Spoilers are precisely defined here. Rules vary by the story's medium. Info from television stories can't be added here until after the top or bottom of the hour, British time, closest to the end credits roll on BBC One. Therefore, fans in the Americas who are sensitive to spoilers should avoid Tardis on Sundays until they've seen the episode.



The King's Demons was the sixth and final story of season 20 of Doctor Who. It introduced Kamelion, the first non-humanoid companion since K9. It was also the first appearance of Vislor Turlough where he is at no point under the influence of the Black Guardian, and thus unambiguously a companion and ally of the Fifth Doctor. Furthermore, it centred on a genuine historical figure and a significant event — King John and the signing of the Magna Carta — a formula which had been all-but-unseen since William Hartnell left the show.

It also gave Peter Davison a chance to display his fencing skills. The Fifth Doctor became the third consecutive incarnation of the Doctor to have some skill with a blade, his third and fourth incarnations having previously swashbuckled in The Sea Devils, The Masque of Mandragora, and The Androids of Tara. Indeed, Demons provided a kind of rematch for the Doctor and the Master, echoing the earlier duel between the Third Doctor and the Master. It was the last televised story to feature the Doctor-as-swordsman until David Tennant's debut in 2005.

Narratively, it ends with an unusual, "one-way, retrospective cliffhanger". That is, it's only visible if The Five Doctors is seen immediately after Demons. At the conclusion of Demons, the Doctor promises to take his companions to the Eye of Orion. Since the Doctor often makes promises of future adventures at the ends of stories, this doesn't appear to be a cliffhanger at all. It's only by seeing The Five Doctors that the audience realises he's kept a promise made in the previous story. Perhaps more crucial is the notion that the Master we see in The Five Doctors has been recalled to Gallifrey immediately after his 13th century defeat by the Fifth Doctor, a fact that, once known, can subtly change the viewer's perception of certain scenes in The Five Doctors.

For years, this connection was fairly obvious on home video, because home video viewers were forced to buy a version of The Five Doctors on VHS, where the two stories had been bundled together. Following 2010's separate release of this story on DVD, the cliffhanger will likely escape more viewers' attention.

Thanks to the dismal ratings for the first episode, this serial as a whole was the lowest-rated serial of the Fifth Doctor's run. It, therefore, contrasts with another two-parter, Black Orchid, which was the highest rated Davison story. (REF: The Fifth Doctor Handbook)


England, March 1215. King John is visiting the castle of Sir Ranulph Fitzwilliam. The arrival of the TARDIS disturbs a medieval joust, but the Doctor and his companions are proclaimed to be friendly demons by the King, who seems strangely interested in their "blue engine". It soon becomes clear that neither King John or his Champion, Sir Gilles Estram, are who they pretend to be. One of the Doctor's oldest and deadliest enemies threatens the future of democracy on Earth, and he must be stopped!


Part one[]

In March 1215, King John of England is at the castle of Sir Ranulf Fitzwilliam to extort more taxes. When the lord refuses to pay, the King declares himself insulted by this, and his champion issues a challenge. 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 into the court by the King.

Having established the date, the Doctor concludes the King is not himself - in fact, he is not the King at all. History records that John is actually in London, taking the Crusader's Oath. Sir Geoffrey de Lacy, the cousin of Sir Ranulf, arrives at the castle and confirms the Doctor's belief. 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, who aims his Tissue Compression Eliminator at the Doctor...

Part two[]

The Master 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 the 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. With Kamelion disguised as King John, the Master intends that he will behave so appallingly 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 damaging 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. To Turlough's surprise and Tegan's dismay, the Doctor accepts Kamelion as a new travelling companion aboard the TARDIS. Tegan insists that she does not wish to be returned home, however, and the Doctor admits that the coordinates are already set for the Eye of Orion.



Uncredited crew[]


Cultural references to real world[]

  • Tegan conjectures about the King being the Devil. Hell is mentioned.
  • Christ is mentioned in the Crusade-themed chant sung by Kamelion.


  • The Master used Kamelion, the tool of an earlier invader of Xeriphas, to escape from the planet and then impersonate King John.



  • Kamelion plays a lute.

Psychic powers[]


Story notes[]

  • 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.)
  • This is the first story to feature Anthony Ainley's Master that did not feature Adric or Nyssa.
  • 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." (original published text)
  • In order to conceal the fact that the Master featured in this story, John Nathan-Turner had the Radio Times credit the role of Sir Gilles Estram (whose surname, Estram, was an anagram of "Master") as being played by "James Stoker" – an anagram of "Master's Joke".
  • At least one of the story's central props, the Master's TARDIS in the form of an iron maiden, can be seen in Edmund's chamber in the second episode of The Black Adder (Born to be King), which gives more credit to the myth (see below) that The King's Demons used the same set as The Black Adder.
  • This story marks the debut appearance of short-lived new companion Kamelion – in reality, a computer controlled, sound activated, animated robot created by software designer Mike Power and computer hardware expert Chris Padmore of a firm called CP Cybernetics.
  • When the Doctor Who production office supplied the story information to Radio Times, it would appear that the "Lute Player" credit for Jakob Lindberg was mistakenly assumed to refer to a character, as the programme listings for the story that were published — part one named the production crew, while part two listed the cast — credited Lindberg among the cast members instead of as part of the crew. However, Lindberg does appear on-screen in part one playing the lute.
  • Despite being added to the TARDIS crew at the end of part two, Kamelion subsequently disappears from the series until his final appearance in TV: Planet of Fire. Although a scene featuring Kamelion was recorded for The Awakening part one, this had to be edited out due to the episode overrunning.
  • This is one of the few stories from the original run of Doctor Who to contain an original song — in this case, "The King's Song" by Peter Howell.
  • The serial's incidental music was unusually scored by two composers. Peter Howell was supposed to have done it all, but other commitments meant he was only able to work on the lute music. Jonathan Gibbs then tackled the rest of the score. (REF: The Fifth Doctor Handbook)
  • Arranged by John Waller, the sword fight between the Doctor and the Master used no stunt performers — Peter Davison and Anthony Ainley did it all. (REF: The Fifth Doctor Handbook)
  • The story was repeated on consecutive weeks on 6 July and 13 July 1984. The Radio Times programme listing for the reshowing of part one was accompanied by a black-and-white photographic cut-out image of Kamelion playing the lute, along with a black and white head-and-shoulders shot of the Master, with the accompanying caption "A strumming robot? Doctor Who gets a very different view of 13th-century England — and encounters an old rival (Anthony Ainley): 6.55."
  • Joss Ackland, George Baker, Ian Bannen, Brian Blessed, James Ellis, Julian Glover, Michael Jayston, Peter Jeffrey, Dinsdale Landen, Alfred Lynch, T.P. McKenna, Clifford Rose, Peter Vaughan and Edward Woodward were considered for Sir Ranulf Fitzwilliam. 
  • Eleanor Bron was considered for Isabella.


  • Part one - 5.8 million viewers
  • Part two - 7.2 million viewers


  • This story was originally to feature the Monk. (There is no evidence that this was the original intention. Fan speculation postulates this due to its medieval setting and the fact that the Master's scheme in this story is more similar to the Monk's modus operandi than his own usual more grandiose schemes. Whether it would have been as the Monk or a later regeneration of the same Time Lord, it would have involved recasting the part as Peter Butterworth, who originated the character in The Time Meddler, had passed away in January 1979.)
  • The King's Demons used the same set as The Black Adder. (Not outside the realm of possibility - both were BBC productions, and were filmed at roughly the same time (late 1982/early 1983) – but there's no particular reason to think it's true, either, and no evidence that it's anything but an Internet rumour.)

Filming locations[]

Production errors[]

If you'd like to talk about narrative problems with this story — like plot holes and things that seem to contradict other stories — please go to this episode's discontinuity discussion.
  • Sir Geoffrey's left arm twitches and his corpse blinks after his death.


Home video and audio releases[]

DVD releases[]

This story was released on Region 2 DVD on 14 June 2010 as part of the Kamelion Tales boxset, alongside Planet of Fire, and as an individual release in Region 1 on 7 September 2010.

The disc set includes a restored version of the story, as well as the following special features:

Box sets[]

Video releases[]

  • The King's Demons was released on video by BBC Worldwide in November 1995 as part of a boxed set with the Special Edition version of The Five Doctors.

Box sets[]

External links[]