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DVD Review

DVD cover

Doctor Who
Image of Fendahl


Starring: Tom Baker
RRP: £19.56
Certificate: PG
Available 06 April 2009

The TARDIS’s journey through time and space is interrupted by the use of a Time Scanner, a device which could destroy the planet utilising the technology. The Doctor and Leela trace the signal to contemporary earth where Fendelman is experimenting with an anachronistic twelve million year old skull which he believes to be of extraterrestrial origin. What he doesn’t know is that it is a remnant of the Fendahl, a species which lives off the life force of other creatures. In a race against time the Doctor must try to save the world from these twin dilemmas...

The Image of Fendahl is a four part Tom Baker story, written by Chris Boucher (Star Cops) and directed by George Spenton-Foster. The show was originally broadcast between 29th October 1977 and 19th November 1977 and represents the last of the Gothic horror stories which were initiated by Robert Holmes and Peter Hinchcliffe. It is a reworking of the fundamental idea behind Quatermass and the Pit, which is mankind falling under the influence of an ancient artefact.

The show starred Tom Baker, as the Doctor and Louise Jameson as Leela. Joining the core cast are Dennis Lill (Survivors) as Fendalman; Wanda Ventham as Thea Ransome; Edward Arthur as Adam Colby; and the stand out performance of Daphne Heard as Martha Tyler - her portrayal of this irascible old woman steals the show.

The story showcases Boucher’s ever inventive prose, but at its heart there is something missing to pull the whole thing together. Given the age of the show it is acceptable that, visually, the Fendahl turns out to be a bit of a disappointment - consisting one part worm with a party blower for a mouth and Thea painted gold languidly waving her arms around in a most non threatening way. For a Gothic horror it misses that most vital of ingredients, it’s just not scary. Some of the ideas work well, the preordained working through the Fendahls twelve million year old plan to alter human genetics to the point where they have enough technology to resurrect the race is a bit farfetched, but then this is Doctor Who.

Overall I’m not sure that the show works as well today. The gothic horror element had overstayed its welcome and was starting to feel a little too repetitious. The underlying alien plan doesn’t really hang together and there is a distinct lack of fear about the whole piece. It certainly isn’t the worse Who story out there, but neither is it the best.

Extras on the disc are pretty good, though it feels like the amount of extras have diminished in number from previous releases. First up is the usual ‘making of’ featurette After Image (26 min, 21 sec) featuring script editor Anthony Read, visual effects designer Colin Mapson with contribution from actors Louise Jameson, Edward Arthur and Wada Ventham. It’s the usual good natured piece with nobody telling any negative tales, but still there is enough meat in the interviews to keep fans happy. Next up are a bunch of deleted and extended scenes (11 min, 28 sec) these are in the form of some recovered black and white material, mixed with colour material where available, which has been cleaned up as best as possible. You also get a twenty-one second trailer for the show as well as a photo gallery and a PDF section. The new trailer (57 sec) is for The Deadly Assassin.

The show is presented in its original aspect ratio with a 2.0 audio track. There is the option for subtitles as well as the informative info text. Best of all there is a full length commentary with Tom Baker, Louise Jameson, Wanda Ventham and Edward Arthur, with Tom leading the fun.


Charles Packer

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