The finale serial of season eight, which broadcast in the spring of 1971, Doctor Who's "The Dæmons" arrives on DVD this week. Despite the warnings of town witch Olive Hawthorne (Damaris Hayman, The Pink Panther Strikes Again), Professor Horner (Robin Wentworth, Coronation Street) plans to open a tomb in Devil's End in Wiltshire. It's all part of The Master's (Robert Delgado, Pursuit of the Graf Spree) latest plot. Rushing to stop him, the Doctor (Jon Pertwee) is quickly subdued, and Jo (Katy Manning, The Quest) calls to UNIT for help. But soon the village is cut off from the outside world by a heat-producing shield, and no one can get in or out. Are there demons inside the dome, or are they just aliens?
The question of magic versus science is an age-old debate. Throughout history, many things that people cannot explain have been attributed to magic, and its close cousins, religion and the supernatural. "The Dæmons" tackles this myth head on, setting up a story that appears to be rooted in magic, but is explainable to those in the know. The titular beings are not demons, but aliens come to Earth. The villains appear unbeatable by normal men, until they are defeated.
That being said, there is a little cheesiness to the tale, too. Azal (Stephen Thorne, David Copperfield) at first appears to be all powerful. But he is confused enough by Jo's act of self-sacrifice that he dies over it. First all, confusion causes a painful death? Really? Second of all, a rational, thinking being cannot comprehend self-sacrifice? Sure, it may not be something Azal would ever do, but surely he would see that as weakness by Jo, not something incomprehensible. Has he never encountered anyone else? This ending sort of cheapens the story, though it isn't an unexpected wrap up for the time period in which it was made.
Overall, "The Dæmons" is a pretty neat story, despite some criticizing it for lack of consistency in the characters' actions, in particular, the Doctor and The Master. It has a clear plot, colorful guest characters, and some fun special effects. It makes viewers think about the world around them, and the validity of religion. Most of all, it is entertaining.