‘The Curse of Fatal Death’ (TV)

‘THE CURSE OF FATAL DEATH’

Please feel free to comment on my review.

Everything Will Be Explained Later

This is about as silly a ‘Doctor Who’ story as you will get! 😀

‘The Curse of Fatal Death’ is a ‘Doctor Who’ spoof that was shown on Comic Relief night in March 1999. It is by Steven Moffat, who would later go on to be the showrunner of the new ‘Doctor Who’ series from 2010 to 2017. It is about 23 minutes in total length and was first divided into 4 episodes.

When I say 4 episodes, the episodes themselves were about 5 minutes long. The story was eventually divided into 2 x 10 minute length episodes when released on VHS and shown on YouTube via the ‘Doctor Who’ channel. I first saw this little spoof in 2010 before the Steven Moffat era began.

It was when I visited some friends in Hampshire that I saw the Comic Relief special on their VHS player in January 2010. This was way before I met Sarah Sutton at the ‘Fifth Element’ event in February 2010. 😀 At the time, I did enjoy watching ‘The Curse of Fatal Death’ as a ‘Doctor Who’ spoof.

Looking back, I wish I took ‘The Curse of Fatal Death’ a little more seriously in terms of predicting how the Steven Moffat era was going to turn out. I’ve made it no secret that I’m not a fan of the Steven Moffat era of ‘Doctor Who’ in my reviews. It’s a shame as I’ve enjoyed some of his episodes.

Most of the episodes by Steven Moffat I’ve enjoyed are under the Russell T. Davies era. At the time of watching ‘The Curse of Fatal Death’ in January 2010, I was still in Russell T. Davies/David Tennant mode. I should have anticipated what the style of storytelling in Steven Moffat’s era was going to be like.

‘The Curse of Fatal Death’ is one of Steven Moffat’s earliest works for ‘Doctor Who’ if not his earliest to be shown on TV. It has the trademarks of Steven Moffat humour and timey-wimey complexities. But is this a good or bad ‘Doctor Who’ spoof episode? Did it ensure the survival of the new TV show?

Well, let’s take a look. The Comic Relief special stars Rowan Atkinson as the Doctor. Now for me, Rowan Atkinson is well-known as ‘Mr. Bean’ as well as ‘Blackadder’ and ‘Johnny English’. It was nice to see him playing the Doctor in this Comic Relief special and as far as I’m concerned he’s very good.

Rowan is a comedic actor who manages to deliver the comedic lines in a serious manner. So here, he does well with playing the Doctor and in good comic timing. I think it would’ve been great if Rowan Atkinson played the Doctor, if not in the actual TV series then in a sitcom show that focused on him.

In this story, the Doctor is joined by his companion, Julia Sawalha as Emma. I love Julia Sawalha here. For me, she voiced Ginger in ‘Chicken Run’ and starred in TV period dramas such as ‘Martin Chuzzlewit’ in 1994, ‘Pride & Prejudice’ in 1995 and the 2008-11 TV series, ‘Lark Rise To Candleford’.

Emma is a loyal travelling companion to Rowan Atkinson’s Doctor and is actually her fiancée. Yes, the Doctor has decided to marry one of his companions in this Comic Relief special, but we’ll get to that. I honestly believe that Julia Sawalha would make a great ‘Doctor Who’ companion in the series.

One of the influences from this Comic Relief special in the new series from 2005 is the romances the Doctor has with his companions such as Rose Tyler and River Song. Yeah! And it’s not like the Doctor married someone in the new series. (Pause; realises) Oh wait, he did. He would marry River Song.

The Doctor and Emma have an enemy in this story and it’s Jonathan Pryce as the Master. And boy does he ham it up! Yeah! I think Jonathan Pryce is enjoying himself a little too much as the Master and goes way over-the-top. He also seems to take on the Master rather seriously behind-the-scenes.

No really, he does. It’s clearly demonstrated in the making-of documentary I saw with him being interviewed on my friends’ VHS copy of ‘The Curse of Fatal Death’. I suppose I could forgive Jonathan Pryce’s hammy acting since this is a Comic Relief special. But goodness me, is he so over-the-top?! 😀

The Master also gets…Dalek bumps…on his chest? They come across as him having breasts to which he denies, saying they’re ‘aetheric beam locators’ or something. I don’t think that’s appropriate even for a Comic Relief spoof. I liked it when the Master fell through a hole and got older and older.

The Daleks also appear in this ‘Doctor Who’ Comic Relief special. They’re played for laughs as well as by Steven Moffat. They seem to be working for the Master by the time they appear in the story. I suppose I could say the Daleks were written well in terms of the dialogue they were given in scenes.

But there were times when the Daleks were out of character. This includes the Daleks deciding to honour their mortal enemy, the Doctor, when he seems to die. There’s also a moment when lots of Daleks are about to exterminate the Doctor and Emma until the next minute they change their minds.

Another influence that seems to present in this spoof for the new series is the Doctor’s catchphrase, “I’ll explain later!” This can be viewed in two ways in how the Doctor in the new series sometimes says the catchphrase and how we can describe Steven Moffat’s era with plot threads left unresolved.

It also seems the Daleks possess chairs despite their lacks of legs when they imprison Rowan’s Doctor and Emma aboard their ship. This gets reused again for ‘The Magician’s Apprentice’ somehow. Why would Steven Moffat reuse that again if the Daleks do not possess any legs of theirs?

Eventually the Doctor gets shot by the Daleks when he tries to warn the Master by farting. And this is something that would get reused again for the Slitheen as monsters in Series 1 of new ‘Doctor Who’. Apparently it’s the language of the Tersurons that would get used to silly effect in this TV tale.

Once Rowan Atkinson’s Doctor is shot, he’s on the floor and is about to regenerate. Apparently Rowan’s Doctor in the ninth incarnation. Does that mean he’s either the War Doctor or the Ninth Doctor? It’s never explained. 😀 Anyway, Rowan’s Doctor soon regenerates into…the Shalka Doctor?!

Or is it Dr. Simeon? No of course not. It’s Richard E. Grant as the Tenth Doctor, or more accurately the Quite Handsome Doctor. Richard E. Grant would later go on to star as the Doctor in the webcast story, ‘Scream of the Shalka’, as well as Dr. Simeon in ‘The Snowmen’ and ‘The Name of the Doctor’.

Despite being ‘quite handsome’, Richard E. Grant’s Doctor does seem to be on the rough side calling the Daleks ‘gits’ and saying the Master’s got ‘nice tits’. Again, not sure this is appropriate even for a Comic Relief special. Julia Sawalha’s Emma does seem to be rather taken with Richard E. Grant’s Doctor.

But of course it doesn’t last long as the Doctor continues to use up all of his lives by regenerating. Yeah this is where it gets silly in the second half of the spoof. Richard E. Grant soon regenerates into Jim Broadbent as the Eleventh Doctor, or more accurately the Shy Doctor. The Doctor gets shy of girls!

I’ve seen Jim Broadbent in the 2005 film version of ‘The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe’. I did think Jim Broadbent’s Doctor was a little underused in this spoof, despite some funny moments. I also don’t think it’s how Matt Smith’s Doctor would behave in the TV series. 😀

Eventually, Jim Broadbent regenerates into Hugh Grant as the Twelfth Doctor, or more accurately the Handsome Doctor. Hugh Grant was quite a big name in those days and still is now. Getting Hugh Grant to play a Doctor for ‘The Curse of Fatal Death’ must’ve been a joy for the production team.

Emma again seems rather taken with Hugh Grant’s Doctor, finding him irresistibly attractive of course. But it doesn’t last long and very soon Hugh Grant is on the verge of death. Poor Doctors in this Comic Relief special! They spend like only a few minutes! Other incarnations have lasted longer. 😀

It seems to be the definite end of the Doctor by this point. But very soon, the Doctor is still alive and Hugh Grant regenerates into…Jodie Whittaker, no sorry, I wish that was the case. No, he regenerates into Joanna Lumley as the Thirteenth Doctor or more accurately the Female Doctor. Hmm, interesting!

It’s quite ironic that the actual Thirteenth Doctor in the ‘Doctor Who’ TV series happens to be a woman in Jodie Whittaker, although ‘The Curse of Fatal Death’ did it first with Joanna Lumley. I actually prefer Jodie Whittaker’s Doctor than Joanna Lumley’s Doctor. I know, it goes without saying.

But with that said, it’s hard not to prefer Jodie Whittaker over Joanna Lumley. I feel Steven Moffat is playing for laughs with Joanna Lumley’s Doctor as she comes across as silly and full of herself much like Missy in the new series. I’m glad Chris Chibnall didn’t go for this route with Jodie Whittaker on TV.

Also, what is it with the Doctor’s clothes changing when she’s now Joanna Lumley and it exposes some of her own cleavage? I know it’s meant to be played for laughs and this is a Comic Relief special, but still. I am guessing many ‘Doctor Who’ viewers were shocked in seeing Joanna Lumley as the Doctor.

In the end, Julia Sawalha’s Emma tells Joanna Lumley’s Doctor that she’s not the man she once loved and it seems like the wedding is off. The Master also seems to fancy Joanna Lumley’s Doctor by the end of the spoof. Did Steven Moffat have to go in that direction to close ‘The Curse of Fatal Death’?

So, what did I make of ‘The Curse of Fatal Death’? (Pause) I thought it was okay. Not bad at all really. I mean, okay it’s not a typical ‘Doctor Who’ story as you would expect. It’s a comedic take on it. That’s what you expect. And for the most part, I found it really  fun, entertaining and easy to sit through.

It’s something similar to what you would expect with ‘Dimensions in Time’. Steven Moffat clearly relishes his ‘Doctor Who’ in this Comic Relief special as it’s full on in-jokes and references to the classic series for fans to enjoy. I just wish that was reflected in him as a showrunner for the TV series.

I know people won’t agree with me on that regard, but for the most part I can appreciate ‘The Curse of Fatal Death’ for what it is. As well as a comedic take on ‘Doctor Who’, it also provided the way forward in how the series could be perceived in years to come should it ever return onto TV screens.

Whether you like it or not, ‘The Curse of Fatal Death’ is a Comic Relief special of ‘Doctor Who’ that clearly had insight on how the show could be progressed forward. Many aspects of the spoof work and don’t work in the current series and I know I’ve criticised Steven Moffat’s writing in recent years.

But overall, I found ‘The Curse of Fatal Death’ worth the watch and found it entertaining for what it is. I enjoyed Rowan Atkinson’s Doctor and Julia Sawalha’s Emma for the most part and even though the regenerations in the second half got very silly, it was an intriguing comedy take on ‘Doctor Who’.

‘The Curse of Fatal Death’ rating – 6/10


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4 thoughts on “‘The Curse of Fatal Death’ (TV)

  1. Timelord 007

    I hate this story, i know it’s a spoof which is why i hate it, Moffat shows no respect for the series he eventually ran into the ground, it’s one big silly joke with over the top acting & pokes fun at the shows lore & history, we know the series had naff effects & poor production values back in the day no need to show wobbly Tardis consoles, Pryce as the Master makes Soldeed in Horns Of Nimon oscar worthy what’s more annoying is he’d make a excellent Master if given the right script.

    Awful, truly awful i still have nightmares about this one, Steven Moffat bow your head in shame.

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    Reply
    1. Tim Bradley Post author

      Otherwise, you enjoyed my review on the story I take it? 😀

      Hmm. I see you’re not a fan of ‘The Curse of Fatal Death’, Simon.

      I can’t hold the same hatred as you have for this Comic Relief special. I found it fine. Yes, it is silly and over-the-top in places and I think ‘The Five(ish) Doctors Reboot’ is a better ‘Doctor Who’ spoof than this one was. But honestly, I can take it for what it is. I don’t take it seriously and at least it’s not a proper ‘Doctor Who’ story.

      It’s a shame that Steven Moffat’s writing in his era of the show doesn’t match to his efforts in the RTD era. It more or less reflects what’s in this Comic Relief special. It’s easy to criticise and make fun of the guy these days which is a shame as I did enjoy his RTD era stories and wish things could’ve been better for his actual era when he was showrunner.

      I have in mind to use the “I’ll explain later!” meme by Rowan Atkinson’s Doctor for my Series 10 reviews of ‘Doctor Who’ when I get onto adding them to my blog with updated details and DVD extras. I’m looking forward to it in a strange kind of way. That is a good point about matching Jonathan Pryce’s Master to Soldeed in ‘The Horns of Nimon’. I’m surprised I didn’t come up with that in the review. Maybe Jonathan Pryce mistook Soldeed for the Master when he played the character in this Comic Relief special. 😀

      Thanks for your interesting comments, Simon. Sorry you had nightmares from watching this Comic Relief special. But I have to say, “Come on! It’s not that bad surely!” Hehe!

      Tim. 🙂

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  2. Timelord 007

    Your reviews are always good Tim but this one for me it’s up there with Love & Monster’s, Rags, Combat Rock & Full Fathom Five & Nekromantia for me as worst of the worst lol.

    I’d rather watch Horns Of Nimon on loop for 24hrs than endure this 20 minute atrocity, I’m getting grumpy in my old age lol.

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply
    1. Tim Bradley Post author

      Oh come on, it’s not as bad as ‘Love & Monsters’. I know you hate that episode but I still like it. I’m willing to agree ‘Rags’, ‘Combat Rock’ and ‘Full Fathom Five’ are bad even though I’ve not read/heard them yet. ‘Nekromanteia’ I can agree about though, it is bad.

      Ah! So does that mean I’ve changed your mind about ‘The Horns of Nimon’? You actually like that story?! Hehe Yes, yes! I’ve changed Timelord007’s mind about ‘The Horns of Nimon’! Yes! 😀

      Tim. 🙂

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