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Zompires, Nicholas Parsons, and the most awkward seduction in Classic Doctor Who

Alan Turing really should have made a mad dash for the patent office, because World War 2 is coming to an end and some dude named Judson has ripped off the Enigma with his Ultima machine and is using it to not only decode enemy cyphers, but translate ancient norse inscriptions. The chap in charge, Commander Millington, has an obsession with the local norse legend of Fenric which he believes will ultimately win them the war, and happily endorses Judson’s experiments. 

In a plotline that hasn’t aged badly at all, meanwhile, some Russian army chaps led by a heroic and hunky Soviet charmer with perfect faith in his country’s ideology, have arrived to steal the Ultima machine and are evidently going to be our best hope for peace in act 3. Millington and Judson are about to Necronomicon the sh*t out of Fenric, however, and soon this ancient evil will be free to unleash an army of haemovores and transform a pair of local women into vampire sirens. Also, Doc and Ace arrive just in time for Ace to meet her mum, seduce a couple of GIs, and learn she’s been a pawn in Fenric’s game since the start.

 

Here's what we think of C158 The Curse of Fenric

We rate Doctor Who stories on a scale from 0.0 to 5.0. For context, very few are excellent enough to merit a 5.0 in our minds, and we'd take a 0.0 Doctor Who story over a lot of other, non-Whovian stuff out there.

Leon | @ponken

3.9

Jim | @jimmythewho

2.5

Here's what we think of C158 The Curse of Fenric

We rate Doctor Who stories on a scale from 0.0 to 5.0. For context, very few are excellent enough to merit a 5.0 in our minds, and we'd take a 0.0 Doctor Who story over a lot of other, non-Whovian stuff out there.

Leon | @ponken

3.9

Jim | @jimmythewho

2.5

Here's what you think 6 Responses to “C158 The Curse of Fenric”
  1. Steven from Canada | @SAndreyechen

    For point of reference I watched the Reconstruction of the VHS extended version included on the Season 26 bluRay box set and I watched it before Ghostlight as was intended by the creators.

    What an incredibly creative story, full of espionage, action, mystery and fantasy. I love the World War Two setting and it is amazingly realized both in terms of set design, costumes and acting. Ace gets some wonderful, though enigmatic closure and we continue on for melee adventures.

    While this is an excellent and thoroughly enjoyable story I do feel like it has some pacing issues. The story is very dense and really doesn’t give the viewer a chance to let everything sink in. I think a slower pace spread across more episodes would have worked better.

    Overall this story earns 5 non government property genie vases out of 5.

    Steven from Canada

  2. Kristaps Paddock

    Sly McCoy going from strength to strength. What a serial! I’m going to eschew my usual format and just list my likes:
    – a fantastic, well realized new monster
    – the Vikings
    – the commies
    – Ace solving a logic puzzle
    – a man getting possessed
    – Ace meeting her grandmother
    – Ace holding her mother as an infant
    – more chess!
    – Ace kicking ass
    – The Doctor being clever
    – The Doctor making Ace confront her trauma (again)
    – Ace going swimming in a baptismal metaphor
    – Two teenagers calling people names
    – Two teenagers turning into zombies
    I could keep going on and on. There’s so much to love here. Watching this season with you all makes me question who in the hell cancelled this show after THIS season. Four point five puritanical old marms scolding girls for going swimming out of five.

  3. Oli Raven | @FoggyDrWho (Insta)

    Hello there! So, we’re off to the death throes of WW2 then for some bloodsucking shenanigans! As with Delta, this isn’t an era the early days of the show would’ve treated as historical.

    Doc forges documents to gain access to a military base! Is this another pre-Eccleston psychic paper sighting??

    The late Nicholas Parsons gives a solid performance here as a vicar suffering a wartime crisis of faith.
    At the time of writing I have not long watched a new Dracula film called Renfield, which seems at one point (possible spoiler for non-Who recent fiction alert) to borrow this serial’s interpretation of why vampires actually recoil at the sight of the cross.

    Speaking of guest stars, is that two hæmovore-based adventures Anne Reid’s been part of now, counting New Who’s Smith and Jones?

    The baby turning out to be Ace’s mother is a great twist but does ruin the story’s rewatchability level by a smidgen.
    I also enjoyed how the scene was directed when she went for a swim. No wonder that Soviet soldier fell for her terrible flirting so easily. Ho hum. *whistles*

    This was one of the first pair of DW DVDs I ever bought, alongside The Two Doctors so I clearly already held it in high regard from earlier viewings.
    Overall, I award it 4.5 emotionally crippled intergalactic chess pieces. Surely the show will only go from strength to strength from here? Oh…

    Oli Raven

  4. Peter Zunitch

    There’s an easy argument that this would have been a better final story for the classic series. A timeless foe, non-stop action and a revealing arc for both doctor and companion. If you didn’t like Ace, you do now. If you didn’t like McCoy, you do now. He’s so far ahead of his opponent he probably doesn’t exist. She is a pawn on a roller coaster played by both sides of the chess board. Just WOW! Bravo Sophie!

    If there’s a serious flaw in this story it’s that the team once again fails to explain everything that’s happening to the point that the audience might just get discouraged even on the fourth or fifth viewing. There’s much to be examined here, and with the possible exception of the Prisoner, it’s usually not good to have a show where years of analysis, and possible therapy are needed afterwards. Could this be considered the curse of the McCoy Era?

    The elements missing are somewhat obvious; The hemavores going after the baby and Fenric calling them off; Ace seeing Fenric’s first body before divulging the answer; Fenric stating that he set her up from the beginning so that she reveals just that; And a little more talk about Millington’s all-in solution brought about by his fanaticism to think like the enemy.

    Everything else is near perfect. All that was needed was a bit of finishing paint in between the things that go boom! 4.6 plot points that even influenced events re-visited in new-Who.

  5. Kieren Evans | @kjevans2

    Hi folks

    ‘We play the contest again, Timelord’

    Two scores coming for this one as the Special Edition (DVD and Blu-ray) is my much-preferred watch. They filmed 4.5 episodes worth and then had to edit down. Thus the editing in the TV version is a bit messy and a lot of great lines and scenes are cut. Also why two of the cliffhangers are a bit rubbish as they aren’t where they were meant to be. The VHS had 6 mins added back and the Special Edition has 12 mins added back in as well as being re-edited. Great music, which expanded in the SE.

    Anyway, WW2 adventure but with Soviets! And Vampires! Well, we now know that communism makes vampires scream. Haha. Fenric as Evil is a great villain in both Judson and Sorin forms. A note on Tomek Bork as Sorin: he’s polish and had left Poland to escape the Soviet-backed regime, so he didn’t like doing some of the bits in this.

    Puppet Master Seventh Doctor is in full force with this being the most after Remembrance and Silver Nemesis. Him breaking Ace’s faith at the end is quite shocking really, especially if you’ve picked up what he chants in the church to scare off the Haemovores earlier. The sound mix is a little low but he clearly says ‘Ian, Barbara, Susan,…’. Who else would the Doctor have faith in but his companions.

    Love as the codeword for the Ultima machine booby trap is quite twisted (in the extended versions, the Doctor says how inhuman it is and Millington just quietly snorts).

    The Special edition gets 4.9/5, but the TV version 3.7/5 Burning Chess Sets.

    Cheers

    Kieren

  6. Michael Ridgway | @bad_movie_club

    The inhuman, unpitying black-hearted horror of it.

    Nope, not the bleak creepiness and grim death pile-on. Not the nightmare imagery nor grisly chemical warfare. Not the unstoppable killing machine heamovores or crazy-eyed Fenric. Not the cruel death of Rev. Wainright. Not even the ‘oh no, I liked him!’ body theft of Sorin.

    The real horror is how could BBC Suits watch this MASTERPIECE and not only cancel the show but take the piss out of it for years.

    When Michael Grade was slagging off Doctor Who in Room 101 they showed the clip of the Myrka and my how the audience belly-laughed. Why didn’t they show a clip of mentally broken Rev. Wainright’s faith desert him. Surely the audience would have chuckled at Wainright’s body in the mud? Loony Millington’s psychotic monologue of chemical bombing cities was pretty funny right – show that clip! The Doctor’s cruel mindfuck of Ace was only the same length as the Myrka clip – show that one! Maybe they were going for a certain angle. There’s not much in Fenric to amuse, bar perhaps the concept of the Russians sailing off with the Ultima machine in a dingy. Even then, the Russians would have found a way.

    5/5 absolute certainty that I would not swim in that water at the end as Ace did – not for all the Viking treasure in the sea.

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