Thursday 18 October 2012

695 The Curse of Fenric Part One

EPISODE: The Curse of Fenric Part One
TRANSMITTED: Wednesday 25 October 1989
WRITER: Ian Briggs
DIRECTOR: Nicholas Mallett
SCRIPT EDITOR: Andrew Cartmel
PRODUCER: John Nathan-Turner
RATINGS: 4.3 million viewers
FORMAT: DVD: Doctor Who - The Curse of Fenric

The Doctor & Ace land at at a naval encampment in England during the second world war which they infiltrate with the help of some papers forged by the Doctor. The wheelchair bound Professor Judson is involved in top secret research into German cyphers at the camp run by his old school colleague Commander Millington. Nearby a team of Soviet soldiers has landed on a covert mission but many of their number have been killed at sea. The Doctor & Ace visit the local church where they find Judson working on translating Viking inscriptions to prove his theories. In the churchyard they find many gravestones with Viking names on them and at the cliffs a package of sealed Soviet orders. The vicar, Reverend Wainright, admits to the Doctor that his Grandfather managed to translate some of the inscription which said that the Vikings wished to go back to the "North Way" but the curse claimed their lives at Maiden's Bay. Returning to the base, the Doctor & Ace meet the WRNS listening to coded transmissions. Ace is taken with a baby in the room but when she learns it shares the same name as her mother she hands it back. The Doctor discovers that Millington keeps an office identical to a German Cypher room in Berlin and within it finds a Viking Chess set. Returning to Maiden's point to search for clues the Doctor & Ace are captured by Soviet Soldiers.

That wasn't bad at all: it looks good, especially the underwater sequences, but by this point the production team had realised that something with a historical leaning was playing towards the BBC's ability to do historical drama well. Yes it suffers from some problems: Ace & The Doctor are here, there and everywhere with very little reasoning. For example why do they show up at the church?

Incredibly this is Doctor Who's first visit to the Second World War, although you can made a claim that the Daleks, Dalek Invasion of Earth & Genesis of the Daleks are all inspired by World War II and events surrounding it. Historical trips to the Twentieth century (IE after 1900 but before the episode went out) as a whole are rare: Abominable Snowman, Pyramids of Mars.... possibly Horror of Fang Rock.... Black Orchid & Remembrance of the Daleks are the only ones that spring to mind in the original series prior to this story.

We don't get to see the main enemy protagonist of WWII in this story so for Doctor Who meets The Nazis see Exodus, the New Adventures novel published a few years after this episode went out.

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