Image of the Fendahl

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
094 – Image of the Fendahl
Doctor Who serial
Image of the Fendahl.jpg
The Fendahl Core rises.
Writer Chris Boucher
Director George Spenton-Foster
Script editor Robert Holmes
Producer Graham Williams
Executive producer(s) None
Incidental music composer Dudley Simpson
Production code 4X
Series Season 15
Length 4 episodes, 25 minutes each
Originally broadcast 29 October – 19 November 1977
← Preceded by Followed by →
The Invisible Enemy The Sun Makers

Image of the Fendahl is the third serial of the 15th season in the British science fiction television series Doctor Who, which was first broadcast in four weekly parts from 29 October to 19 November 1977.


In a priory near the village of Fetchborough, four scientists, Adam Colby, Max Stael, Thea Ransome and Dr. Fendelman, are doing tests on a human skull they found in Kenya, apparently twelve million years old. When Dr. Fendelman starts using a sonic time scan, trying to get an image of the owner of the skull, the skull itself seems to react, locking onto Thea and releasing something in the priory grounds that kills a passing hiker, who eventually totally disintegrates.

The scan catches the attention of the Doctor and Leela when they are pulled down to Earth by it. The Doctor and Leela set off to find it before it creates a continuum implosion and destroys the planet. They separate and Leela finds the cottage of Ma Tyler, a local, modern day witch gifted with psychic powers. The Doctor ends up narrowly avoiding death at the hands of the creature created by the skull, which then kills the leader of a detachment of guards Fendelman has brought in after the death of the hiker, sealing everyone into the priory.

Ma Tyler then encounters the creature, but survives and is saved from going into psychic shock by the Doctor, who by this time has worked out that the thing is a Fendahleen, a creature from his planet's mythology, supposedly destroyed when the Fifth Planet broke up. He makes his way into the priory and finds the skull, which tries to kill him. Leela saves him and they go off to the Fifth Planet, only to find that the Time Lords sealed the planet in a Time Loop, making all proper records invisible even to them.

Thea, meanwhile, has been gradually converted into the new core of the Fendahl, a creature that feeds off life energy and leaves nothing behind. Stael, leader of the local black magic cult, recognises this and believes he can control the Fendahl and use it to dominate. He and his followers capture Colby, kill Fendelman, who was actually influenced through his genetics by the Fendahl to bring this about, and set up the Sonic Time scanner to power the skull and Thea's final transformation.

The Doctor, Leela, Ma Tyler and her grandson Jack head for the priory only to find the Fendahl core has formed and is converting the cult members into Fendahleen, to form the full circle. The Doctor frees Colby and helps Stael shoot himself after killing one of the new Fendahleen, in turn finding out that the Fendahleen are fatally allergic to salt, leaving the Fendahl core two short of the twelve it needs to be complete and form a gestalt. The Doctor rigs the scanner to implode upon itself and grabs the now dormant skull, leaving with the others only just before the priory is destroyed, along with the Fendahl core and the remaining Fendahleen. The Doctor and Leela then leave and plan to dump the skull near a supernova, thus ending the Fendahl race forever.


According to dialogue, the events of the last episode take place on Lammas Eve (31 July). K-9 appears in the first and last parts of the story but does not speak. This is due to the late inclusion of K-9 as a regular character into the scripts.[1] The Doctor explains Ma Tyler's "sixth sense" by saying that psychic ability is a common side effect of growing up near a time fissure. This explanation was also given by the Ninth Doctor for the psychic abilities of Gwyneth in "The Unquiet Dead".

The Fendahl reappears in the spin-off novel The Taking of Planet 5 by Simon Bucher-Jones and Mark Clapham as well as in the Kaldor City series of audio plays and the Time Hunter novella Deus Le Volt by Jon de Burgh Miller.

At the end of Part Two the Doctor asks the Fendahl skull if it would like a jelly baby, but actually offers it a liquorice allsort. This was commented on in the 'Watchdog' segment of Nationwide; the Doctor Who production office replied by saying that this was one of the ways the Doctor liked to confuse his enemy.


The exterior scenes were shot on the Stargroves estate in Hampshire, which was owned by Mick Jagger. The same location had been used during the filming of Pyramids of Mars.[citation needed]

Cast notes[edit]

Wanda Ventham had previously appeared in The Faceless Ones, and would subsequently appear in Time and the Rani; Denis Lill would subsequently appear in The Awakening; Scott Fredericks played a guerilla in Day of the Daleks; Derek Martin had been a stunt performer with the HAVOC group, who had taken part in a number of early serials featuring Jon Pertwee as the Doctor.


Plot elements of Image of the Fendahl — including the discovering of an alien skull linked to occult symbols, alien influence of mankind's evolution and the dormant alien influence being brought to bear in contemporary humanity — appear to be heavily influenced by both the 1959 Kurt Vonnegut novel The Sirens of Titan and the 1950s BBC television serial Quatermass and the Pit.[2]

Broadcast and reception[edit]

Serial details by episode
Episode Broadcast date Run time Viewers
(in millions)
"Part One" 29 October 1977 (1977-10-29) 24:38 6.7
"Part Two" 5 November 1977 (1977-11-05) 24:44 7.5
"Part Three" 12 November 1977 (1977-11-12) 24:22 7.9
"Part Four" 19 November 1977 (1977-11-19) 20:32 9.1

Paul Cornell, Martin Day, and Keith Topping wrote in The Discontinuity Guide (1995) that Image of the Fendahl was "one of the best stabs at outright horror in Doctor Who's history" that was "possibly one episode too long ... but the verve of the production more than makes up for this."[6] In The Television Companion (1998), David J. Howe and Stephen James Walker felt that the scripts were "vague" and the Fendahl was "something of a disappointment", but they praised the supporting characters.[7] In 2010, Patrick Mulkern of Radio Times described the story as "indeed a 'good one', if not quite great, and a highlight of a dodgy season." He praised Baker but noted that Leela was "toned down".[8] DVD Talk's John Sinnot gave Image of the Fendahl three and a half out of five stars, praising the atmosphere but noting that the slow start and "rather convoluted story" held it back from being a classic.[9]

Commercial releases[edit]

In print[edit]

Doctor Who and the Image of the Fendahl
Doctor Who and the Image of the Fendahl.jpg
Author Terrance Dicks
Cover artist John Geary
Series Doctor Who book:
Target novelisations
Release number
Publisher Target Books
Publication date
26 July 1979
ISBN 0-426-20077-2

A novelisation of this serial, written by Terrance Dicks, was published by Target Books in May 1979. The book's cover (painted by John Geary) was once voted as the worst in the series by readers of DWB magazine.

Home media[edit]

This story was released on VHS in March 1993 and on DVD on 20 April 2009 (1 September 2009 in North America). This serial was also released as part of the Doctor Who DVD Files in issue 70 on 7 September 2011.


  1. ^ [1] Archived October 21, 2006, at the Wayback Machine.
  2. ^ Barnes, Alan (2007-02-28). "The Fact of Fiction: Image of the Fendahl". Doctor Who Magazine (379): 42–50. 
  3. ^ Shaun Lyon; et al. (2007-03-31). "Image of the Fendahl". Outpost Gallifrey. Archived from the original on 2008-07-31. Retrieved 2008-08-30. 
  4. ^ "Image of the Fendahl". Doctor Who Reference Guide. Retrieved 2008-08-30. 
  5. ^ Sullivan, Shannon (2007-08-07). "Image of the Fendahl". A Brief History of Time Travel. Retrieved 2008-08-30. 
  6. ^ Cornell, Paul; Day, Martin; Topping, Keith (1995). "Image of the Fendahl". The Discontinuity Guide. London: Virgin Books. ISBN 0-426-20442-5. 
  7. ^ Howe, David J & Walker, Stephen James (1998). Doctor Who: The Television Companion (1st ed.). London: BBC Books. ISBN 978-0-563-40588-7. 
  8. ^ Mulkern, Patrick (21 October 2010). "Doctor Who: Image of the Fendahl". Radio Times. Retrieved 20 October 2013. 
  9. ^ Sinnott, John (2 October 2009). "Doctor Who: Image of the Fendahl". DVD Talk. Retrieved 20 October 2013. 

External links[edit]


Target novelisation[edit]