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29 October 2014

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The Curse of Fenric

Production Code: 7M

First Transmitted

1 - 25/10/1989 19:35

2 - 01/11/1989 19:35

3 - 08/11/1989 19:35

4 - 15/11/1989 19:35


The TARDIS materialises at a secret naval base off the coast of Northumberland toward the end of the Second World War. Dr Judson, a scientist there, has created the Ultima Machine, an early computer designed to break German codes. The base's Commander Millington plans to let a Russian commando unit led by Captain Sorin steal the Machine's core, which he has booby-trapped with deadly toxin.

Judson uses the Machine to translate some ancient runes from the crypt of the nearby St Judes church and this leads to the release of Fenric, an evil entity from the dawn of time whom the Doctor trapped seventeen centuries earlier in a Chinese flask by defeating it at chess. The flask was later stolen and buried at the church by Vikings.

The base and church are attacked by Haemovores. These are humans who have been transformed into hideous vampiric creatures by the Ancient Haemovore - the last survivor of a pollution-ravaged future Earth, who has been brought back in time by Fenric. Fenric takes over Judson's body to challenge the Doctor to a rematch at chess, and Ace unwittingly helps it to win.

Fenric, now in Sorin's body, reveals that Ace, Judson, Millington, Sorin and Wainwright, the vicar of St Judes, are all 'Wolves of Fenric' - pawns in its battle against the Doctor. It now plans to release the deadly toxin but the Doctor succeeds in turning the Ancient Haemovore against it and its host body is killed by the gas.

The baby daughter of a young woman whom Ace helped to escape from the Haemovores is revealed to be her future mother.

Episode Endings

The Doctor and Ace find a Russian soldier lying dead on the beach. Suddenly they are surrounded by other Russian soldiers who aim their rifles at them.

The Ultima Machine runs out of control and Commander Millington declares: 'You're too late, Doctor!' The Doctor looks anxious.

Dr Judson rises from his wheelchair to stand behind the Doctor, his eyes glowing yellow - he is Fenric. He states: 'We play the contest again, Time Lord.' The Doctor looks worried.

Ace dives into the sea, then swims ashore and rejoins the Doctor. They see a sign on the beach warning that there are 'Dangerous Undercurrents'. Ace asks the Doctor if this is the case, and he replies that it is not anymore. They walk away together.


The Doctor comments 'As Nietzsche once said...'

There is much Viking mythology (the Well of Vergelmir, the Great Ash Tree, Fenris).

Wainwright quotes from 1 Corinthians 13.

'Fenric' alludes to vampire and zombie films and 40s film femmes fatales ('make me look like Lana Turner').

The Fog.

Alan Turing.


The Keep Thriller.

The Singing Detective (Janet Henfrey).

Noggin the Nog (Vikings in Arabia).

Dialogue Triumphs

The Doctor : [Reading a Norse inscription revealed on the wall of the church crypt.] "We hoped to return to the North Way, but the dark curse follows our dragon ship... The Wolves of Fenric shall return for their treasure, and then shall the dark evil rule eternally."

Ace : "I'm not a little girl anymore."

Ace : "There's a wind whipping up. I can feel it through my clothes..."

Ace : "And the half time score: Perivale, six hundred million; Rest of the Universe, nil!"

Ace : "Have to move faster than that if you want to keep up with me. Faster than light."

Squaddie : "Faster than a second hand on a watch?"

Ace : "We're hardly moving yet... Sometimes I travel so fast I don't exist."


Fenric is the name given by Vikings to an ancient evil created at the dawn of time. Fenric's flask was carried to England by the Vikings in the Ninth Century where a survivor of their expedition, Sundvik, settled and spawned generations of 'wolves' who carried Fenric's taint [genetic instructions]. Descendant daughters of the line married into the families of Millington, Judson and Wainwright. Sorin is also a wolf through his English grandmother, as is Ace through Kathleen Dudman, her maternal grandmother and Audrey, 'the mother you hate'.

As part of Fenric's plan, the Ancient One was 'carried back tens of thousands of years in a time storm to Transylvania'. The creature followed the flask in his search for Fenric to return him home. Earth's vampire legends are due [in part] to the Ancient One. [These vampires are very different from the ones seen in State of Decay: it is never stated that the Great Vampires came to Earth in their war with the Time Lords.] The haemovores can only be destroyed by faith and cannot be harmed by objects alone.

The Doctor says he knew of Fenric's manipulation of Ace when he saw the chessboard in Lady Peinforte's house (Silver Nemesis). Fenric responds 'Before Cybermen, since Iceworld'. It was Fenric who created the time storm that took Ace to Iceworld (Dragonfire).

Ace's Computer Studies teacher was called Miss Birkett. She says she took French (and failed Chemistry) 'O' level, and notes that she had more trouble getting into Greenford disco without a ticket than into a secret Navy base. Her relationship with her mother was poor. She also refers to her terror of the house in Ghost Light. She secures her future by sending Kathleen and Audrey to London, to be looked after by her Nan at 17 Old Street, Streatham. [Ace's paternal rather than maternal grandmother.]

The Doctor types his own letter of authorisation, and forges the signatures of the Head of the Secret Services and the P.M. He is ambidextrous, using two pens at the same time.


The Doctor's Family


A Navy base, near Whitby, Yorkshire, towards the end of the Second World War. The Soviets carry Simonov SKS rifles, which were developed during 1942.

Future History

The Doctor describes the haemovores as the species that mankind will evolve into, when the Earth is 'rotting in chemical slime' after 'half a million years of industrial progress'. [The Ancient Haemomovore's sacrifice, stopping the gas seeping into the sea, prevents this time line from occuring. The Doctor, a traveller in alternative realities, has, however, seen this future.]


Fenric met the Doctor in third century Constantinople and, defeated at chess, was banished to 'a shadow dimension' while its earthly essence was imprisoned in a flask for 17 centuries. The Doctor met the Ancient One in the far future.


Nicholas Parsons, better known as the host of Anglia TV's game show The Sale of the Century, revives his earlier acting career in the role of Mr Wainwright, vicar of St Judes.

Marek Anton, who occupied the Destroyer costume in Battlefield, is seen here in person as the Russian soldier Vershinin.

The Doctor uses his faith in his past companions to repel the Haemovores' attack on the church, reciting their names under his breath.

The baby - revealed to be Ace's mother - was in fact the son of the landlord and landlady of The Bush Hotel on Shepherd's Bush Green, a few minutes' walk from the Doctor Who office and frequently visited by the production team.


Audrey has a Super Ted.

Commander Millington's moustache - Royal Navy officers were required to have either a full beard and moustache or else to be clean shaven.

Nobody in 1943 would know of Jane Russell.

There wouldn't be any road signs like the one indicating the way to Maiden's Point (all such signposts were taken down during the war, to hinder the enemy in the event of an invasion).

Wainwright is quoting from a modern translation of the Bible.

The Doctor cleans his muddy hand very quickly in episode four.

The Russians speak nothing but English after the first sequence, even to the point of death - what self control! And how do they expect to get away with the huge Ultima machine in their little dinghy?

The English captain is surprisingly ready to join forces with the Russians he was trying to execute only hours before.

Cast & Crew


The Doctor - Sylvester McCoy

Ace - Sophie Aldred

Ancient Haemovore - Raymond Trickett

Baby - Aaron Hanley Also in Part Two, but uncredited

Captain Bates - Stevan Rimkus

Captain Sorin - Tomek Bork

Commander Millington - Alfred Lynch

Dr. Judson - Dinsdale Landen

Jean - Joann Kenny

Kathleen Dudman - Cory Pulman

Miss Hardaker - Janet Henfry

Nurse Crane - Anne Reid

Perkins - Christien Anholt

Petrossian - Mark Conrad

Phyllis - Joanne Bell

Sgt. Leigh - Marcus Hutton

Sgt. Prozorov - Peter Czajkowski

The Rev. Mr. Wainwright - Nicholas Parsons

Vershinin - Marek Anton


Director - Nicholas Mallett

Assistant Floor Manager - Judy Corry

Costumes - Ken Trew

Designer - David Laskey

Incidental Music - Mark Ayres

Make-Up - Denise Baron

OB Cameraman - Paul Harding

OB Cameraman - Alan Jessop

Producer - John Nathan-Turner

Production Assistant - Winifred Hopkins

Production Associate - June Collins

Script Editor - Andrew Cartmel

Special Sounds - Dick Mills

Stunt Arranger - Tip Tipping

Title Music - Ron Grainer and the BBC Radiophonic Workshop, arranged by Keff McCulloch

Visual Effects - Graham Brown

Writer - Ian Briggs

Bottom Line - from The Discontinuity Guide

'We hoped to return to the North way, but the dark curse follows our dragon ship... The Wolves of Fenric shall return for their treasure, and then shall the Dark Evil rule eternally.' The Curse of Fenric includes many magical scenes: Sorin's faith in the Revolution, Ace's ignorance of 1940s morality when asking Kathleen if she is married, her argument with the Doctor over his manipulation of others, the moment of maturity when she declares 'I'm not a little girl any more'. This is something special.

Analysis - from Doctor Who, the Television Companion

The Curse of Fenric is, in a sense, a traditional Doctor-versus-monsters story, suitably updated to fit the series' late 1980s style. At the same time, however, it is very much more than that. Peter Anghelides, writing in DWB No. 73, dated January 1990, tried to pin it down: 'Was it a discourse on the morality of warfare - questioning the rights of the Allies to bomb Germany into submission fifty years after the event? Was it a lurid spy drama about double-crossing the Cold War enemy? Was it a vampire story of the first order? An eco-thriller cashing in on the green renaissance? An investigation of Ace's background? A traditional Doctor Who monster thrash? The culmination of the seventh Doctor's mysterious and omnipotent opposition to an unknown evil force? Well, actually, it was all of these. Blink and you'd miss one.'

The story is actually quite horrific in places - which is perhaps not altogether surprising when one realises that writer Ian Briggs has craftily borrowed many plot elements from John Carpenter's 1979 chiller The Fog, including an artifact being found concealed in the church wall, the vicar losing his faith, the church being stormed by grotesque creatures that emerge from the sea and the heroine being trapped on a high roof as the creatures try to reach her. This sort of borrowing is nothing new in Doctor Who, however, and is quite acceptable here - indeed, Briggs is to be congratulated on paying homage to such a fine source!

Another major inspiration for the story is Norse mythology, as Mary McLean noted in Celestial Farmyard Issue 4, dated February 1990: 'Great play is made of the myth of the wolf Fenric (or Fenrir, as he is also known ...); it is when [this creature] breaks its bonds that the twilight of the gods shall be upon us. The Fenric wolf swallowed Odin, the father of the gods, and brought about the end of the world. The great battle of Ragnarok was fought. We have already met the Gods of Ragnarok in The Greatest Show in the Galaxy, though these would seem to exist in a different dimension. However, the connection is there for any interested parties to develop.'

An aspect of the story much commented upon by reviewers is the particular focus that it places on Ace. 'Briggs, the creator of Ace, develops her character beautifully,' wrote McLean, 'and it is in this story that we really see [her] grow up. She is better able to cope with emotion, both her own and that of those around her. Her flirtation with the young sergeant in the third episode, buying time for the Doctor to free the Russian captain, shows us that she has come a long way since Dragonfire and she is no longer a tomboy but rather a young woman, coming to terms with her own sexuality...'

This is another well-directed story, too, with some highly atmospheric sequences and fine performances from a well chosen cast. 'The direction was Nicholas Mallett's best to date,' opined Gareth Negus in the Spring 1990 edition of TARDIS. 'Unobtrusive but with many effective sequences such as... the attack on the church. This led into the best final episode since The Caves of Androzani Part Four. I was genuinely anxious to see what happened next, as more and more extras bit the dust; a sensation I haven't enjoyed with Doctor Who for ages.'

Justin Richards, writing in TV Zone Issue 4, dated March 1990, summed up the feelings of many: 'The excellent incidental music, the performances, the effects work, the transforming weather, the evocative scripting and the taught camerawork and editing all combine to produce what is a very atmospheric story. It is at once entertaining and frightening. It is stimulating and nerve-wracking. It is intellectual and a smashing adventure yarn.'

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This episode guide is made up of the text of The Discontinuity Guide by Paul Cornell, Martin Day and Keith Topping, and Doctor Who: The Television Companion by David J. Howe and Stephen James Walker.

The Discontinuity Guide © Paul Cornell, Martin Day and Keith Topping 1995.
Doctor Who: The Television Companion © David J Howe and Stephen James Walker 1998, 2003.

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