‘THE CURSE OF FENRIC’
Please feel free to comment on my review.
Haemovores and Fenric with the Seventh Doctor and Ace
For Nicholas Parsons
When I originally wrote this review, I began with Fenric’s first chilling line from the end of ‘Part Three’s cliffhanger – “We play the contest again…Time Lord!” Now I begin my updated review with a YouTube video of Ace being attacked by Haemovores. Amazing how things turn out so differently. 😀
‘The Curse of Fenric’ is an extraordinary ‘Doctor Who’ adventure by Ian Briggs, starring Sylvester McCoy as the Doctor and Sophie Aldred as Ace. Set during World War II, the story features a deadly chess-playing enemy for the Doctor. There is also this story of Ace facing her present personal fears.
Yeah! As in ‘Ghost Light’ beforehand, Ace was facing her past fears concerning the burning of the Gabriel Chase house. In this story, Ace faces her present fears concerning her mother and such. The following tale ‘Survival’ would have her face her future fears. But that’s something for another time.
When this story was originally released on BBC TV back in 1989, it was shown as a four-part adventure. Unfortunately, a lot of the story got truncated in terms of plot and character in post-production. And as you know, I do like to see more of something rather than less to understand it. 😀
Script editor Andrew Cartmel wasn’t happy with the finished result when the story got transmitted on BBC TV. Thankfully, ‘The Curse of Fenric’ has been revisited a couple of times on home media. The first time was when it was released via BBC Video in an extended format in 1991. It wasn’t great.
The second time was when it got re-released on a 2-disc DVD set in 2003 with both the original four-part TV format and a Special Edition full-length movie format. The Special Edition version contained new visual effects and 12 minutes of untransmitted material, making it 104 minutes long to enjoy. 🙂
The Special Edition version of the story is dedicated to the memory of director Nicholas Mallet and producer John Nathan-Turner, who sadly passed away before the time of the DVD release. I enjoyed the Special Edition version of ‘The Curse of Fenric’ so much when I watched it for my original review.
Like with ‘Battlefield’, there are three versions of ‘The Curse of Fenric’ to be enjoyed in the Season 26 Blu-ray box set. There’s the original four-part TV version, the Special Edition movie version and the extended four-part VHS version. My personal preference out of the three is the Special Edition. 🙂
But yeah, as I said, ‘The Curse of Fenric’ was directed by Nicholas Mallet. He previously directed ‘The Mysterious Planet’ segment of ‘The Trial of a Time Lord’ as well as ‘Paradise Towers’. He’s considered an underrated ‘Doctor Who’ director and was well-liked by the cast and crew all around.
In this story, the Doctor and Ace visit a secret military base near Maiden’s Point on the Northumberland coast during World War II. From re-watching the story and seeing the new behind-the-scenes making-of documentary, I’ve learnt the cast and crew were filming in cold weather then.
Anyway, the military base is used as a post to intercept German messages. The base also has an eccentric scientist who is trying to decrypt ancient-old Viking runes on a church wall. The Viking runes happen to be part of a deadly curse. Soon, the vampire-like Haemovores rise as Fenric awakes.
Ace learns that the Doctor knows what’s going on. This frustrates and angers her pretty greatly. The Doctor finds himself back into playing a game of chess with his deadly enemy Fenric. The wolves of Fenric come into play, especially with Ace concerned as she has to deal with very bitter family issues.
I enjoyed seeing this story in its many versions on DVD as well as on Blu-ray. There is a lot going on in Ian Briggs’ story and despite having watched it numerous times, I’m still baffled by certain things that make me don’t fully understand the plot. ‘The Curse of Fenric’ is richly complex in that regard. 🙂
The things that baffle me include how Fenric planned things out with his chess-playing as well as the Doctor planning things out. This especially involved the Ultima supercomputer that’s used to bring Fenric into our world by inhabiting Dr. Judson’s body. It’s often left unexplained despite re-watching it.
With that said, I was intrigued by the story being about a simple game of chess played between the Doctor and Fenric and that it had been going on for a terribly long time. It was also fun to see how Ace created her own future by rescuing the mother she hates as a baby. That’s quite screwed up! 😀
Ace’s story shone out for me throughout ‘The Curse of Fenric’. She has gradually developed by this stage in ‘Doctor Who’ since first meeting the Doctor. Ian Briggs follows up on some unanswered questions concerning Ace, especially in terms of how she first came to be on Iceworld in ‘Dragonfire’.
Ian Briggs was the writer of ‘Dragonfire’ and also created the character of Ace in the first place. It was also interesting to find out more about Ace’s relationship with her mother. It had been touched upon in certain stories, especially her debut, but it hadn’t been explored to a deep extent until now.
The Doctor also becomes more mysterious than ever and his relationship with Ace is far more interesting and deeper. He knows who Fenric is already as he describes him as a pure force for evil that he once locked up. Fenric gets to escape and uses his pawns in this chess game with the Doctor.
‘The Curse of Fenric’ is quite a dark story in many regards during the Seventh Doctor era. This contrasts differently to the early comical endeavours featured in Season 24. Script editor Andrew Cartmel was getting to grips with how he wanted to present the Doctor as very dark and mysterious.
There were other aspects of the story that I found interesting. They include the Viking old legends and Norse mythology which Ian Briggs was very into when writing it. There are also these vampire-like beings in the Haemovores. Vampires were presented in ‘Doctor Who’ before in ‘State of Decay’.
I was confused by that when watching the story as I wondered whether the Haemovores were vampires or not. But the Doctor reiterates that they’re not vampires in the conventional sense and that they come from our future. They’re also creatures that walk about in day-time instead of night.
I’m not a fan of vampires since I find them terrifying enough as it is. But the Haemovores were interesting to see as ‘Doctor Who’ monsters. They’re grotesque and scary to look at with blue faces and blubbery skin. They seem very hard to kill. Russians firing bullets won’t keep them down forever.
What will keep the Haemovores at bay like vampires is people’s faith in something. Not just in God and Christianity, but also in other things such as Sorin’s faith in the Russian revolution and Ace’s faith in the Doctor. Faith is a very reoccurring theme featured throughout this ‘Doctor Who’ adventure. 😀
The story also features a group of Russian commandos that come to the British coast via sea. This was interesting to see as it was believed the Russians were on the Britons’ side during the war. The reason for their coming to Britain is intriguing as they’ve come to acquire the Ultima supercomputer.
This is so the Russians can win their side of the war. There’s quite a lot of distrust and anarchy between Britain and Russian sides. But it comes together when some British and Russian soldiers fight together to oppose Fenric and the Haemovores. But it sadly happens to be part of Fenric’s plan.
Sylvester McCoy delivers a superb performance as the Doctor in this adventure. He’s balanced the comedic and more serious, darker aspects of his Doctor well here. It’s interesting how Sylvester’s Doctor has changed very dramatically since he was first a clown during the much-loathed Season 24.
It’s also intriguing how the Doctor knows what’s happening but doesn’t tell Ace, as he puts her through tests and manipulates her. You wonder why Sylvester’s Doctor does these things and why he must play these chess games of his. His cunning agenda reinforces the chess theme again here! 😀
But it’s Sophie Aldred who steals the show in ‘The Curse of Fenric’ as she’s wonderful as Ace. As I said, Ace has been growing up gradually in Season 26. She’s still the daring girl with the Nitro-9 explosives and gets to climb down rope ladders from church buildings as you saw in that video clip. 🙂
The story also shows how Ace can become scared. Sophie portrays the angst of Ace very well at this stage in the series. It is amazing Sophie Aldred’s character development of Ace was a focus at the tail end of the classic series of ‘Doctor Who’. A huge pity not every companion got the similar treatment.
I liked it when Ace got to show her compassionate side in this tale. This is when she befriends Kathleen Dudman and loves her baby Audrey (also Ace’s mum’s name). Ace also gets to show her sensual side as she’s no longer ‘a little girl’ when she distracts a guard for the Doctor to rescue Sorin.
Ace gets very angry with the Doctor when he won’t tell her anything about his secret agenda as he keeps her in the dark. I liked it when Ace got to be clever, working out the mystery of the Viking runes as being a logic diagram to Dr. Judson. I was terrified once Ace got attacked by Haemovores. 😮
I liked seeing Ace in her 1940s clothes with the red snood; blue dress and stockings. She still manages to look cool and she sometimes wears her Ace jacket during the adventure. 😀 Sometimes Ace doesn’t blend very well within a 1940s society, since she still talks like a 1980s girl from Perivale.
The story’s guest cast are superb. There’s Nicholas Parsons as Mr. Wainwright, the local vicar at St. Jude’s Church. It was fitting to watch ‘The Curse of Fenric’ on Blu-ray shortly after Nicholas Parsons sadly passed away in January 2020. 😦 Parsons was a pretty well-known radio/TV presenter and actor.
In ‘The Curse of Fenric’, Parsons plays a vicar who has lost his faith because of the war. I liked the scene between him and Ace when they sit in a church pew talking about faith. It was sad when he tried to ward off vampires with faith, but it did not work. If only Wainwright was stronger in his faith.
There’s also Dinsdale Landen as Dr. Judson, who tries to uncover some Viking runes on a wall in the church catacombs beneath the military base. Judson is pretty eccentric, but welcomes the Doctor and Ace’s help. Judson gets taken over by Fenric. The ‘Part Three’ cliffhanger with him is very creepy.
Those yellow eyes he has, which must be contact lenses, are disturbing to watch at the end of ‘Part One’. Judson is wheel-bound at first when we meet him as the eccentric scientist before he gets taken over by Fenric and walks again. Dinsdale Landen was also in ‘All Creatures Great and Small’. 🙂
Alfred Lynch guest stars as Commander Millington. Millington runs the military base and has his own office as an exact replica of Hitler’s office in Germany. He is a ruthless and ‘inhuman’ as Ace describes him. Millington tries to think like Hitler to win the war for Britain. He wants Fenric’s power.
Tomek Bork guest stars as Captain Sorin, who’s in command of the Russian commandos. Sorin is an honourable and decent man who has a strong faith in the Russian revolution. He becomes smitten with Ace, admiring her bravery before he sadly gets killed as well as taken over by Fenric in the story.
There are two girls, Joann Kenny as Jean and Joanne Bell as Phyllis. These two girls are London refugees who’ve come to the countryside to stay with Janet Henfrey as Miss Hardaker. They’re cheeky; naughty and seem to have black hearts when they swim in the sea and become vampires. 😮
There’s also Cory Pulman as Kathleen Dudman. Kathleen’s a member of the Women’s Royal Naval Service (WRENs) at the military base. She has a baby daughter named Audrey and forms a close bond with Ace. I really like how Ace grows fond of Kathleen and the baby, helping them to escape. 🙂
By the way, did you know the baby was played by a boy named Aaron Hanley? I didn’t know that! 😀 The Haemovores are well-performed in this story. I was surprised to discover that Sylvester McCoy’s sons play little Haemovores in the story. It was intriguing to hear that in the making-of documentary.
There’s an interesting Haemovore character that speaks called the Ancient One, played by Raymond Trickett. He’s a big Haemovore that Fenric as Judson summons. He was used the control the Haemovores and attack the military base. The Ancient One isn’t so hostile and vicious as he appears.
There’s Steven Rimkus as Captain Bates; Marcus Hutton as Sgt. Leigh and Christien Anholt as Perkins. There’s Peter Czajkowski as Sgt. Prozorov, Marek Anton as Vershinin and Mark Conrad as Petrossian. And there’s Anne Reid as Nurse Crane. Anne Reid would later play a Plasmavore in ‘Smith and Jones’.
The music for this story is composed by Mark Ayres. It’s very eerie and creepy. There are some beautiful, haunting cues when we have scenes underwater. The music easily shifts into a snappy and gripping tone when there are action scenes and when Haemovores come from the water to attack.
The story’s final episode has the truth of Ace revealed. It turns out that Ace is one of Fenric’s pawns – ‘the wolves of Fenric’. Ace’s transport to Iceworld in ‘Dragonfire’ wasn’t a accident. It was all part of Fenric’s scheme to bring her back to 1943. It seems the Doctor knew this all along, but Ace didn’t.
Fenric reveals to Ace that she’s created her own future. It turns out Kathleen Dudman’s baby daughter is actually Ace’s mum. Ace hates her mum, but she helped Kathleen (her grandmother) to save her baby Audrey so that she can grow up and have Ace as her daughter. Does that make sense?
There’s a horrible moment when the Doctor betrays Ace to Fenric. Fenric threatens to kill Ace unless the Doctor kneels before him. But the Doctor tells Fenric to kill her, calling her ‘a social misfit’ and an ’emotional cripple’. This really upsets Ace as she had great faith in him. She falls down to the floor. 😦
But it was a deliberate ploy since Ace’s faith prevented the Doctor to defeat Fenric in this game of chess. Fenric gets killed with the Ancient One and the Doctor and Ace escape. Ace is angry and hurt, but the Doctor tries to reassure her. He’s really sorry for betraying her and he explains why he did it.
Despite forgiving the Doctor at the end, Ace is still emotionally torn. She didn’t realise that baby Audrey was her mum as she hates her. There’s a defining moment for Ace. She dives into the water and swims, cleansing herself from her fears. She comes out refreshed with the Doctor waiting for her.
I really like how the story ended with the Doctor and Ace continuing to travel together as they head off back to the TARDIS. The story certainly enhanced and developed their character relationships. Sylvester and Sophie shine throughout and I continue to enjoy them in their Big Finish audio stories.
The original DVD special features were as follows. As well as the original four-part TV version of the story, there was also an info-text commentary option to enjoy; a ‘Modelling the Dead’ prosthetics featurette; the ‘Claws and Effects’ location recce and visual effects footage and a title sequences music video with two audio options including a 5.1 surround sound audio mix and a mono sound audio mix. There was a photo gallery of the story and audio options including a mono sound audio mix option for the story and a DVD audio commentary with Sylvester McCoy, Sophie Aldred and Nicholas Parsons. There was also an isolated music option by Mark Ayres to enjoy. There was a ‘Nebula 90’ convention panel with Tomek Bork, Joann Kenny, monster-makers Stephen Mansfield and Sue Moore, music composer Mark Ayres, writer Ian Briggs and Sophie Aldred. And there was a ‘Take Two’ item, which was a short behind-the-scene feature on the making of ‘The Curse of Fenric’. There was also a Easter Egg that was BBC trailers and continuity announcements of the story.
There was the ‘Shattering the Chains’ interview with writer Ian Briggs and the ‘Recutting the Runes’ interview with Mark Ayres on the Special Edition version of ‘The Curse of Fenric’. There was the 40th Anniversary Celebration music video of ‘Doctor Who’ and a ‘Costume Design’ interview with Ken Trew. And of course, there was the Special Edition version of ‘The Curse of Fenric’ with new scenes and new CGI effects in it to enjoy. There was another Easter Egg which happened to be a bonus interview with Mark Ayres.
On Disc 4 of the ‘Doctor Who – The Collection – Season 26’ Blu-ray, the original four-part TV version of the story; the Special Edition version of the story; the DVD audio commentary; the ‘Recutting the Runes’ interview with Mark Ayres and the bonus interview with Mark Ayres can be found on there. The original four-part TV version of the story and the Special Edition version of the story now have two audio options including a mono audio mix option and a 5.1 surround sound audio mix option. The info-text commentary option; the photo gallery; the isolated music option and the BBC trailers and continuity announcements for ‘The Curse of Fenric’ have been updated for 2020 on the Blu-ray.
The new special features on Blu-ray include behind-the-scenes video footage of the DVD audio commentary recording with Sylvester McCoy, Sophie Aldred and Nicholas Parsons. It was surreal to see Nicholas Parsons with Sylvester and Sophie (with short hair) before the commentary recording.
On Disc 5 of the ‘Doctor Who – The Collection – Season 26’ Blu-ray, the ‘Modelling the Dead’ prosthetics featurette; the ‘Claws and Effects’ location recce and visual effects footage; the ‘Take Two’ item; the ‘Shattering the Chains’ interview with Ian Briggs and the ‘Costume Design’ interview with Ken Trew can be found on there. The ‘Nebula 90’ convention panel for ‘The Curse of Fenric’ has been updated and extended for 2020 on the Blu-ray.
The new special features on Blu-ray include the extended four-part VHS version of ‘The Curse of Fenric’. This has both the mono sound audio mix option and the 5.1 surround sound audio mix option as with the original four-part TV version of the story and the Special Edition version of the story. There’s also the new making-of documentary called ‘Buried Treasure: 30 Years of Fenric’ with cast and crew interviews as well as the ‘Behind the Sofa’ feature on ‘The Curse of Fenric’ with Sylvester McCoy (the Seventh Doctor) and Sophie Aldred (Ace) as well as Anneke Wills (Polly); Janet Fielding (Tegan) and Sarah Sutton (Nyssa) as well as new series writer Joy Wilkinson and new series writer Pete McTighe. There’s also location footage of the story.
On the PDF front, there are production documents; scripts; the ‘Radio Times Listings’ of the story; Ken Trew’s costume designs and VFX design drawings. You need a special Blu-ray computer drive for that. The title sequences music video with two audio options and the 40th Anniversary Celebration music video of ‘Doctor Who’ aren’t included for the Season 26 Blu-ray.
‘The Curse of Fenric’ is a very intriguing and extraordinary ‘Doctor Who’ story. I enjoyed watching it. I don’t fully understand the tale altogether, but it was gripping to watch. The Haemovores are terrifying; the music’s haunting; the Special Edition version’s superb and Ace’s story was a joy to see.
Ace’s character develops greatly in ‘The Curse of Fenric’ as well as her relationship with the Doctor. It can easily be argued that ‘The Curse of Fenric’ would be a great season finale for Season 26. But the season finale was up next on TV. It would see the Doctor return Ace back to her home town in 1989.
‘The Curse of Fenric’ rating – 8/10
‘DOCTOR WHO – THE CURSE OF FENRIC’
Please feel free to comment on my review.
The Chains of Fenric Will Shatter
Did this Target novelization/audiobook help me to understand ‘The Curse of Fenric’ better?
Well, in some parts, yes. But at the same time, I did feel there were some aspects to the Target novelization/audiobook that were quite complex and I need to rediscover them. There seems to be a lot of detail to take in as well from this reading/listening experience. But it was worthwhile indeed! 🙂
‘The Curse of Fenric’ was the penultimate story in the original TV series back in 1989. The Target novelization was published in 1990. I enjoyed the story, finding it an interesting development on the character of Ace. But there were other some aspects to the TV story that made it complex to follow.
The novelization was done by Ian Briggs, who wrote the original story for TV. At the time in 1990, ‘Doctor Who’ had been cancelled on TV. But thankfully, the spirit of ‘Doctor Who’ was kept alive through the last number of Target novelizations as well as during the ‘Virgin New Adventures’ books.
As I read/listened to the Target novelization/audiobook of ‘The Curse of Fenric’ for this review, I found how this book was moving towards the style of writing in the ‘Virgin New Adventures’ as opposed to the Target novelizations done by Terrance Dicks. More was delved in character and story.
‘The Curse of Fenric’ novelization still kept to the standards of what a Target novelization should be, but at the same time it was pushing a few boundaries to depict what could never be shown on TV. The book also has scenes never shown on TV. These are probably in the Special Edition DVD version.
The book is divided not into chapters but into chronicles and documents. It begins with a prologue and has an epilogue at the end. There are five chronicles and four documents. The chronicles feature the main parts of the story while the documents provide details of the backstory not featured on TV.
The audiobook is read by Terry Molloy, who played Davros in the classic TV series of ‘Doctor Who’. This was very unusual considering that Terry Molloy never appeared in ‘The Curse of Fenric’, neither as Davros nor as a human character as in ‘Attack of the Cybermen’. Why was Terry chosen to read it?
Wouldn’t it make sense to have either Sylvester McCoy or Sophie Aldred read the audiobook of this story? It’d be more fitting in terms of connecting them to the TV story. Despite that, Terry Molloy was very good reading this Target novelization/audiobook. I am happy that he read it for me to hear.
This wasn’t the first time that I heard Terry Molloy read a Target novelization/audiobook of ‘Doctor Who’. I also heard him do the reading for the ‘Remembrance of the Daleks’ Target novelization/audiobook. I enjoyed that one very much and he brings the same style of reading here.
Despite that, I preferred the experience of reading and listening to the ‘Remembrance of the Daleks’ Target novelization/audiobook as opposed to ‘The Curse of Fenric’ one. It’s not that ‘The Curse of Fenric’ is awful in any way. I just prefer ‘Remembrance of the Daleks’ a lot than ‘The Curse of Fenric’.
Incidentally, I read/listened to ‘The Curse of Fenric’ novelization/audiobook on my summer holiday in Amroth, September 2018. Beforehand, I read all of the chapters featured in the first three chronicles to speed up my reading/listening of the tale. This also included the documents with them.
In the week for Amroth however, I took my time reading each chapter of the last two chronicles one at a time before going to bed. Reading the chronicles and documents one after the other did make the reading experience a little disjointed, but I found it an unusual yet consistent reading experience.
Incidentally, the prologue is entitled ‘Dusk’ and the epilogue is entitled ‘Dawn’. Very matching! 😀 There’s also a map featured at the beginning of the book that’s called ‘The Journey of the Flask’. I didn’t refer to this map much and I don’t think you need to as it is just a reference point for later on.
So what new and interesting things did I find about this Target novelization/audiobook of ‘The Curse of Fenric’ as opposed to the TV story. Well, to be honest with you, I found the story rather straight-forward and not much had changed. Although some new additions did filter their way into this book.
For example, the Haemovores’ killing of people isn’t as graphic as you might expect from seeing the TV story. The victims’ bodies get described in how they’re killed when they’re found afterwards. But even from reading/hearing the novelization/audiobook, it was still pretty disturbing with the killings.
During the scene where the Doctor overcomes the Haemovores in the church attack, he recites the names of his companions including Susan, Ian, Barbara, Vicki, Steven, Jo and Sarah Jane. I’m surprised not more companions got named like Nyssa, Tegan, Adric and Turlough from the TV series.
I did like it when there was a singing choir in the background as the Doctor recited his companions’ names during the audiobook. It felt joyous and reassuring. I wished that was in the TV story as it would’ve emphasised the point in how strong the Doctor’s faith was in his companions by that point.
It’s saddening when reading/hearing the novelization/audiobook how Wainwright tried to use this approach in holding back the Haemovores attacking him, yet he ultimately fails. Wainwright’s lack of faith in anything good gets elaborated upon during the story I read/heard the book/audiobook itself.
Sergeant Prozorov from the TV story gets renamed Trofimov in the novelization. Why, I don’t know. I found it interesting how the character kept thinking of his wife Irena and his daughter. It also seems that one of the girls (Jean, I think), reminds the sergeant of his wife Irena, which did seem intriguing.
Speaking of the two girls Jean and Phyllis, there’s a scene where they’re playing with Ace on the beach before they go out swimming in the sea. This was not featured in the original TV version. I’m pleased I read/heard it in the book/audio since it did establish Ace’s connection with these two girls.
Certain additional changes are made to characters in the story. For example, it gets implied Nurse Crane who works for Dr. Judson is a Soviet agent. Jean is described as having blonde hair as opposed to the dark hair she had. Reverend Wainwright is also a young man in the book as opposed to on TV.
It’s interesting that Wainwright happens to be a younger man in the book as opposed to the TV story. I suppose the casting of Nicholas Parsons as Wainwright was a casting choice on John Nathan-Turner’s part. I read about how this got elaborated upon in a ‘DWM’ interview with Andrew Cartmel.
More gets revealed about the relationship between Commander Millington and Dr. Judson in the book. Before the events of this story, the two went to school together and played rugby. It also seems Millington was responsible for Judson’s accident being in a wheelchair. Hence the bitterness!
There’s a shocking scene in the book where the Home Guard are looking for Jean and Phyllis on behalf of Miss Hardaker. This is before they get killed. In the TV story, it was originally a Russian that got killed because of Jean and Phyllis. Soldiers in uniform were also teased by the girls in the TV tale.
Hardaker’s anger towards the girls is justified. She’s shocked and horrified by the Home Guard getting killed. She even witnesses the killings from a distance before blaming the girls. I can imagine how a ‘Dad’s Army’ situation with the Home Guard can turn itself out in ‘The Curse of Fenric’ here. 🙂
There is an extra scene in the book that wasn’t featured in the original TV version where the Doctor and Ace visit Miss Hardaker when they look for Jean and Phyllis. The Doctor asks Hardaker not to call for the Home Guard to find the girls. This is after they’ve left and Hardaker phones the Home Guard.
Hardaker is given more backstory in the book as opposed to the TV story. It turns out that she was an unmarried mother who never escaped the stigma. This was unusual to discover, especially as Hardaker seemed highly religious. It makes her less perfect than she already was during the TV story.
There’s another extra scene in the book that’s not featured in the original TV version where the Doctor and Ace find Millington in a trance. In both TV version and novelization, I did find Millington’s character a little inconsistent at times as I wasn’t certain whether he was actually the bad guy or not.
It was disturbing when Millington revealed his plans to the Doctor in using the chemical weapons created and exposing his fascism to destroy the Russians after the British won the war. I know this was indicated in the TV story, but reading in the book felt clearer as it was so disturbing to discover.
The Ultima machine also seemed to be a supercomputer created in the 1940s that knew how to translate Viking runes/inscriptions. I’m not sure how well this is explained in the book, but it seemed to sweep past me as I read it. Again, I probably will need to read the book again to clarify any details.
The documents featured in the book are rather a challenge to get into as they seem a divergence from the main story. However one of the documents – Document IV – features the Doctor’s first encounter with Fenric. It was very interesting to read as it felt like one of those Arabian Nights tales.
There’s more of a struggle in the scene where Ace is helping Kathleen and baby Audrey to escape. In the original TV version, Ace manages to find a land rover and has Kathleen get into it to drive away. For the book, Ace drives the land rover into them Haemovores before Kathleen and the baby escape
I liked it when in the book, the Doctor attempted to question Ace about crying out for her mother when she’s about to be executed. This wasn’t included in the original TV version and is featured in the Special Edition version. It was so intriguing how curious the Doctor gets regards Ace at this stage.
In the climax, the Doctor’s mentions of Lady Peniforte and the Cybermen from ‘Silver Nemesis’ are omitted from the TV version in the book. Instead he states that he knew baby Audrey was Ace’s mother. Why those two ‘Silver Nemesis’ references weren’t included in the book, I’m not so certain.
The book ends with an epilogue featuring Ace, who is now called Dorothee in Paris 1887. I had the inkling it might have been Ace, but I’m not sure if the older gentleman with her is the Doctor. I guess it connects to the deleted scene in ‘Silver Nemesis’ where Ace is seen in a portrait at Windsor Palace.
I also did some research and apparently the ‘Virgin New Adventures’ novel called ‘Set Piece’ describes the events on how Ace ended up being Dorothee in Paris 1887. I’ve yet to read that book, but I hope one day to find out what happened to Ace in that adventure. I’ve so many books to read!
‘The Curse of Fenric’ novelization/audiobook has been an enjoyable read/listen. It has made things a little clearer in terms of getting more into the story as opposed to seeing it on DVD both in the original and Special Edition versions. But this is not as good as the ‘Remembrance of the Daleks’ one.
This is a Target novel/audio that needs to read/heard more than once. I’m glad Ian Briggs got the chance to add more to his story through the novelization. I’m also glad I had the chance to read and hear this on my summer holiday in Amroth for 2018. All in all, it’s a very decent book/audio to enjoy.
‘Doctor Who – The Curse of Fenric’ rating – 8/10
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My favourite tv story to feature the Seventh Doctor, i especially love the special edition which i think improves over the episode versions.
This is a cat & mouse style adventure with the Doctor & Fenric pitting there wits against each other & while the story’s narrative isn’t entirely fleshed out as good as it could it’s a very chilling adventure, I’d recommend listening to the Target audiobook as it explains events a little more clearer.
As ever a well written informative review.
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Glad you enjoyed my review on ‘The Curse of Fenric’. The special edition version is very good and it allows me to enjoy the story fully with all the extra scenes added in.
I will have to check the Target audiobook on ‘The Curse of Fenric’ when I come to revisiting this story later on. Thanks for recommending that to me, Simon. I look forward to reading/listening to the novel/audiobook of the story when I get around to it.
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Excellent review Tim, bit of trivia for you the CD cover Alistar Pearson made a few changes, i remember him telling me how he loathed the green shading on the Doctor’s face & the BBC asked for the removal of the Nazi logo.
Fenrics my favourite Tv story of the Seventh Doctor era, the special edition especially, i found that this novelization explains a few plot inconsistencies but needs a couple re-reads/re-listens to fully understand some of plot points.
As ever Tim great review my friend, you deliver great content & put a lot of time & effort into giving the best detailed reviews.
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Very pleased you enjoyed my review on ‘The Curse of Fenric’ novelization.
Thanks for telling me about the changes made to the CD cover of the novelization audiobook by Alister Pearson. I’ve noticed the CD cover was different to the original Target novelization cover when I put the images up for my review. Thanks for sharing your conversation with Alister Pearson on how he loated the green shading on the Doctor’s face. Yeah I think the CD cover works better than the original book cover.
Yeah I agree this book/audio does require more than one read/listen in order to understand the plot fully. I still enjoyed reading/listening to it especially when I went away for my holiday in Amroth. I just found ‘Remembrance of the Daleks’ a more enjoyable experience as a Target book/audio since that’s my favourite story from the Seventh Doctor era. I too enjoyed ‘The Curse of Fenric’ through its Special Edition DVD version.
Many thanks for your comments Simon and very pleased you enjoyed the content, time and effort I put into these reviews especially on the Target novelizations of ‘Doctor Who’. Next time, there’ll be a review on ‘The Massacre’ novelization by John Lucarotti. Stay tuned! 🙂
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Wow thanks for the dedication Tim, that’s a lovely thing to do.
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That’s okay. Well, since you recommended I read the Target novelization/audiobook of ‘The Curse of Fenric’, it’s only fair I dedicate my review on it to you. Tim. 🙂
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I remember one significant difference between the TV version and the Target novel of The Curse Of Fenric. Specifically the ultimate fate of Commander Millington. For the DVD’s special edition, some extended scenes I remembered from the VHS release. It was somewhat sad to realize how this very complex story, especially thanks to Sylvester and Sophie at their best, appeared to make everything that they were thrusting into the classic series for the late 80s finally pay off, only for Dr. Who to be suddenly cancelled after that season. Ian Briggs for his DVD interview had a lot to say about where his inspirations for the story and characters came from. And Dinsdale Landen, who I had first seen in his two brilliant Thriller appearances as P.I. Matthew Earp, is wonderfully effective as Dr. Judson in the Part 3 cliffhanger.
Penultimately, The Curse Of Fenric was a great note to end the classic Dr. Who on, and with a most heartfelt understanding of the complicated bond between the 7th Doctor and Ace. It can make the fans wonder how Ace’s farewell could have dramatically happened had it been done in the classic series instead of Big Finish. Sophie’s continuations of Ace for BF’s Gallifrey series and some of the Torchwood and Class audios were affirmations that it all turned out for the best. Thank you, Tim, for your review.
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Thanks for sharing your thoughts on ‘The Curse of Fenric’, both the TV story and the Target novelization/audiobook. Glad you enjoyed my review on the story. It’s interesting how ‘Doctor Who’ could have turned out in the 1990s had the show not been cancelled in 1989, especially from viewing ‘The Curse of Fenric’ as a story with its complexities as well as how the relationship between the Seventh Doctor and Ace developed. I’ve appreciated this story more and more over the years and I look forward to revisiting it when I get a chance to see it my 60th anniversary rewatch – very likely, I’ll be seeing the Special Edition version on Blu-ray rather than the original four-part version, since the Special Edition has more scenes for us to enjoy. I’m not sure which exit for Ace I prefer, especially as there have been so many in various continuities in audio, comics and books, as established by Sophie Aldred’s ‘At Childhood’s End’. In one sense, that can be a good thing, as it fires up the imagination of many possibilities of what could have been for many of the characters we’ve grown to love over the years. I’ve not heard the ‘Torchwood’ and ‘Class’ audios featuring Ace, but I’m sure Sophie Aldred is very good in them,
Many thanks for your comments.
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The trailers for the stories for Torchwood and Class with Ace are available on Big Finish’s YouTube pages.
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Thanks for letting me know about the trailers for Ace’s adventures in ‘Torchwood’ and ‘Class’ on Big Finish’s YouTube channel.
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