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Doctor Who: The Curse of Fenric (Story 158)
Doctor Who The Curse of Fenric
Story 158
Actors: Sylvester McCoy, Sophie Aldred
Director: Nicholas Mallett
Genres: Action & Adventure, Drama, Science Fiction & Fantasy, Television, Cult Movies
NR     2004     1hr 36min

The Doctor and Ace are put to the ultimate test when the TARDIS materializes 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 Fen...  more »


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Movie Details

Actors: Sylvester McCoy, Sophie Aldred
Director: Nicholas Mallett
Genres: Action & Adventure, Drama, Science Fiction & Fantasy, Television, Cult Movies
Sub-Genres: Action & Adventure, Drama, Science Fiction & Fantasy, Drama, Science Fiction, Sci-Fi & Fantasy
Studio: BBC Video / Warner Bros.
Format: DVD - Color
DVD Release Date: 06/01/2004
Original Release Date: 09/29/1975
Theatrical Release Date: 09/29/1975
Release Year: 2004
Run Time: 1hr 36min
Screens: Color
Number of Discs: 2
SwapaDVD Credits: 2
Total Copies: 0
Members Wishing: 9
MPAA Rating: NR (Not Rated)
Languages: English
Subtitles: English

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Movie Reviews

A fatal Curse for Two Doctors...
(3 out of 5 stars)

"BBC Video continues to turn out the quarterly releases of the Doctor Who back catalogue on DVD and the latest pairing brings two stories from the latter years of the series lengthy broadcast run. Although technically featuring stories from two different eras of Doctors (and featuring a third in a guest role) both The Two Doctors and The Curse of Fenric come from the very troubled final years of the show's 26 year run when even the fans found it hard to find favor with their hero's antics and the general viewing public made it clear that they could care less!The Two Doctors was unfortunate enough to be on air when the show was famously cancelled by the BBC, albeit to return 18 months later in a revised and truncated format. Perhaps it is for this reason that this story is not that highly rated, but in all honesty it's more likely to be that the adventure was typically symptomatic of everything that seemed to be wrong with the production at this time. The first six part adventure to be made and broadcast since 1978, this lengthy story was in fact broadcast in three double-length episodes at the beginning of 1985 in the first full season to feature the controversial sixth Doctor, played by Colin Baker. I've always believed that Colin had the personality and charisma to be a very, very fine Doctor indeed and had he followed Tom Baker and not Peter Davison, things could have been very different for him. As it is, his characterization was horribly misconceived, as was his truly appalling costume and he successfully alienated the very loyal and devoted fans of the show and the general public alike. By the time The Two Doctors was on air, one third of the audience had switched off from the start of the season and the BBC was naturally looking to see why. They blamed the violence enveloping the show and watching this story, they wouldn't be far wrong. Written by probably the greatest writer ever associated with the show, the late, great former script editor Robert Holmes, this story had so many elements that could have made it a success, but was completely let down by some gratuitous violence, grisly, unnecessary deaths and far too complex a plot. Even the return of one of the show's most popular incumbents, second Doctor Patrick Troughton and his popular sidekick Jamie were unable to save the show. More's the pity since Troughton died the following year and this is hardly a fitting tribute to his contribution to the show.When the program did make it back on to air in 1986 it was a shadow of its former greatness and although it staggered onwards for another four seasons, the death knell was never far away. The Curse of Fenric comes from the very end of the show's run and is possibly the greatest example of everything that was wrong with the production at the time. Essentially, from the very beginning of the series in 1963, the production team had always worked with their backs to the wall, with never enough time or budget to achieve what they were striving for, and yet, in 26 years, they'd always managed to find entertaining and popular stories that generally worked against all the odds. The Curse of Fenric was simply an unworkable mess. A good mess; a promising mess; but a mess nonetheless. It's staggering to think that a professional TV producer would pull together a script that was so incredibly complex and essentially unworkable under the show's format and then be surprised that the material couldn't be worked into the show's slot. It's only thanks to home video and DVD that we can now see the show how it was intended, which rather ignores the fact that it is a TV show intended for a much wider audience and not the select fans who will buy the DVD or Video.The DVD set contains the four episodes as they were transmitted (itself a first for home video) plus a (second) attempt to restore all the deleted material and re-order the scenes to make more sense. Certainly it does just that, but I'm still baffled 15 years after it was made and I doubt it will ever truly make sense! Thankfully the writer has recorded a long explanation of how his story was meant to be. Thanks, but that doesn't and didn't help the viewers of BBC1 back in 1989! But as always with the Doctor Who DVD's, it's the extras that make these releases so worthwhile, regardless of the quality of the stories themselves. With the Two Doctors there are all sorts of goodies, including a great commentary from the main cast and director and all sorts of out-takes, behind the scenes information and (perhaps unwisely) a lengthy piece by the producer's ex-partner explaining at length how they unnecessarily set the story in Spain so as to get some fabulous vacation time for themselves. Oops! The Curse of Fenric commentary from Sylvester McCoy, Sophie Aldred and Nicholas Parsons is also highly entertaining and the extras on this two-disc set certainly prove most interesting, even it is all a bit long winded.Doctor Who was never very good when it took itself too seriously. The fans love all the in-jokes and references to the past. But it hardly works for the general viewer who simply is baffled because they didn't see the story from last season that ties into this, or can't remember something from 10 years ago that drives the whole plot. Sadly, that's what Doctor Who in its final years was all about. At least these discs go someway to making it a little clearer!"
This one really IS one of the better 7th Doctor stories!
Twiddles42 | MN, USA | 06/03/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)

"This release is unique - it contains both the original transmission version of the story, and a 1 hr 45 minute re-edit that contains 14 minutes of previously unseen footage, that is dedicated to the Director (Nicholas Mallett) and the Producer (John Nathan-Turner) and justifiably so.The story itself is a classic Dr Who monster tale, but with a few grown up twists added, and also gives the companion, Ace, some maturation in the process. This is a story I'd recommend to people I'd try to get hooked on the series, even though I'm still embarrassed over the question mark vest the Doctor wears... I am a fan of JNT and what he had done with the show despite the crass slop the script editor prior to Andrew Cartmel had allowed during his years as script editor, and the only thing I can't forgive JNT for is the question mark pullover vest. Even the 6th Doctor's outfit is far less grating on the nerves. But I digress. Andrew Cartmel, script editor for all of the 7th Doctor's era, is at his best here. He reintroduced the concept of mystery and seriousness to the show and he did it right. If only the show had continued for another year, with more stories to fill out their plans...The video quality itself is quite good, even exceptional. Given the high prices that Who discs command, it's a shame that Warner Bros won't release them on dual-layer discs to improve the compression artifacting, but this release (along with "The Two Doctors"...) seem to be the most visually clean stories they've released to date. Even so, the releases up to now have been more or less great (with only "Ressurection of the Daleks" really showing the artifacting to an annoying level.)The audio had been remastered into Dolby 5.1, because somebody kept the original audio tapes. Apart from the theme music (which sounds better as the original stereo*), the 5.1 remastering is very effective.There are numerous extras, primarily encompassing the behind the scenes efforts in producing this story, and interviews with cast and crew.The special 'movie' edition is extraordinary. Many of the newly added scenes are worth their weight. They also treated the video to look more consistent, given the stormy nature of the later half of the story. They also improved on some of the effects. The only problem is with some of the music. It betrays that this story was originally composed of four episodes. It's most noticeable when, 25 minutes into the story, you hear music that's got action to it but doesn't fall back and leaves you hanging (ala a cliffhanger). It's a very MINOR issue, but as I love to whine about problems, I felt I should mention it. :-)The only problem with the disc (#1) is when you go to watch the titles sequences - if you select the 'original stereo' version, you get the original MONO version. I hope they fix this someday and offer free exchanges...In the end, it's a shame the BBC lost faith in the series. (the monsters in this tale would take full notice if it too, heh.) This one is a MUST for any fan of the show. Even if you're not a fan of the 7th Doctor era (the scripts in novel form are rather better than how they were put on screen), this one is worthy of buying.I'm looking forward for the remainder of the 7th Doctor on DVD."
The best of a bad bunch
JohnD | Winnipeg Manitoba Canada | 02/03/2005
(4 out of 5 stars)

"By the time the original series got around to the 7th Doctor (Sylvester McCoy), the series was a shadow of its former self, which can be seen in the currently available on dvd Pyramids of Mars, The Talons of Weng-Chiang, The Aztecs, etc....Still, the 7th Doctor "era" which lasted the equivilant of 1.5 seasons in the Tom Baker era, had the occasional high point.This story is the top of the heap when it comes to the 7th Doctor. My advice is to watch the special edition version of the story, on disc 2 instead of the orignial version on disc 1. The new version has added scenes, updated music and some better post production work making it flow and look better."
"We hoped to return to the North Way, but the dark curse fol
Crazy Fox | Chicago, IL USA | 09/16/2007
(3 out of 5 stars)

""The Curse of Fenric" tries so hard to be a quintessential Doctor Who story. Pseudo-historical tales are a hallmark of the show, and this one is set at a British naval base during World War II but features an extraterrestrial (extradimensional?) threat very much true to form. Like some of the most beloved classics especially from the early seasons of Tom Baker, "Fenric" takes classic and cliche motifs from known horror movies and translates them into a science fiction idiom, in this case any number of "living dead" type movies like "Evil Dead II" or "Prince of Darkness" (to name the ones I've actually seen, not being a big fan of horror films myself): the emergence into our world of a demonic being through some sort of activating text and/or ritual, his bringing an army of zombies or vampires to bear against the heroes, surrounding them in a frail safehold and besieging them there, and yes, we even have the poor ill-fated priest who ineffectually waves a Bible or cross at the creepies only to be promptly overtaken by them. "Fenric" also features an ecological undertone similar to many of the greats from Jon Pertwee's time (especially "Inferno") as the zombies are in fact a badly mutated version of humanity from some polluted industrial meltdown of a future. Then too there's a Cold War fable a la "The Armageddon Factor" (among others) as the Russian and British soldiers decide to stop their clandestine maneuvers against each other so as to fight their common enemy, evil itself (originally airing in 1989, this may well be one of the last of its kind). Why, with the final chess game between Fenric and the Doctor, there's even a whiff of "The Celestial Toymaker" from way back.

And yet it all comes across as trying too hard. Knowing in retrospect that this is the next-to-last story in the show's classic run it may be too easy to say this, but it almost seems as if the producer and his staff are attempting to jumpstart the waning popularity of Doctor Who by haphazardly throwing in everything that ever worked--missing the basics in the process. First of all, they left out the heart: The spirit of fun and adventure just seems to be missing, and the combination of quintessential elements seems artificial and contrived rather than natural and creative. Second of all, they forgot the brain: once again as with "Ghost Light" a fledgling writer is doing his best but not apparently getting the direction and feedback he needs from the script editor. As a whole the story is far more coherent, thank goodness, but there are still far too many fuzzy points, plotline tangles, and sheer implausibilities for a final draft--and overall the horror-to-sci-fi translation is incomplete and unripe, with too many things a trifle too supernatural and unscientific for the Doctor Who fictional universe. Finally, they lost their courage: the story bends over backwards painfully to cast the Soviet soldiers in a good light while vilifying the Brits--to the degree that it winds up as an embarrassing display of self-persecution. If only they'd had a wonderful wizard to consult with on these matters.

Still, for all that, "The Curse of Fenric" is reasonably enjoyable and entertaining, and it has its moments. This is the BBC, so the historical sets and costumes are top-notch. Having the believably clunky British decryption computer summon forth Fenric by spitting out an English translation of his cursed verses from Norse is clever. McCoy does great as the Doctor, and at one point rambles off a quick summary of what must be Time Lord Theology (and Theodicy) which is rather interesting and convincingly abstract. The way he bumbles in and somehow makes himself at home in a top secret naval base really is classic Doctor Who, utterly uncontrived. And the story as a whole nicely and intriguingly thematizes faith and doubt, giving it more multilayered texture than the average monster movie. All of this makes "Fenric" worth watching despite its flawed nature, but none of it justifies making this a double-DVD set by including a director's cut version of the same story over again."