Wednesday, 23 October 2013

The Curse of Fenric

Dinsdale Landen as Doctor Judson.
A veritable giant as far as classics go, ‘The Curse of Fenric’ has an awful lot going for it. Compelling characters, good use of Ace, wonderful performances, perfect location. However, I can’t help but think its status as ‘classic’ should be seriously questioned. Whilst I for one second would not say it isn’t a very good story, I can’t put it up with the best of the best for several reasons.
Tied into a bundle though, it, as always, comes down to the writing. There is a lot of good writing in here, but it felt like Ian Briggs was at times putting too much into script. We have vampires, Russians, evil Generals, a
Nicholas Parsons.
cripple who’s a genius, Various subplots, a curse affecting almost every character, Ace’s mum as a baby, and we have Fenric, who isn’t quite defined at any point (not an issue) but described as ‘evil’. The issue comes with how you destroy ‘evil’. Apparently, you gas it to death.
When the Doctor turns on Ace, I find it hard to believe Ace would not have seen it as an obvious ploy. It’s very obvious to the audience. In my opinion it needed time to build up over an episode or more until Ace just snaps, but it was a plot device and thus wasn’t worked through as well as it could have. The whole point of the chess game
Alfred Lynch as Millington.
too seemed chucked in there either to tie up loose ends or because the writer was looking for an ‘out’. The idea that the Doctor and Fenric were locked in a chess game, then Fenric was trapped in a flask, and the Ultima machine – a super computer, was needed to let him loose didn’t make sense to me at all. The resolution of the game, with black and white pawns fighting together, makes no sense either, it just seemed like an out. It clearly doesn’t happen in a chess game.
It’s a pity because the point where Sorin (Tomek Bork) is revealed as Fenric is wonderfully chilling. The story in its original form (and for once I watched the special version, which has a lot of material added to it) had a lot of stuff cut out. In fact every season 26 story did, and none are particularly easy to follow. Cartmel must shoulder the bulk of
the blame for that. It seems by this time telling a good solid story wasn’t high on the priority list for the script editor. This one is not really that complicated, but a lot of things don’t make an awful lot of sense.
Which is a pity because a bit more nutting down of the script basics would have helped enormously. I’m not sure the point of having vampires in the story was if they are not the focus of the story. It’s just a strange addition to the plot where Briggs’ decides he wants to explain what vampires REALLY are. They still could have used the ancient one, who was a pretty decent monsters. Most of the monsters were decent in this one, if not all.
Alfred Lynch and Dinsdale Landen as Commander Millington and Doctor Judson, two wonderfully twisted characters, certainly shine in this story. Millington comes across as not just twisted, but also sad at the same time. It’s actually a beautiful performance in many ways. Nicholas Parsons as Reverend Wainwright is the best example of stunt casting in Doctor Who’s first 26 years. A game show presenter, he also did have an acting background. It’s a wonderful heartfelt performance, coloured with true sorrow and fear. Sophie Aldred is very good except for the well-known seduction scene which I personally didn’t buy at all – she admits to being so cold at that point that acting was almost impossible and I really like Ace so that is forgiven. McCoy is ok except when he has long angry speeches to deliver which I’m really sorry to say still do not convince me.
The Ancient One.
Mark Ayres’ music is generally very good, but I don’t like the stuff he uses on action sequences. Apart from that he is a fantastic composer. Visually the story is almost perfect, but it is spoiled by being shot on OB video again. It was all shot on location, and if they could have seen their way to shooting the whole thing on film, the atmosphere would have been even more sinister and dark. At least the quality is sharper than ‘Ghostlight’ – more light helps, but also they still had the master tapes when making the DVD.
Unfortunately the skies were far too bright though, it really could have done with some storm clouds.
This again comes across as quite negative, I’m sorry because as I said, I think it’s pretty good but over rated. The plotline is very important to me and when I feel it’s doesn’t quite make sense or work, then it affects my viewing. Nevertheless, a great, solid story.


1 comment:

  1. The whole story could have ended with Fenric simply stating: Sorry, Time Lord - that is NOT a legal move! You lose, I WIN! Ha ha ha, chaos will now reign for all eternity!!