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Image of the Fendahl

Production Code: 4X

First Transmitted

1 - 29/10/1977 18:10

2 - 05/11/1977 18:10

3 - 12/11/1977 18:05

4 - 19/11/1977 18:10


An anachronistic twelve-million-year-old human skull has been discovered by archaeologists and is now being used by Professor Fendelman in his time scanner experiments at Fetch Priory in contemporary England. The skull is actually an artifact of the Fendahl, an ancient creature that feeds on the life force of others.

Drawn by the operation of the scanner, the Doctor and Leela arrive as the experiments reach a peak. The skull is exerting an influence over the mind of Thea Ransome, one of the scientists in Fendelman's team, and glowing with power each time the scanner is activated. Thea is eventually transformed into the Fendahl core, and a group of acolytes assembled by Maximillian Stael - another of Fendelman's team, who is trying to harness the creature's power for his own ends - are converted into snake-like Fendahleen.

The Doctor shows the remaining scientist, Adam Colby, and two locals, Martha Tyler and her son Jack, how to defend themselves against the Fendahleen using rock salt. By activating the scanner once more, he triggers an implosion that destroys both the Priory and the Fendahl core.

Episode Endings

Thea falls into a trance-like state as the scanner is activated. Outside, a large unseen creature approaches the Doctor through the woods, and he seems unable to move.

The Doctor escapes from the store room where he has been imprisoned and finds the skull, which starts to hum and glow with power. He is compelled to place his hand on it, at which point the power greatly intensifies. The Doctor writhes in pain.

As Thea begins her transformation into the Fendahl core in the Priory cellar, the Doctor, Leela, Jack and Martha meet in the corridors above. Suddenly they find that they are unable to move. Around the corner and towards them slides a huge Fendahleen.

Back in the TARDIS, the Doctor prepares to dump the skull in the vicinity of a star that is about to go supernova. He also plans to repair K9. Leela chides the Doctor for calling K9 'him' rather than 'it', something that he had earlier pulled her up on. The Doctor claims that he is allowed to do this as K9 is his dog. K9 nods in agreement.


Quatermass and the Pit (race memory, extra terrestrial origins of mankind).

Hamlet ('Alas, poor skull').

Greek myths.

Mystery and Imagination ('The Curse of the Mummy').

Arthur C. Clarke's 'The Sentinel'.

The Tarot card imagery is drawn from Dr Terror's House of Horror and the mixture of science and supernatural echoes The Stone Tape, The Road and The Legend of Hell House.

Dialogue Triumphs

Leela : "He came armed and silent."

The Doctor : "You must have been sent by providence."

Ted Moss : "No, I was sent by the council to cut the verges."

Leela : "Your council should choose its warriors more carefully."

The Doctor : "There are four thousand million people here on your planet, and if I'm right, within a year, there will just be one left alive. Just one."

Adam Colby : "What are you exactly, some sort of wandering armageddon pedler?"

Adam Colby : "Are you saying that about twelve million years ago, on a nameless planet which no longer exists, evolution went up a blind alley? Natural selection turned back on itself, and a creature evolved which prospered by absorbing the energy wavelengths of life itself? It ate life, all life, including that of its own kind?"

The Doctor : "Yes. In other words, the Fendahl. Then the Time Lords decided to destroy the entire planet, and hid the fact from posterity. They're not supposed to do that sort of thing, you know."

Adam Colby : [Colby announces that he has found a corpse. Fendelman asks what sort.] "A dead one. What other sort is there?"

Adam Colby : "You must think my head zips up at the back."

Fendelman : "The Doctor asked me if my name was real. Don't you see? Fendelman. Man of the Fendahl. Only for this moment have the generations of my fathers lived. I have been used. You have been used. Mankind has been used."

Dialogue Disasters

Thea : "I accept without reservation the results of your excellent potassium-argon test."


The TARDIS generates a low intensity telepathic field.

The Fendahl skull was found in Kenya in volcanic sediment. Thea Ransome's potassium-argon tests indicate it is 12 million years old (according to Colby, this is 8 million years older than it can conceivably be). However, the Fendahl was supposed to have been destroyed on the Fifth Planet, 107 million miles from Earth [a reasonable orbit for a planet between Mars and Jupiter].

The Time Lords destroyed the planet [forming the asteroid belt] and then hid its existence in a time loop to prevent any knowledge of the Fendahl leaking out. The Doctor knows the story as a myth from childhood and is terrified by it [it was one of the ghost stories told to him by the hermit: see State of Decay].

X-rays of the skull reveal the shape of a pentagram which Fendelman thinks is a form of 'neural relay'. The Doctor says that the skull must have come to Earth, taking in Mars on the way - which he describes as dead (see The Ice Warriors).

The Fendahl requires twelve Fendahleen and a core to form its gestalt. The Doctor discovers that 'sodium chloride obviously affects conductivity... and prevents control of localised disruption of osmotic pressures.' 'You mean, salt kills them?' asks Leela.

The Doctor notes this is probably the origin throwing salt over your shoulder. After causing the priory's implosion, the Doctor intends to cast the skull into a super-nova in the constellation of Canthares.


Aliens and Mankind


The Location of Gallifrey


Fetch Priory, close to the village of Fetchborough, Lammas Eve [31 July].


K9 appears only briefly, in the opening and closing TARDIS scenes. Image of the Fendahl had been written before it was known that K9 would be joining the series on a regular basis.


This story had a working title of The Island of Fandor. (It didn't. This myth originated when Gordon Blows, then editor of the Doctor Who Appreciation Society magazine TARDIS, misheard the title of the story over the phone and reported it incorrectly.)


The Doctor says 'We're being dragged towards a relative continuum displacement zone' (his other explanation 'a hole in time' is more understandable).


In episode four the Doctor says that the Fendahl killed the hiker and Mitchell, but he cannot possibly know their occupations or names.

How does he get out of the locked cupboard in episode two?

Cast & Crew


The Doctor - Tom Baker

Leela - Louise Jameson

Adam Colby - Edward Arthur

David Mitchell - Derek Martin

Dr. Fendelman - Denis Lill

Hiker - Graham Simpson

Jack Tyler - Geoffrey Hinsliff

Martha Tyler - Daphne Heard

Maximillian Stael - Scott Fredericks

Ted Moss - Edward Evans

Thea Ransome - Wanda Ventham


Director - George Spenton-Foster

Assistant Floor Manager - Karilyn Collier

Costumes - Amy Roberts

Designer - Anna Ridley

Film Cameraman - Elmer Cossey

Film Editor - unknown

Incidental Music - Dudley Simpson

Make-Up - Pauline Cox

Producer - Graham Williams

Production Assistant - Prue Saenger

Production Unit Manager - John Nathan-Turner

Script Editor - Robert Holmes

Special Sounds - Dick Mills

Studio Lighting - Jim Purdie

Studio Sound - Alan Fogg

Title Music - Ron Grainer and the BBC Radiophonic Workshop, arranged by Delia Derbyshire

Visual Effects - Colin Mapson

Writer - Chris Boucher

Bottom Line - from The Discontinuity Guide

'You're saying that 12 million years ago on a nameless planet that no longer exists evolution went up a blind alley?'. The question is 'How do you kill death itself?' in one of the best stabs at outright horror in Doctor Who's history. The story is possibly one episode too long (notably the red herring of the Doctor's trip to the Fifth Planet), but the verve of the production more than makes up for this.

Analysis - from Doctor Who, the Television Companion

Image of the Fendahl ends the run of gothic horror stories initiated by Philip Hinchcliffe and Robert Holmes back in the thirteenth season. The theme this time is that of mankind being manipulated by an ancient alien power to enable that power to manifest itself at some later point - another Doctor Who reworking of ideas contained in Nigel Kneale's Quatermass and the Pit.

'It would be easy to dismiss Image of the Fendahl as just a revamped The Daemons,' wrote Jeremy Bentham in the Doctor Who Appreciation Society Yearbook 1977/78, 'were it not for the presence of the double-level plotline... Looked at from the superficial point of view, [the story's] roots lie not with The Daemons... but with a mid-sixties film penned by the team of Haisman and Lincoln - Curse of the Crimson Altar - which likewise took a premise of a "helpless girl steered by evil man into becoming a manifestation of destruction"...

'Switching now to the second level, the plot required a little bit of thinking, on [the part] of the viewer, to appreciate the subtle twist in the story; that everything which happened, right up to the manifestation of the Fendahl core in Thea, was ordained millions of years ago by the Fendahl itself. Fendelman's genius with the time scanner, Stael's belief in power through magic and Thea's empathy with the skull... All these seeds had been genetically sown within primeval apes who would one day produce the ideal circumstances for the Fendahl's reappearance. It was complex in principle, [and] the Doctor took fiendish relish in explaining [it] in as complicated a way as possible; fluent scientific jargon reeled off in a patter unrivalled since the soliloquies of Groucho Marx.'

In common with the other stories of this type, it is the characters that make it work. Here we have the driven Doctor Fendelman who, with his time scanner, is the man chosen to fulfil the destiny of the Fendahl. His assistants Maximillian Stael, Thea Ransome and Adam Colby represent, respectively, the misguided, the victim and the hero. All are nicely characterised, but Stael comes across a little less well than the others, perhaps because it is hard to understand precisely what he hoped to gain from summoning the Fendahl in the first place. The impression is given that he has been manipulating events behind the scenes from the start - a neat parallel with the idea of the Fendahl manipulating events since the dawn of mankind - and yet there is little evidence to substantiate this.

Chris Boucher's scripts have attracted many favourable comments from reviewers, including Amanda Murray, writing in DWB No. 111, dated March 1993: 'All of Chris Boucher's contributions to Doctor Who have been of a very high calibre, and Image of the Fendahl is no exception. The dialogue is some of the best of the season, combining suspense and humour in appropriate and balanced doses, playing one off the other to great effect. It skirts round a mass of scientific and mystical jargon in a manner which always seems on the verge of cliche and technobabble, but which never quite tumbles over the edge.'

Of the guest characters, it is Martha Tyler, the old wise woman, who really stands out. The interplay between her and the security guard, David Mitchell, in the first episode is excellent, and her premonition of the Fendahl's coming is equally well handled. Daphne Heard plays the role to perfection and is largely responsible for conveying the sense of high tension and anticipation in the latter episodes.

The Fendahl itself is something of a disappointment. Given a big build-up as a terrifying creature that feeds on death, it eventually manifests itself as nothing more than a rather attractive woman with eyes painted on the outside of her closed eyelids. She swishes her robes about a lot and turns acolytes into Fendahleen but does little else to justify the awe in which everyone seems to hold her. The Fendahleen, particularly in their large form, seem far more impressive, although Chris Dunk took a contrary view in TARDIS Volume 3 Number 1, dated January/February 1978:

'The one thing that possibly spoilt the adventure was the appearance of the Fendahleen at the end of [Part Three]. It looked rather ridiculous I thought (why have we had so many bug-eyed little monsters recently...?) and when it was killed by salt it became even more so. Can a being that has teleported itself countless millions of miles across space really be killed by a handful of salt?'

The scripts are a little vague when it comes to certain details about the Fendahleen. It is never explained what causes the mark on the back of the neck of their victims, for example, nor what is their exact relationship with the core - they are a gestalt, we are told, and there must be twelve Fendahleen for it to operate, but otherwise it is all a bit of a mystery. However, these huge, slimy monsters creeping up to suck the life from their paralysed victims undoubtedly help to make Image of the Fendahl one of the last truly frightening Doctor Who stories. As Bentham wrote: 'Faults in the serial were hard to find, and where they did occur... they were easily outweighed by all the many good points... No matter if your taste is for costume, design, technical effects, photography, characterisation or storyline, Image of the Fendahl rated highly on them all.'

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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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