Today I watched the 600th episode of Doctor Who, how cool is that? The King's Demons makes for an interesting statistical bookend to the previous season's Black Orchid. Where Black Orchid boasted the largest viewing ratings of the John Nathan-Turner era, The King's Demons suffered the lowest ratings of the era. Both are rare two-part stories, and while Black Orchid is the last Pure Historical story the series has ever done, The King's Demons starts out appearing to also be of the same type. The story is set in England on March 3rd, 1215. I am sure I don't have to remind you that this is that date that King John announced his intention to become a crusader, and that only three months later he would sign the Magna Carta. So by all signs this story seemed to be a Pure Historical right up until the point that it isn't.
So let's talk about that.
The King's Demons - Parts 1 & 2
(TARDIS Data Core recap)
The Doctor and crew arrive in the midst of a joust between the King's champion and the son of a local knight. Oddly, the King is not the least bit fazed by the arrival of a magical blue box. The Doctor immediately notes the significance of the date and realizes something odd must be happening. Everything ticks along like a standard historical story up until the cliffhanger at the end of Part 1, when the King's champion turns out to be the Master in disguise. Oh no!
The Master is, of course, doing typical Master-ish things. In this case, he is using an imposter to so sully the reputation of the King as to spark a rebellion and topple King John from the throne, thus also preventing the Magna Carta from ever being signed. Which, honestly, is kind of small potatoes for a Master plot, but there you have it.
The interesting thing is that the imposter is actually a robot named Kamelion who, as the name suggests, can perfectly impersonate anyone. In the end the Doctor does a Very Clever Thing to defeat the Master and send him packing, and takes on the no-longer-brainwashed Kamelion as a companion.
So here's the thing with Kamelion. Producer John Nathan-Turner was obsessed with the idea of bringing on a robotic companion, particularly after the failed K9 & Company pilot did not spark a series. If it were today, he could have dialed up Boston Dynamics and ordered up a back-flipping robot.
Go robot, go robot, go!
Unfortunately this was 1983, and the state of the art in cybernetics was somewhat less impressive.
This animated GIF is actually more impressive than the video version
John Nathan-Turner was convinced that Kamelion was exactly what the show needed, and that it would blow away the fans. Then the robot showed up on set, and it barely moved. The legs didn't' work at all, it had to be propped up in a chair, and the parts that did move were creepy as hell. That sad thing is, by this point C-3P0 was a cultural icon proving that you could do a completely convincing android character with a man in a suit, but he was bound and determined that Doctor Who would have an honest-to-goodness robot as a companion.
After how horrible the prop was to work with in this story, poor Kamelion was stuck in a closet for the next year and would not appear again until his second (and final, barring flashbacks) appearance in Planet of Fire. Poor guy.
So that wraps up the twentieth season of Doctor Who. Tomorrow, for the first time since I began this project, I will be watching a story that does not break down into 25-minute episodes. The twentieth anniversary special is a full moving unto itself, running a full 102 minutes. As such, it will be the first time that I go for a stretch longer than 55 minutes on the treadmill. The next time I write a post for this blog, I might be a little worn out from nearly two hours of non-stop treadmill time. Wish me luck.
Companion(s): Tegan, Turlough, Kamelion
Episode(s): The King's Demons - Parts 1 & 2
Steps Walked: 7,351 today, 2,107,389 total
Distance Walked: 4.03 miles today, 1,078.65 miles total
Weight: 247.24 lbs (five day moving average), net change -60.06 lbs