...a blog by Richard Flowers

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Day 2312: Mysteries of Doctor Who #9: So why exactly does Azal blow himself up at the end of the Dæmons?

May Day:

Any of you out there fancying the greatest occult festival of the year after Halloween… you've just missed it!

But my Daddies took the opportunity to CELEBRATE in the TIME-HONOURED FASHION of bunging on a DOCTOR WHO VIDEO.

"The Dæmons" is the story that finishes off Doctor Who's eighth year, and it is also the concluding episode of a sort of story arc that has seen Dr Who pitted against his brand new arch enemy Mr the Master in every story that year.

The Master is often described as "Moriarty" to Dr Who's "Sherlock Holmes", and this is because he's never mentioned until he appears in just one story and gets killed at the end… no, that's not right!

The Master is much more like ERNST STAVRO BLOFELD in the early James Bond films: he comes up with DIABOLICAL and usually BONKERS plots that fall flat on their faces the moment Dr Who turns up. But he ESCAPES and COMES BACK next time! In his early incarnation, he is always joining forces with some alien menace or other (the Autons, the Mind Parasite, the Axons, the Clangers, the Daleks) only to have them turn on him in the end so that he must team up with Dr Who. Later, he changes this for a fixation with disguising himself in ludicrous anagrams and hiding out in random historical locations.

However, in "The Dæmons" he actually works. He has a plan to get power that – bizarre as it may seem – actually makes sense. Obviously, his speech to the villagers promising that if they follow him he will lead them to take over the world seems a little, er, ambitious, but he's probably just bluffing them. He only wants their emotions, anyway.

(Actually, if the Master REALLY wanted to take over the World that way, he would need to think on a rather larger scale. Some sort of career as a CHARISMATIC POLITICIAN might be a good idea… er… not that I'm saying anything… MUST… NOT… MAKE… ALLIANCE… WITH… EVIL ALIEN!!!)

For a lot of people this is the best ever Doctor Who story for Mr Jon Twerpee, as it is not just a really great story for him and the Master but it also features the best uses for all of the UNIT family of Miss Jojo Grant, Mr Sergeant Benton, Mr Captain Yates and Mr the Brigadier, along with helicopters, flying gargoyles, motorbike chases and to cap it all, the Devil himself, alive and in person.

Or actually not, as it turns out that the Devil in this case is actually an alien called Azal.

Reading Mr Tat and Mr Larry's book "About Time 3", they notice that the Master tries to bind this Azal "in the name of the unnameable one" and wonder if this means that there is some other Devil out there, bigger and scarier than the Dæmons. Oh how they must have LAUGHED when Dr Who landed on "The Impossible Planet" last year!

In fact, Dr Who gets rather snippy with local weird woman Miss Hawthorn when she insists on calling it all magic. Everything has a scientific explanation, he insists several times to her and to Jojo. He is remarkably ungracious about it. On the other fluffy foot, he IS right.

The Age of Aquarius "you know, the occult and all that magic bit" are Jojo's latest obsession, though, so he's probably had to cope with it all the way down from UNIT top secret headquarters. (As marked by the big sign that says UNIT top secret headquarters.)

The Dæmons, at least according to Dr Who, are a bunch of AMORAL SCIENTISTS who have been tampering with the development of Earth people.

Mind you, so has Scaroth. And so has the Rani. And the Osirans, And the Fendahl. And the Terrileptils caused the Great Fire of London. It is surprising that Earth has any history of its own at all, to be honest!

Anyway, Azal arrived here about a hundred thousand years ago and has been tinkering ever since, kicking off the Renaissance and the Industrial Revolution and stuff, and napping in between times. Now some ornery old archaeologist called Professor Horner has decided to have a go at digging up Azal's bedroom and the Master is on hand to take advantage.

Professor Horner – and Dr Who! – both get instantly frozen at the end of episode one when, in a rare moment of scientific accuracy, Azal absorbs a lot of heat in order to grow to his normal huge size. (Heat being energy and energy being equivalent to matter according to Mr Einstein who worked it all out!)

For the professor, this is fatal, but Dr Who has the constitution of an OX – which at least matches his manners, see above! Actually, we were left wondering whether BBC3 television presenter Mr Alastair Fergus also gets his at that point. He OUGHT to be down in the dig with the professor and we do not see him again – only his camp aide, seen as the telly people drive away. Does anybody know?

Azal turns out to be a bit of a stickler for instructions. His go something like this:


To see if I can improve the primitives of the planet Earth


Self. Planet. Primitives. Miniature spacecraft. Spare gargoyle ("Bok")


Arrive on planet; use psychic suggestion to get primitives to develop new technology; take nap. Repeat until later twentieth century. Finally, pick a May Day; wake up; appear three times; offer powers to best available candidate; if none available, destroy planet; die.


Initially promising: selected primitives ("homo sapiens") managed to drive rival species ("homo neanderthalis") to extinction; wrote some pretty good poetry; built some nifty buildings etc.

Disappointingly, primitives then became obsessed with ritualistic song and dance routine – called it "religion" – and totally misunderstood scientific basis of Dæmon methods. Used technology mainly to hit each other. Often over disagreements about "religion".

Additional: annoying habit of trying to dig up my spaceship.


On final manifestation, discovered that planet still overrun by stupid primitives, but found two superior specimens. (Decided to ignore the fact they are obviously aliens. Am bored of spaceship getting dug up. So sue me.) Offered powers to one called "Dr Who" – preferred him to other fellow, don't like beards. "Dr Who" turned powers down. Stuff it! Will blow up world! Hang on, what's SHE doing? Arrgh! Bang! Pop!

Now, not EVERYONE is completely happy with the climax to this story, where Ms Jojo flings herself between Dr Who and Azal's Pointing Fingers Of Death™ the result of which is that Azal, er, blows up in confusion.

In fact, this somewhat abrupt conclusion along with the fact that "The Dæmons" is one of Doctor Who's rare five-parters (the other two being "The Dominators" and "The Mind Robber" in the budget-stretching final year of Dr Who number two, Mr Pat Trout) led Doctor Who Bulletin to produce a spoof "episode six" where Azal's boss turns up and it's "god". That WAS for their 1st April edition rather than 1st May, though.

But accepting that the story really does end here, why might this have happened?

Well, Daddy has had a thought. Or possibly two thoughts.

The way that we are told that the Dæmons' "psionic science" works is by channelling "emotional energy". Actually, that is frothing-fit inducing nonsense too – if your body could generate and focus enough energy to levitate a stone gargoyle then you would have STEAM coming out of your ears because your BRAIN would be BOILING!

Still, breathe deeply and pretend that it might work, and then remember that the Master is currently providing all of Azal's wattage from his coven of cowering villagers. Black magic based on nasty negative emotions like anger and jealousy and greed. Azal revs himself up and prepare to go "Zzap!" when…

Suddenly along comes Ms Jojo and she's brim full of COMPLETELY DIFFERENT emotions: love, self-sacrifice, bravery.

It is like throwing a cup full of sugar into the petrol tank while doing ninety miles-an-hour. It instantly turns to caramel and gums up the whole works. Flash bang wallop bits of engine and gear box in all directions.

Alternatively, maybe Azal needs to produce a channel or tube of magic to focus all that energy from himself to Dr Who. In that case, Ms Jojo's intervention doesn't disrupt Azal himself so much as cancel out his channel. We HAVE seen people create "psychic barriers" in another Doctor Who story: "The Curse of Fenric" and that is to do with absolute belief; perhaps Jojo demonstrates absolute belief in Dr Who here she creates a "psychic barrier" by luck. Azal is left full to bursting with magic energy and nowhere for it to go. Except by bursting. All that "cannot compute" waffle is him unable to establish an alternative channel because he's already too overheated.

And then the church blew up!

There were letters to the RadioTimes complaining about that, honest! So, it might all be a bit silly but it was certainly WORTHWHILE!

Condensed version: "Although 'The Dæmons' is a good story, the ending is a bit dodgy."

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