Doctor Who #466: Image of the Fendahl Part 3

"It's a good thing your tribe never developed guns. They'd have woken with a start one morning and wiped themselves out."
TECHNICAL SPECS: First aired Nov.12 1977.

IN THIS ONE... The Doctor can't get to Planet 5. Max turns cult leader and has Thea sleeping in the cellar pentagram.

REVIEW: Boucher's really piling on the mind-blowing revelations in this one (also, piling on the number of times someone calls someone else a fool). For example, New Who fans would be interested to discover that the old woman in this story has second sight because she's been living on a time fissure all her life, a link forward to The Unquiet Dead! The time fissure explains why Fendalman's time scanner works here, surely, and perhaps how the Fendahl got to Earth. Because when the Doctor tries to go back in time to Planet 5, he's surprised to find it's been time-looped by the Time Lords (just like the War Lord's planet then)! This most extreme of interference with history removes a whole planet from reality, as if it had never existed. Barring any time fissures to squeeze yourself through, apparently. Fendalman, betrayed by his assistant Max, makes the last, odd, existential realization that his name means "Man of the Fendahl", which means his entire bloodline has been manipulated over the generations to engineer these events. That's a scary thought.

The serial continues to behave like a horror story, part existential, part cosmic (the huge Lovecraftian creature makes an appearance) and part Gothic (the witches' coven), but tries to relieve some of the tension with moments of levity. When the Doctor's responsible, it works, such as his breaking Mrs. Tyler's psychic shock by describing a terrible recipe for fruitcake. When Leela's involved, however, I don't quite buy it. The skimpy outfit, overuse of make-up and hair worn up really irritate me, all the more so when the Doctor falls on top of her. I'm not one of those purists who can't stand the 'shipping in New Who, but this visual double-entendre doesn't fit the characters or era. They also have her tut-tut the Doctor when he admits his fear, like a mother comforting her child after a nightmare. It's very strange and not like her at all. If it's meant as sarcasm, I'm afraid the performance doesn't quite sell it.

Because this story uses a rather abstract villain, a soul eater from another dimension, sometimes represented as a glowing skull, sometimes as a giant lamprey thing, it needs human villains for us to latch onto. Fendalman isn't exactly redeemed, but proves to be a ruthless pawn who, in effect, sold his soul for scientific achievement. He just didn't realize it. Max as cult leader is a properly creepy sociopath who can't wait for the people around him to feel terror and worship him. Of course, when you serve some kind of Devil, you're likely a pawn yourself, Max. On the side of the angels are Thea (sleeping in a strongly-designed pentagram for most of the episode) and Colby, a character whose every word drips with sarcasm, but we definitely share his opinions, so he's not annoying because of it despite the single note. The people I least want to see killed are the Tylers however, and I hope the old woman's charms are enough to keep the psychovores at bay. Good simple folk who don't deserve the bad stuff coming, and they're probably cousins to a certain Pete Tyler. Somebody should do a fanfic.

REWATCHABILITY: Medium-High - With a strong link to the new series, Part 3 has a lot going for it in terms of mood, ideas and surprises. Shame about the bedroom farce.

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