Image of the Fendahl

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094 – Image of the Fendahl
Doctor Who serial
Image of the Fendahl.jpg
The Fendahl Core rises.
Cast
Others
Production
Directed by George Spenton-Foster
Written by Chris Boucher
Script editor Robert Holmes
Produced by 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
Chronology
← 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.[1]

Plot[edit]

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.

Continuity[edit]

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.[2] 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.

Production[edit]

Writer Chris Boucher was commissioned to write the story (his third for the series) on 2 May 1977. He delivered the first episode just two days later, the final one being submitted on the 17 June.[3] Boucher had drawn on the 1967 film (rather than the 1958 TV original) Quatermass and the Pit and the 1959 Kurt Vonnegut novel The Sirens of Titan 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.[4] He also took inspiration from the work of archaeologist Louis Leakey who had been excavating human remains for many years until his death in 1972. Boucher named Colby's dog Leakey as a tribute to him, although later realised that people would miss the reference and assume the name came because "he pissed all over everything!"[5] Terrance Dicks' subsequent novelisation of the serial in fact gives both reasons for the name. At the initial read through Tom Baker made numerous jokes about the script, picking out all the double entendres and sending it up. This caused Boucher great upset at the time, but had the knock-on effect of him combing through his scripts from thereon for any signs of double entendres.[5] Boucher never wrote for the series again, immediately after this becoming script editor on Blake's 7 for four years.

Producer Graham Williams had worked with director George Spenton-Foster previously on Z-Cars and chose him to directed this serial due to his experience with night filming. Spenton-Foster would direct one more time for the series in the following year's The Ribos Operation. Script editor on the serial was Robert Holmes in his final assignment. During the work he was trailed by incoming editor Anthony Read, who would subsequently take up the role solely for the next story in production order Underworld (the following transmitted story The Sun Makers having been recorded before Image of the Fendahl). Read had been a television producer but was asked by head of Serials Graeme McDonald to be script editor to which Read refused until he learned it was for Doctor Who.[6] McDonald had read through the scripts for Fendahl and objected to a scene in episode four which showed Stael raise a gun to his mouth. This was changed at the order of producer Williams and the gunshot is only heard. Following this serial, the horror elements under Holmes' guidance were considerably toned down at the order of McDonald.[6]

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. Filming began on Monday 1 August 1977 and continued until the following Thursday. This included two night shoots for the serial on the Tuesday and Wednesday evenings. The first night's filming was disrupted when the generator caught fire. Another generator had to be ordered from London and arrived at 4am. Filming at the estate had only been agreed on the 26 July - less than a week before filming began, with the instruction (as had been the case with "Pyramids of Mars") that no effects or explosions were to be undertaken given that the property was a Grade II listed building. Two days after filming was completed Tom Baker and Louise Jameson attended the world's first ever Doctor Who convention in London. Following rehearsals, studio recording for the serial began on Saturday 20 August and was completed on 6 September 1977.[3]

Wanda Ventham, playing Thea, had previously appeared in The Faceless Ones, and would subsequently appear in Time and the Rani, her three appearances were each ten years apart: 1967, 1977 and 1987. Ventham had in fact auditioned for the James Bond film Goldfinger, but lost out to Shirley Eaton and therefore was excited to be painted gold in this serial, as would have been the case in Goldfinger. She also had to wear a dark wig as the human Thea, as Spenton-Foster thought that her natural blonde hair would lose credibility as a scientist.[6] Denis Lill, cast as Fendleman was the production team's second choice after actor Anthony Bate became unavailable. Lill would subsequently appear in The Awakening and was Ventham's husband in the sitcom Only Fools and Horses. Scott Fredericks had played a guerilla in Day of the Daleks and was later cast by Spenton-Foster in the Blake's 7 episode "Weapon" alongside Graham Simpson who also appears in this story. Derek Martin had appeared a number of times in Doctor Who as an extra, going back to 1965 and subsequently as a stuntman with the HAVOC group, who had taken part in a number of early serials featuring Jon Pertwee as the Doctor. This was his first and only work on the series as an actor. Series regular Louise Jameson as Leela, regards this as one of her best stories due to it being written by Chris Boucher who had created the character. It was however during the making of this serial that she decided to leave at the end of the series.[6]

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
[7][8][9]

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."[10] 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.[11] 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".[12] 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.[13]

The second episode of this serial attained a 75% score on the Audience Appreciation Index, a record high up to this point.[3]

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
34
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.

References[edit]

  1. ^ http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0562853/
  2. ^ [1] Archived October 21, 2006, at the Wayback Machine.
  3. ^ a b c DVD Information text. BBC DVD, 2 Entertain, 2009
  4. ^ Barnes, Alan (2007-02-28). "The Fact of Fiction: Image of the Fendahl". Doctor Who Magazine (379): 42–50. 
  5. ^ a b Doctor Who Magazine, Chris Boucher interview. Issue 261 (11 February 1998)
  6. ^ a b c d After Image, Programme documentary, BBC DVD, 2009
  7. ^ 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. 
  8. ^ "Image of the Fendahl". Doctor Who Reference Guide. Retrieved 2008-08-30. 
  9. ^ Sullivan, Shannon (2007-08-07). "Image of the Fendahl". A Brief History of Time Travel. Retrieved 2008-08-30. 
  10. ^ Cornell, Paul; Day, Martin; Topping, Keith (1995). "Image of the Fendahl". The Discontinuity Guide. London: Virgin Books. ISBN 0-426-20442-5. 
  11. ^ Howe, David J & Walker, Stephen James (1998). Doctor Who: The Television Companion (1st ed.). London: BBC Books. ISBN 978-0-563-40588-7. 
  12. ^ Mulkern, Patrick (21 October 2010). "Doctor Who: Image of the Fendahl". Radio Times. Retrieved 20 October 2013. 
  13. ^ Sinnott, John (2 October 2009). "Doctor Who: Image of the Fendahl". DVD Talk. Retrieved 20 October 2013. 

External links[edit]

Reviews[edit]

Target novelisation[edit]