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.

Chapter 92. Doctor Who – Planet of Fire (1985)

Synopsis: Peri Brown, a young American student, is rescued from drowning by Turlough. Among her belongings is a metallic object that the boy recognises as coming from his own world. The shape-changing robot Kamelion interferes with the TARDIS to take them all to a volcanic planet where a religious order revolves around a teenage boy who might be the key to Turlough’s secret past. A bewildered Peri discovers that Kamelion is being controlled by someone who knows the Doctor well, someone who calls himself ‘The Master’…

Chapter Titles

  • 1. Mayday
  • 2. Message Received
  • 3. Destination Unknown
  • 4. Crisis on Sarn
  • 5. A Very Uncivil Servant
  • 6. Outsiders
  • 7. The Misos Triangle
  • 8. An Enemy in Disguise
  • 9. In the Heart of the Volcano
  • 10. The Blue Flame
  • 11. The Time of Fire

Background: Peter Grimwade adapts his own scripts for the serial broadcast seven months earlier.

Notes: The book begins aboard the ship of Captain Antigonas struggling in a storm. The vessel is weighed down by the treasures of Dimitrios, a fat merchant from Rhodes who is more concerned with the welfare of a marble statue of a boy than for his own life (or those of the crew). He’s last seen clinging to the statue  ‘as if it were a lover’, plummeting to the depths of the ocean. The ancient ways of the doomed mariners are contrasted with the similar fate of the crew of a Trion vessel caught in the gravitational pull of Sarn. Another captain, Grulen, eagerly awaits landing on the planet as several generations of his family once lived there before the volcanoes became overactive. A sudden surge of volcanic activity causes a magnetic storm. Realising they won’t be able to guarantee a safe landing, Grulen opens the security quarters of the ship so that his prisoners might have equal chance of survival as the rest of the crew. Having faced the threat of execution daily, two of the prisoners are resigned to their deaths and as the couple cradle their sleeping child, the father’s thoughts turn to Turlough.

There’s a shuffling of scenes at the start, with all of the scenes on Sarn shifted to chapter 4, and it all makes a lot more sense. We join the TARDIS in the immediate aftermath of Tegan’s departure. Turlough considered the Australian ‘argumentative, tactless, interfering, brainless and with a voice that could strip paint’; he also misses her terribly and so does the Doctor. Turlough suggests a holiday, and while the Doctor isn’t enthused with the idea, remembering the chaos that ensued after a trip to Brighton, Turlough recalls a holiday with his school chum Ibbotson and his family to Weston-super-Mare – and so is determined that they should find a ‘paradise island’ instead. Kamelion’s screams force the Doctor to realise he’d forgotten all about the robot shapeshifter and notes that he had ‘none of the cheerful loyalty of K9’. His voice is like a speak-your-weight machine. Turlough suspects Kamelion of working with the Custodians on Trion and when the robot advises him to take care under the hot sun (‘with your fair skin you will easily burn’) it sounds to Turlough more like a threat than advice.

Howard Foster speculates that the mysterious metal object might be debris from a Russian satellite. His assistant is Karl, not Curt. Peri mentions a ‘Doc Corfield’ and notes that she would ‘never trust a man with a toupee!!’ Howard is 41 next birthday. He says that Peri has travelled all her life but Peri moans that it’s mainly been a succession of Hilton hotels. She has a trust fund, left to her by her (presumably deceased) father, which will be released to her when she turns 21. The English guys she hopes to go travelling with are called ‘Trevor’ and ‘Kevin’. Peri acknowledges that she’s not a strong swimmer but it’s leg cramp that causes her to come into difficulty as she heads to the shore. Incidentally, Lanzarote is not mentioned at any point in the story; the story begins with the shipwreck off the coast of North Africa (‘the headland’) so Howard’s archeological excavation might take place in Gibraltar, which has easier access to Athens. But it’s probably still Lanzarote in anything but name.

Turlough has a more physical altercation with Kamelion before disabling the robot with a bombardment of waves and dumping him in a spare room. Sarn is a city, not the name of the planet, believed to be the last surviving community after the last earthquakes and firestorms a generation ago. Turlough appears to tell the Doctor the name of his home planet, Trion, for the first time, despite having asked to go there in previous stories. The Doctor quotes Paradise Lost and admonishes Turlough for not studying Milton at school. Misunderstanding Turlough’s intentions, the Doctor calls him a ‘little racialist’: ‘As Tegan had never been slow to point out, Turlough could be a rather nasty piece of work.’ There’s a summary of the Master’s exploits that led to his predicament, during which it’s confirmed that this is his fourteenth incarnation. Turlough and Malkon find a poorly tended grave near the wreck of the Trion ship, which confirms Turlough’s suspicions that Malkon is the only survivor of the crash. The Master’s final teasing line asking the Doctor to ‘show mercy to your own-‘ is cut, as is the final scene on TV where Peri received her proper invitation to join the Doctor.

Cover: Andrew Skilleter’s illustration depicts the Master and Kamelion in waves of blue flame.

Final Analysis: An elegant adaptation here. I particularly like the way Grimwade makes sure we know when we’re with the Kamelion version of any character as he undermines the illusion in every line: ‘the duplicate professor’; ‘the man in the dark suit who everyone believed to be Professor Foster’; ‘Kamelion in the guise of the American archaeologist’; ‘The robotic Master’. He also has a nice line in similes: The Doctor’s device squeaks ‘like an old lady who has turned her hearing aid up too high’; the volcano grumbled ‘like a sleeping giant with a touch of indigestion’; the Master announces himself to Peri ‘as if he were the Tsar of all Abe Russias’; the Doctor’s party works its way through the streets of Sarn ‘like rodents navigating the secret byways of the skirting board’; the Doctor arrives at the portico ‘like a royal bride’; Kamelion glitters ‘like a Maltese tinfoil Saint at Festa Time,’ and later the robot appears ‘blustered like an actor unsure of his lines’. It’s so much fun seeing which ridiculous comparison he’ll submit next. Though what we’re supposed to make of Peri delivering ‘a sharp kick at the Master’s shins that would have repulsed a Globetrotter’, I’m not so sure.