The Curse of Fatal Death – Comic Relief Special

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    Craig @craig

    Written by Steven Moffat, his first televised Doctor Who story, this was specially made for the Red Nose Day charity telethon in the United Kingdom in 1999. It was made during the gap.

    Doctor Who was finished on TV and only the books, comics, magazines and audios were keeping it kicking along (plus the odd mention in Russell T Davies scripts).

    @janetteb asked I post this and I thought it was a fun idea. It gives an insight into how Moffat thinks of Doctor Who (when playing it for laughs), and features the first female Doctor. Could we be about to see that again?

    Brewski @brewski

    @craig  Somewhere long ago I stumbled on a “making of” video of The Curse.  It has interviews with the cast and Moffat as well.  Might be worth adding it to this page.  I’ll try to track it down somewhere.


    wolfweed @wolfweed
    Craig @craig

    @wolfweed @brewski I’d never seen the “behind the scenes” before. Thanks for that. Liked seeing Moffat trying to be a Dalek.

    And, of course, features Richard Curtis, who wrote “Vincent and The Doctor” many years later.

    I’m sure everyone is wondering though – is it canon? 🙂

    Brewski @brewski

    That’s the one!  Thanks @wolfweed!  Off for a re-watch…

    JimTheFish @jimthefish
    Time Lord

    Thanks to @wolfweed for the behind the scenes stuff. I’d never seen that either. Doesn’t SM look so young and cherubic there?

    This is actually a great shout from @janetteb because apart from being very silly indeed, there are lots of clues and callbacks to what kind of showrunner SM would eventually become.

    I have to admit, I was never that crazy on the more broader, more scatological humour of CoFD and I think it gets old pretty quickly here. Similarly, I have to put my hand up to never really liking the smart-arse sixth-form humour of Richard Curtis and Ben Elton either (I realise its sacrilege but aside from a few truly inspired moments, I’ve never really had a massive amount of love for Black Adder. Which is why Vincent and the Doctor, which I had been dreading, turned out to be such a delightful surprise.) So, some of the early stuff about ‘bribing the architect’ palled very quickly for me too and it felt a little like SM doing a ventriloquist act, like he was ‘doing a Richard Curtis’. And you only have to look at Coupling or SM’s own Children In Need specials where his humour is very much his own to see the difference, I think.

    But what does work here, oddly enough, is the fan service, the good-humouredly poking of fun at the tropes of BG Who. CoFD interestingly exists in that hinterland between the two series, where the BG series is this source of nostalgic mockery but has yet to be reclaimed by the AG series. Thus the deliberately shonky TARDISes, the hammy Master, even the title are nice little digs at the creakiness of the show’s format at that point.

    I suppose watching it now, with the benefit of hindsight as we reach the end of SM tenure as showrunner is how much of it is foreshadowed here. First of all, there is the Doctor with a romantic entanglement — something, as discussed earlier today – that falls more in RTD’s purview but which SM is clearly saying is something that the show can no longer avoid addressing.

    And then there’s the Master. I love Jonathan Pryce’s performance but I think it emphasises a problem that both RTD and SM later had — that if you have a Master in full moustache-twirling mode, you then have a problem in actually figuring out what to do with him. What’s foreshadowed here is SM’s eventual solution to this — here playing for laughs the unrequited, latent attraction between the characters, something that he would examine (slightly) more seriously with Missy.

    The other key take-home from CoFD is perhaps the fetishisation of regeneration (something that I think is going slightly too far these days, although only partially SM’s fault). The multiple regenerations are fun and I’m still surprised that we didn’t see something of the like done for real at the end of Capaldi’s run. And of course it’s the first outing for a female Doctor too — something SM clearly wanted to try and which, I’d be willing to lay odds, he does for real at Christmas. What’s fun here though is seeing him run through a fan’s wishlist of possible Who’s and seeing how they would perhaps fare playing the Doctor for real — Rowan Atkinson (surprisingly good), Richard E Grant (predictably terrible), Hugh Grant (meh) and Joanna Lumley (bloody excellent).

    And there’s the ‘three settings’ joke, which I have to say is still my favourite.


    janetteB @janetteb

    We bought the video of this many, many years ago and it came with extras which were equally as enjoyable as the drama itself. It is comedy and played for “broad laughs” but there have been many times over the years of Moffat’s tenure where I have been reminded of it. The story plays on the ability to travel through time, an ability that is surprisingly often overlooked in Dr Who scrips. AG Who has done a reasonable job of ducking and weaving around the question of, “why not just go further back in time and avoid the problem happening”, with “fixed points in time” as well as the ill defined Rules of Time Travel which seem only to apply when the script demands.

    Moffat was the first to touch upon the before unmentionable inevitability of a sexual attraction between the Doctor and companion. IT had to be dealt with and Moffat did a good job of that in the series once again demonstrating why it cannot be so, just as he knocks that well and truly on the head, first with Jim Broadbent then Joanna Lumley.” Doctor this has never been more truly said before but you are not the man I promised to marry.” or words to that effect. (has been a few years since I last watched it, not sure we even still have it in our collection and have not been home today to find out.) @jimthefish you forgot to mention the “Shy Doctor”, the wonderful Jim Broadbent playing a regeneration that is anything but “hot” hero material. Rowan Atkinson was good as the Doctor and I loved Jonathan Pryce’s Master.

    Back when we first watched the video and watched the commentary afterwards I was won over by the enthusiasm glowing in MOffat’s eyes when he was asked if he would be involved in Dr Who should the show ever be revived. That seemed like and impossible dream back then so when the new series was announced and I saw that he was involved I was thrilled and his first two scripts did not disappoint.


    Whisht @whisht

    Well – I rally enjoyed seeing this again and especially the ‘behind the scenes’ which I’ve not seen before!

    I guess all I can add is that on re-watching how surprised I am at the quality of it.
    This is something done on an even more restricted budget than the real thing (pre AG).
    Its done as a way to entice people during an evening to watch a TV telethon and be exposed to continued appeals for donations to a charity.
    Yet there’s so much effort involved and a real sense that everyone who was involved just put more effort in than they were asked for.

    I loved opening scene’s music and the later special affect of the city for Tersurus. Jonathan Pryce has a whale of a time being the Master (and the laugh-as-a-war-cry may be said for fun but is close to the mark).
    The enthusiast amateur film makers who supplied the Daleks and Tardis are incredible; and their pride completely justified – these are enthusiasts, hobbyists.

    Shooting the whole thing in 3 days… I’m sure as exhausting as doing it nowadays if not more so.

    And Moffat says that he hopes that the whole thing comes across as “affectionate” and I think it does – it pokes fun, has fun, but doesn’t ridicule.

    I think its closer to the spirit of Who than, say, the 1960’s Casino Royale with David Niven is to Bond. Its probably closer than even the Cushing Who movie (which I have affection for as well).

    Anyway – a good, affectionate laugh that also showed thoughts of how The Doctor might be played:
    – as Romantic (Hugh Grant similar to McGann but maybe more so to Tennant – actually RE Grant is similar to Tennant’s “I’ll lick myself I’m so gorgeous” turns too)
    – as shy (Broadbent similar to aspects of Matt Smith)
    – as in control (similar to… well all of them!)

    anyway – thanks for putting these links up!

    winston @winston

    @craig and @wolfweed  Thank you both for putting  these up, it has been awhile since I watched them. I thought it was pretty funny and I quite liked all the doctors that were on it. Also liked some of the lines about BG Who that still ring true now in AG, like the Doctor being tired of “endless gravel quarries” and  escapes “through ventilation shafts” and also his remark to the Master about one of his “terrible revenge things”.  Very cute!

    blenkinsopthebrave @blenkinsopthebrave

    Always lots of fun. As @winston says, great jokes about AG Who such as the endless gravel quarries, and the constant promise to “explain later”. What I found particularly fascinating though were the bits which would turn up in recent Moffat stories. When Julia Sawalha pleads for the life of the Hugh Grant Doctor it sounds amazingly similar to Clara pleading for the Doctor’s life before Matt Smith regenerates. And the jokes about chairs on a Dalek ship and the whole joke about sewers both turn up in the episode with PC and Davros. Even the final flirtation between Joanna Lumley’s Doctor and the Master had it echo in the flirtation between Missy and the Master.

    The multiple regenerations were brilliant. Perhaps my favourite was Jim Broadbent’s shy Doctor.

    blenkinsopthebrave @blenkinsopthebrave

    Arghh, I meant to say BG Who above, of course.

    And while revelling in the silliness of BG Who it was, in its own way, as affectionate for the show as Gatiss’s “A Matter of Space and Time” was.

    janetteB @janetteb

    @blenkinsopthebrave and @whisht It is indeed made with affection for the original and that shines through. It was made by fans for fans, at a time when nostalgia for Who was running high.


    wolfweed @wolfweed

    Interesting to see what cropped up again in the series proper…..

    The Doctor considers his retirement… (See Dr 11)

    The Dr’s wife (nearly)… (see River Song) (also Marilyn Monroe, Liz 1, etc)

    Wibbly-Wobbly Timey-Wimey (a staple of srs 5 -9 – and of course Blink)

    The Master with breasts (See Missy)

    Hanky-Panky in the TARDIS (See Dr 11)

    Sex-Change Time Lords (See Missy/Hell Bent)

    DOCTOR: …Look after the Universe for me. I’ve put a lot of work into it. (See Dr 12)

    MASTER: He was the best and bravest of all my foes. From this day forward I will renounce evil and follow the path of goodness to honour my fallen foe. (See Missy)

    EMMA: He was never cruel and never cowardly (See Dr 12)

    moff dalek

    TCOFD transcript

    Also another wee throwback:

    EMMA: Doctor, these corridors all look the same. (See Dr 6)


    wolfweed @wolfweed

    And not forgetting – Black velvet frockcoat…


    p cap


    wolfweed @wolfweed

    Love the way the Lumley Doctor grasps the Pryce Master’s bum at the very end!


    Missy @missy

    What a laugh, I’ve only just seen this. Who but SM would think of communicating via farts!

    Well, perhaps the Monty Python Brigade.

    At least Richard E. Grant was more pleasant than he was in The Snowmen.

    Thank, thank you.




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