The Daemons, starring Jon Pertwee, is one of the most popular and talked about Doctor Who stories of all time, as presenter Nicholas Briggs points out in The Daemons of Devil’s End – a three-disc set featuring documentaries and original dramas that the 1971 serial has inspired.
It’s hard to imagine many other stories that would spawn a three-disc tribute – but that’s what The Daemons of Devil’s End is all about.
The first disc holds all six twenty-minute episodes of White Witch of Devil’s End, a new production that brought Damaris Hayman out of semi-retirement to reprise her role as Olive Hawthorne, the white witch who aided the Third Doctor in the Daemons. It also takes Hayman back to Aldbourne, the English village in Wiltshire used as the location for the original serial. Each instalment is made as an Alan Bennett-style talking head, with Hawthorne recounting an aspect of her life, intercut with new footage. Hayman slips effortlessly back into her role of Miss Hawthorne, and the production is charming, heart-warming, and competently made. Some effort has gone into using technology well – the sound quality is good and the picture is shot with some variation in depth of field – rather than the flatness that drama on tape used to suffer from. The title song – Strange Beauty – sung by Linzi Gold, is excellent, and adds to the atmosphere of the piece. Only the computer-generated special effects are the element of the production to fall below-par. Slow-paced, reflective and warm, White Witch of Devil’s End is an unusual story from the world of Doctor Who that may be lost on younger viewers used to fast edits and many characters vying for attention.
The second disc features the documentary made in the early 1990s – Return to Devil’s End – which saw the cast and crew of The Daemons go back to Aldbourne to talk about the making of the Doctor Who serial. In those days, Jon Pertwee was still alive, and like most of his public appearances, he was in costume. He’s joined by UNIT actors Nicholas Courtney, Richard Franklin and John Levene as well as director Christopher Barry. The production is hugely nostalgic, and incorporates anecdotes from village locals who remembered when the original serial was filmed. The way in which the interviewees are separated is perhaps the most disappointing aspect of the documentary. Christopher Barry is the most informative about the making of the show, but he is on a separate location (the Devil’s Hump) with presenter Nicholas Briggs. Similarly, most of Pertwee’s contributions are solo. You get the impression that most of the fun was had in the pub after the cameras had stopped rolling.
The third and final disc features convention footage from two gatherings of Doctor Who fans at Aldbourne – though by far the most of it is from the 1996 event that was held only a month before Jon Pertwee’s death. Despite being shot on home video, the picture and sound quality of the question and answer session with the cast and crew in a tent is excellent – and any Doctor Who fan will love hearing the reminiscences, which includes Terrence Dicks and Barry Letts.
To divulge an interest, this reviewer descended on Aldbourne with a group of friends for his stag do in 2015, so the village, and the Daemons, has a very special place in his heart (incidentally, The Crown Inn is by and large a better pub than the Blue Boar – check it out). Therefore, seeing the stars of the show at the location and, in the case of Damaris Hayman, reprising their roles, is always going to be a wonderful experience. It’s reasonable to say, though, that for fans of the Third Doctor, these discs are a treasure trove – and there is plenty of the late, great Jon Pertwee to keep any fan happy. The discs have been put together with love and attention, including introductions by Nicholas Briggs.
Cast: Jon Pertwee, Damaris Hayman, Nicholas Courtney, Richard Franklin, John Levene, Christopher Barry, Nicholas Briggs Certificate: PG Duration: 300 mins Released By: Koch Media Release Date: 13th November 2017