The Curse of Fenric part 3

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    Craig @craig

    As Commander Millington’s plans begin to fall apart, the vampire-like Haemovores move in and, with the help of the Russians, our heroes have to take action to survive.

    This is very much Ace’s action-packed episode. She finds the vase, fights Haemovores, questions the Doctor, flirts with the Russian Captain, enables his escape, blows up stuff and still has time to develop her relationship with Kathleen and the baby.

    To paraphrase recent commentators elsewhere, anyone would think this was a show about Ace and not the Doctor! I like it.

    Once again, 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 the final episode please.

    PhaseShift @phaseshift
    Time Lord

    Poor Perkins. All that work smashing the comms equipment just to have the Doctor say: “Splendid work Perkins, splendid. Now put them back together.” Sorry for some reason I find that sequence very funny.

    I’ll agree with @craig s intro. This is one hell of an episode for Ace. I’ll come back to her later. So we have our vampires as haemovores. According to the Doctor an evolutionary strand of humanity from the far future. Which have lain off Maiden’s Point for hundreds of years? This is going to get timey-wimey isn’t it?

    As Vampires, they appear to not fear running water or daylight but they do have a weakness in faith. A sympathetic vibration which the Doctor uses to turn them away. It can be lost in the transmission what the Doctor appears to be saying as he summons his faith. What inspires his own faith? Well, it starts of “Ian…Barbara..Susan…Vicki…” Of course, the Doctors faith lies in his companions.

    Sorin’s faith lies in the revolution, and so we get the sight of the Soviet emblems being used to drive back Vampires. Wainwright’s faith has already been established as wavering and so, unfortunately, his own attempts later in the episode are doomed to failure. I think Nicholas Parsons did a great job with the material here.

    The Ultima machine continues to churn out its names as an increasingly unhinged Millington sets about making matters worse. And suddenly we have a Judson who can stand unaided and who opens his eyes to reveal…well, is this Fenric? He seems to know who he’s dealing with – Timelord.

    Going back to Ace, and it’s worth dwelling on the fact she blew into the Doctors life pretty unexpectedly. He met her on Iceworld in the future. In all the confusion, not a lot was made of her reasons for being there. She was messing about in her bedroom, brewing up some explosives, and got swept up in this time-wind thingy. She took up the Doctor’s offer to get her home via the scenic route, with lots of adventure. He has a tendency to keep things from her, but as I said in the last episode, she’s grown somewhat. The previous episodes had the Doctor take her back to a house she’d burnt down. He was really eager to learn something about her.

    Her empathy has grown and again, her scenes with Kathleen are pretty good. I love her not realising she’d put her foot in it with the “I didn’t know you were married” line. And the later scene as Kathleen discovers she is now a widow is very touching.

    I like her frustration with the Doctor at his lack of directness. He’s not playing it straight with her. It’s worth dwelling on this and asking, given the events of Ghost Light, whether he trusts her fully and what his motivations were.

    The fact that I can pose these questions is indicative of something I think. Ace had a clearly delineated arc. There is a story underneath the stories she’s in, and this is unexpected territory for the BG years, although pretty common now. I can’t help but admire the aims of the writers. To be frank, it’s what the 80s years could have done with more off.

    I also like the fact that Ace is growing up. She’s aware of her sexuality as her flirting with the Soldier as a distraction indicates. It’s tame stuff really, but in comparison with the proceeding years it’s risqué. Dangerous Undercurrents indeed.

    Her obvious attraction to Sorin may have made me wonder if she was about to do the time honoured tradition of giving up travelling to settle down and get married, particularly with her line to Kathleen about marriage. I’m kidding myself though, because the last time a companion clearly indicated something like sexual chemistry with a potential partner was Jo Grant in Green Death. Sorry, as much as I loved Leela, her ending was spectacularly cocked up, as I’ve mentioned before. And Peri and Brian Blessed? Shudder. No – with a few minor reservations I really do think that Ace was a step forward for characterisation. Shame it came towards the end.

    Arbutus @arbutus

    Lots of great stuff here. McCoy, as is his wont, goes slightly over the top during his speech about evil from the dawn of time; but by and large, he is great in this. As others have said, his interactions with Ace clearly exhibit great affection and familiarity.

    The vampire girls are still poorly done, but I don’t think it matters at this point as they are not really human anymore anyway. I don’t think they are helped by their makeup, which just makes them look goth as opposed to frightening. Otherwise, the characters are well played. The actor playing Judson gives him more personality than is written into the script, and the stalwart Russian is stock but enjoyable. I love his calm reply to the Doctor’s question about doubts: “If we meet again, you will have your answer.” The Reverend takes the same attitude, but it serves him less well– his fall is surprisingly shocking as it looks at first as if his faith will win the day. But the monsters are able to find his weak spot after all.

    Finally, a cliffhanger featuring one of my favourite Doctor Who memes: that moment when the evil alien speaks to the Doctor, addressing him with ominous familiarity as “Timelord.”

    Bluesqueakpip @bluesqueakpip

    Catching up, slowly. Just imagine I’m watching it on a VHS recorder.

    Yes, poor old Perkins. But I agree this is a brilliant episode for Ace and very much shows the character as the forerunner of the AG series companions. She has a story beyond ‘wandered into the TARDIS and would like to get back to Coal Hill School/Heathrow Airport/anywhere I’m not being chased by Cybermen.’ 😉 And her frustration is nicely written – she obviously realises something is going on. But is it because the Doctor is manipulative and secretive by nature? Or is there something that he’s hiding from her?

    I agree that the flirt with the marine was a bit risque for the time – unfortunately all I could think of throughout was Captain Jack’s ‘You’re not his type’. Though I’m not quite sure who wasn’t whose type. 😉

    Yes, the vampire girls (and the vampires generally) are the one let-down in a sterling display of excellent character acting. I’m not sure whether that’s because the director (Nicholas Mallet) simply didn’t know what to do with them, or because the rubber masks of the period made it almost impossible to do anything other than walk in a straight line, hands held out in a spooky manner – because the girls were leading a group of actors who couldn’t see.

    Certainly, I note that Sylvester McCoy has to practically throw himself at the vampires to get them to grab him, and one of the vampires fighting Ace falls to the ground when her arm flails past his nose.

    That cliffhanger was fantastic. If anything, I think the glowy green eyes were overdone. Dinsdale Landen nailed the switch to Fenric without them.

    ScaryB @scaryb

    (Sorry, very late to the discussion)

    Not a lot to add to the comments above, which cover the points well.  There was a lot of set up in the first 2 episodes which now starts to pay off.  Like @phaseshift I laughed at the opening. Poor Perkins.  (Hmmm… another Perkins, eh?!)

    The script is a bit dense at times, with references to (presumably) mythical objects, wolves and prophesies (maybe also the difference in pacing between 1980s and current programme making) but mostly it’s well carried off by a great main cast. Nicholas Parsons astonished me (in a good way) – you really feel for his vicar who can’t quite overcome his corner of doubt (possibly brought on by the haemovores, possibly also by the effects of war).  Millingdon is completely batshit by now (and I thought he as borderline before when we first see his “nazi” office (then someone mentioned that as based on a real person) and I had my money on him being the bad guy.

    Sophie really comes into her own in her scenes with McCoy. They have great chemistry and he knocks it out the park – he can be bombastic, devious, subtle, eccentric, hilarious… all in the same line. But has been said, this is DW moving into different territory, with more under-story for the Doctor and the companion – and it’s the better for it I reckon. Especially as you can see Ace is growing up as she travels with him. The fact she takes some time out to bond with the baby and her mum – that line about not being married was a great, and economical, way of setting up cultural difference in different eras.

    Sorin really starts to come into his own. He loses one of his best friends early on, but still looks out for his men while having a driving need to fulfil his mission. And rescue the damsel in distress in the passing.  And yes, it does rather look like they’re setting him up with Ace. (I had a wee laugh at her seduction technique on the soldier, but I am hugely envious of her bag. That has to be a TARDIS in disguise – she’s got everything in there – inc a rope ladder and explosives. Every girl should have one!)

    Location filming is great but maybe a bit more strategic light and shadow would have helped with the haemovore costumes. (Tho if the actors already couldn’t see  as @bluesqueakpip mentioned, that might have been disastrous. Presumably it was beyond the budget anyway).  I like that it was done with costumes rather than an attempt at CGI.  That’s one helluva manicure you get when you change tho! I like @arbutus‘s comment about them looking like Goths – middle England’s worst nightmare!

    Great final scene. I liked the glowy eyes, but it’s Landen’s understated delivery of the line “so we meet again… Timelord” that really sells it. Oooh! Shivers!! There’s obviously a LOT the Doctor’s not been telling us.

    (Good spot Mr Phaseshift on what the Doctor has faith in, I couldn’t make it out properly. That’s lovely)

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