DVD (BBCDVD1154) 







 When the Doctor

 and Ace arrive at

 a secret military

 base during World

 War II, they FIND

 that a centuries-

 old Viking curse is

 bringing terror to

 its inhabitants.


 As hideous vampires

 rise from the sea and

 Russian commandoes

 begin to close in, they

 are confronted not

 only with a mystery

 from the distant

 past, but also a

 terrifying vision of

 mankind’s future...


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The Curse of Fenric

25TH OCTOBER 1989 - 15TH NOVEMBER 1989







The seventh Doctor’s DVD for the anniversary year is the highly regarded Curse

of Fenric, presented in a lush two-disc set which houses both the broadcast four-part serial and a masterfully crafted ‘special edition’ movie compilation. This exclusive version of the story, together with the wealth of bonus material included, really makes this release stand

out as being something a little bit special.


The first disc presents The Curse of Fenric as it originally aired in 1989 on BBC1, suitably polished to bring it up to DVD quality. Both Sylvester McCoy and Sophie Aldred provide a compelling commentary on the four episodes, marred only by Nicholas Parsons (Reverend Wainwright’s) constant patronising of the show. The disc also contains a photo gallery, some highlights from the Nebula ‘90 convention, a clip from children’s programme Take Two, two featurettes on the story’s production, a clean set of the seventh Doctor’s title sequence, and the usual production subtitles.



With the exception of the first disc’s commentary

and production subtitles (both of which offer much

insight into the story), I think that the second disc is

by far the better of the two. As well as containing a

costume design feature and some other intriguing

odds and ends, it contains Shattering the Chains -

an absorbing featurette which sees Curse writer

Ian Briggs guide us through the process of crafting

the story. This is the most impressive feature to be

found in the set by far - I was particularly fascinated

by Briggs’ original pitch, which saw the Doctor and

Fenric sat playing chess in the ruins of a city as the

Battle of Britain waged above them.


The second disc also contains a look at how Mark Ayres crafted the special edition version, Recutting the Runes. The restoration of this adventure was very personal to Ayres, as not only was it one of the few serials that he scored for Doctor Who, but also because director Nicholas Mallett passed away before he could complete his planned ‘special edition’ of the serial, featuring all twelve minutes of additional footage that he had shot only to be made to be cut. Recutting the Runes explores how Ayres carefully followed Mallett’s notes to create the movie exactly how he envisaged it, completed with a brand new 5.1 surround mix and musical score.



Particularly as the original was

shot on location, the resultant

special edition has a cinematic

atmosphere to it – watching this

movie feels just like watching a

bona fide feature film. What’s

more, with all the cut scenes re-

instated and re-organised, the

story itself has a more measured

and much more satisfying build up. The old Viking myths combined with the terrible torrents

of rain create an effective, eerie sense of foreboding, encapsulated perfectly by Reverend

Wainwright’s poignant sermon. And when the Haemovores arrive, the movie really kicks into

first gear, the momentum continuing to build as Fenric prepares to manifest in Judson and drive the story towards its thrilling, fire and water climax.


But for all its visual spectacle, what still shines through more than anything about The Curse of Fenric is its rich character drama. Briggs’ script handles the two regulars with real poise, deepening Ace’s angst-fuelled character considerably as she comes face to face with her mother and grandmother before being pushed well past breaking point by her manipulative alien friend. Sophie Aldred and Sylvester McCoy both give suitably charged, mesmerising performances; performances that are set off beautifully by the movie’s re-instated coda and expanded, climactic scenes. The Doctor’s new, final line is especially resonant, highlighting the storys dangerous undercurrents.



I first watched The Curse of Fenric as a young child in 1989, but back then it was just scary monsters, bangs and flashes to me. Revisiting the serial now, fourteen years on, I’ve found myself startled by a delicate and emotive narrative, spellbinding performances, and some special effects that, for the time, really aren’t all that bad at all. And this release’s special edition stands up even better still, and must surely now be considered the definitive version of this tortuous epic.


Copyright © E.G. Wolverson 2006


E.G. Wolverson has asserted his right under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act, 1988 to be identified as the author of this work.

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