‘IMAGE OF THE FENDAHL’
Please feel free to comment on my review.
This is one of the creepiest and chilling stories I’ve ever come across in the history of ‘Doctor Who’!
‘Image of the Fendahl’ was the third TV story shown in Tom Baker’s fourth season of ‘Doctor Who’. It was also the third story of Graham Williams’ first season as producer of the TV series. It was to be the last gothic horror adventure during Tom Baker’s era of the series as changes was made in the air.
Plans were made to make the show more light-hearted and less violent. It was to mark the end of Robert Holmes’ time as script editor and his era of gothic horror in the series. New script editor Anthony Read came and took the reins of handling the stories of Graham Williams’ era for the show.
The story was commissioned by Robert Holmes from writer Chris Boucher, who previously penned the first two Leela stories ‘The Face of Evil’ and ‘The Robots of Death’. This story is one creepy and chilling adventure. Even though I don’t fully understand the story, it was very disturbing all the same.
I did find that the story was rather slow-paced in places, especially the first half containing the first two episodes where things are set up for the characters; situation and environment. But the story progressed and got interesting halfway as the adventure proved to be exciting and worthy to enjoy.
The Doctor and Leela discover a sonic time scan in the TARDIS and trace it back to Earth in the present day. In the story, four scientists at a priory in Fetchborough study a human skull from a volcano that is twelve million years old. When experimenting on the skull, something strange occurs.
The skull glows brightly and seems to be taking control of scientist Thea Ransome’s mind. Connecting this to an old Time Lord nightmarish legend, the Doctor soon discovers it is the Fendahl. Soon he and Leela must stop it before it takes control of the Earth and homes on everyone’s fears.
In the story, a cult led by Max Stael form their beliefs in the Fendahl and they conduct a ceremonial ritual to bring the Fendahl to life. I don’t fully understand these rituals and religious beliefs, but they are fascinating and interesting to watch, especially from the characters and atmosphere in the story.
I’ve had the DVD cover of ‘Image of the Fendahl’ signed by Louise Jameson and Derek Martin. I met Louise at the ‘Regenerations 2011’ convention in Swansea, September 2011 when I asked her to sign the DVD cover. I met Derek Martin at the ‘Time Warp’ convention in Weston-super-Mare, July 2014.
I like Louise Jameson and have enjoyed chatting to her at conventions, during signings and mingling. Louise puts so much into her performance as Leela in many of the stories she’s done. I’ve found how there’s a difference of approach to Leela from the Phillip Hinchcliffe era to the Graham Williams era.
Leela was supposed to have the Doctor teaching her about things and not to be savage. It’s not as evident in this story as for the whole of the first Graham Williams season she’s in. But Louise does a tremendous job as Leela and it is very interesting to see a ‘Doctor Who’ companion who is a savage.
In this story, Leela does have some nice moments. It’s not a great story for developing her character though. Leela wears a new costume that still makes her scantily dressed. She also gets her hair in a bun which is quite unusual, but this was due to the hairdresser cutting Louise’s hair too short in this.
I liked it when Leela refers to K-9 as ‘he’ compared to the Doctor who calls him ‘it’. Leela gets to save the Doctor from a skull burning his hand in ‘Part Three’. I liked Leela’s connection to old Martha Tyler and I found it funny in ‘Part Four’ when the Doctor checks on Leela before dropping her to the floor.
Tom Baker as the Doctor is at the top of the game in this story. By this point, Tom has really settled into the part and has taken on the role of the Doctor with great abundance and energy. I really liked the moment when Tom’s Doctor discovers the skull at the end of ‘Part Two’ and offers it a jelly baby.
The Doctor’s relationship with Leela has improved during the stories they’ve been together. There’s still a hint of friction between Tom and Louise in their working relationship, but it seems to have mellowed here. The Doctor and Leela work really well as the TARDIS duo at this time in the mid 70s.
K-9 only appears at the beginning and the end of the story, so he doesn’t have a big part to play. The Doctor and Leela took him on board since ‘The Invisible Enemy’. I was saddened K-9 didn’t appear much in this, but at least Tom’s Doctor called him ‘he’ instead of ‘it’ at the end which was reassuring.
Wanda Ventham guest stars as Thea Ransome, the female scientist in the story. Thea works with the three other male scientists on a human skull, before the skull locks itself on her mind. Thea is soon chosen to be the Fendahl Core and transforms into this gold goddess-like being, looking quite scary.
Edward Arthur guest stars as Adam Colby, the youngest of the male scientists at the priory. Adam seems sceptical and sardonic at times, making wisecracks throughout the story. But Adam has this good heart; a sense of compassion about him and a sense of humour that’s masked by a tough edge.
Denis Lill guest stars as Dr. Fendelman, who could almost be the villain and has a deeper scientific knowledge about the human skull than anybody else does. He places security guards throughout the house in the tale when a number of deaths occur. He also reveals a disturbing point about his name.
Scott Fredericks guest stars as Max Stael, who previously appeared in ‘Day of the Daleks’. Max is a man who rarely smiles but does seem smug. He’s in charge of a cult that believes in the Fendahl. Stael shows his true colours when he gags Thea and when he points a gun at Adam and Fendelman.
The guest cast also includes Daphne Heard as old lady Martha Tyler or Ma Tyler; Geoffrey Hinsliff as Jack Tyler, Ma Tyler’s grandson; Edward Evans as Ted Moss and Derek Martin of ‘Eastenders’ fame as tough security man David Mitchell. Derek said “Hello, boss!” when I met him at a convention. Never been called that before. 😀
Apart from the gold Thea as the Fendahl Core which was scary, I found the actual Fendahl monsters disappointing. They look pathetic and seem like lumbering snake-like monsters with spaghetti-like tendrils from its mouth. Some of the Fendahl monsters like the small Fendahleen are really puppets.
The DVD special features are as follows. There’s the making-of documentary ‘After Image’; some deleted and extended scenes; a BBC1 trailer for the first episode of the story and a photo gallery of the story. There’s also an Easter Egg to look out for on the ‘special features’ menu of the DVD disc.
There’s an entertaining audio commentary with Tom Baker; Louise Jameson; Wanda Ventham and Edward Arthur on the story. There’s also an info-text commentary option to enjoy; a ‘Radio Times Listings’ PDF of the story and also a ‘coming soon’ trailer for ‘The Deadly Assassin’ with Tom Baker.
‘Image of the Fendahl’ has been one eerie and creepy story from the Tom Baker era of ‘Doctor Who’. It’s the last in a long line of gothic adventures with the Fourth Doctor and an enjoyable one with him and Leela. It’s slow-paced at first, but it gets exciting later on and I found it intriguing and fascinating.
‘Image of the Fendahl’ rating – 7/10
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