The Serial (4/5)
Doctor Who has long been a favorite show of mine. I started watching it as a young teenager on PBS, but could never keep up with it at the time, since it was played at all different time slots. When the DVD's began to be release, I started ravenously collecting them. The only Doctor Who I was able to see on TV at that point in time was the new Doctor Who episodes featuring the Ninth (Christopher Eccleston) and tenth (David Tennant) Doctor.
A few years ago I moved to Seattle, WA. from Tampa, FL., a week or so after I move here I am channel surfing when I see a familiar logo on my screen. It was classic Doctor Who, on the Tacoma based PBS station, and the serial they were showing was the King's Demons, so I feel a certain connection to this episode.
The King Demon's is one of three 2 part serials from the Peter Davision (Fifth Doctor) era of the show. Like most Doctor Who 2 parters this one is a pretty light fun story, without much substance. It's primary purpose is to introduce the Doctor’s new potential robot companion Kamelion. Kamelion was meant to take over the void left by K-9, who was removed from the show during the Tom Baker (Fourth Doctor) era. The problem with Kamelion is that he was only able to be properly controlled by one invididual, who sadly died before the production of this episode, leaving Kamelion to only appear in one other serial (Planet of Fire), before being removed from the Doctor Who Universe.
Doctor Who started out as an educational program with the time and space travel premise meant to help with teaching children history, and science. This concept was pretty much thrown out the window after the third Doctor Who serial entitled the Daleks, got rave ratings with a science fiction style monster story. Thus, not many historical episodes were produced after the first Doctor's era. During the Peter Davision era more historicals were made then any other era since the First Doctor (William Hartnell). Coincidentally, all three 2 part serials from the Davison era were historical, these included Black Orchid which took place in 1920's England, and The Awakening which took place in the 1643 during the English Civil War.
The King's Demons takes place in Medieval England in the year 1215. In this serial the TARDIS materializes at the castle of Sir Ranulf Fitzwilliam, during a visit by King John (Gerald Flood). King John has come to this castle in order to receive another tax payment from Fitzwilliam, but having no money left refuses to pay. The King, of course, takes this as a personal insult and organizes a joust to defend his honor. The joust is between the King's champion, and Hugh, the son of Fitzwilliam. The King's representative wins, which is where the story is when the Doctor arrives on the scene.
The Doctor is convinced by his knowledge of history, that the King seen here is an imposter, as the real King John would be in London at the moment. This is confirmed by a member of Fitzwilliam's family who just left the King's side in London a few hours before. This accusation forces the King's Champion to reveal his true identity, as the Master (Anthony Ainley). Who then flees to the Dungeon, and escapes in his TARDIS (with working Chamelion Circuit) which appears as an iron maiden. This event brings the Doctor in the King's good graces (until that point the King referred to the Doctor and TARDIS crew as Demons), and he is bestowed the title of King's Champion. Unfortunately , this King is not the true King but Kamelion a shape shifting robot under the control of the master, who is trying to create a rebellion to take down King John before he can sign the Magna Carta, and create what would become known as democracy. ]
The Doctor Who restoration team have done another wondeful A/V job with the King's Demons which is presented here in it's original 1:33:1 exhibition ratio. The image is sharp and clear, very few instances of print damage are apparent in the transfer, and the colors pop. The audio is presented in Dolby Digital Mono, while not overly special gets the job done. The dialogue is loud and clear, and the music and special effects are blended well into the mix. Optional English subtitles are also included which are fairly accurate, and easy to read.
The extras kick off with an interesting commentary on the first episode by Fifth Doctor Peter Davision, Eric Saward, and Isla Blair. Like all Davision commentary tracks this one is a good mix of entertaining and informative as he is not afraid to poke fun at his own episodes. It is definitely worth a listen if you're a fan, and have the time. This is followed by a commentary by King's Demons director Tony Virgo, where he discusses the serials production. It is interesting, but if you only have time to listen to one commentary, make it the Davison.
This is followed by 2 featurettes one a historical documentary on the Magna Carta, this short piece will be of interest to anyone with an interest in the history of democracy. It also helps to give this historial 2 parter a little more depth if you weren't previously aware of the era in which it was set. We then have a documentary called Kamelion - Metal Man, a short piece on the history of Kamelion, who the character was designed, and developed. The problems that the production team encountered trying to bring Kamelion to life, etc. The disc is rounded off with an isolated music score, still/promo gallery, and info text track that plays like a subtitle track, only with information regarding the production.
It also features a trailer Doctor Who Series 5 featuring Matt Smith is set to appear on DVD/BD next month (November 2010). The opening of every Doctor Who DVD for some time has featured the trailer for Series 4, which has been on DVD for some time, and has been separated from this release by an entire season, and a series of 4 specials that concluded the Tennant era. It's a minor complaint, but I would really like to see a Series 5 or at least a trailer for the final David Tennant specials.
A really fun and entertaining 2 part serial from the Peter Davision era. If you're a fan of Doctor Who, and the Fifth Doctor this is well worth picking up. The Audio/Video work courtesy of the Doctor Who Restoration Team is excellent, and the extras are a good mix of entertaining and informative, with some extras dealing with the production, and even one that deals with the historical backdrop of the episode. This Doctor Who release is highly recommended.