‘The Daemons’ was the final story of Doctor Who Season Eight, written by the mysterious Guy Leopold. But how did Star Trek: The Original Series inspire this classic Third Doctor adventure?
First, a little about its author. Guy Leopold – as some of you may know – doesn’t really exist. “Guy Leopold” is the pseudonym for Doctor Who‘s producer Barry Letts and the playwright Robert Sloman, who wrote ‘The Daemons’ between them. It was devised by the pair using Letts’ full name of Barry Leopold Letts, and the name of Robert Sloman’s son Guy.
So why did the two men go to such lengths to conceal their identities? Well, for a start, Robert Sloman didn’t want the public to think that he had broken from his writing partner Laurence Dobie, and was therefore happy not to receive an on-screen credit for ‘The Daemons.’ Letts, meanwhile, faced a tricky political situation at the BBC; in the 1970s, it was frowned upon for a script editor (or producer) to effectively hire themselves to write for their own show.
But writing a Doctor Who script was something that Letts had wanted to do for a while – not so much out of personal ambition, but because he wanted to provide a ‘quintessential’ Doctor Who story that would give other writers a clear idea of his vision for the programme. And this is what ‘The Daemons’ ultimately became – an example for other scribes to follow.
And whilst ‘The Daemons’ did indeed serve as an inspiration to many, it was itself inspired by a number of other pieces. One of these was the book The Devil Rides Out, which told the story of a devil-worshipping cult in contemporary England – a book that Letts had read as a young boy.
Then there was the Jo Grant audition scene. This was a specially-written moment that was penned well before the production of Doctor Who Season Eight began. It was given to actors reading for the part of Jo (the Doctor’s companion) and exemplified the range of emotions that the character would need to convey – namely bravery, abject terror, and lots of screaming!
In the scene, Jo Grant encounters the character of Mike Yates in a cave before witnessing the appearance of the Devil. Undoubtedly, this sample piece was in Letts’ mind when he applied himself to writing ‘The Daemons,’ and indeed a reworked version of the audition scene was built into the serial itself, during episode four.
However, a less obvious inspiration for ‘The Daemons’ was an episode of Star Trek: The Original Series, which had recently made its way onto British TV. In the episode ‘Who Mourns for Adonais?’ the Enterprise is trapped in an energy field by a god-like alien known as Apollo, who orders the Enterprise crew to worship him as their ancestors once did – in return for the fulfilment of their hearts’ desires.
Apollo, as it turns out, is one of a group of alien beings who were deified by the ancient Greeks, and is dependent on love and worship in order to survive. He is defeated when one of the Enterprise’s crew – Lieutenant Carolyn Palamas – rejects his romantic advances, and Spock manages to destroy the power source holding the Enterprise in place. Apollo, ultimately, fades away to nothing.
Now, those of you who have seen ‘The Daemons’ will notice the parallels immediately. In the serial, the village of Devil’s End becomes trapped in an energy field after the Doctor’s arch-enemy the Master summons a god-like alien known as Azal – a figure who was once mistaken for the Devil. Azal is defeated when the Doctor finds a way to break through the energy field, and Jo Grant confuses the alien by demanding that he spares the Doctor’s life and, instead, takes her. Azal – just like Apollo in Star Trek – fades away to nothing.
And if you’re thinking that the similarities between ‘Who Mourns for Adonais?’ and ‘The Daemons’ are a little tenuous, then it’s worth noting that the Star Trek episode in question was first shown in the UK on the 27th April 1970 – less than eight months before work on ‘The Daemons’ began. And in any case, ‘Who Mourns for Adonais?’ is cited as being one of the story’s inspirations on the official DVD release – and indeed, it’s the first Doctor Who adventure in history to be obviously influenced by the Star Trek universe.
But that is not necessarily a bad thing. Art often inspires art, and Letts and Sloman undoubtedly drew from popular source material to tell a good story. Indeed, ‘The Daemons’ was very well-received upon its original transmission – averaging over 8 million viewers per episode – and BBC management so enjoyed the story that they arranged for a special movie-length repeat to go out over the Christmas period in 1971, where it was seen by over 10 million people.
And despite Letts and Sloman’s writing efforts, the cast and crew also had an influence on the scripts. For example, the exchange between Mike Yates and the Brigadier in episode five (when the Brigadier expresses his desire for a pint) was adlibbed by the two actors, and Roger Delgado added his own embellishments as the Master with chants of “namyah siramad!” in episode four, which was the name of his co-star Damaris Hayman, spelt backwards!
Similarly, the Third Doctor Jon Pertwee and Katy Manning (Jo Grant) left their own stamp on ‘The Daemons’ with an unscripted moment in episode one, when the pair get lost on their way to Devil’s End on account of Jo’s upside-down map reading. This mirrored an identical, real-life situation in which the pair took a wrong turn on their way to filming.
‘The Daemons,’ though, will perhaps be best remembered for one of Robert Sloman’s lines about a chap with wings, which has passed into legend…
What’s your favourite part about ‘The Daemons’? And have you seen the Star Trek episode that inspired it? Let me know in the comments below.
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