Doctor Who - The Curse of Fenric (Review)

Another day (well, the same day, technically), another article. This was a review of The Curse of Fenric, and I was trying a different reviewing style with this - rather then watch the whole thing then write my feelings about what I'd just seen, I decided to jot down comments about what I was watching at the time, and then tidy it up and add a small bit at the end to sum up my feelings. So for the most part it's more of a summary then a review, but reading it again it actually holds up pretty well, doesn't it?

I sat down on Tuesday to review as I normally do - watch one episode a day and then review it at the weekend once I'd had time to process it. But something happened. I sat down to watch the first episode, and two hours later got up and wanted to watch it all again. And that never happens with classic series stories. Ever.

So what I did was watch it all again today, with a clipboard, pen and paper and jotted down notes as I went along. The end result is less along the lines of what I would normally write, but it should feel somewhat familiar to the rest of you. Good thing? I'd like to think so. Let's find out, shall we?

Bear in mind that I couldn't afford the DVD, so these are the episodes as transmitted. I'm sure they'll be even better in the collected version, and I'll find out for myself when I get the money, but for the moment I'll have to take it on faith. Not that it mattered, I fully enjoyed what I had anyway. Also I apologise for any spelling errors that you may spot*, but I was rather rushing to get this done before Torchwood started and didn't really have time to spell-check the entire document. Still, who cares about the occasional typo when you've got moderately funny humour abound, eh?

Part I

The story starts well enough - I enjoyed the intro, which at the very least tried something different, rather then just being an adaptation of what had gone before for a new Doctor. And I thought the music was funky. I seem to remember it from my childhood, which is always good. Anyway! The story starts proper with a low budget invasion of Normandy, only for that theory to be blown away as we're show the long awaited return of the Loch-Ness Monster! Huzzah! And then the Russians land and something's clearly gone wrong. Which always happens in these things.

The TARDIS appears and Ace, who appears to have Chewing Gum stuck in her hair, emerges in full period dress. And her 'leather' coat. Hmm. That said, she does have a fair point about just strolling into a top-secret military base. Where are all the boys in brass and so forth? ...oh, there they are. Surrounded by big... okay, tough... all right, weedish soldiers wielding big powerful guns, the Doctor launches straight into a bluff that whizzes right past their heads and leaves them reeling. Then he goes and forges his own authorisation papers. The felonies are building up - Breaking and Entering, Forgery, Impersonating a senior member of staff...

Meanwhile the Russians, who have conveniently decided to speak in English (and good thing too, I'm watching this story, not reading it) decide to set up camp on the beach, where they'll get sand in their tent and start grumbling about how it's too windy to build decent sandcastles. Still, those are their orders and they're going to obey them, stupid as they may be. And while one of the guards is on patrol, he finds something. Is it a winning lottery ticket? Plane tickets to Florida? A classic issue of Playboy? No, it's just their orders. Fun. Suddenly someone places a green filter over the lens, plays some menacing music and the poor fellow screams (which, amazingly, nobody hears) and gets all the blood drained from him. I would LOVE to know how they drain the blood from someone is such a short space of time, but I guess that's a much a mystery as why Chantelle hasn't been shot yet. Irritating bitch.

I'd like to take a few seconds here to point out a glaring error that was brought to my attention thanks to my mother being curator of a museum doing an exhibition on World War 2
last year. This is for you, Mum! When Ace meets the two future victims-to-be, she says they should meet at Maiden's Point, which is handily signposted. But during the war, they took down all signposts in case German troops landed in the country - that way the soldiers wouldn't know where they were or which way to go. So that's a bit of an 'Oops' mistake right there.

Back on track, we're introduced to the Commander of the base, or Herr Obermann, as he prefers to be known. And we're also introduced to the Reverend something-or-other, who goes on about a curse. Evil was 'ere BC 2000, or some such. Another query, if I may - shouldn't the TARDIS be translating the runes? Silly me, of course not - that'd ruin the plot. Anyway, the man the Doctor's apparently here to see, Judson, is bossed about by his carer who I've no doubt will end up dead before the day is done, and I come up with a few smutty innuendos.

The two future corpses Ace met go for a swim - they'll be sucked down under in no time (Fwar) AND a Russian prays that, once they're out of the water, he won't have to fire at them with his big gun. Well, you wouldn't want to be shooting blanks at two fairly pretty young ladies now, would you? (Clean up on Aisle 4!)

Moving on. Ace meets one of the ladies who listens for German communications and finds out she has a baby called Audrey - a name she detests. Can't blame her there, I've never liked the name. But apparently it was the name of her mother. Hmm. Taking shelter, her and the Doctor take a look at the cliffs were Ace hung out with the two cadavers-in-waiting, and the pair find a dead Russian. And a lot of live ones. Pointing guns at them. A cliffhanger at a cliff? genius!

Part Second

The Russians decide not to shoot the Doctor since the episode is going out pre-watershed. Meanwhile, the Commander and Judsen have translated the runes and are reading them out loud, for some god only knows reason. This will lead to very bad things, of that you can be sure.

Moving on a bit, because there's a few minutes that I can't make fun of, the Reverend makes a lovely speech to a completely empty church while the Doctor and Ace explore the runes further and discover that some new one have appeared. Only they aren't new. Which is a bit of a confuser, really. Finding a secret chamber leads them to the Commander, who has been stockpiling green slime. Surely we've already reviewed a story about Green Slime? No? Oh well. He's got lots of it. Lots and lots and lots of it. An when he demonstrates that only a few drops can kill a room full of birds, his brilliant plan to rid the beaches of seagulls is revealed. What a nice man he is.

Back at the beach, the two girls run headlong into the water again, not a care in the world, and as the fog machine goes into overdrive, they're killed faster then you can click your fingers and say 'Just like that'. When they return, trying to seduce a Russian soldier in the most twisted seduction I've seen since Gigli, their hair appears to have been through the wrangler. Should have used Herbal Essences, methinks.

Moving on from soldiers to men of the cloth, they make their move on the Reverend, who reveals that they are now, in fact, vampires. Which just doesn't make sense, because everybody knows vampires have immaculate hair. And, once again, the holy water/cross/bible legend is shattered. How many times are we going to have to be told that they don't work? The Reverend is saved, amazingly, by the Doctor, who barges in and tells the vamps firmly, yet politely, to leave. And they do! It's a wonder he doesn't try this approach more often.

Suddenly, the team realise that they;ve got to stop Judsen from translating the new runes that have appeared, since it's resurrecting all the old pop groups of yore who have faded into obscurity. But no! They're too late! And since the producers of the show have run out of time, they just decide to make that the cliffhanger. Classic stuff, really.

Parte the Third

The Doctor convinces the Commander of the danger and tries to get re-enforcement sent in, but the Commander's quite stupidly had the radios 'disabled'. Which must have been fun for Perkins, who did the honours with a ruddy great axe. Meanwhile, we're told that the revived pop bands are what human beings eventually evolve into. So how come Cassandra isn't a blood-sucking leach... oh. Right.

Returning to make sure baby Audrey's all right, she assumes Aubrey's mother is a single mum. Sadly, we'll have to wait about 20 years for that story to be told, but then that said... with a husband in the war, surely it's only a matter of time, right? And on the other side of the base, McCoy shows his true colours by playing the clown. Which is always funny.

Flash forward to a seemingly pointless return to the church and there's water seeping in. Oh dear, that can only mean one thing. Attack of the Undead! There's a good movie in the waiting for you. Running up the top of the church, Ace reveals a ladder, which is what all the cool kids are carrying around in those days, apparently. Alas, she climbs down straight into the arms of some waiting monsters. Don't stuggle Ace, all they want is a cuddle! Oh, and to drain all the blood out of you, but that's a given, right? Good news, however - the Russians arrive and promptly blow the budget away with their bullets. Huzzah. Back inside the church, the Doctor chants the words to Pertwee's eternal classic I Am The Doctor, prompting a hideous response from the vampires as their brains remember the naffness of the record.

The head Russian holds he creatures at bay with his Abba fan club badge, representing his undying faith that the group will reunite one of these days. After grabbing his men, he returns - just to talk, of course. But the Commander is having none of it and locks him up for the sheer hell of it. Nice chap.

And low and behold, I was right. Single mother ahoy. Now's your chance, fellas!

Outside of this, Ace finally decides to challenge the Doctor and he responds with a wonderful piece of nonsense that puts Ace off ever asking anything of him ever again, which is a blessing I think all Doctors could do with. And then, quite out of the blue, Ace comes up with the most bizarre chat-up technique since... well, Part 2. I'm tempted to try them out myself next time I go down the pub.

Back on something a little more sane, the creatures are making short work of both the door holding them back and the Reverend, marking the beginning of the Great Extras Slaughter of '42 which lasted a whole 40-odd minutes and which is barely known outside of the BBC. We bow our heads in remembrance of the fine extras who fell in the line of budget cuts. May they rest in peace(s).

Judsen has recovered the container of the main villain of the piece - apparently Evil needs a body. Try telling that to Cassandra. But once again the Doctor is too late. The Commander is spewing text like Shakespeare reborn and the crippled Judsen is crippled no more! Although he is now host to an evil from the dawn of time, but still - nice to be up and about again, isn't it?

Part Goes Fourth (that one doesn't work so well, does it?)

And we're straight into the backstory, although it doesn't last long as Fenric shatters windows with nary but a hand gesture and goes to greet his minion(s). Bet they were surprised to meet their maker, hmm? Meanwhile the Doctor and Co. (Another spin-off for you, RTD!) almost get shot before being rescued, while that nice old Commander goes completely fruit-loopy.

Fenric orders the fetching of The Ancient One, which is a bit of a misnomer, seeing as he's from the far future and probably not very old at all. But it's an impressive title all the same, and I doubt he's pushing very hard to get it changed. Fenric, however, is revealed to have a weakness for Chess - well, who doesn't? - and the Doctor arranges to find a set so he can beat the evil bastard once again. As he waits for the Doctor to set it up, Fenric starts eulogising about the good old days. Unfortunately he'll be waiting for a while, as former nice guy the Commander has rigged his chess set to blow up, but luck be with them, Ace remembers where she saw another set, so off they go.

On the outside, the Russians are being killed left, right and centre, and the last two decide to go blow up the deciphering machine which started the whole mess. A wee bit too late, but then that's Russia for you. Back on the inside, the Commander, who really was a nice guy once, honestly, realises that his great chemical weapon will be used to wipe the earth clean, which begs the question - why the bloody hell does he have so much? Overkill much?

Ace gets back to flirting with a Russian soldier, ensuring his demise in the process, while the Great Extra Massacre continues in full swing. Once she's convinced the man to part with his beloved Abba Fan Club badge, she has a sudden pang of conscience and decides to go back and help Audrey's mother escape with her baby. The other Russian, meanwhile, tries to destroy the machine, only to get a bullet in the chest courtesy of the Commander, who, let's be honest here, may well have been a nice guy once, but by now has completely lost his marbles. The Doctor, having FINALLY found a chess set, sets the game up once more.

Fortunately for the few survivors at this point, Fenric's superiority complex rises to the fore and he has all the other creatures killed by the Ancient One in a stunning display of disintegration. Then, realising he'll never score any chicks in Judson's body, he leaps into the Russian's. Not knowing this, Ace reveals the solution to the Doctor's puzzle to him, and with nothing standing in his way, he starts laughing in the manner that maniacal villains often do and reveals that everybody was little more then a pawn - Ace included. In a stunning display of twisting someone's words to mean something completely different, the Doctor convinces the Ancient One that Fenric wouldn't do him a single favour one the Earth was his and so gets him to sacrifice itself to take out ol' Fenric.

On the side, the Commander, completely ga-ga and, not just a portion of fries, but also a burger and a carbonated beverage short of a happy meal, finally gets his comeuppance as the surviving Russian (the one he shot, remember - I never said he was dead) teams up with a British soldier and shoots the big guy dead. An eye for an eye, and all the rest. Ace learns that is was in fact her mother and grandmother she helped to escape, and wanting to rid herself of the whole horrid experience, washes all the terror away with a swim. Lovely.

...So there we are. Different, but somewhat enjoyable. Anyway, I thought this was a great story and I WILL watch this one again - I'd love to see the extended edition. Hope I haven't bored you guys with this long 'un!

The Bumper Book of Made Up Doctor Who Facts has this to say about The Curse of Fenric: Ace's original seduction speech was to have been the much more simple "Fancy a quickie round the back of the bike shed?", but unfortunately the side-plot that would have developed from this, involving a rock to the back of the head, the cutting up of the body and the burial of the pieces, would have required an extra two days filming which the budget simply wouldn't allow for.

*I've a tad more time these days (not to mention Firefox and its built-in spell checker), so the typos and poor grammar are now fixed. You're welcome.

No comments:

Post a Comment