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CRRRaSh! 390 Doctor Who: Image of the Fendahl

By Roy Mathur, on 2021-06-25, at 23:10:39--23:48:16 BST, for Captain Roy's Rocket Radio Show, Listen

The State of the Rewatch

I almost didn't tape this one in time. As it stands, by the time I edit this it won't come out on Friday. Sorry. Things have been hectic. The car has been in and out of the garage, I've been rearranging the studio, shopping, driving people about then picking them up, faffing about with Amazon trying to not get ripped off, and I have not been sleeping. I could go on like this for quite some time, so let's leave it at that.

We're also trying to replace the Millennium Falcon (my car), in the midst of a car shortage. After two cars we arranged to see were suspiciously suddenly sold right from under us, the moment we expressed interest---I suspect gazumping---I'm almost giving up on the VW approved dealer network.

One equipment change to the studio setup is that I got a Shure SM58 to replace the Behringer XM8500, for no other reason that I got a new one half-price due to a cock-up by Thomann on a previous order meaning I had a credit note to spend. There should be at least a marginal sound improvement. The sensitivity of the new mic is enough that I now have to turn on my mixer's High Pass Filter. With its friendly red foam nose, I might call it Rudolph. I call the Behringer General Blackblood after the Volgan war criminal robot from 2000 AD's ABC Warriors.

Other fancier equipment is winging it's way to me soon that may further improve audio, but we'll talk about that when it happens. Fancier equipment means I need your support more than ever, so... roymathur.com/podcast.html#support

Notes

Fourth Doctor: Tom Baker
Companion(s): Leela: Louise Jameson
Director: George Spenton-Foster
Writer: Chris Boucher
Producer: Graham Williams
Location: BBC Television Centre, Studio TC6, Shepherd's Bush, Aug--Sep 1977.
Broadcast: Serial 3 of season 15, 4 x 25 minute episodes, 29 October--19 November 1977, following The Invisible Enemy covered in pod 388.

On this Day

The USSR blew up a bit of Kazakhstan during a nuclear test. Get on this Borat!

At 17:40 The Basil Brush Show preceded the first episode of this Doctor story, which was broadcast at 18:10. If you were too miserable a git for such frivolous entertainment, you could always tune into Radio 4 instead and listen to the News and Farming Today. Zzz.

What Happens

In a creepy old house in the English countryside scientists scan a 12,000,000 year old human skull. It makes one of the team, Thea, freeze. At the same time on the grounds of the estate something chases and kills a man in the woods. The death is covered over by the unethical lead scientist, Doctor Fendelman, who does not want his experiments interrupted.

The TARDIS is drawn to the disturbance and the Doctor and Leela investigate. They surreptitiously enter the grounds. Leela bumps into an aging hedge witch, Ma Tyler, and the Doctor is almost killed by a giant leech-like creature.

The Doctor recognises the creature as a Fendahleen, part of a vampire-like gestalt being called the Fendahl supposedly destroyed by the Time Lords.

After almost being killed by the skull, he and Leela take the TARDIS to the Fifth Planet, but find it locked in an illegal Time Loop by the Time Lords. And so, finding nothing they return to the country house on Earth.

One of the scientists, Max, is secretly a cult leader who wishes to harness the alien power, but loses control during a ritual involving Thea. Thea changes into a being that looks like a golden ancient Greek priestess and is now part of gestalt. The Doctor frees captive scientist Adam, and helps Max kill himself by giving him a pistol he requests.

The Fendahl gestalt is luckily incomplete and so not yet at full strength thanks to a Fendahleen killed by Max and another killed by the Doctor armed with a double-barrelled shotgun loaded with rock salt.

This gives the Doctor and Leela a fighting chance to defeat the creature. The Doctor rigs the lab equipment to create a huge implosion. He sends the survivors to Ma Tyler's cottage. Then, armed with salt, they raid the basement, steals the skull, and leave just before the implosion destroys the house.

In the TARDIS, the Doctor and Leela fly towards a supernova in which Doctor will dump the skull.

What I Thought

Leela has a new summery, beige, and very tight outfit, and her hair's up; no doubt influenced by recent visits to old Earth. I didn't like the outfit. I thought her original look was much cooler and so I assume did the viewers in their droves who wrote in complaining. Okay, I don't know that happened, but in last episode she changes back and the Doctor compliments her on her "new" look, thereby initiating that tired old trope of the clumsy man-compliment. It's a trope for a reason and now I too am ashamed I spent so long on this. She does look better in the old outfit though. Let it go Roy and move on.

Yet again, Leela somewhat over-eagerly volunteers to kill a guard, only to be told not to by the Doctor. We get it, she's ruthless, but the interchange is funny, hence their bickering is repeated each week.

K9 is not present for this story. Thank the gods. He's a nice chap, but he don't half detract from the horror.

Somehow it completely passed me by, but I read that Quatermass and the Pit was Chris Boucher's inspiration for the story. The skull, of course! (Oh, it is so easy to be knowledgeable in retrospect).

Mad science mixed with the occult in a very British haunted country house setting is something that should have really appealed to me, but it didn't here. The plot, though simple, seemed to leave loose ends, or else I just missed them, like who was the 12,000,000 year old human with the 12,000,000 old skull? It wasn't explained properly. Why did Julie transform into a golden Greek Medusa-like entity? Is this the origin of the Medusa myth? That wasn't explained either. As an adult viewer, I get the reference, but would younger children? And why did the crazy ritualist want to kill himself, and why did the Doctor assist him commit suicide? It doesn't seem in the Doctor's nature to give up on someone so easily.

The plummy, patronising scientist Adam was incredibly annoying; a chauvinist with Thea and talking down to everyone else. Why does Leela kiss him? She's never done that before either. I bet it was ad-libbed. Maybe we can ask Jameson one day.

The implosion effect is largely a single explosion repeated on a loop; cheapskates!

Something from the past transforming into an imperious malevolent goddess... it reminded me of my favourite Blake's 7 episode Sarcophagus by Tanith Lee. I wonder if the look of the Doctor Who story inspired the look the later Blake's 7 story?

Trivia

I read, and can't confirm the veracity of this, that Chris Boucher's script was ridiculed by Tom Baker for having too much double endre. This is something I never noticed myself in the story, and I'm usually highly attuned to it as Tom Baker's dialogue frequently has an excess of it, usually ad-libbed by Baker himself, meaning his alleged criticism is hypocritical. If you're a creative, you'll always have people criticising your work, so don't take it personally. Be grateful you got the work and do better next time. Remember, every piece of work sold is a triumph!

That new look for Leela again... sorry, I can't leave this alone. According to the Radio Times, a BBC hairdresser cut her hair a little too short, prompting the hairstyle change in this story to cover over the faux pas. And the outfit? Louise Jameson owns it now. It's a pity she didn't make off with the iconic original!

I Need Your Help

Producing these episodes---both the audio and the writing---takes a surprising amount of time and effort and I've been doing this a long time, so I need your help.

Yes, I am doing it for the love of Doctor Who and geekdom, but that doesn't mean I can do it without support. So again, if you can afford to do so, please visit roymathur.com/podcast.html#support and help me out with a few quid, bucks, galactic groats, or Altairian dollars.

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