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28 April 2012 @ 06:42 pm
The Randomizer: Image of the Fendahl  
Another "classic" Doctor Who episode which well deserves its status. The similarities to Masque of Mandragora, reveal the extent to which there was very much a formula being employed during a lot of the Hinchcliffe years - not that I think anyone has ever denied this.

So we have an unspeakably powerful and predominantly formless evil that is forced to work through human agents. The bad guys form two factions one of which is steeped in the occult and works directly for the ancient evil and the other of which has its own agenda. This second faction is despatched quickly by the first in the run up to the final act, in which the ancient evil is defeated in its own lair by technobabble.

In both cases the fairly straightforward plot is saved by script and production.

Masque of Mandragora made the most of its location filming and the opportunity to raid the BBC's costume cupboard, but its script was actually rather less lively than Image of the Fendahl's. The first episode has a particulary good opening with two scientists actually behaving like scientists. Both Adam Colby and Thea Ransome are good strong characters, and its a shame that Thea, as a character, vanishes from the plot in episode three. Even the comedy yokels actually manage to be pretty sensible and pragmatic while still, admitedly, being comedy yokels.

One of the big differences is that Fendahl's second villain, Fendahlman, is rather less villainous (his tendency to summon armed guards to protect his estate and menace his staff notwithstanding) than Masque's Count Federico and in the end he is as much a pawn of the Fendahl as the local coven, while the Count was always entirely independent of the Helix's machinations.

Utlimately, after all the build-up, the Fendahl itself is fairly easily despatched and, like Masque of Mandragora, in retrospect the story seems both straightforward and somewhat slight. But Image of the Fendahl makes up for that with sheer watchability. It has pacy direction, witty dialogue, solid design (moving up to spectacular, I would say, with the Fendahl make-up) and actors who are taking their job seriously. Getting those four things right on a regular basis was, I think, one of the keys to the success of the Hinchcliffe era.

This entry was originally posted at http://purplecat.dreamwidth.org/67234.html.
reggietatereggietate on April 28th, 2012 06:44 pm (UTC)
Image is one of my favourite adventures :-) It's the sort of thing I wish the modern Who would do - get into the country, do a bit of old-fashioned horror homage that isn't creepy dolls and have some good solid character actors who aren't soap stars.

The cast is really good, as I recall. And the story has genuine scary atmosphere with a nicely Quatermassy sort of feel. Definitely one worth buying on DVD, if it's been released yet.
louisedennis: Doctor Wholouisedennis on April 28th, 2012 07:27 pm (UTC)
It is out on DVD. I'd be surprised if most of the early Tom Baker's weren't out by now, their reputation as good Doctor Who is generally well deserved.

I was going to observe that NuWho, in general, doesn't use "small group of characters under pressure" nearly as often as old Who, but thinking about it, it does, I think it very much tries to avoid the slightly stagey enclosed feel you get with a lot of these stories - possibly in the drive to seem modern and fast paced - but I think that can be a mistake.
reggietatereggietate on April 28th, 2012 07:56 pm (UTC)
I must take a look at the Who DVDs next time I'm in Virgin or HMV. I've got a few, but most of my old Who collection is still on tape.

I think it very much tries to avoid the slightly stagey enclosed feel you get with a lot of these stories - possibly in the drive to seem modern and fast paced - but I think that can be a mistake.

Yes. Granted 45 or 90 minutes if a 2-parter doesn't give you as much time to be leisurely and atmospheric, but I think the slower pace is sometimes more effective.
daniel_saunders: Eleventh Doctordaniel_saunders on April 28th, 2012 09:18 pm (UTC)
Another Tom! The pedant in me wants to point out that Image of the Fendahl was actually produced by Graham Williams, although it may have been commissioned under Hinchcliffe and it is the last story script edited by Robert Holmes.

You are right, though, that it is very watchable, despite being a bit cliched, although I found that, when watching the whole series in order, it suffered a little coming after so many similar stories.
louisedennis: Doctor Wholouisedennis on April 29th, 2012 09:24 am (UTC)
That's interesting since it is very strongly reminiscent of the Hinchcliffe tales, but I recall that people felt the change in styles between Hinchcliffe and Williams happened much more slowly than the change between Williams and Nathan-Turner.
kristen_mara: Tardis Stephenkristen_mara on April 30th, 2012 12:29 am (UTC)

I only got to watch this story once, oh gosh ... about twenty-five years ago, but pieces of it still stay with me very strongly, like most of the episodes around that time.

I can remember Colby had some great lines ("Don't worry, I'll probably overtake you!" when being told to get ready to run at a certain time), and I was so sad when Thea went to try to get help from the captured Dr, thinking he could be the only one to save her when she realised something unnatural was happening to her, only to find that he had escaped.

Was there a dog in the ep? In the novel I remember Terrance Dicks had fun with its name Leakley and that it found the first body, but then it seemed to have fulfilled its plot requirement and disappeared - hopefully before everything went bang! But I could be mis-remembering or confusing book with show.

louisedennis: Doctor Wholouisedennis on April 30th, 2012 12:50 pm (UTC)
Colby was great, though he didn't seem to have an ounce of self-preservation in his body or, at least, given the choice between a smart come-back and not-being-shot he seemed to go for the smart come back every time.

You're right, there is a mysteriously vanishing dog, now you mention it!! It's also never explained exactly who let the Doctor out of the locked room, though my money is on Max - though how he could tell Thea would get help from the Doctor otherwise is somewhat beyond me.
kristen_mara: Sparkskristen_mara on May 1st, 2012 11:58 am (UTC)

My memory mustn't be too bad if I was right about the dog *G*

I thought that the Doctor let himself out of the room, via his sonic screwdriver, but after so many years, I could be wrong.

louisedennis: Doctor Wholouisedennis on May 1st, 2012 04:02 pm (UTC)
Nope, the door just mysteriously opens.

I read about it once in some `10 things in Doctor Who that don't make sense' article which I remembered when it happened. It's certainly difficult to work out who it could have been. Thea is with Adam and Fendahlman is with Max, but I decided Max probably had the opportunity to slip away and open the door.