Incremental progress meets Zeno’s Paradox

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Elizabeth Sandifer

Elizabeth Sandifer created Eruditorum Press. She’s not really sure why she did that, and she apologizes for the inconvenience. She currently writes Last War in Albion, a history of the magical war between Alan Moore and Grant Morrison. She used to write TARDIS Eruditorum, a history of Britain told through the lens of a ropey sci-fi series. She also wrote Neoreaction a Basilisk, writes comics these days, and has ADHD so will probably just randomly write some other shit sooner or later. Support Elizabeth on Patreon.


  1. zapruder313
    August 3, 2011 @ 11:18 am

    Surely it contravenes some sort of law to review this story without mentioning "Quatermass and the Pit", "The Devil Rides Out", or "The Wicker Man" πŸ˜‰

    Certainly, watching them in the same evening more than makes up for the lack of "The Daemons" on DVD . . .

    I have always felt that the principal reason this story exists is the rise of what Mark Gatiss calls the British "folk horror" genre of the late 60's. "The Daemons" is as much a product of its time and culture as Fairport Convention's "Liege and Lief" album, and this is the context it is best understood in. In Britain in 1971, Evil Morris Dancers were simply inevitable.


  2. Elizabeth Sandifer
    August 3, 2011 @ 11:21 am

    To be fair, I did say there was a whole second entry on this.

    Which still doesn't mention those, especially because Wicker Man is still a few years out and I've already done Quatermass a few times, but it at least deals much more with its cultural currency. πŸ™‚


  3. Carey
    August 3, 2011 @ 11:51 am

    "And yet, staggeringly, despite these delaying tactics, when Letts and Sloman actually reach the final confrontation they're so pressed for time that they have to have Jo suddenly pipe up to save the Doctor and have Azal explode for reasons that had zero setup prior to this scene."

    Actually, this is sort of set up, but unfortunately you need to know a bit about magic for it to make sense. Letts and Sloman give a supposed scientific explanation (which is incredibly Star Trek* in it's 'logic overrides all and causes things to explode' concept) to an inherently magical idea: if a spell is cast and fails to reach it's intended target, then it will rebound upon its caster. Essentially, by Jo getting in the way of Azal's spell of destruction, it backfires upon him. Which is rather clever in the whole lets have our cake and eat it debate between science and sorcery.

    I have a strange fondness for the Daemons, despite its faults (including, as you correctly say, being an episode too long). The first part is a masterpiece, from its tv documentary parody to its ability to build tension. And there's more than a little feel of Twin Peaks to the villagers of Devils End. Yes, they were barely filled out cyphers, but they were designed to be recognisable to the then contemporary audience, and then be undermined by revealing their darkside. Yes, the idea is never fully explored, but it's nice to see Letts and Sloman at least recognised there was an idea there.

    *Speaking of Star Trek, surely there is a Pop Between Realities article on the original series influence upon the Letts' era of Doctor Who. If I recall correctly, Star Trek inherited Doctor Who's evening slot after the end of the War Games, and must have made an impression upon the incoming producer.


  4. Elizabeth Sandifer
    August 3, 2011 @ 11:54 am

    If you want a magical explanation for the end of the Daemons, I prefer to think that it's because of the absurdly ill-advised decision to use Jo as the virgin sacrifice. πŸ˜‰

    As for Star Trek, probably not a full entry, given that it already had a Pop Between Realities, but it won't escape mention. It would have gone into Colony in Space (which amounts to Hulke banging his head into a wall and saying "No, Star Trek is NOT how to do this…"), but that was already a pretty big entry. High probabilities exist for Curse of Peladon, The Mutants, and/or Monster of Peladon though.


  5. zapruder313
    August 3, 2011 @ 11:56 am

    Sorry! I somehow read and then promptly forgot the "second entry coming" bit! My fault entirely.

    I think you have to mention "Quatermass" at least in passing, as this shares with "The Ambassadors of Death" a sense that the production team have simply thrown up their hands and said "Oh, alright, let's not even pretend we aren't just recycling Nigel Kneale's plots any more".

    "The Wicker Man" is a more interesting question, as (as you rightly point out) what looks for all the world from our perspective like "Doctor Who ripping off a major British movie" may actually be "Doctor Who getting there first", always assuming that the novel on which the movie was based wasn't an influence.

    It certainly seems likely that more people would have seen "The Daemons" than had read "The Ritual" (which I haven't, to my shame. Must find out if the Evil Morris Dancers climax is in fact in the book, or if it originates with Barry Letts), so was the original audience for "The Wicker Man" thinking "Hang on, it's all gone a bit Doctor Who" at the end?


  6. Elizabeth Sandifer
    August 3, 2011 @ 12:01 pm

    I mostly just feel like I've commented on the Kneale ripoffs enough. I mean, they're there, other people have acknowledged them at length, and I have nothing new to say about them at this point. πŸ™‚

    I also figure that with the entire Hinchcliffe era of gothic horror to come, I have plenty of other occasions to talk about some of these things. Friday's entry sticks to Ace of Wands and Von Danniken, along with some more general comments about occult and magical traditions in the UK. Nobody should be worrying that I'm anywhere near done the with intersections of magic and Doctor Who. They're one of the most interesting parts of the series to me. πŸ™‚


  7. 5tephe
    August 3, 2011 @ 1:33 pm

    For the "ill-advised decision to use Jo as the virgin sacrifice." comment, Philip wins his own thread.


  8. Carey
    August 4, 2011 @ 12:43 am

    "If you want a magical explanation for the end of the Daemons, I prefer to think that it's because of the absurdly ill-advised decision to use Jo as the virgin sacrifice. ;)"

    Oh, I don't know: considering Captain Yates was initially designed to be Jo's love interest in the series, there's always a chance of that being true!-)

    There are many what if's in the series casting history (what if Pauline Collins had accepted Innes Lloyds offer to stay on as Samantha after The Faceless Ones, for instance) but the biggest must be what would the shape of the Letts era have been like had Ian Marter been cast as Captain Yates instead, as I believe he read for the part?


  9. Spacewarp
    August 5, 2011 @ 1:23 am

    "Thus prior to the end the story has to take some measure to prevent the Doctor from getting to the Master's base of operations. Which is why Devil's End gets surrounded by a force field. Except that the effect of the force field is to trap the Doctor inside with the Master and leave the Brigadier standing around outside. The force field, in other words, cripples the ability of the story to extend itself."

    In basic story terms you're right, although I've always assumed that what they were trying for was this:

    The Doctor is trapped inside the village with the Master, but is powerless as he needs a) the military might of UNIT and b) the diathermic energy exchanger.

    This is actually an interesting comment on the Pertwee stories – not only do UNIT rely on the Doctor for story resolution, the Doctor also relies on UNIT for most of his support, and in The Daemons spends a lot of his time determinedly trying to get it. Of course when the machine does actually get through, it promptly shows itself to be the Mcguffin it is by exploding. So it (and UNIT) actually do nothing to resolve the story.

    In fact neither does the Doctor – an early example of the Companion saving the day, foreshadowing the future criticism of the 9th Doctor's series.


  10. Wm Keith
    August 5, 2011 @ 4:20 am

    "an early example of the Companion saving the day, foreshadowing the future criticism of the 9th Doctor's series."

    I know this isn't really the place to be discussing the 9th Doctor but – really – criticism of the Eccleston stories because the companion always saved the day? Wasn't that the point of 12 episodes builidng up to the cliffhanger ending of "Bad Wolf"?


  11. Spacewarp
    August 5, 2011 @ 4:36 am

    Hi Wm Keith. Point I was making was that certain areas of fandom banged on about the de-powering of the Doctor in 2005, and yet it had already happened in The Daemons. I don't actually agree with that criticism at all.


  12. Wm Keith
    August 5, 2011 @ 11:57 am

    Did they really? Perhaps they should have watched the show better. Well before the end of series 1 it was clear that there had to be a reason for the empowering of the companion/de-powering of the Doctor. Oh, fans, fans, fans. What fools we are.


  13. Nicholas Tosoni
    August 29, 2013 @ 9:58 am

    Are you trying to imply something about Jo? πŸ˜€


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