegan tries to disarm him with a cricket ball, not a knife. Despite never having met him, Turlough recognises the Master by the Doctor’s description from some previous point (‘Listen here, Turlough, I know we’ve just had that unpleasant business with the Black Guardian, but the one you really have to watch out for is another black-garbed chap with a pointy beard – calls himself the Master. He’s a Time Lord like me and…’). Tegan is 22 years old (and would very much like to celebrate her 23rd birthday). At one point, the Doctor recalls that he once spent time with the real King John’s brother Richard and helped him in negotiations with Saladin [see The Crusade].

Taking up the role of King’s Champion, the Doctor is dressed in full chain-mail armour and he persuades Sir Geoffrey to head to the dungeon by pretending that his demonic powers can be used to torture Lady Isabella. The gaoler is called ‘Cedric’. The castle is said to be located at Wallingford, near Oxford, which Sir Geoffrey says is five hours away from London by horse. When Sir Geoffrey is shot by the Master, Turlough helps the merely-wounded knight to safety. Ranulf manages to enter the TARDIS and is so disturbed by the confusion of what lies within that he is convinced the Doctor and his friends are demons. Tegan is aware that to set the TARDIS in motion requires the use of one of two switches, ‘the metastasis switch or the transit switch’. After a frustrating first attempt, she uses the transit switch, followed by the input bar. Kamelion’s lute is apparently part of his illusion, as it transforms into a cricket bat when he takes the form of the Doctor. Once back in control of his ship, the Doctor makes an additional hop to both assure Lady Isabella that only the Master is their enemy and to give her some medicine to help Sir Geoffrey recover from his wounds. The Master manages to evade being shrunk by the trap with the TCE left by the Doctor, but it has somehow sent his TARDIS out of control.

Cover: David McAllister paints a jousting competition outside Ranulph Castle as Kameleon dominates the skyline while playing the lute.

Final Analysis: I’ve always felt rather dismissive of Terence Dudley, largely because of Four to Doomsday (where his rather dreary story was adapted without frills / thrills by Terrance Dicks), but his approach to his own novelisation is surprisingly entertaining. As Sir Gilles, the Master outlines his plan to discredit the King through the means of a lengthy tour around some of the King’s most loyal supporters. Once his true identity is revealed and he faces execution inside the Iron Maiden, he orchestrates a display of fear and pleading so over the top that it makes the Doctor think he’s finally succumbed to madness. So distressing is the performance that even Tegan is distressed at the prospect of his grisly death – until the villain escapes in his torture cabinet-disguised TARDIS. 

Turlough is particularly vividly described, even though he spends most of the story in a prison, as on TV; his various attempts to escape and his increasing indignation at being left chained up is hilarious. When he’s finally rescued, Turlough lets out a huge rant that builds to a revelation:

‘Just a minute! Just a minute!’ interrupted Turlough indignantly. ‘Get on with what? What about my trust? What about my enemies? Who’s doing what to whom and why? I’m dragged down into this hole by that young ruffian whose life you saved this morning. Then he’s going to put me into that thing.’ He flicked a hand at the Iron Maiden. ‘Then I’m hung up on the wall by that hairy Frenchman … Estram. Then the other two get rescued by the Master but I’m left there… hanging… and not a sign on my …’ He stopped short, overcome by the suddenness of thought and his mouth and eyes wide in realisation. ‘It’s an anagram! Estram! It’s an anagram!’

The whole anagram thing works so much better in print, but the fact that the Doctor had only just made the same realisation a few pages earlier makes the scene all the funnier.

It’s not all cause for celebration though. As great as he is at capturing Turlough, Dudley’s depiction of Tegan is pretty patronising: The Doctor is profoundly irritated by Tegan’s ‘feminine superficiality’ and her general habit of moaning, which he’d hoped she’d have grown out of, while there’s a lengthy passage mocking her for her ‘practical feminine mind’ prompting her to ask the castle has ‘a back way’. The Doctor also grows exasperated by Tegan’s inability to grasp that the Master didn’t need to drag the TARDIS through narrow doorways when he could dematerialise it; on TV the exchange is swift, but here it takes two pages before Tegan finally understands and calls herself ‘stupid’. It might have been a funnier scene if the author hadn’t spent the entire book having Tegan constantly and repeatedly moan about being cold. And then, to add insult to injury, he has Tegan sink into ‘a swoon’ when she’s surprised by Hugh. Dudley also has the Doctor refer to ‘a marooned stewardess from an Antipodean airline’, while the book ends with the Doctor expecting Tegan to say that he knows she wants him to take her to London airport, which of course was her main goal in the previous season [Terrance Dicks made the same mistake in The Five Doctors]. Considering she spent her first year aboard the TARDIS trying to get back to a job she was swiftly sacked from, it must be particularly jarring for her to still be thought of as flight crew when she can’t have actually done the job for more than a few months.

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