The King’s Demons
15 March 1983
||John Nathan Turner
It is 13th Century England and King John is visiting the castle stronghold of Sir Ranulph Fitzwilliam. Ranulf’s personal fortune has dwindled away, freely donated to King John to help fund the Crusade. When the TARDIS materialises and disturbs a jousting duel, The Doctor’s party are proclaimed friendly demons by the King, who seems strangely interested in their ‘blue engine’.
Before long The Doctor becomes embroiled in court politics, and he realises that there is far more to the situation than a simple battle of honour between nobles. Ranulf’s cousin, Sir Ge offrey de Lacey, arrives at the castle and is astonished to find the King present. He has just left His Majesty in London preparing to sign Magna Carta, a document that will shape the future of democracy in the western world. The Doctor learns that neither the King nor Sir Gilles Estram are exactly who they claim, and that their true identities involve a battle-ravaged alien planet light-years away, and one of the Doctor’s oldest and deadliest enemies…
Tegan initially fears that the TARDIS’s arrival in 13th-century England is a trap set up as the Black Guardian’s revenge for Fifth Doctor’s interference in Enlightenment.
In the final TARDIS scene of the story, The Fifth Doctor introduces Tegan to the android that is Kamelion. He says that Kamelion’s story “appears to begin on Xeriphas” and that it will “end with The Master“. This neatly ties together both the other televised stories that have anything to do with Kamelion: the introduction of the planet on which he was found (Time-Flight) and his eventual demise. (Planet of Fire)
The Fifth Doctor re-establishes himself as a fair swordsman, having shown skill with a blade in both his Third (The Sea Devils, The Time Warrior) and Fourth incarnations (The Masque of Mandragora, The Androids of Tara). In fact, this is the second sword fight between The Fifth Doctor and The Master, although The Master is in disguise during this battle. As in the first such contest (The Sea Devils), The Doctor shows the greater skill. His abilities in this arena are again displayed by his tenth incarnation. (The Christmas Invasion)
This story had working titles of The Android, The Demons, A Knight’s Tale and Demons Keeper. (The working title Demons Keeper appears on some publicity photographs for the story.)
Part one was promoted by the BBC as the 600th Doctor Who episode, with readers of Radio Times (cover dated: 12-18 March 1983) being informed of this fact in a short article: “When Doctor Who arrives in 13th-century England to tackle The King’s Demons on Tuesday (6.55 BBC1), he will have come a long way. / For Tuesday’s episode is the 600th edition of Doctor Who to be screened. / In the two-part story which concludes the current series The Doctor discovers danger for King John, and a knight to remember.”
The Master’s TARDIS is disguised as an iron maiden. The earliest iron maiden known to historians is the Iron Maiden of Nuremberg, which was built in 1515, 300 years after the setting of this story.
The Doctor’s claim that King John wanted the Magna Carta as much as his nobles and that he could have defeated the barons easily is historically untrue. John signed the Magna Carta after it became clear that he could not suppress the Baron’s Revolt, and immediately appealed to the pope to release him from his oath to support the Charter’s terms.
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