The Fifth Doctor, Tegan Jovanka and Vislor Turlough become involved with intrigue at the Court of King John.
In 1215, the Court of King John of England is at the castle of Sir Ranulf Fitzwilliam to extort more taxes, and when the lord refuses to pay the King insults him. To defend his honour his son Hugh takes on the King’s champion, Sir Gilles Estram, in a joust. The latter wins easily, though the joust is disturbed by the arrival of the TARDIS. The Doctor, Tegan, and Turlough are greeted as demons and welcomed by the King.
Having established the date, the Doctor concludes the King is not himself - in fact, he is not the King at all, as he is actually in London taking the Crusader’s Oath. Sir Geoffrey de Lacy, the cousin of Sir Ranulf, arrives at the castle and confirms he knows the King is in London. Sir Gilles is about to torture him as a liar during a royal banquet when the Doctor intervenes. It seems the King's champion is not who he claims to be, either: Sir Gilles sheds his disguise and reveals himself to be the Doctor’s arch nemesis, the Master. He flees in his own TARDIS, which had been disguised as an iron maiden.
The King knights the Doctor as his new champion, and he is given run of the castle. After a series of mishaps, including the death of Sir Geoffrey at the Master’s hands, the Doctor confronts the King and the Master and discovers the truth. The monarch is really Kamelion, a war weapon found by the Master on Xeriphas, which can be mentally controlled and used to adopt disguises and personas. Disguised as King John, the Master intends that Kamelion will behave so appallingly so as to provoke a rebellion and topple the real King from his throne, thus robbing the world of Magna Carta, the foundation of parliamentary democracy. It is a small plan on the Master’s usual scale, but nevertheless particularly poisonous to the normal progress of Earth society.
The Doctor resolves the situation by testing the Master in a battle of wills for control over Kamelion. He takes control of the robot and steals it away in the TARDIS, thus foiling the Master’s scheme. Kamelion reverts to its robot form and thanks the Doctor for his assistance and rescue.
- For dating of this serial, see chronology of the Doctor Who universe.
- Every story during Season 20 had the Doctor face an enemy from each of his past incarnations. The old enemy for this story was the Master, who faced the third, fourth and fifth incarnations of the Doctor. This story pointedly doesn't reveal how the Master escaped the events of his last story Time-Flight (1982).
- This story marked the first appearance of Kamelion as voiced by Gerald Flood. Freelance effects designer Richard Gregory and software designer Mike Power gave a demonstration of the robot prototype for Nathan-Turner and Saward. Nathan-Turner was so impressed he commissioned scriptwriter Terence Dudley to develop a storyline to introduce Kamelion into the series. However, shortly after filming, Power died in a boating accident and no one was able to continue his work. Subsequently, Kamelion's made only two appearances before being written out of the series.
- In the story, the Master disguises himself as Sir Gilles Estram; Estram being an anagram of "Master". The Master adopted numerous pseudonyms in the course of the series, usually to be plays on the word "Master". Other examples include "Colonel Masters", The Rev. Mr. Magister," and "Professor Thasceles", as well as the unfortunate Tremas, whose body the Master stole. In order to hide the Master's involvement in the story, the first episode and Radio Times listed Estram as being played by "James Stoker", an anagram of "Master's Joke".
- This story marks the last appearance of the TARDIS console room set which had been in use since The Invisible Enemy. A new console room would debut in the next story The Five Doctors, although the console itself would be reused as the Second Doctor's console in The Two Doctors.
Serial details by episode
|Episode ||Broadcast date ||Run time ||Viewership
||15 March 1983 (1983-03-15)
||16 March 1983 (1983-03-16)
- The working titles for this story were The Android, The Demons, A Knight's Tale and Demons Keeper.
- Producer John Nathan-Turner originally wanted the Master to appear in two stories every season. However, due to production problems, he was forced to settle for one Master story per season.
- Part One of this story was billed by the BBC as the six hundredth episode of Doctor Who.
- Some scenes were filmed on location at Bodiam Castle, which was not built until 1385.
 Outside references
- 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.
 In print
A novelisation of this serial, written by Terence Dudley, was published by Target Books in February 1986.
 Broadcast and VHS release
The serial was repeated on BBC One in July 1984 on consecutive Fridays (06/07/84 & 13/07/84). This story was released on VHS in November 1995 in a box set along with a special edition of the subsequent serial The Five Doctors and a postcard book. This story and Planet of Fire were released in a Kamelion-themed box set on 14 June 2010. The DVD contained two commentaries, one with Peter Davison, Isla Blair and Eric Saward, and another with Director Tony Virgo on Part One.
Direct download: TDP_136_kings_dem_Final.mp3
-- posted at: 12:00am UTC