The Curse of Fenric part 1

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    Craig @craig

    So we kickstart our re-watch of BG Who with ‘The Curse of Fenric’, featuring the first Scottish Doctor, Sylvester McCoy.

    On the weekend that the Benedict Cumberbatch movie about Alan Turing and Bletchley Park gets released, here we join The Doctor and Ace as they arrive at a British naval installation which is a listening post, intercepting and translating German coded messages using the ULTIMA supercomputer.

    Wheelchair-bound Dr Judson (based on Turing) has also been using ULTIMA to help decipher Viking runes found in catacombs beneath the base, warning of a being called Fenric.

    Features the great Nicholas Parsons (a British institution) as Reverend Wainwright, and Janet Henfrey as Miss Hardaker, who was recently seen back in Who as the first victim in ‘Mummy on the Orient Express’.

    We’re discussing this story one episode per week, as it was originally broadcast. If you’ve seen it before, for the convenience of anyone approaching this for the first time, NO SPOILERS for subsequent episodes please.

    If you don’t own it already you can buy the DVD from the BBC Shop for £5.25:

    BadWulf @badwulf

    @craig – Is that the Director’s cut or the originally aired version? I was going to watch my DVD, and I wanted to make sure I had the right version.

    Juniperfish @juniperfish

    Well I never really got into McCoy’s Doctor – I was on hiatus from Who at the time – so it’s interesting to see him now. I do like the Scottish (being of Scots stock myself).

    His father / child  slash mentor/ mentee relationship with Ace is entirely believable – a million miles away from Ten/ Rose or Four/ Romana 2.

    This Doctor’s patrician qualities are certainly in evidence.

    I do, as ever, appreciate the slower storytelling pace. I miss the serial plot-driven narrative quality of Old Who.

    BadWulf @badwulf

    OK – I decided to watch it using @craig ‘s embedded link, as my laptop doesn’t have an optical drive.

    My least favourite of the BG versions of the theme – the best thing about it is that it has the middle eight prominently featured. The rest of it is too ’80s synthesizer-ish for my taste. I’m not too fond of the intro sequence either, although silver spray-painted Radagast gives me a chuckle!

    The spooky underwater shot establishes a creepy atmosphere nicely.

    I like that Ace is a very astute companion – she is willing to be led, but isn’t shy about giving her opinion or observations. I can imagine Sarah Jane in similar situations muttering darkly, Tegan pouting, Leela pulling a knife and Jo Grant would follow on puppyishly and with blythe unconcern. This kind of mission really suits Ace.

    Royal marines, like policemen, always seem to be getting younger.

    I also think the way that the change from russian with subtitles to spoken english is handled – it shows that the programme realised that the audience was sophisticated enough to be questioning the everyone always speaks english trope, and provided a convincing reason for it.

    Not sure about the Doctor’s dismissal of “Prisoner’s Dilemma”, unless he’s just being flippant (which would not be out of character).

    Millington’s introduction is hilariously bizarre, as if he is an android just conserving power.

    I’m amused by the viking graveyard spooOOooky superstition – it reminds me about how US movies and TV shows are always talking about Indian burial grounds.

    Hmm – Ace seems quick to leap to the statement that the Russians were on the Allied side during the Second World War – pehaps she’s forgetting that the Russians as well as the Germans invaded Poland.

    The interaction between Judson’s enthusiasm for the idea of machine intelligence and Millington’s suspicion is interesting – it’s almost as if Judson has never considered that a thinking machine might pose a threat. In the light of how Doctor Who usually treats AI, this would appear to be very shortsighted!

    Not keen on the girls’ performances at all – the repetition and delivery of “baby doll” just sets my teeth on edge, and not in a good “terrified” way, either. It’s a terrible shame they get no closer to the Russian sniper.

    The intercutting of Judson reading the translation, and the underwater hand with the drowned sailors is great.

    I think this is a fine first episode to the story – dark and intriguing, full of hints.

    PhaseShift @phaseshift
    Time Lord


    The Directors cut on the DVD is a single 90 minute production (and is highly recommended for those with the DVD), so we’re going with the Episodic “as broadcast” version on Disc 1.

    Lovely intro by @craig.

    As well as Janet Henfrey, eagle eyed viewers may spot someone else who went on to appear in the new show. Anne Reid who appeared in Smith and Jones as the straw slurping Plasmavore plays Judsons Nurse.

    Now – there may be an in-joke in casting here.

    PhaseShift @phaseshift
    Time Lord


    That’s excellent if you’re new to this era, because it will be interesting to hear your thoughts as the story develops – particularly the Doctor/Ace dynamic.

    Anybody else who hasn’t sampled McCoy, or experienced Ace and this story is very welcome as well.

    There is a generally held belief that this period of the show saw it trying to change, and some of the changes were actually towards how the show came back. Its things to do with arcs and characterisation mainly, but it will be fascinating to read if newer viewers see it.

    PhaseShift @phaseshift
    Time Lord

    So – let’s tuck into some McCoy.

    This story follows Ghost Light, which we covered last year, and the difference in openings is startling. Ghost Light was limited budget, enclosed studio sets, gloomy and claustrophobic. Suddenly we’re all at sea. 🙂 With underwater shots!? Wow – that’s adventurous for the time. Subtitles as these soldiers row for shore, while losing their Comrades. We’re with Russians obviously.

    “Everything in English!” I love that. “No-one will suspect us if we speak English, while we wear Uniforms and speak with Russian Accents! No-one!!!” 😀

    Meanwhile we meet the Doctor and Ace. McCoy is one of the more directed Doctors. Less aimless in his wanderings. We’re on the Northeast coast at a secret naval base during World War II, and McCoy’s delighted to have Ace dressed for the period. I love some of the sparing which seems very jocular after we’ve sampled the Sixth Doctor and Peri. I love McCoy expression as it dawns on him that yes, Ace has a point. Where the hell are the guards.

    Oh, here they are, and the Doctors bluff works. McCoy’s business with his mannerisms and quirks pays dividends at this point. There’s such a lot going on with him, you can gloss over points. I love him signing his forged authorisation papers simultaneously, and with the signatures of Churchill and the Head of the Secret service, no less.

    Our resident genius, Doctor Judson is very taken with the Doctor and Ace. It’s nice to see that aspect of the time travelling companion. Ace is smart anyway, but we can forget that the average child can learn in an hours worth of science lessons what it took verifiable genius’s lifetimes of research to discover.

    I can’t help but think that if it were announced that Nicholas Parsons was cast in a new series an element of fandom would be screaming “Stunt casting”. He’s actually pretty engaging as the soft spoken Reverend Wainwright. Long suffering it seems, as one of his flock is Miss Hardaker, whose moral certainty must prove wearisome.

    I’ll agree with @badwulf that the evacuated girls seem a little forced. I think they are supposed to be a bit superficial, but as time goes on they do grate.

    Also agree the shot of the Russian soldier throwing the coral object into the water – to be caught by a hand in desperate need of a manicure, with a dead soldier floating is actually a superb shot. Hats off to the Director, Nicholas Mallet, who I think is making full use of the locations and resources he has. This looks far richer than it has a right to.

    I like a lot of this – it’s an interesting setup. Ace has mentioned her mum before, and she has real issues with her. We’re reminded again of that here where her dislike extends to handing the baby she’s been going goo-ey over back as soon as she discovers they share a name.

    Wonder if there is any significance to the “Dangerous Undercurrents” sign?

    The cliffhanger isn’t that fantastic – Doctor surrounded by soldiers. Are we gripped?

    lisa @lisa

    Does anyone else think there is a strong resemblance between Ace and Clara? I feel like I’m watching
    Clara’s mom -{like maybe Clara’s mom could have bee Ace]

    Whisht @whisht

    Ok – I don’t think I saw any of this when it was first broadcast (or since). ‘ve heard of it, but nothing I’ve seen is ringing any (cloister) bells.

    So – excellent! I’m seeing it fresh!

    I like the pace but wish the incidental music was toned down – is trying way too hard and (because of its nature) is far too abrasive.

    Love the underwater shots and agree with Phaseshift that those shots are almost out of step with the other shooting for being more atmosphenric.

    The one moment of tension I had was when I thought (and I think McCoy did too) that Sophie Aldred hadn’t handled a baby before and wasn’t cradling her head!! Maybe I’m sensitive to this as I remember all too well cradling my day-or-so baby niece and the nerves of cradling her head!!


    Looking forward to next week!

    JimTheFish @jimthefish
    Time Lord

    For me Fenric comes just under Ghost Light as McCoy’s best. As others have said, it pretty much contains the template of many elements of the new series. You can see the genesis of Rose in Ace, for example.

    I have to admit I’ve never been the biggest fan of Ace. You can see what they were trying to do with her and she’s definitely a vast improvement on Peri and even Tegan, but in terms of characterisation, she’s still far too rough around the edges for my liking. But she has an interesting arc, and it’s very to the fore here, but I’d have to say in both this and Ghost Light, Sophie Aldred tends to show that she doesn’t really have the acting chops to carry it off successfully. Or at least not to the extent that Billie Piper and now Jenna Coleman have shone with similar material.

    But at the same time, she has a nice chemistry with McCoy. My test of whether a companion (and Doctor) are truly successful in terms of writing and characterisation is if you can imagine them existing and hanging out and having adventures even when the camera isn’t on them. Sarah Jane and Tom had that, so did Jamie and Zoe, Amy and Eleven. But Adric and Nyssa didn’t and neither did Martha. But Ace and Seven definitely have it.

    McCoy is great in this story and has lots of great moments. It’s interesting that there’s much talk of Capaldi’s coldness and aloofness because I think he’s a far more cuddly and softie Doctor than Seven actually is. But perhaps that won’t become more apparent until later episodes. And he has lots of great moments with both Dinsdale Lansden and Nicholas Parsons here.

    Agree with @phaseshift that if Parsons were cast these days there would be howls of protest at ‘stunt casting’. But I think he’s great. He’s never going to be an Oscar-winner but he invests Wainright with a quiet, tortured dignity. It’s also interesting to note that even at the winter of its popularity, the original series was still able to attract guest stars of the calibre of Parsons, Lansden and Alfred Lynch.

    It’s a cracking story with lots of great imagery – underwater Viking longships replete with corpses, Viking runes, Ultima machines, religious angst. If anything, there’s too much stuff competing for attention. And there are a few plot holes here and there. For example, if Judson and Millington (an in-joke to Spike Milligan’s war memoirs perhaps?) had been long-obsessed with the Viking legend, how come Wainright just happens to give him the translation at that time? And if he’d been hiding it, why did he now give it up so easily? And then there’s the error of Millington’s moustache.

    But quibbles aside, it’s a great story and it was great to see Who get its mojo back. It was also nice to see McCoy finally being allowed to fulfil his potential as a fine Doctor – one who’s only now getting his due recognition and one who doesn’t really resemble any of his predecessors at all (and quietly and subtly doing what Colin Baker had blustered along saying he’d intended for his Doc and I have to say failing miserably).

    Anonymous @

    @badwulf  I agree those two girls were horrific but on the plus side, as @juniperfish and others mentioned, Ace is willing to be led and knows when to stop -she could easily have hopped into  the water but showed sense instead.

    I don’t know what’s going on with her hair?  And that large bag she’s lugging, what’s with that? 🙂

    I liked McCoy’s delivery and tone -right on. The slow pace too is really attractive now, but back then, I wasn’t into it any more. Funny how our tastes change and our needs come to the forefront after so much action driven senseless big buck thrillers…

    Bunk Beds!!  Whoo-hoo!

    Mudlark @mudlark


    what’s going on with her hair?

    Ace’s hairstyle is a pretty accurate reproduction of the kind of hairstyles worn by women in England during the war, as are the hairstyles of the other female characters.  In Britain at that time almost everything, not just food, was either strictly rationed or in short supply, and that included materials for perming hair.  So, whereas before the war most young women with straight hair permed it, from 1940 onwards they often had to improvise by rolling and pinning it into place; the roll at the front was a fairly typical fashion.  Those with long hair sometimes confined it tidily in a netted bag (snood) like that Ace is wearing.  Her outfit, apart from the jacket with all the badges, is pretty much correct for the period, too.

    Sheer silk stockings were also hard to obtain, which is why you see one of the evacuee girls drawing a line up the back of the other’s leg, to look like the seam of a stocking.  Women also used to attempt to reproduce the colour of stockings by anointing their legs with substances such as brown food colouring or diluted boot polish – sometimes with comically disastrous results.  (When the American servicemen arrived their popularity was enhanced by their ability to obtain the new-fangled nylon stockings for their girl friends).

    Judging by the few seventh Doctor serials I have seen, Ace carries the bag with her everywhere: it contains a variety of things which come in useful in their adventures (spoilers!)

    When this was first broadcast the facts concerning the huge scale of the code breaking operation at Bletchley Park, not to mention number of people involved in the interception and transcription of German radio messages, were of course only just beginning to filter out and not widely known, so the idea of a lone cryptographer and a handful of radio operators working in isolation on a small Naval base in North East England would not have seemed so quaint!

    That said, the atmosphere evoked was suitably ominous, and, as @phaseshift and @whisht have said, the underwater shots with the weed-draped prow of the Viking ship, the drowned body and the mysterious hand are particularly effective.  The first thing that struck me about the two girls was that they looked a little on the mature side to be evacuees, bearing in mind that most people at that time left school and started work at fourteen. If they seem silly and out of place, that is also to some extent true to the period.  Children from the city, and older children in particular, often failed to adapt very well to a rural environment and remained misfits – or else headed back to the city at the earliest opportunity.

    As I have said elsewhere, by the time Sylvester McCoy took over I had long since ceased watching Doctor Who, so it is only very recently that I have been catching up and realising what I missed.



    Anonymous @

    @mudlark  yes the hair. Thank you for that explanation: whilst the stocking line is pretty common knowledge here I only found out about the food colouring a few years ago when writing a unit about post-war England. In Australia it’s more common to study the effect of war on other countries although Australia frequently followed suit. With respect to the girls -I probably should have mentioned their acting, as yes, I imagine those young girls of 14-15 would have found their way into the country as Mr Ilion’s sisters did in the 40s -obviously they are a good dealer older (a large family indeed) than him. I just thought they over-acted a little is all and went from ‘friends’ to being ‘silly and shouty’ -surely something the writing could have remedied a bit!

    JimTheFish @jimthefish
    Time Lord

    Just wanted to add that this story is great for seeing how the master manipulator of the Seventh Doc in action. As in Ghost Light too for that matter. Compare it to the bumbling amiability of Matt or even how Capaldi’s doc quite often admits to ignorance or makes mistakes throughout his adventures. But Seven just glides about, slotting pieces into place, unearthing the translation as if he already knows it’s there, taking it straight to Judson and so on. Never has there been a Doc so self-assured, with the possible exception of Pertwee, and never has there been one before or since who’s operated so blatantly on his own agenda….

    janetteB @janetteb

    I must confess to watching Curse of Fenric a couple of months ago when my youngest was home sick. I was surprised by just how good it is. I have only seen one other McCoy story in its entirety. I did not see them when they originally screened. It was a pleasure to re-watch the first episode this week. (If I hadn’t seen the entire story I don’t think I could watch it the British way, one episode a week. I would be far too impatient having been spoilt by the ABC’s weeknight screenings.)It is an interesting story which moves along at a good pace.

    I did find some things about the episode confusing. Why does the Doctor show up there and then? He seems to have a reason for being there that is not explained. Maybe that was established in the previous story? The choice of location is clearly not random. He knows just where they are and Ace is dressed accordingly. Clearly no problems with the Tardis navigation. I am also confused by the Russians who are hardly acting like allies.

    Viking mythology is an interesting subject for Dr Who to draw on. One of my favourite books when I was a kid involved a modern archaelogist travelling to Iceland where members of his team encounter an ancient Viking curses leading to a timey wimey trip to Vinland with Eric the Red. There is also a rather dark novel by Michelle Paver about an ancient curse and the long night up near the north pole. (not for children that one.) The dragon head of the long boat rising ominiously in the murky waters strikes a fearful image. Excellent visuals. Viking mythology, mist and a lonely coast, some of my favourite story elements.

    I really liked Ace as a companion. I did not have a problem with the accent, accents not being such distinct class markers in Oz and street kids not being necessarily working class as some critics seem to imply. (In fact the street kids i knew were all from wealthy families.) At times I find her characterisation a bit forced but at least she had character, a quality distinctly lacking in her immediate predecessors. IMHO she was the first watchable companion after Romana decamped. There is also a lovely rapport between her and the Doctor and it is no surprise to learn that they were good friends off screen too. McCoy is really coming into his own as the Doctor and I think it was a shame that he did not get another series. He would have been up there with the best had he had more time methinks.

    @mudlark  I recall my mother telling me about girls drawing lines on their legs when stockings were in short supply. I did wonder if a woman with a baby would be working in a military installation, as I thought that marriage or pregnancy meant instant dismissal from the armed forces then. (My mother was in the army during WWII and so the typing pool had a ring of familiarity to it for me.)





    Mudlark @mudlark

    @purofilion  I agree that the acting of the two girls did leave something to be desired, but the acting in BG Who strikes me as often pretty variable and, by comparison with the acting on television now, can sometimes seem mannered or a bit exaggerated.  When I watch these episodes now I tend to allow for this and it does not bother me much.

    Mudlark @mudlark

    @janetteb  Yes, it does seem highly improbable that a woman with a baby would have been allowed to remain in the armed forces, however essential her role;  for that matter it would have been unusual for any woman in such circumstances to have continued working, whatever the type of employment.  Even after conscription of women was introduced (the principal options other than the armed forces being the land army or munitions ), women with babies and young children were exempt.

    As for the Russians, presumably they were allies by the time the events of this story take place – but even after Germany broke the non-aggression pact the basis of the ensuing alliance was essentially a matter of ‘my enemy’s enemy is my friend’.  I don’t think the mutual trust extended all that far, and the idea of a clandestine operation by Russians on British shores does not seem wholly implausible.

    Bluesqueakpip @bluesqueakpip


    I thought that marriage or pregnancy meant instant dismissal from the armed forces then.

    Marriage, definitely not. Not during WW2; a lot of ‘normal’ regulations got relaxed.

    Pregnancy: usually, a pregnant servicewoman got sent on indefinite unpaid leave rather than being instantly dismissed – I suppose this was because there was the possibility of adoption (unmarried servicewomen) or something going wrong (married servicewomen), in which case the woman could return to duty at another base.

    But coming back with a baby would be highly unusual, to say the least, though there were quite a few older servicewomen (in WW2) with grown-up children.

    BadWulf @badwulf

    @mudlark @purofilion  I agree that the acting of the two girls did leave something to be desired, but the acting in BG Who strikes me as often pretty variable and, by comparison with the acting on television now, can sometimes seem mannered or a bit exaggerated.  When I watch these episodes now I tend to allow for this and it does not bother me much.

    I agree with much of what you say – but with these two girls, they seemed to be a bit, well, Grange Hill. And I think the editing was to blame for the shockingly abrupt repetition of “baby doll“, with its weird stress on doll.

    As for exaggerated performances – I have yet to order Horns of Nimon, but when I do get round to finally seeing it, I intend to enjoy every moment of Soldeed.

    Bluesqueakpip @bluesqueakpip


    Sophie Aldred tends to show that she doesn’t really have the acting chops to carry it off successfully

    She was actually a Children’s Theatre actor when cast, and has since had a very busy career in Children’s TV, both acting and presenting. Given that her predecessor was Bonnie Langford, you can see where the casting direction was going.

    If you have toddlers, you might have heard her as the voice of Tom, in Tree Fu Tom. 😉

    BadWulf @badwulf

    @bluesqueakpip I was never sure what age the writers were going for with Ace – she looked to be in her  twenties, but her lines were written as if she was twelve.

    That’s not to say I don’t enjoy the character!

    JimTheFish @jimthefish
    Time Lord

    @bluesqueakpip — I was kind of aware of Sophie Aldred’s pre and post Who career — Corners still holds a special place in my heart. But that still doesn’t mean she wasn’t out of her depth with anything above a certain level of drama. She’s fine with the ‘flippin’ eck, perfessor, that’s well wicked’s but not really with anything heavier than that. Look at the baby scene in this episode. It’s not brilliantly written but with the best will in the world, she does rather fail to convey the necessary and convincing depth of emotion in that scene.It’s no reflection on her but rather on JNT’s casting. The kids’/light ent show that he envisaged it being was gradually re-developing its dramatic ambitions. Which is why Ace was in the process of being written out, I suspect.

    Bluesqueakpip @bluesqueakpip

    I agree that, for example, Jenna Coleman, would have done the baby scene better – Sophie Aldred is – look, if she’d been playing solely to an audience of under sevens, they’d have all got that she didn’t like her mother. It’s a bit large print.

    But if you hire a jazz musician and then ask them to play classical, don’t be too surprised if they’re competent, but not great. Likewise, if you hire a science journalist, don’t be surprised if their assigned article on loan sharks in the East End is less than prize winning.

    As you say, it’s not a reflection on her. It really isn’t a reflection on her; Ace often gets voted one of the best of the BG companions. They were actually lucky in her casting – having cast her for one set of skills, she was okay when they asked her to play something outside her professional experience.

    You only have to look at the Sixth Doctor to realise how badly wrong JNT’s lack of casting sense could go. 😉

    janetteB @janetteb


    You only have to look at the Sixth Doctor to realise how badly wrong JNT’s lack of casting sense could go

    Indeed so. I thought the acting overall in this story a massive improvement to that in the C.B. story we watched last.



    BadWulf @badwulf

    @jimthefish I’m afraid I’ve never seen anything else with Sophie Aldred in – What is Corners?

    @bluesqueakpip I agree that casting for the tone and audience of the work, as well as the skill set of the performer, is critical to the success of the work.

    With regard to the Sixth Doctor, I believe that it was the tone that the writers and production team went for as opposed to Colin Baker himself.

    That’s not to say that I think that JNT’s casting was infallible – wasn’t he responsible for Adric and Mel?

    BadWulf @badwulf

    @mudlark As for the Russians, presumably they were allies by the time the events of this story take place – but even after Germany broke the non-aggression pact the basis of the ensuing alliance was essentially a matter of ‘my enemy’s enemy is my friend’.  I don’t think the mutual trust extended all that far, and the idea of a clandestine operation by Russians on British shores does not seem wholly implausible.

    I think that a lot of people these days are unaware that the Soviet Union plotted with the Nazis to invade and dismember Poland, and that the Soviets were just as culpable as the Germans or the Japanese in starting the Second World War. The actual invasion of Poland by the Soviets was certainly glossed over during my GCSE and A-Level courses in European History.

    It makes sense, therefore, from a story point of view that the Russians are acting in a duplicitous and invading capacity.

    Bluesqueakpip @bluesqueakpip


    I don’t think the mutual trust extended all that far,

    There is a saying attributed to Churchill, after he’d made a speech supporting Stalin, following the German invasion of the Soviet Union:

    If Hitler invaded Hell, I would find a few kind words to say about His Satanic Majesty.


    JimTheFish @jimthefish
    Time Lord

    @bluesqueakpip — I think we’re agreed that Aldred was hired to be a companion in a show that was rather different than what Who was turning itself (back) into in the last couple of stories. And she’s definitely a gazillion times better than Mel (can you even imagine Bonnie Langford in Ghost Light?)  You’re right, they were lucky to have landed a performer who could have a fair go at the heavy dramatics, even if she was never really going to be able to pull it off properly.

    @badwulf — Corners was a kids’ programme that was a kind of ‘fun facts to learn’ type thing and was presented by Sophie Aldred at one point.

    DrBen @drben

    @badwulf – I was never sure what age the writers were going for with Ace – she looked to be in her  twenties, but her lines were written as if she was twelve.

    I watched Ace’s first appearance not too long ago, and she says she’s 16 or 17, I forget which.  So her acting isn’t too far off for a bratty teenager.

    Rob @rob

    @badwolf GCSE’s showing your youngster credentials again hehehe

    History in my school days started in 1485 and ended in 1815, luckily I had already been bitten by the history bug and read outside the syllabus.

    Not so much the curse of Fenrick as the curse of no 3G service the joys of working on site :s

    I’ll attempt to catch up on Sunday and add to to the conversation

    Mudlark @mudlark

    @rob @badwulf    To those of us born during the war, it seems even odder to think of it being taught in GCSE and ‘A’ level history  courses.  I have to remind myself that for someone sitting those exams today, the events are slightly more distant in time than the Boer war was for me and my contemporaries when we studied history for GCE ‘O’ and ‘A’ level 🙂

    Our ‘O’ level course did cover the 19th century, though, as well as the 18th (the latter being tedious in the extreme: all those wars and baffling political manoeuvrings).

    Arbutus @arbutus

    Here I am at last, finally having had a chance to watch this. I have a great fondness for McCoy’s episodes with Ace. I always liked her as a companion, and she was very AG-style in some ways. And she was fun to watch, where I frequently found Mel and Peri irritating. (Six certainly had his problems, and he wasn’t well blessed with companions, in my view!) McCoy was at his best when paired with her, as it allowed him to be fatherly and wise as well as quirky. I always felt that he lacked a Doctorly authority with Mel!

    This is a great episode, lots of creepy atmosphere and some intriguing characters. I like Judson and his delight when the Doctor walks in and understands his work, and his amazement that a teenager girl would comprehend advanced science. @badwulf, I think Judson shows all the enthusiasm for AI technology that we would expect from a scientist, especially of that time. Looking forward to a bright future made better by the inventions of man. An entire postwar economy was built on that philosophy!

    I like the reverend and the way he is presented. It would have been terribly difficult in that time and place to preach what today we would consider a fairly standard Christian ethos, to a congregation that included an older generation, “soldiers of the Lord” types.

    @whisht   I seem to remember that the overbearing incidental music was typical of this period of Who. It does make one wonder what people are complaining about regarding the AG soundtracks, doesn’t it?

    @purofilion  @mudlark  Yes, Ace’s bag of tricks, she always had that. I was always amazed she never dislocated a shoulder heaving it around, but you know, teenagers. Like the Doctor’s pockets, it always seemed to have what was wanted. As for the girls, I would imagine that they were women meant to be playing teenagers, like Ace herself. I agree that either the writing or acting of those characters was a little off.

    @mudlark    Back when I was an undergrad, I was actually a returning student, about eight years old than my classmates. I have never forgotten a 20th century music lecture on a modern Canadian opera about Louis Riel (a figure from Canadian history). The lecturer asked the class why they thought this opera might have been commissioned in 1967. No one seemed to have any idea that that was the year of the Canadian centennial– none of them had been alive at the time! That was the first time I can remember feeling old.

    janetteB @janetteb

    @arbutus totally off topic but your story about the Canadian opera reminded me of a similiar experience . I also returned to Uni after a very long break and had a tendency to forget that I was older than the other students, until when, in second year English, I stated that Romeo was just a typical immature nineteen year old. There was a stunned silence then a friend laughed and I realised that I was in a room full of nineteen year olds. That particular friend now agrees with me but she still laughs about it.

    And back to Who, I forgot to mention the one thing that I really dislike about the series as a whole, the opening music. After watching one episode with my son we fast forwarded through the opening titles from then on.



    Anonymous @

    @whisht the baby could hold her head up fine thus it was not necessary to cradle the head. I actually thought that scene was thoroughly ridiculous -with Ace trying to touch the child’s head and then move away, touch it again: it just shows her lack of knowledge about babies -and look, that’s fine but I would have thought someone in the directing staff would have said something. In the scheme of episode it’s not important, though. I remember Boy Ilion happily holding his head up quite well within a month or more -it’s at that point where their heads are no longer bigger than the rest of their bodies and so they look more in proportion!

    Anonymous @

    I just thought about early days with babe ilion and how we held him. There were some good ideas about babies and nursing at the time which involved holding babies without worrying too much about their heads past the first week. Simply hold the child around the waist with your right hand, say, and place the infant’s body up against the front of your torso with the baby’s body facing outward. That way their head and torso is held in place by your body and your left hand is placed around the top of their body. They can see outward and have the security of mum and dad right near them

    blenkinsopthebrave @blenkinsopthebrave

    Finally got to watch it. I had not seen this before, and I have studiously avoided reading any other comments before posting. I will start with a declaration:

    I gave up on BG Who after Peter Davison (looking back , I blame it on JNT). When I dabbled into post-Peter Davison Who, I did not like what I saw. As for Doctor #7 it was only recently that I saw one of his stories–it was “Remembrance of the Daleks”. Now…I have to say this…I hated it. I thought the idea behind it was fine, but I thought the execution was horrible. The bright cartoon colours, the wobbly Daleks, the baseball bat (oh god, the memory of the baseball bat gives me the heebee geebees).

    So, back to “The Curse of Fenric”. I have no idea where this story is heading, but there were a couple of things I picked up in this opening episode that made me nervous. I got the sense that this take on WW2 is one that is filtered through the perceptions of the 1980s. By that, I mean a time when (amongst a certain intellectual persuasion) ALL war was seen as wrong, and therefore ALL combatants were seen as equally wrong. It was also a time that valorised postmodern relativism (I hated it then, and I hate it now).

    Therefore…I await episode 2…nervously.


    Anonymous @

    @blenkinsopthebrave a Blenkinsop after my own heart. Dear Lord have I worked hard against Post Modern Attitudes and particularly the relativist attitude as expressed by Helen Garner and a number of the teaching staff at Melbourne University in the early ’90s and which continues even now. It is smaller in the Music Dept -they tend to have little knowledge of these issues but many good lecturers in the Arts/History areas were absolutely pilloried starting in 1988 just as I was finishing a post-grad in that dept. It was awful. Alliances broke and friendships stunted. I was appalled at the array of young, new ‘talent’ with almost no experience filled with self-gratification towards themselves and  nothing but cynical attitudes towards those of the ‘old guard’ of lecturing/publishing at QLD Univ.

    ScaryB @scaryb

    I have  a big soft spot for Fenric. It was one that I  caught first time round by accident (I’d pretty much given up on Dr Who by then) and it sucked me in from the first episode, mainly due to the chemistry between 7 and Ace, and the location shooting, especially the underwater shots – gotta love an underwater viking longship 😯

    I agree with @blenkinsopthebrave that the view of the soldiers (both sides) is “filtered through the perceptions of the 80s” –  but that’s only to be expected really. I’d argue that it’s a view of the 40s seen thro an 80’s perspective. WW2 was not so close in living memory as it was in the 60s when DW started and Nation could riff on the Nazis in creating the Daleks. WW2 was more known through TV programmes like Dad’s Army, The Secret Army (and it’s spoof Allo Allo), Colditz and the like.  There’s a certain naivity in the depiction of security measures (and not a bit of psychic paper in sight) but I wouldn’t say it was  disrespectful in its portrayal of the soldiers – either Russian or British. That the Russians are given equal respect wasn’t so common back then as I remember.


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