Doctor Who: Image of the Fendahl (1963)
By: J.R. McNamara on January 27, 2011  | 
Roadshow | Region 4, PAL | 4:3 | English DD 2.0 | 94 minutes (Full Specs)
The Movie
Cover Art
Director: George Spenton-Foster
Starring: Tom Baker, Louise Jameson, Wanda Ventham, Denis Lill, Daphne Heard
Screenplay: Chris Boucher
Country: UK
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Dumdumdum dum dumdumdum dum dumdumdum...

Yes, dumb, that's what most people used to call me when they found out I was a fan of Doctor Who, but now there is a new generation of Who fans, and now they call me dumb as I am a fan of pantomime acting and dodge-y special effects, also known as 'classic' Doctor Who. To those people I have one thing to say: my Doctor's sonic screwdriver wasn't a 'cure-all' for any problem, he at least had to use his head now and again! Seriously, in the new series' about the only thing the sonic screwdriver hasn't been seen doing is carving a canoe!!

Anyway, the four part story Image of the Fendahl was first broadcast between 29th October 1977 and the 19th November that same year. It stars Tom Baker as the fourth Doctor, and his companion for this story is the superfine Leela, portrayed by Louise Jameson. The robot dog K9, acquired in a previous tale The Invisible Enemy, is seen briefly at the beginning of the first episode and the end of the last , as his becoming a regular cast member was only a last minute decision, and the script would have required extensive rewrites to include him in any real sense, which due to time was not an option.

In Fetchborough, England, a four person science team led by Doctor Fendahlman (played with multiple accents by Dennis Lill) are performing experiments on an impossibly old old human skull (12 million years to be exact) found in a Kenyan volcano. While two of the team, Thea Ransome (Wanda Ventham) and Adam Colby (Edward Arthur) are performing more rudimentary experiments, the others, Fendahlman and his assistant Maximillian Stael (Scott Fredricks) are using a time scanner, which unbeknownst to them, is affecting the skull, Which in turn, is affecting Ransome.

The Doctor (Tom Baker) and his companion Leela (Louise Jameson) travel to Earth after the amazing time machine TARDIS is buffeted by a time hole, tracing its origins to Fetch Priory, where the aforementioned experiments are being held.

The mysterious death of a hiker causes the Priory to be locked down, and even local white witch Martha Tyler (Daphne Heard), who is also the science team's cook, is refused entry, but these are just minor problems compared to what is happening to Ransome under the influence of the skull: she is being taken over by a powerful force that dates back millions of years, and is somehow tied in to the history of the Doctor's race, the Time Lords.

An ancient creature called the Fendahl is rising, and with the assistance of a local pagan cult it looks as though it will return, unless the Doctor and Leela are able to stop it in time. Will they? Well, only the last 5 minutes of part 4 will tell...

There are the normal problems with Who of this era. The special effects are average - well, I'll cut it some slack as it was mid seventies television, and budgets for TV weren't what they are now as it was still seen as a low form of entertainment - especially by the BBC. The acting was over the top - again as expected by the 'stage' actors who were want to get a go at doing TV, though one member stands out as particularly bad. On several occasions I had the childhood need to yell out 'He's behind you, he's BEHIND you' as kids sometimes shout at the protagonist at a Christmas play or Westfield school holidays 'extravaganza'.

These regular elements of classic Who are not the actual problem with this particular tale though. On the surface, and certainly by the totally occult cover, it looks like a decent mix of pagan ritual, Greek mythology and Lovecraftian elements with a touch of science thrown in. What has happened though is writer Chris Boucher (who wrote two other Doctor Who stories, The Face of Evil and the obvious Murder on the Orient Express rip-off The Robots of Death) has almost blatantly copied Quatermass and the Pit. I could call it homage, but I believe that would be doing the film a disservice, and possibly delivering a kick in the balls to Roy Ward Baker. Doctor Who has a history of borrowing elements from the classics, like Brain of Morbius (Frankenstein), Talons of Weng Chiang (Fu Manchu) or Horror of Fang Rock (House on Haunted Hill), but it is just so blatant here that it is inexcusable. Though it should noted that, despite showing a lack of originality on this particular occasion, Boucher's long standing contribution to the Doctor Who legend was the creation of the aforementioned Leela, so on behalf of all young male nerds: thanks!

If Quatermass and the Pit didn't exist, this would be a cracker of a Doctor Who, but seeing as how it does, this falls to the middle of the bunch as a not-as-good remake, with Doctor Who as Quatermass. The upper middle, but the middle nevertheless.
Being a TV show from the 70s, this obviously has a few issues in the world of digital video. It is presented in 4:3 and is extraordinarily grainy at times, has several film stretch marks but never becomes completely awful.
It's a 30 odd year old TV show so to expect anything but Dolby 2.0 would perhaps be a reach. It is however a clear and crisp track.
Extra Features
As with a lot of the more recent classic Who releases, this has some excellent extras.

After Image is a retrospective of the making of Image of the Fendahl with reflections from Louise Jameson, Anthony Read, Edward Arthur, Wanda Ventham and others about the making of the series.

Deleted Scenes is a few really low quality scenes that aren't very clear, nor very interesting.

Trailer – This is the 'coming next week' piece from the end of the last part of the previous story.

Photo Gallery – Does anyone ever really look at these... yawn!

The commentary on this disc is performed by Tom Baker, Louise Jameson, Wanda Ventham and Edward Arthur. It is an amusing and interesting commentary with some sometimes scathing comments about some of the cast and crew.

The info track is an interesting, and sometimes educational text commentary track that plays over the top of the episode. Really a fascinating extra.

There is also a PDF file of the Radio Times listings for the episodes.

There is a fairly amusing Easter Egg with Louise Jameson commenting of what she thought of the pretty poor but completely collectable Leela doll that came out in the seventies. She also tells the world what her mother did with hers: here's a hint – she stuck it up somewhere.

I'd like to also point out the liner notes by Tim Kittal on the inside cover which give an interesting look at the end of Doctor Who's so-called 'gothic era'. These mini-essays I am sure are regularly looked over by who fans when they get new Who discs as they are generally covered up by the ABC catalogues.
The Verdict
It has the potential for being a great story, and it was, when it was presented at the cinema in 1967 as Quatermass and the Pit. This isn't one of Baker's better stories, but with the series as a whole, it is one of the more acceptable ones.
Movie Score
Disc Score
Overall Score

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