R.J. Anderson (rj_anderson) wrote,
R.J. Anderson

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Classic WHO: "The King's Demons"

I just watched this historical two-parter with my five-year-old son, who is crazy about knights, castles, spaceships, aliens and robots -- so as you might imagine, he adored it. He lost interest at the end because there was too much exposition going on, but other than that, he was riveted.

I myself loved this story back in the day -- got a friend of mine to tape it off TVOntario so we could watch and re-watch the swordfight (among other things), and finally bought the novelization and read it multiple times. I even, as I confessed to uktechgirl on davison_era this morning, tried to use the novelization as source material for a tenth-grade history essay on King John, and if there is any more proof of geek love than that, I cannot imagine.

Twenty-two years later, I am able to look at this story with a somewhat more critical eye, and see that the plot is thin at best and that the execution suffers from a number of obvious flaws. Nevertheless, it really is a little bit awesome.

  • Listen to Anthony Ainley's incomprehensible French accent, and the way he delivers all his remaining lines in the script on a two-second time delay!

  • Hear Mark Strickson getting the inflection on the line "He is the evil one!" completely and hilariously wrong (it should be "Don't listen to him! He is the evil one," but instead he breathes it out with this bizarre mix of fear and reverence, like a Satanist meeting his lord and master).

  • See "Hugh Fitzwilliam" with his adorable floppy blond hair, doomed to screw up and sulk his way through the entire plot (but he sure does bring the pretty)!

  • Admire "Geoffrey de Lacey" delivering all his lines with sober conviction and dignity, like he thinks he's in a real serious historical drama and nobody told him it was only Doctor Who!

  • Watch a swordfight so slow, lumbering and unconvincingly choreographed thst it makes "The Christmas Invasion" look like Scaramouche (but it's so worth it for the Doctor stomping on Estram's sword at the end, not to mention the subsequent dressing-up of the Doctor as the King's Champion -- I nearly cried with disappointment when he dumped that marvellous tunic and cloak)!

  • Giggle at Turlough spending virtually the entire story in manacles, whining at everyone to let him go -- and then that hysterically camp moment when, finally freed, where he waves the sword around and warns everyone not to push him too far (or you'll... what? Complain at us some more?)!

    Also, there's Tegan's paint-sploshy tunic dress, which only the 80's could love, but her earrings are really smashing; the worst fake playing of an instrument I have ever seen (as the actor playing the King waggles his fingers randomly above the lute strings); and Lady Isabella's polyester veil with glitter pastede on yey.

    Furthermore, there is a jousting scene which is actually quite good, considering the budgetary restrictions; Peter Davison turns in a performance that ranges from fine to excellent, even if he can barely see past his shaggy hair; there are some genuinely clever plot twists and a couple of classic lines, particularly the Doctor's dry response to the warning that his duelling opponent Gilles Estram is said to be the best swordsman in France (which predates a similar and more famous exchange in ST:TNG's "Q-Who", in much the same way as the Cybermen predated the Borg).

    As uktechgirl remarked, the Master's motivation in this episode is a little lacking... though he makes a game effort at explaining it, but as the Doctor says, undermining the foundations of parliamentary democracy in England is kind of small potatoes for him (a classic example of the old "You can't fire me, I quit!" canard used by scriptwriters aware that their plot has holes you could drive a Sycorax starcruiser through).

    Ah, what else can I say? It's cheesy and I love it, and I had great fun watching it again. And now I'm off to make some screencaps, because there will and must be icons.
  • Tags: doctor who, old skool, reviews, tv
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