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Doctor Who: Image Of The Fendahl

1/04/2011. Contributed by Geoff Willmetts

Buy Doctor Who: Image Of The Fendahl in the USA - or Buy Doctor Who: Image Of The Fendahl in the UK

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region 2 DVD: pub: BBC BBCDVD 1820. Price: about GBP 5.00 (UK) if you know where to look. 1 DVD. 4 episodes 94 minutes with extras. stars: Tom Baker, Louise Jameson, Wanda Ventham, Edward Arthur and Dennis Lill.

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‘Image Of The Fendahl’ is an unusual entry into Time Lord and human mythology written by Chris Boucher. The Fendahl is supposed to be an old menace on Gallifrey and a remnant in the form of a skull is discovered on Earth near a time rift which is having some odd effects on the local population even it there are some similarities to Medusa. The Doctor (actor Tom Baker) and Leela (actress Louise Jameson) in a new more bleached costume and her hair-up arrive on Earth with K-9 under repair, drawn there by a sonic time scan that attracted the TARDIS. They discover the laboratory of Doctor Fendelman (actor Dennis Lill with a German accent) and his fellow scientists, Thea Ransome (actress Wanda Ventham), Adam Colby (actor Edward Arthur) and Maximillan Stael (actor Scott Fredericks) with various projects under way. The energising of the skull being done at loggerheads with the various scientists not knowing what is being carried out, especially when a new security unit is brought in when dead bodies appear in the grounds. Local witch Martha Tyler (actress Daphne Heard) and her son, Jack (actor Geoffrey Hinsliff), aid the two time travellers but they can’t stop the resurrection of the Fendahl nor its giant caterpillar-like guards and whatever you do, don’t look in her eyes as she’s hungry for life-force energy.

This is quite a cerebral story for ‘Doctor Who’ and with a pretty, shall we say, monster who tends to pose than say anything. I do like the explanations explaining magic as advanced science caused by the local time rift and if you understand what the Doctor is talking about will realise that a lot of it is used in the more recent ‘Torchwood’. The noise effect of the electronic heart pulse sounds a lot like the one that was used in the ‘U.F.O.’ episode ‘The Sound Of Silence’.

One thing that is not commented on in the audio commentary is just who opened the door letting the Doctor out when he was imprisoned in the mansion. After all these years, I’ve finally heard the definitive way to pronounce ‘Ventham’. For years I thought it was Vent-ham not Ven-tham. The commentary is an all actor do with Tom Baker, Louise Jameson, Wanda Ventham and Edward Arthur with discussions on acting, cameras and studios, fan activity and actor longevity. Wanda Ventham also gives light to her once being in the running to be golden in ‘Goldfinger’ and getting the opportunity here as well as being an unwitting victim in this story. Tom Baker also likes loud-mouth hirsute women and how eccentric actors are seen as scene stealers on the stage. Louise Jameson on always being told ‘Shush!’ by the Doctor and the reason why her hair was up in a bun because the hairdresser had shortened her hair too much. They all agree that Daphne Heard gave them all the giggles and contrary to the part she played. The relaxed manner of the conversation makes this all very interesting.

The main extra ‘After Image’ has cast and production discussing how the story was put together and at least gives an opportunity to see the likes of Louise Jameson, Wanda Ventham and Edward Arthur as they are today or rather 2009 when this DVD was put together. This is also Anthony Reed’s first story as script editor although it was authorised by his predecessor. Visual Effects Designer Colin Mapson explains how the Fendahleen was put together and given head wings to make it look less frightening.

‘Image Of The Fendahl’ is an odd story in the ‘Doctor Who’ mythos in that although there is some explanation as to what is going on, there isn’t enough to fill in the gaps. I mean, what was the fifth planet in the solar system about and why didn’t the Doctor investigate further as to why the Time Lords hid it in a time loop? With a TARDIS available and going where he wanted, why hadn’t the Doctor gone tracking down the Fendahl if not then but later as to why they wanted to be resurrected. It’s also the quietest of the alien encounters prior to the recent Weeping Angels in ‘Doctor Who’ with no real motivation than to absorb life energy. The human villainy practically become an after-thought when they demolished in a second and rather unusually allowed, one of these committed suicide when all was lost.

This doesn’t mean the story isn’t watchable, just that I don’t think it was supposed to be analysed by the likes of me thirty-five years into their future.

GF Willmetts

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