The Curse of Fenric
25 October 1989
Dinsdale Landen (Dr Judson), Alfred Lynch (Commander Millington), Nicholas Parsons (The Rev. Mr Wainwright) [1-3], Janet Henfrey (Miss Hardaker) [1-2], Tomek Bork (Captain Sorin), Peter Czajkowski (Sgt Prozorov) [1-3], Marek Anton (Vershinin), Mark Conrad (Petrossian) , Joann Kenny (Jean), Joanne Bell (Phyllis), Anne Reid (Nurse Crane), Cory Pulman (Kathleen Dudman), Aaron Hanley (Baby) [1,3-4]*, Stevan Rimkus (Captain Bates), Marcus Hutton (Sgt Leigh), Christien Anholt (Perkins) [1-3], Raymond Trickett (Ancient Haemovore) .
|Written by||Ian Briggs|
|Directed by||Nicholas Mallett|
|Produced by||John Nathan Turner|
The Doctor and Ace are put to the ultimate test when the TARDIS dematerialises in Second World War England at a top – secret naval base. The army church, built on Viking graves, bears inscriptions calling for the wolves of Fenric to return for their treasure. Thereafter evil will reign…
Even as The Doctor translates the words hideous corpses rise up from the sea, the evil Fenric now free to summon his wolves to a killing rampage. In the stand against Fenric, only The Doctor can play the final moves…
The TARDIS materialises 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. The base’s Commander Millington plans to let a Russian commando unit led by Captain Sorin steal the machine’s core, which he has booby-trapped with deadly toxin.
Judson uses the machine to translate some ancient runes from the crypt of the nearby St. Jude’s Church and this leads to the release of Fenric, an evil entity from the dawn of time whom The Doctor trapped seventeen centuries earlier in a Chinese flask by defeating it at chess.
The flask was later stolen and buried at the church by Vikings.
The base and church are attacked by Haemovores. These are humans who have been transformed into hideous vampiric creatures by the Ancient Haemovore — the last survivor of a pollution-ravaged future Earth, who has been brought back in time by Fenric. Fenric takes over Judson’s body to challenge The Doctor to a rematch at chess, and Ace unwittingly helps it to win.
Fenric, now in Sorin’s body, reveals that Ace, Judson, Millington, Sorin and Wainwright, the vicar of St Judes, are all “Wolves of Fenric” — pawns in its battle against The Doctor. It now plans to release the deadly toxin, but The Doctor succeeds in turning the Ancient Haemovore against it and its host body is killed by the gas.
However, The Doctor is forced to do this by harshly belittling Ace to break her faith in him, as it was the only thing keeping Fenric’s influence active. The baby daughter of a young woman whom Ace helped to escape from the Haemovores is revealed to be her future mother. Meanwhile, The Doctor reconciles with Ace, who has finally overcome the psychological issues that plagued her life.
- The Curse of Fenric was originally to have been shot, as with most Doctor Who serials, as a mixture of studio interiors and location exteriors. However, after reading the script, director Nicholas Mallett persuaded producer John Nathan-Turner that given the settings involved, the serial could be made more effective and realistic by shooting the entire production on location. Nathan-Turner eventually agreed to this proposition.
- This story was originally going to be titled The Wolves of Fenric (and before that, Wolf-Time). Fenric does refer to his servants as his “wolves” (and wolves have a strong link to Norse mythology). However, John Nathan-Turner felt that as the “wolves” connection was not revealed until quite late in the story, the title would not initially make any sense to the audience. It would appear that the change of story title came quite late in the day, as the Radio Times programme listing for Ghost Light Part Three bears the footnote “Next week a new story begins: ‘The Wolves of Fenric'”.
- For the scenes in Part One involving Captain Sorin and his men paddling to the shore in dinghies, subtitles — in block capitals and in the style of a tickertape print-out — were superimposed on-screen (e.g. “What’s happened to our comrades?”) to translate the Russian dialogue. This was the first use of subtitles in Doctor Who since The Mind of Evil in 1971.
Although there are several references in the story to the Norse belief in a final battle at the end of the world, the word Ragnarok was removed from the script to avoid confusion with the Gods of Ragnarok from the previous season’s The Greatest Show in the Galaxy.
- The Radio Times programme listing for Part Two credits Alfred Lynch (Commander Millington) as ‘Millington’, Peter Czajowski (Sgt. Prozorov) as ‘Prozorov’ and Marcus Hutton (Sgt. Leigh) as ‘Leigh’.
- Cory Pullman (Kathleen Dudman) is credited as ‘Kathleen’ in Radio Times for Parts One and Two.
Aaron Hanley (Baby) is uncredited on-screen for Part Two, but is credited in Radio Times.
- Writer Ian Briggs based the character of Dr. Judson on Alan Turing. (The “ULTIMA machine” of the story is based on the real Enigma machine.) In an interview for the DVD release of this story, Briggs said that since at that time it was not considered appropriate to depict a character’s struggle with homosexuality in a family programme, he transformed Turing’s frustration at being unable to express his true sexual identity into Judson’s frustration at being crippled. In the same interview, Briggs stated that he intended to suggest that both Judson and Millington were homosexual, and had a shared past, although this was not realised in the finished programme.
- Ace mentions an old house in Perivale. Originally, this was supposed to be a foreshadowing of the events of Ghost Light, but the rearranging of the broadcast schedule turned it into a reference to a past story. Also, The Doctor starts off the story in a duffel coat that hid his altered outfit which was supposed to be revealed first during the course of this story. This too was affected by the rearranging of the schedule.
- Shooting on the serial went over-length to such a degree that consideration was briefly given to editing the story into five rather than four episodes. However, Ian Briggs strongly opposed this as he felt that the narrative flow would be badly disrupted.
- Marek Anton, who played the Destroyer in Battlefield, is seen here without such make-up, as the Russian soldier Vershinin.
- The infant Audrey was portrayed by the son of the proprietors of the Bush Hotel on Shepherd’s Bush Green who was familiar to the production team as it was near The Doctor Who offices.
- Two of the Haemovores in Part Four are played by Sylvester McCoy’s sons Sam and Joe Kent-Smith. Their scenes were cut from the transmitted version of Part Four, but were reinstated for the extended BBC Video version and the Special Edition movie-length version included on BBC Worldwide’s DVD release of the broadcast version.
- In the novelisation of the serial by Ian Briggs, when Fenric kills Nurse Crane, he reveals that she was a Russian agent and had led the soldiers to the installation. This may explain how Millington knew that the Russians were going to steal the ULTIMA machine.
- Removed from the script was a reference to Ace‘s having lost her virginity. (Ace‘s character outline specified that Sabalom Glitz had done the honours.)
- The story tied together elements mentioned in passing in previous stories, specifically Peinforte’s chess board in Silver Nemesis, and the circumstances that took Ace to Iceworld as related in Dragonfire. Order Curse of Fenric BBC DVD Page