The Curse of Fenric

We hoped to return to the North Way, but the dark curse follows our dragon ship…The Wolves of Fenric will return for their treasure and then shall the dark evil rule eternally.

The Seventh Doctor

Synopsis

The TARDIS materalises at a secret naval base off the coast of Northumberland during the Second World War. Dr Judson, a scientist there, has created the Ultima Machine, an early computer designed to break German codes. But Judson also has a much more sinister use for the machine. He plans to translate the ancient runes in a crypt of the nearby St Jude’s Church, which will release Fenric, an evil entity from the dawn of time whom the Doctor trapped seventeen centuries earlier.

As Fenric’s Haemovores attack, the Doctor must once again face the entity in a battle which will reveal devastating truths for Ace…

Review

The Curse of Fenric is widely held up to be one of the best examples of late 80s Doctor Who, and to an extent I do agree with that opinion. It is a good story, which attempts to tie up the loose ends left from some other Seventh Doctor stories, and also shows this Doctor at his most manipulative. It’s also a chance for the companion to take centre stage, with Ace’s plot perhaps being a sign of things to come in the revived series, with the focus being more on the companion.

The story is good, although it does feel quite choppy to begin with. I’m not sure if it’s down to the writing, directing or editing but the story jumps quite suddenly and seemingly at random to different scenes which I found to be quite jarring. It settles down in the latter two parts, which is to the story’s credit. I also found that the story stretched credulity a little when it came to Millington’s office being modelled on an equivalent office in Germany. Otherwise, as he is Ace’s creator, it is unsurprising that this is a strong story for Sophie Aldred’s character, concluding some of the mystery surrounding the Time Storm in her bedroom and her family history. Some of this comes across as more melodramatic than intended, however moments like when Ace’s grandmother Kathleen learns of the death of her grandfather Frank, this is really touching. Moments like this are more familiar to viewers of the revived series, having had companion’s families playing a prominent role in the first four series. Ace’s relationship and conflicted feelings over her mother make her feel more relatable to the audience and the roots of this being a part of the show when it came back can certainly be seen here. Having Fenric be responsible for bringing the Doctor and Ace together, and also being responsible for Lady Peinforte’s knowledge of the Doctor in Silver Nemesis is an interesting way of bringing dangling threads to a satisfactory conclusion. I really like that strong faith in something is able to keep people safe from the Haemovores, and equally that the Doctor’s faith is in his previous companions, which is something the story could make a little bit clearer, but it’s still a nice idea.

One of the story’s other strengths is the location work, with filming taking place at Lulworth Cove in Devon and Hawkhurst in Kent, and like other stories that aren’t studio bound, there are some really memorable scenes. One that particularly stands out it the Haemovores’ attack on the church which makes full use of St Lawrence Church, including the roof and the ringing chamber. This is one of the best directed sequences in the story, giving a real sense of threat and urgency. Combined with the rightly iconic shots of the Haemovores rising out of the Bay, this is probably one of the horrifying and gothic stories since the Hinchcliffe-Holmes era. Equally, there are some really nice close-ups here, potentially best when the Doctor realises that Fenric has possessed Judson rather than Millington at the end of Part 4, but equally, the close-up on Millington’s face when he realises that his actions have prevented the base being able to call for reinforcements are impactful.

We play the contest again, Time Lord.

Fenric (via the possessed Dr Judson)

The guest cast here are largely good. Nicholas Parsons is one of the real stand-outs here, as on the surface he would appear to be yet another example of producer John Nathan-Turner’s stunt casting, like casting Beryl Reid as a spaceship captain in Earthshock. What the late Parsons manages to do is give this character a genuine sense of nuance and realism to a vicar who has begun to doubt his faith due to the deaths of innocent people caused by the British bombing raids on German cities. Of course, in a story where strength of faith is all that can keep the characters safe from the Haemovores, Reverend Wainwright’s card was always going to be marked, but Parsons makes us care about his character that his death makes an impact. Equally Dinsdale Landen is good as the disabled scientist Judson, and even better when he is possessed by Fenric, and the same can be said for Tomek Bork, even if his time as Fenric is relatively limited. Two performances that really don’t work are those of Joann Kenny and Joanne Bell as Jean and Phyllis, two young evacuees to the countryside from London. It may be partially because the story doesn’t do them any real favours – like the fact that they immediately seem to strike a friendship up with Ace from nothing – but they are pretty irritating and their London accents are excruciating, making it a relief when they are turned to Haemovores relatively early on.

And the half-time score: Perivale 600 million, rest of the universe: nil

Ace

With the focus being firmly on her character, Sophie Aldred puts in a great performance as Ace. As mentioned above, some of the storyline is a bit melodramatic but Aldred largely accredits herself well, with perhaps the exception of the flirting with Sorin’s guard, but I think that might be more to do with the writing. I really liked how proud she was of being able to solve the inscriptions before the Doctor tells her that this will create more problems and that she finally calls the Doctor out about keeping secrets from her about things that might be important. The final confrontation scene with Fenric is really powerful as we realise how much Ace trusts the Doctor, despite his scheming and manipulation, and we see the Doctor take full advantage of this and, to an extent, destroy it, labelling her, amongst other things a social misfit. Sylvester McCoy takes more of a backseat here to his companion, but is utterly convincing as the Machiavellian schemer. On the lighter side, I love the way Ace and the Doctor manage to blag their way onto the base, criticising the guards for being tardy and the Doctor typing up letters of authority.

Verdict: A strong story, falling as the penultimate entry in the ‘Classic’ series, The Curse of Fenric demonstrates Doctor Who as a show potentially regaining its confidence. There are some good (and not so good) guest performances here and there are still problems, but it is a good story. 8/10

Cast: Sylvester McCoy (The Doctor), Sophie Aldred (Ace), Dinsdale Landen (Dr. Judson), Alfred Lynch (Commander Millington), Stevan Rimkus (Captain Bates), Marcus Hutton (Sgt Leigh), Christien Anholt (Perkins), Tomek Bork (Captain Sorin), Peter Czajkowski (Sgt Prozorov), Marek Anton (Vershinin), Mark Conrad (Petrossian), Nicholas Parsons (Reverend Wainwright), Janet Henfrey (Miss Hardaker), Joann Kenny (Jean), Joanne Bell (Phyllis), Anne Reid (Nurse Crane), Cory Pulman (Kathleen Dudman), Aaron Hanley (Baby Audrey) & Raymond Trickett (Ancient One).

Writer: Ian Briggs

Director: Nicholas Mallett

Parts: 4

Behind the Scenes

  • Working titles included The Wolves of Fenric, Wolf-TIme, Powerplay and Black Rain. The title seems to have only been decided on late in the day, as the Radio Times stated in the prgramme listing for Ghost Light that the next story would be The Wolves of Fenric.
  • The story was intended to combine studio and location filming, however, Nicholas Mallett eventually persuaded John Nathan-Turner that the story being entirely shot on location would be more effective and realistic.
  • Ace mentions an old house in Perivale – this was originally intended to be broadcast before as the season opener but the rearranging of broadcast order means that it refers back. The story was also supposed to be the debut of the Doctor’s darker coat but it made its debut appearance in Battlefield instead.
  • The character of Dr Judson was based on Alan Turing and Ian Briggs intended for the back story between Millington and Judson to be that they were former lovers. It was considered an inappropriate plot point for a character to be grappling with his sexuality in a family show, so Briggs changed this to him struggling with being crippled in the finished story. The sexuality subplot, which revealed that Millington crippled Judson during a rugby match in a jealous rage, made the novelisation.

Cast Notes

  • Dinsdale Landen was originally cast as Ganatus in The Daleks but had to drop out due to scheduling conflicts and had been considered to play Lord Henry Palmerdale in Horror of Fang Rock.
  • Marcus Hutton went on to appear in the Big Finish Main Range plays The Church and the Crown and The Kingmaker as well as appearing in Bernice Summerfield and Iris Wildthyme stories.
  • Marek Anton makes his second appearance in this season, having previously appeared as The Destroyer in Battlefield.
  • Janet Henfrey would go on to appear in Mummy on the Orient Express and also appeared in Big Finish plays An Eye For Murder and The Day of the Comet, amongst others.
  • Anne Reid would go on to appear in Smith and Jones.
  • Future Doctors Christopher Eccleston and Peter Capaldi were considered for the role of Reverend Wainwright.
  • Two of the Haemovores are played by Sylvester McCoy’s sons, Sam and Joe Kent-Smith.

Best Moment

The Haemovores rising out of the water is a fantastic scene, and rightly iconic.

Best Quote

Love and hate, frightening feelings, especially when they’re trapped struggling beneath the surface.

Seventh Doctor

Previous Seventh Doctor review: Ghost Light

Other Stories Mentioned

Dragonfire

Silver Nemesis

Leviathan

The entire world and everything in it – the castle, the forest, the village – they’re all inside the hold of gigantic spaceship!

The Sixth Doctor

Synopsis

No one lives to old age in the village. When their time is come, they are taken and never seen again. That is The Way. And should anyone try to break with the established order of things, then the fury of Herne the Hunter is unleashed…

When the TARDIS materalises near a castle in this mediaeval society, the Doctor and Peri befriends Gurth, a terrified youth is attempting to flee his fate. And Herne is closing in…

Why does the local baron impose the culling? What is the secret of Zeron? And who are the Sentinels of the New Dawn?

The answers lie within a cave…

Review

Leviathan is definitely the strongest story in the Sixth Doctor’s Lost Stories range that I’ve heard so far. It brings an intriguing central concept and throws a couple of twists in along the way in a story that would have been a solid story for either the original run of the show or the revived form. It’s a highly visual story, however, and probably benefits from the audience using their imaginations to visualise the settings and some of the characters, as with a 1980s BBC budget, the special effects probably would have been underwhelming.

The story is well-paced and times its reveals to perfection. The first part focuses on the mystery surrounding the culling of the young people, a society with androids and a fearsome foe and the faux Middle Ages setting, culminating in the reveal that the whole society is a simulation held in the hold of a spaceship. The second part reveals some darker truths about the nature of what has happened during the simulation, including what happens to the young people after they have had ‘their time’. The whole central concept is really creepy, with androids posing as authority figures and elders in the village and the scene where Peri finds that the hut that she and Gurth are hiding in is surrounded by the other inhabitants of the village is really creepy. The story has benefitted from adaptation to audio by the original writer’s son, who inserted things like the horse riding sequence, more dialogue for Herne and more action scenes, as the story was not limited by a BBC budget. The story’s pacing means that none of the reveals feel rushed and gives each idea enough time to breathe. Even things like the Sentinels of the New Dawn, a relatively minor thread, gets picked up and wrapped up satisfactorily. I particularly like the idea of the Leviathan spaceship being designed as a cutting edge colony ship but by the time it was ready to launch, technology had surpassed it. The Middle Ages simulation is designed to provide colonists who will not survive the journey with more pleasant surroundings is also a nice idea, with the Sentinels of the New Dawn installing the Zeron, a former prison running system, allocated to this instead.

Something that I really like about Doctor Who is when the stories are able to teach me something – the original remit of the show was to be educational. In this case, I went down a rabbit hole of researching Herne the Hunter who is a mythic character from the Dark Ages. The performance by John Banks is unsettling and creepy, making Herne feel like a real threat, thanks to some great audio design. This story also features a small number of actors playing multiple roles, which works really well here – none of their voices are similar which really helps the world feel more expansive and real and the guest cast excel here.

This is another strong outing for Colin Baker’s Sixth Doctor, being equally funny, charming and resourceful when the story requires it. From the associated documentary, Baker seems to have particularly enjoyed this story and he is particularly good in the scenes where he is slowly piecing together the inconsistencies about the Dark Ages façade throughout part one, such as the existence of white bread, the castle walls not being thick enough and the castle’s moat being so shallow that it can be waded across. He remains capable of being scathing as well, such as when Eda doesn’t realise that there is an android guard in the cells and is superb when he tells the pirates attempting to profit from the Leviathan, telling them that he is strongly considering unleashing Herne on them. This is quite a good story for Peri too, as despite her getting captured early on in the narrative, she rallies later on when she is trying to get the Pariahs, members of the society who have escaped ‘their time’, to rise up. There are even hints of the Doctor and Peri’s old combative relationship, as when they are reunited, they fall into bickering about where the other has been.

Verdict: Leviathan is one of the stronger Lost Stories which feels really well paced and is well acted by all the cast. It’s a shame that this story was never made, as I think, even with the budget at the time, this would have been a classic story for the Sixth Doctor. 9/10

Cast: Colin Baker (The Doctor), Nicola Bryant (Peri Brown), Howard Gossington (Gurth/Thurstan/Soltan), John Banks (Herne/Baron/Osbert/Chandris), Beth Chalmers (Althya/Maude/Eada/Zeron), Jamie Parker (Wulfric/Edgar) & Derek Carlyle (Siward/Master-Serjant/Gregorian)

Writer: Brian Finch (adapted by Paul Finch)

Director: Ken Bentley

Parts: 2

Behind the Scenes

  • The script was originally intended to be a part of Season 22, but was dropped by the production team for unknown reasons.
  • The script was sent in to Big Finish by Brian Finch’s son Paul, who had read about the Lost Stories series in Doctor Who Magazine. With recording on the first series of Lost Stories almost complete, producer David Richardson managed to extend the originally planned series.

Cast Notes

  • Howard Gossington also appeared in House of Blue Fire and Power Play.
  • John Banks has appeared in several Lost Stories, including Thin Ice, The Elite and The First Sontarans, as well as other Big Finish stories, including Lucie Miller, Doom Coalition and The Well-Mannered War.
  • Beth Chalmers has played numerous roles for Big Finish, including Seventh Doctor companion Raine Creevey.
  • Jamie Parker also appeared in The Architects of History, Shadow of the Daleks and Plight of the Pimpernel.
  • Derek Carlyle also appeared in Brotherhood of the Daleks, Heroes of Sontar and The Doomsday Quatrain.

Best Quote

Ideas in themselves are not evil, it’s those who corrupt them. In the hands of the wicked and the depraved even the finest dreams can be turned into nightmares.

The Sixth Doctor

Leviathan is available to purchase on the Big Finish website, or to stream on Spotify

Previous Sixth Doctor review: Mission to Magnus

The Children of Seth

Why do the shortest journeys seem to take the longest?

The Fifth Doctor

Synopsis

During one of Nyssa’s experiments, the TARDIS’ temporal scanner picks up a message: “Idra”. Just one word, but enough to draw the Doctor to the Archipelago of Sirius.

There, the Autarch is about to announce a new crusade. A mighty war against Seth, Prince of the Dark…

But who is Seth? What is the secret of Queen Anahita, Mistress of the Poisons? And what terror awaits on Level 14?

Review

The Children of Seth feels very different to most other Doctor Who adventures, and it is no surprise that the original idea comes from Christopher Bailey, who also wrote Kinda and Snakedance. Adapted by Marc Platt, it is a story of political machinations and manipulation of the public which Big Finish seem to love doing, but this is definitely one of the strongest examples of that kind of story. It benefits from having quite a small cast and, amongst that cast, having Honor Blackman and David Warner really raises everybody else’s performances.

As mentioned above, the story is one of political intrigue, but perhaps what makes it so effective is that it takes the time in the first part to establish the world without the Doctor and his companions being present, and does it in a way that feels pacey rather than dragging, leaving the audience longing for the TARDIS to materalise. Equally, it’s not as though the Doctor, Nyssa and Tegan are twiddling their thumbs in the scenes in the console room, with the defence intelligence drone having its circuits fried by the TARDIS’s superior circuits, which is more interesting than the usual TARDIS scenes of this era. The story is particularly dialogue heavy and there is not a word wasted, to the extent that I think that this story that will get better each time that it is listened to, as it can be quite difficult to pick everything up on the first go round. It’s not a particularly action led adventure, but the intrigue surrounding the identity of Seth and the machinations of Byzan really drives it forwards. The central idea of a common ‘bogeyman’ in the shape of Seth is a really intriguing one, especially when it is revealed that Seth is a creation of Anahita’s in her book The Trick of Darkness, a book which Byzan has destroyed all known copies of, and has been so complacent as to not even change the name. Whilst Byzan has managed to get into a position of power by reducing the roles of both Siris and Anahita, the real villain of the piece is Albis and the army of androids forbidden to take human form, and I love the fact that they don’t know how many people are androids in the general population.

The best performances come from Honor Blackman and David Warner, who bring Anahita and Autarch Siris to life so effectively. Blackman has the lion’s share of dialogue, and she is great in her interactions with the majority of the characters, especially the Doctor and Tegan. As someone whose power has been gradually eroded away by the rise of Byzan, it would be easy to see her as a good person, but she is depicted as being more ambiguous – she is described as the Queen of Poisoners, and lives up to her title when she poisons Byzan at the end of the story, and her husband, Siris, tells her to bring her poisons to where they go next. Siris has slightly less to do, but is sympathetically portrayed by David Warner, a leader suffering from dementia who has passed power on to Byzan. Warner and Blackman have believable chemistry together as a bickering couple but they do seem to genuinely care about each other.

The Fifth Doctor really is front and centre in this story, and Peter Davison puts in a good performance. He is particularly effective when he is blinded by his encounter with the defence net and is surrounded by brainwashed people in Level 14, generally referred to as Hell throughout the story. It’s funny to think of this Doctor in particular being used as a common enemy to rail against, as the Fifth Doctor is probably the most affable and likeable incarnation. The rapport between Davison’s Doctor and Queen Anahita make it believable that they have previously met and their relationship seems to be one of mutual respect. Nyssa again feels underutilised, disappearing from the narrative at times when she is banished to Level 14 and her memory wiped. However, Sarah Sutton is particularly creepy and effective when she is portraying Nyssa’s mind slipping away, with a childlike voice and giggling. On the other hand, this is really good story for Tegan, who has a lot of different things to do here as opposed to her usual characterisation, especially in the televised episodes. I really enjoyed her trying to take an interest in Nyssa’s experiment at the beginning of the story, despite the fact that she doesn’t really understand it and missing Nyssa’s joke about probability. She also gets to show a flirtatious side when she is trying to rescue the Doctor from his prison cell and probably has the most to do with Anahita, who she seems to respect despite her personal convictions about the monarchy. Janet Fielding is good here, which makes you realise how wasted she was for the majority of her run as a companion and Tegan ultimately plays an important role in the story’s climax.

An optimist, Tegan? Nyssa would have been having kittens by now.

The Fifth Doctor

Verdict: A good story with a realistic world, The Children of Seth brings this stretch of Lost Stories to a close with a bang. 8/10

Cast: Peter Davison (The Doctor), Janet Fielding (Tegan Jovanka), Sarah Sutton (Nyssa), Honor Blackman (Queen Anahita), Adrian Lukis (Byzan), David Warner (Autarch Siris), Vernon Dobtcheff (Shamur), Matt Addis (Albis), Emerald O’Hanrahan (Mira) & John Banks (Radulf Varidi).

Writer: Christopher Bailey & Marc Platt

Director: Ken Bentley

Parts: 4

Behind the Scenes

  • When the story was originally submitted to the production office in the 1980s, working titles included Manpower and May Time.

Cast Notes

  • Honor Blackman previously appeared in Terror of the Vervoids and was also offered the role of Vivien Fay in The Stones of Blood but declined for fear of being upstaged by Beatrix Lehmann.
  • Adrian Lukis has appeared in Counter Measures as Professor Jeffrey Broderick and in the Main Range (Cobwebs), The Justice of Jalxar opposite Tom Baker and Jago and Litefoot story Return of the Repressed.
  • David Warner has appeared in a lot of Doctor Who stories, including Cold War opposite Matt Smith. Warner is probably most notable for playing an alternate version of the Third Doctor in the Unbound universe for Big Finish.
  • Vernon Dobtcheff previously appeared in The War Games and has appeared in numerous Big Finish audio stories, including The Cradle of the Snake and The Genesis Chamber.
  • Matt Addis has appeared in two other Lost Stories, The Macros and Point of Entry opposite Colin Baker, as well as The Wreck of the Titan and Robophobia.
  • Emerald O’Hanrahan previously appeared in Voyage to the New World and The Ghosts of Gralstead.
  • John Banks has appeared in many Big Finish audio dramas across numerous ranges, including Missy, The Diary of River Song and The War Doctor.

Best Quote

Numbers. Like an endless cascading grid, shifting, bombarding me with information. Here or there, they cluster or thin out and I think I can see shapes but I can’t read or make sense of them yet! But I’m still her in the other world, our world, I can still smell and touch it. I’m still here.

Fifth Doctor

Previous Fifth Doctor review: Hexagora

The Children of Seth is available from the Big Finish website.

Dark Water

The Nethersphere. You know, it’s ever so funny. The people that live inside that think they’ve gone to heaven.

Missy

Synopsis

In the mysterious world of the Nethersphere, plans have been drawn up.

Missy is about to come face to face with the Doctor, and an impossible choice is looming.

“Death is not an end” promises the sinister organisation known only as 3W – but, as the Doctor and Clara discover, you might wish it was.

Review

The end of Series 8 is possibly the darkest the show has gone to date. With the ongoing plot arc revolving around various unfortunate characters who have died during the course of the Twelfth Doctor’s adventures, it could scarcely be anything else. What this story does really well is build steadily towards it’s two twists, which ultimately are really predictable but this episode does well in keeping the tension rising up until the reveal of the Cybermen and Missy.

This story has a lot to deal with moving things towards the concluding episode of the series and it mostly lands its punches. Moffat manages to take yet another everyday concept – that of television static – and apply something creepy to it yet again. This one is perhaps not as effective, as I can’t remember the last time I saw static on a television set but the underlying story beat that this contains messages from dead people imploring their relatives not to cremate them is one of the darkest ideas we’ve possibly ever had in Doctor Who. It feels ever so slightly more Torchwood than Doctor Who but pulls it off by tying it into the Master and the Cybermen. I think that the story does do its best to conceal the two big reveals of the story, even if it does realise that some of the more dedicated fans in the audience will have got there before the Doctor does. Personally, when I saw this in 2014 on first broadcast, I was aware that the Cybermen were returning but possibly less in the dark about the identity of Missy though there was a part of me thinking about which other Gallifreyans she might be before the eventual reveal. I really like the moment where the Doctor still can’t figure out who is behind the 3W Institute, exiting Doctor Chang’s room only for the shot to linger on the closing doors, forming the familiar eyes of the Cybermen, with a blast of Murray Gold’s Cybermen theme. The episode has a few of these nods to acknowledge that fans will most likely recognise that the likely foe is the Cybermen, such as the windows of Seb’s office also resembling Cyber eyepieces. Rachel Talalay does a great job of making this story feel atmospheric and manages to make shots like the Cybermen coming out of St Paul’s Cathedral feel like a loving tribute rather than derivative, which they may well have done in the hands of a lesser director. I really enjoy that when Clara enters the TARDIS to gather up all the TARDIS keys, it makes full use of the 360° set, going under main console and up to the balcony bordering it.

That’s not to say that this a perfect story. Moments like the scenes of Clara throwing away TARDIS keys in the volcano feel like they are only there for trailer bait, and also the threat that the Doctor will never step inside his TARDIS again feels a bit hollow when Moffat himself is the one who has previously established that the Doctor can enter by clicking his fingers. Then there is the Clara and Danny relationship, which I felt worked well to begin with, giving Clara a life outside the TARDIS that the show was rather reticent to give her during the Impossible Girl arc of Series 7. However, after the events of Mummy on the Orient Express when Clara starting lying to Danny about travelling with the Doctor, it was almost inevitable that the relationship was going to end badly – albeit perhaps not with Danny dying though. That being said, the cold open is great with Clara on the phone to Danny ready to confess, and the fact that Danny dies without much fanfare. This time I noticed that the score underneath stops at a certain point when Clara was talking, but it allows us to sympathise with Clara when she says how ordinary his death was. The shot of Clara standing in the middle of the road as cars drive past her, consumed by her grief, is fantastic and it is notable that it is nearly five minutes into this story that we even hear the Doctor’s voice for the first time.

Who are you?

Oh you know who I am. I’m Missy.

Who’s Missy?

Please. Try to keep up. Short for “Mistress”. Well, I couldn’t very well keep calling myself the Master, now could I?

The Twelfth Doctor and Missy

Of course, the headline news from this episode is that the Master is back and is female! This was at the time seen as a stepping stone to an eventual female Doctor, and writing this in 2021 it almost gives a clear narrative view of how we got to Jodie Whittaker’s Doctor. Gomez is utterly bonkers and obviously having a whale of a time in this role. She takes great glee in completely confounding this Doctor, whether pretending to be a robot and giving the Doctor the full 3W welcome package – complete with a kiss on the nose – leaves him completely reeling. I may be wrong but I believe this is the only time the Twelfth Doctor gets kissed. I love the scenes of her walking around the tanks of dark water, listening into the conversation between Chang, the Doctor and Clara and taking great glee in the Doctor’s bafflement at what is going on. The Cybermen are essentially window dressing here, so I’m not going to really talk about them in this review although they are particularly effective as skeletons when they start to move.

Peter Capaldi and Jenna Coleman have a lot to do here and do it so well. They are both fantastic in the dream scape scene, despite my problems with the writing of it, and after this series it does feel like the Doctor and Clara have a proper relationship rather than her just being another mystery to solve. This Doctor, despite all his fronts, does care for Clara and is willing to try and help her get her boyfriend back. Of course, he does get some good lines to delivery – threatening to hit Chang with shoe if he doesn’t hurry up is one that especially always makes me chuckle. He also manages to sell his bewilderment, especially over the identity of Missy – the moments where the Doctor holds his hand out to feel Missy’s heart(s) and keeps his hand out for a moment after she moves away is one where you can almost see the cogs turning. This story is strongly centred on Clara and her grief at losing Danny, which was interesting to watch in the wake of WandaVision, which also features somebody trying to take whatever steps necessary to bring a loved one back to life and processing grief. As I’ve stated, the relationship between Danny and Clara hasn’t always felt believable but I think that Coleman’s performance is top notch, even if we don’t really care too much about their relationship by this point. Both she and Samuel Anderson do well in the conversation they have at 3W, and Anderson is good when confronted by the boy that he accidentally killed when he was a soldier. It is good to have a resolution to this element that was alluded to earlier in the series and I think he is good in these scenes. It is far more powerful to have the boy not speak than for them to sit down and have a conversation.

Verdict: Dark Water is perhaps one of the darkest episodes of Doctor Who to date. It is bolstered by good direction and particularly powerful performances, especially from Capaldi and Coleman and introduces us to the force of nature that is Missy. 8/10

Cast: Peter Capaldi (The Doctor), Jenna Coleman (Clara Oswald), Samuel Anderson (Danny), Michelle Gomez (Missy), Joan Blackham (Woman), Sheila Reid (Gran), Chris Addison (Seb), Andrew Leung (Chang), Bradley Ford (Fleming), Antonio Bourouphael (Boy), Cyberman (Jeremiah Krage) & Nigel Betts (Mr Armitage).

Writer: Steven Moffat

Director: Rachel Talalay

Behind the Scenes

  • The first on-screen instance of a Time Lord changing gender through regeneration, something that had been alluded to in The End of Time, The Doctor’s Wife and The Night of the Doctor. The story features the first use of the term Time Lady in the revived series.
  • Due to the reveal of Missy’s identity being filmed in public, a decoy reveal was filmed, where Michelle Gomez said “You know who I am. I’m Missy. Or, if you’d prefer, Random Access Neural Integrator. Rani for short.”
  • This episode continues the trend of Cybermen appearing in the penultimate episode of Steven Moffat’s series as showrunner.
  • The plot point of the dead still being conscious was controversial enough for the BBC to issue a statement defending the episode.

Best Moment

The reveal of Missy’s identity – combined with the line:

I’m sorry everyone. Another ranting Scotsman in the street. I had no idea there was a match on.

Missy

Best Quote

You’re going to help me?

Well, why wouldn’t I help you?

Because what I just did. I —

You betrayed me. You betrayed my trust, you betrayed our friendship, you betrayed everything I ever stood for. You let me down!

Then why are you helping me?

Why? Do you think that I care for you so little that betraying me would make a difference?

Clara Oswald and the Twelfth Doctor

Previous Twelfth Doctor story: In The Forest Of The Night

The Seeds of Doom

I suppose you could call it a galactic weed, though it’s deadlier than any weed you know. On most planets, the animals eat the vegetation. On planets where the Krynoid gets established, the vegetation eats the animals.

The Fourth Doctor

Synopsis

When scientists in the Antarctic uncover a mysterious seed pod, the Doctor is called in to investigate. He soon realises it is extra-terrestrial and extremely dangerous. At the same time, however, ruthless millionaire plant-lover Harrison Chase has learned of the find and must have it for himself. Meanwhile, the pod has plans of its own…

Review

The Seeds of Doom brings Season 13 to a close in a fantastic style. It is notable perhaps for feeling more like an episode of The Saint or The Avengers (or even Pertwee-era Doctor Who), especially when it comes to some of the Doctor’s actions. This is often attributed to the fact that the writer, Robert Banks Stewart, wasn’t all too familiar with the format of Doctor Who or science fiction in general, but could also be down to how cinematic this story feels in places. It also benefits from great performances from the guest cast and being an entertaining story.

The story perhaps perfectly demonstrates how well a six part story can work for Doctor Who, As the first two parts focusing on the discovery of the Krynoid pods and the final four returning the action to England, it gives the story time to breathe and develop to its full potential. As a result, the crew of the Antarctic base feel like real characters rather than cannon fodder that other stories would throw away in the opening minutes, whilst allowing the villain of the piece, Harrison Chase to make fleeting appearances to let the audience see who is pulling the strings without bring him front and centre, whilst also keeping him as a figure of some mystery whilst he sends his operatives Scorby and Keeler out to bring him the pod. The story feels quite similar to a lot of the Third Doctor stories, sharing a lot of components, such as UNIT, corrupt civil servants and the level of action and noticeably, the Fourth Doctor engages in more fisticuffs and action scenes than usual even wielding a gun and a sword at different points of the story. With Chase having a private security force, there are lots of scenes of the Doctor and Sarah being chased around and being shot at, and this is a story with quite a high body count and some grizzly deaths – like that of the unfortunate Sergeant Henderson. One of the problems this story does have, however, is that the defeat of the Krynoid feels a bit too easy, with the airforce bombing the creature and destroying it. It does feel as though the writer painted himself into a corner by making the Krynoid too powerful and needed a quick fix. It is a slight quibble with a story that I really enjoyed though.

Douglas Camfield does some wonderful directorial work here and manages to make a story with an undoubtedly limited budget look like it was a movie at times. The story gets off to a great start with some fantastic minature work when it comes the Antarctic base which helps to make us really believe that this isn’t just another quarry somewhere in England. It continues through the action scenes, helped by the fact that Tom Baker did a lot of his own stunts in this story, most notably in the fight with the chauffeur who tries to kill the Doctor and Sarah and jumping through the skylght of Chase’s house at the beginning of Part 4. Camfield was an experienced hand at directing Doctor Who by this point and his decision not to direct further stories due to the toll it was taking on him is a real shame for the classic era.

The sergeant’s no longer with us. He’s in the garden. He’s part of the garden.

Harrison Chase

As mentioned previously, this story does has some great guest performances, none so greater than that of Tony Beckley as Harrison Chase. The character almost feels like a Bond villain at times, even though his ecological goals seem more reasonable now than they would have done at the time. Beckley plays the role well, skulking around scenes and his voice full of quiet menace. When Chase is psychically linked to the plant based creature, he maintains an aura of unnerving calm throughout. The only moments when he seems truly rattled are when he notices the incompetence of those around him in carrying out the simplest tasks. The Krynoid looks good in the early stages of taking over hosts, however, when it gets to the stage of growing to the size of Chase’s house, it doesn’t look so convincing. The miniature shots of the creature on top of the house look good though, and apparently the eventual destruction of the house looked so convincing that the owners were sent letters of commiseration.

I would be remiss not to mention some other characters here, namely Scorby, Keeler and Amelia Ducat. Scorby, Chase’s henchman, is a really nasty piece of work brought to life by John Challis, best known for playing Boycie on Only Fools and Horses. He is completely unrecognisable from this role here, effectively playing the nasty side of the character really well. Even when confronted by the fact that his boss has become a lunatic, Scorby still won’t completely trust the Doctor, which is quite a nice touch, and is constantly doubting the ability of others to get him out of the situation, which ultimately leads to yet another gruesome death. Keeler, another of Chase’s lackeys, but less certain of his boss’s intentions, is nicely played by Mark Jones. Keeler ultimately ends up becoming the Krynoid creature, which is unfortunate given the character’s misgivings about taking it back to Chase in the first place. Ultimately, though, one of the standouts is sadly underutilised, in the shape of the eccentric Amelia Ducat, played by Sylvia Coleridge. She is absolutely great in this role and it is a shame that the script does not have more of her in it, not least because she is the only other female character other than the companion in the story. The Hinchcliffe-Holmes era is perhaps the worst at having male dominated stories and Ducat is a breath of fresh air but sadly all too brief.

By this point in their relationship, the Fourth Doctor and Sarah Jane are really in their stride. Tom Baker is warm and funny when he needs to be, but also irritable when he is not being taken seriously by characters like Sir Colin about the threat the Krynoid poses to the Earth’s security. It is particularly interesting to see how the Doctor reacts to the presence of Major Beresford rather than the trusty Brigadier, who is mentioned as being in Geneva. Whilst the Doctor might see Lethbridge-Stewart as a bit of a stick in the mud, Beresford is treated as a complete jobsworth. The production team seem to have allowed both Baker and Sladen room to add lines in to the script, perhaps respecting that they are at the end of their second and third seasons respectively, with perhaps the most notable being the one below:

Hello, this is Sarah Jane Smith, she’s my best friend.

The Fourth Doctor

Sarah Jane is good here too, especially in her exchanges with the increasingly rattled Scorby towards the end of the story, pointing out that he feels impotent without his gun. Sladen states in her autobiography that the experience of working on The Seeds of Death was “a joy from start to finish” and I think that certainly does show in the end result that we see on screen.

Verdict: The Seeds of Doom is a great way to close Tom Baker’s second season as the Doctor. A great foe, combined with a good guest cast means that this is worthy of mentioning amongst the greats. 9/10

Cast: Tom Baker (The Doctor), Elisabeth Sladen (Sarah Jane Smith), Tony Beckley (Harrison Chase), John Challis (Scorby), Mark Jones (Arnold Keeler/Krynoid Voice), Hubert Rees (John Stevenson), John Gleeson (Charles Winlett), Michael McStay (Derek Moberley), Kenneth Gilbert (Richard Dunbar), Michael Barrington (Sir Colin Thackeray), Seymour Green (Hargreaves), Sylvia Coleridge (Amelia Ducat), David Masterman (Guard Leader), Ian Fairbarn (Doctor Chester), Alan Chuntz (Chauffeur), Harry Fielder (Guard), John Acheson (Major Beresford) & Ray Barron (Sergeant Henderson).

Writer: Robert Banks-Stewart

Director: Douglas Camfield

Parts: 6

Behind the Scenes

  • The Hand of Fear was originally meant to close Season 13, however, due to issues with the script, a new story was commissioned from Robert Banks-Stewart. The Hand of Fear would become a part of Season 14.
  • The cancellation of production of The Hand of Fear benefitted The Seeds of Doom, as it inherited the booking for Outside Broadcast videotape, allowing the story to feature an unusually large creature.
  • The final major appearance of UNIT until Battlefield. In the intervening years, the Brigadier would appear in Mawdyrn Undead and The Five Doctors and there was as scene at UNIT Headquarters in the latter story. There was consideration given to cameos for the Brigadier and Benton in this story, however, due to the size of the roles and Courtney’s unavailability, the idea was scrapped.
  • The final involvement of Douglas Camfield, who had worked on the show since the 1960s.
  • Philip Hinchcliffe disliked the character of Amelia Ducat, and when the script was novelised, the character was largely removed.
  • Kenneth Gilbert nearly didn’t appear in this story, as he contracted chicken pox from his daughter and was told by his doctor that he had to take two weeks off. Douglas Camfield reworked the shooting schedules to allow Gilbert to appear.
  • This is the last story to feature the original TARDIS prop, designed by Peter Brachacki. According to some reports, the roof collapsed on Tom Baker and Elisabeth Sladen at the end of the filming of this story.

Cast Notes

  • John Challis voiced the Fifth incarnation of Drax in The Trouble with Drax.
  • Hubert Rees previously appeared in Fury from the Deep and The War Games.
  • John Gleeson previously appeared two seasons prior as a Thal soldier in Genesis of the Daleks.
  • Seymour Green went on to appear in Colin Baker’s first story, The Twin Dilemma.
  • Ian Fairbairn had previously appeared in The Macra Terror and The Invasion opposite Patrick Troughton and Inferno opposite Jon Pertwee.
  • Alan Chuntz was a stuntman and extra in many Doctor Who episodes from The Invasion to The Visitation, with this being his only credited performance.
  • Harry Fielder was also a stuntman who had appeared in numerous stories from The Enemy of the World until Castrovalva. He was only credited for his appearance in this story and The Armageddon Factor. Fielder was booked to appear in Shada, however, industrial action meant that his scenes were never recorded.

Best Moment

The cliffhanger at the end of Part 3, where the tendrils from the Krynoid pod are stretching out towards Sarah’s arm is really tense and works really well.

Best Quote

If we don’t find that pod before it germinates, it’ll be the end of everything – EVERYTHING, you understand?! Even your pension!

The Fourth Doctor

Previous Fourth Doctor story: The Brain of Morbius

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