Doctor Who – Kamelion Tales

It’s a long wait until Doctor Who Special Day, or “Christmas” as some people apparently still call it, but in the meantime, we’re getting some more DVD releases from the Deep Past, otherwise known as the twentieth century. The latest is one of those themed box sets. This one features two Fifth Doctor (that’s Peter Davison) and a short-lived and not entirely successful companion – the shape changing robot thingy called Kamelion.

The King’s Demons

This was first shown in March 1983, and is that moderately rare thing, a two-part story. Possibly just as well, as it isn’t one of the best. The plot involves one of the Master’s Terrible Plans[1]. In what even the Doctor recognises as “small-scale villainy”, he plans to stop Magna Carta being signed[2], thus preventing the growth of democracy, which suggests only a passing familiarity with Magna Carta itself[3] and history in general, but never mind.

In common with a number of stories of the period, the Master initially appears in disguise, this time with a French accent straight from the Monty Python and the Holy Grail school of acting. His plan involves using a fancy robot that has disguised itself as King John. The robot, Kamelion, was envisaged by the production team as a new companion that could usefully disguise itself as anyone at all, but would also appear in its natural state. Which, due to the limitations of the technology of the time, didn’t work terribly well….

It’s a bit silly and frothy, but amusing enough, and doesn’t outstay its welcome by too much.

Extras are fairly light. In addition to the expected commentary, production subtitles and pictures, you’ll find:

  • Kamelion – Metal Man This is a short documentary on the shape-changing robot thingy, which goes a long way towards explaining why it wasn’t used as much as had been originally intended.
  • Magna Carta A bit of proper history. Not bad.

Planet of Fire

This is a bit more substantial, being a four parter first shown in February and March 1984. It sees the arrival of Peri, the departure of Kamelion (not that he’d done anything since pretending to be King John) and some explanation about Turlough’s mysterious past before he too leaves. All of which sets things up for the Fifth Doctor’s regeneration in the next story…

This one also involves the Master, who, after a minor problem with his tissue compression eliminator[3] wants to use some unique substance to regenerate himself, take revenge on the Doctor, and generally do Bad Things. His vehicle for this is Kamelion, who he takes over again.

Extras are a lot more impressive for this one. For a start, there’s a second DVD containing a newly edited “Special Edition” of the story, presented as a single feature, with some new CGI and sound mix. Then there’s the usual stuff – commentary, production subtitles, PDF files of Radio Times listings, a photo gallery, and:

  • The Flames of Sarn – one of the usual “making of” thingy, with all the usual suspects
  • Return to the Planet of Fire – Looking at the Lanzarote locations
  • Designs on Sarn – Malcolm Thornton talks about his design work on the story
  • Calling the Shots – Director Fiona Cumming talks about her work on the story
  • Remembering Anthony Ainley – A tribute to the man who played the Master in the 1980s

So, overall, not an essential addition to your collection, unless you’re the kind of person[4] who has to have them all, but not too bad, really.

[1] This one isn’t so much terrible in its intention, as well, just terrible
[2] Pedant point: King John sealed it, not signed it…
[3] He apparently forgot which end was which
[4] That would be me