The Dæmons

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059 – The Dæmons
Doctor Who serial
Azal, preparing to use his electric bolts to kill the Doctor.
Writer "Guy Leopold" (Barry Letts and Robert Sloman)
Director Christopher Barry
Script editor Terrance Dicks
Producer Barry Letts
Executive producer(s) None
Incidental music composer Dudley Simpson
Production code JJJ
Series Season 8
Length 5 episodes, 25 minutes each
Originally broadcast 22 May–19 June 1971
← Preceded by Followed by →
Colony in Space Day of the Daleks

The Dæmons is the fifth and final serial of the eighth season of the British science fiction television series Doctor Who, which was first broadcast in five weekly parts from 22 May to 19 June 1971. It features the Third Doctor, companion Jo Grant and the UNIT team. Returning as the main villain is the Master. The serial remains the last time a Doctor Who story was transmitted in five episodes.


In the village of Devil's End an archaeological dig is excavating the infamous Devil's Hump, a Bronze Age burial mound. The dig is being covered by BBC Three. A local white witch, Olive Hawthorne arrives to protest, warning of great evil and the coming of the horned beast, but she is dismissed as a crank. Watching this, the Doctor tells Jo that Miss Hawthorne is right — the dig must be stopped, and they go there.

Miss Hawthorne goes to see the new local vicar, Rev. Magister. Magister — actually the Master — tries to assure her that her fears are unfounded, but his hypnosis fails to overcome her will. Backed by a group of followers, the Master is conducting ceremonies in the cavern below the Church to summon up a force of evil. The Doctor and Jo reach the mound and the Doctor rushes inside to stop the dig, but it is too late. The tomb door opens and icy gusts of wind rush out and the ground begins to shake, toppling the camera crew and even the coven in the catacombs. The Master laughs triumphantly and calls the entity's name — Azal, and the eyes of a gargoyle, Bok, flare with a reddish glow. Jo enters the mound to find Horner and the Doctor motionless, covered with frost.

Back at UNIT, Captain Mike Yates and Sergeant Benton were watching the end of the broadcast as it went dead. In the morning they arrive at the village just as a heatwave engulfs the village. The Brigadier finds himself unable to enter the village, as there is an invisible dome-shaped barrier, 10 miles in diameter and one mile high, surrounding it that causes anything trying to enter to heat up and burst into flame. The barrier is centred on the church. He contacts Yates and is briefed on the situation while the Doctor and Jo return to the dig where they find a small spaceship in the mound, which has been condensed. From this, the Doctor realises that the Master is trying to conjure up an ancient and all-powerful demon, who is seen on Earth to be the Devil, but actually an alien. The Doctor explains that the Dæmons have influenced Earth throughout its history, becoming part of human myth, and see the planet as a giant experiment. The Master has called the Dæmon up once, and right now, it is so small as to be invisible. The third summoning, however, could signal the end of the experiment, and the world.

The Master summons up Azal again and demands that he give him the power that is his right, but Azal warns him that he is not the Master's servant. Azal also senses the presence of another like the Master, and wants to speak to the Doctor to see if he is worthy to take over the world. Azal says on his third appearance, he will decide if Earth deserves to continue existing. If so, he will give it to the Master. Azal then vanishes in another heat wave.

The Doctor returns to the village. However, the Master's agents are at work, and he is soon captured by a mob of villagers and tied up to a maypole, about to be burned alive. With the help of Miss Hawthorne and Benton he escapes. Jo and Yates, meanwhile, have returned to the church cavern and watch as the Master gathers his coven to summon Azal one last time. Jo tries to interrupt the ritual, but it is too late.

With another rush of heat, Azal manifests himself and Jo and Yates are taken prisoner. As Jo is prepared as a sacrifice to Azal, the Brigadier manages to get through the heat barrier and enter the village. The Doctor manages to avoid Bok, who is guarding the Church and gets into the cavern, where the Master is expecting him. Outside, UNIT troops are held back by Bok.

The Doctor and the Master both try to appeal to Azal but for opposite reasons. The huge, devil-like figure decides to give his power to the Master, and fires electricity at the Doctor to kill him. However, Jo, steps in front of the Doctor, asking Azal to kill her instead. This act of self-sacrifice does not make sense to Azal, and sends him into a confused rage. The Doctor tells everyone to flee the Church. With Bok also rendered motionless, Azal erupts and the whole Church is blown up. The Master tries to escape but is captured by the UNIT troops and taken away. The Doctor, Jo, Miss Hawthorne and the UNIT team join the villagers in their May Day celebrations.


The Dæmons began life as an audition scene for the companion of Jo Grant. The audition sequence went on to be written into episode four. Producer Barry Letts was keen to write for the show and decided that a story dealing in black magic would be interesting as well as frightening. Script editor Terrance Dicks had reservations however, stating that people may view it as Satanist, and so it was reworked as strictly scientific with occultist themes. The Master was originally intended to worship the demon in a Church set, standing on an altar. However, owing to fears that this might upset religious viewers, the scenes were reset in a crypt. This was subsequently revised again, and the crypt was called a cavern, although the set clearly resembled a Church crypt.[1] Letts initially intended to write the story himself but found himself short of time due to producership duties. His wife suggested a friend of hers, Robert Sloman, who was a playwright and journalist. Together they worked on the script in the evening after work. At the time, however, the BBC frowned upon production staff writing for their own series and so Letts and Sloman decided on the pseudonym Guy Leopold[2] (Sloman's son and Letts' middle name respectively). The working title for this story was The Demons, which was commissioned on 17 December 1970. The scripts were completed by mid-February 1971 and worked on by Dicks, who had barely completed work on them by the time the story went into pre-production in March.[1]

Director Christopher Barry had worked on Doctor Who before, but wasn't particularly keen to return as he preferred to concentrate on less genre-specific productions. However, he liked the script due to the rural setting and his interest in archaeology. He would go on to direct for the show a number of times again, but still listed The Dæmons as his favourite, saying it was "a damn good script".[3]

Much of the serial was filmed on location in Aldbourne, Wiltshire. The location shoot was awarded two weeks filming, more than double the usual amount at the time, leading to a lot of the finished story being set outside, rather than in studio.[4] Membury airfield in Berkshire and Bridge Farm, Ramsbury, were also used briefly as locations. Filming began on 19 April 1971 and saw pleasant, sunny weather for the first week, leading to sudden overnight snow in the second week - causing filming to be delayed. Some episode one scenes were filmed at night - a rarity for the show, although some of these scenes were filmed during daylight with a dark filter put over the camera lens.[1] Other dark indoor scenes were filmed in a disused aircraft hangar at Bridge Farm, Ramsbury. Filming for the serial caused great excitement in Aldbourne, with a lot of the village residents appearing as extras, as well as the Headington Quarry Morris dancers performing a routine in episode four.

The cast included David Simeon who himself was from Wiltshire where the story was being filmed. He had previously appeared in the Inferno story a year previously. Comedy actress Damaris Hayman starred throughout the five episodes as Miss Hawthorne in a central role. Hayman herself had an interest in the supernatural and helped out during production as an unofficial advisor.[3] A friend of hers was a practicing witch, who had commended the scripts for their accuracy.[1] Veteran British actor Robin Wentworth played Professor Horner. Future television presenter and Sooty puppeteer, Matthew Corbett had a brief role in the final episode as a hooded coven member who objects to the sacrifice of Jo Grant, and was suggested to the production team by friend Katy Manning.[3] Other guest actors in the story include Don McKillop as the pub landlord, John Joyce as Garvin and Stephen Thorne as Azal. Thorne would go on to appear in the show again as costumed villains in The Three Doctors and The Hand of Fear.

After three days of studio taping, work on the serial was completed on 16 May 1971, less than a month before transmission of the final episode. This last episode contains footage of a model church being blown up; the scene was realistic enough to lead many viewers to believe that the BBC had actually blown up a church as part of the filming. The BBC received a number of letters complaining about this.[4]

The clip of the Brigadier's helicopter blowing up as it crashes into the heat shield is borrowed from the James Bond film From Russia with Love.[5]

Outside references

  • The television channel on which the news programme filmed at Devil's End is broadcast, BBC Three, was fictional at the time. BBC Three was created in 2003.
  • The Master misquotes the Thelema motto "Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the law" as "to do my will shall be the whole of the law".
  • The incantation that the Master uses in summoning Azal is actually the nursery rhyme "Mary Had a Little Lamb" said backwards, as well as Damaris Hayman's name said backwards.[6]
  • At one point the Doctor refers to the laws of aerodynamics proving that bumble bees should be incapable of flight, which is an urban legend.[7][8]

Broadcast and reception

Serial details by episode
Episode Broadcast date Run time Viewers
(in millions)
"Episode One" 22 May 1971 (1971-05-22) 25:05 9.2 PAL D3 colour restoration
"Episode Two" 29 May 1971 (1971-05-29) 24:20 8.0 PAL D3 colour restoration
"Episode Three" 5 June 1971 (1971-06-05) 24:27 8.1 PAL D3 colour restoration
"Episode Four" 12 June 1971 (1971-06-12) 24:25 8.1 PAL 2" colour videotape
"Episode Five" 19 June 1971 (1971-06-19) 24:04 8.3 PAL D3 colour restoration

Following transmission of episode one, the story was discussed by BBC1 controller Paul Fox and Richard Levin, head of television design, who both commended the quality of the script and production. This was a relief to Barry Letts, who due to the extra location filming, had gone over budget on the serial.[1]

The story was repeated on BBC One as a condensed omnibus edition over Christmas 1971 (28/12/71 at 4.20pm). The omnibus's opening credits gave the title as Doctor Who and the Dæmons. The closing credits used were for those of episode 5, necessitating the BBC1 continuity announcer naming the cast and crew from earlier episodes.[12] The omnibus repeat achieved higher ratings than the original broadcast, with 10.5 million viewers.[13]

Of the original 625-line PAL colour videotapes, all except Episode Four were wiped for reuse. However, a converted 525-line colour NTSC version recorded off-air from an American broadcast was made available to the BBC. This version was abridged and unsuitable for transmission as it was not of broadcast standard (the US recordings were made on a domestic Betamax VCR from a repeat in 1978).[14] In 1992 the colour signal from the NTSC tapes was used as the basis for restoring the colour to the 16mm monochrome telerecordings of episodes one, two, three and five. These versions were subsequently repeated on BBC2 on consecutive Fridays in November/December 1992 (20/11/92 to 18/12/92 at 7.15pm). The ratings were 2.52, 2.96, 2.30, 2.19 and 2.34 million viewers respectively.[15]

Jon Pertwee stated numerous times over the years that this was his favourite Doctor Who serial. In 1993, Pertwee, along with several members of the cast and crew including Nicholas Courtney, John Levene, Richard Franklin and director Christopher Barry returned to Aldbourne for the Reeltime Pictures reunion documentary Return to Devil's End. Nicholas Courtney titled his 1998 volume of autobiography Five Rounds Rapid after a line from this story:

The serial has generally received good reviews from fans and critics over the years. Reviewing its DVD release, Ian Berriman of SFX however was more critical, giving it three and a half out of five stars. He derided it for being an "awful mess" with a plot that "doesn't make a shred of sense". Despite praising the "magnificent" characters of Hawthorne, Horner, and Fergus, he thought that other characters including the Doctor and the Master were "continually acting in a completely absurd way".[16] Paul Cornell, Martin Day and Keith Topping were also unimpressed by the serial, noting its popularity but stating "The Dæmons isn't really very good. Its denouement is risible, and even the much praised church explosion effect looks cheap." They did, however, consider the final scene to be "charming".[17] In a more positive review, Doctor Who Magazine said that the story was "lavishly filmed and well characterised" and gave particular credit to Roger Delgado as the Master. Although the review was less favourable about the climax to the story, it described the closing scene as "perfection".[18] Arnold T. Blumburg of IGN gave The Dæmons a score of 10 out of 10, describing it as "a high point of this Doctor’s time on the show, a classic of the entire series in general, and an amazing document of a particular kind of fantasy horror adventure storytelling so wonderfully '70s and British that it just never loses its charm".[19] In 2010, SFX named the resolution to the plot as one of the silliest moments in Doctor Who's history.[20] A Poll conducted by Doctor Who Magazine in 2009 saw it voted the second best story of the Third Doctor's era.[21]

Commercial releases

In print

Doctor Who and the Dæmons
File:Doctor Who and the Dæmons.jpg
Author Barry Letts
Cover artist Chris Achilleos
Series Doctor Who book:
Target novelisations
Release number
Publisher Target Books
Publication date
17 October 1974
ISBN 0-426-10444-7

A novelisation of this serial, written by Barry Letts, was published by Target Books in October 1974. It was reprinted in 1989 as part of Target's Doctor Who Classics range, printed back to back with Terrance Dicks' novelisation of The Time Monster, bound in a metallic cover. There have been Dutch and Portuguese language editions. An unabridged reading of the novelisation by author Barry Letts was released on CD in August 2008 by BBC Audiobooks.

The script of this serial, credited to Robert Sloman and Barry Letts edited by John McElroy, and titled The Daemons [sic], was published by Titan Books in October 1992.[22]

Home media

The final episode of this story was also issued as a black and white film recording on the VHS release The Pertwee Years, along with the final episodes of Inferno and Frontier in Space. In 1993, the episodes with restored colour (see "Broadcast and reception", above) were released on VHS. A DVD of the serial was released on 19 March 2012, featuring improved sound and picture restoration.[23] The DVD included an audio commentary, on-screen text notes, a retrospective documentary "The Devil Rides Out" in which cast & crew looked back on the making of the serial, and an obituary documentary "Remembering Barry Letts" in which family and colleagues looked back over the life and work of the noted writer/producer/director. The documentary included extensive contributions from Letts himself, from a long interview he conducted with producer Ed Stradling in 2008. The DVD reached No.3 on the TV-related DVD Chart in the UK, remaining on the top 40 for three weeks. In the overall DVD sales chart it peaked at No.30.[24][25]


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 The Dæmons BBC DVD release, 2012. Production subtitles
  2. Howe, David J.; Walker, Stephen James (1998). "The Dæmons". Doctor Who: The Television Companion. London: BBC Worldwide. p. 211. ISBN 0-563-40588-0.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 "The Devil Rides Out - The Making of The Daemons", DVD documentary, BBC DVD, 2012
  4. 4.0 4.1 p196, Peter Haining, Doctor Who - A Celebration, W.H. Allen, 1983
  5. "The Daemons". Doctor Who Classic Episode Guide. BBC. Retrieved 22 October 2009.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  6. "Doctor Who: The Daemons" DVD audio commentary, Episode 2
  7. John H. McMasters (March–April 1989). "The flight of the bumblebee and related myths of entomological engineering". American Scientist. 77: 146–169.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles> cited in Jay Ingram (2001). The Barmaid's Brain. Aurum Press. pp. 91–92. ISBN 1-85410-633-3.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  8. See also Bumble bee#Misconceptions.
  9. "The Daemons". Outpost Gallifrey. 31 March 2007. Archived from the original on 18 May 2008. Retrieved 31 August 2008.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  10. "The Daemons". Doctor Who Reference Guide. Retrieved 31 August 2008.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  11. Sullivan, Shannon (31 August 2008). "The Daemons". A Brief History of Time Travel. Retrieved 31 August 2008.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  12. Doctor Who: The Daemons (2012). BBC Warner DVD. ASIN: B0072BNJGC
  14. PRACTICAL DÆMONOLOGY or PUTTING THE COLOUR BACK INTO THE DOCTOR'S CHEEKS! [First Article, 1992]. Doctor Who Restoration Team. Retrieved 1 January 2014.
  16. Berriman, Ian (17 March 2012). "Doctor Who: The Daemons Review". SFX. Retrieved 6 April 2012.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  17. "BBC - Doctor Who Classic Episode Guide - The Daemons - Details".<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  18. Doctor Who Magazine, No.144, p.71-73. "The DWM Review" by Gary Gillatt, 2 May 2012
  19. Blumburg, Arnold T. (4 October 2012). "Doctor Who: The Daemons DVD Review". IGN. Retrieved 11 November 2012.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  20. O'Brian, Steve (November 2010). "Doctor Who's 25 Silliest Moments". SFX. Retrieved 3 March 2013.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  21. Doctor Who Magazine, "The Mighty 200!", Panini Magazines, 14 October 2009 (The Daemons voted 2nd best Third Doctor story)
  22. Sloman, Robert; Letts, Barry (October 1992). McElroy, John (ed.). Doctor Who - The Scripts: The Daemons. London: Titan Books. p. 2. ISBN 1-85286-324-2.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  23. Roberts, Steve (15 August 2012). "The Dæmons - DVD". Doctor Who Restoration Team. Retrieved 8 May 2014.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  24. "Top 40 TV On Video Archive". Official UK Charts. 31 March 2012.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  25. "Top 40 Official Video Chart Archive". Official UK Charts. 31 March 2012.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>

External links


Target novelisation