Part One

Sue: I don’t know why we’re bothering any more.
Me: What?
Sue: Well, according to some of the comments on the blog, Doctor Who is a complete waste of time now.
Me: For the last time, stop reading the comments.
Sue: The general consensus seems to be that it’s all downhill from here. I was hoping it was going to get better, not worse.
Me: Don’t listen to them. They’re talking nonsense. There are plenty of great stories still to come.
Sue: Like this one?
Me: There are plenty of great stories still to come.
Sue: Oh, bloody hell, it’s Chris sodding Boucher again.

I didn’t correct her pronunciation. That would have been cruel.

Sue: It looks like this one is set on Earth. That’s something, I suppose.

We meet Adam Colby and Thea Ransome, two scientists whose idea of a good time is flirting over an eight-million-year-old skull.

Sue: This guy is a bit smooth. It’s Giles from Buffy the Vampire Slayer, isn’t it? And he’s trying to seduce Valerie Singleton. Maybe he should offer her some Gold Blend coffee?
Me: That’s Benedict Cumberbatch’s mum.
Sue: She’s beautiful. You can see where he gets it from.

Image of the FendahlAnother scientist, the creepy Max Stael, enters Fendelman’s laboratory.

Sue: It’s a young George from George and Mildred. Hang on, what accent is that supposed to be? German? Italian? French? All of the above?
Me: Eurozone, I think.

Meanwhile, a hitchhiker is being pursued by something threatening.

Sue: Now this is more like it. What a difference a week makes. This is proper Doctor Who again: scary, dark, and shot on film in a real location. Lovely.

The hitchhiker is killed.

Sue: It’s nice to see a man screaming for a change.

Elsewhere in the universe, the Doctor is up to his elbows in K9.

Image of the FendahlSue: Has he broken him already? He only got him five minutes ago. I bet he couldn’t wait to start upgrading him, and now look at him. And what has Leela done to her hair? And why is she wearing another skimpy outfit? And where did she get that costume from? Did she make it herself? If she didn’t make it herself, why has the Doctor got that costume lying around in his TARDIS? And what has she done to her hair?

The scientists have gathered in a farmhouse kitchen for breakfast.

Sue: Oh yes, this is very nice. Look at those lovely Windsor chairs. Steamed ash, I think. I’m going on a course soon where I’ll learn how to bend steamed ash into…

I pause the DVD so Sue can explain basic wood turning techniques to me. This is almost as boring as Colby, Thea and Fendelman discussing science and stuff.

Sue: Okay, I’m confused. Is George her dad?
Me: They’re work colleagues.
Sue: Work colleagues who just happen to live together? In a cottage? In the middle of nowhere? I see. So is there a bizarre love triangle going on here? You can cut the tension with a knife. Ooh, I love their earthenware. Very nice.

The sexual tension is so overwhelming, Colby has to take the dog for a walk. And that’s how he discovers the body of the dead hitchhiker, although Fendelman begs him not call the police.

Image of the FendahlSue: Why is George’s tie so short? He can’t even dress himself. And where the hell is he from, anyway?
Me: That’s Denis Lill you’re talking about. He’s a bloody good actor.
Sue: I’ll have to take your word for that.
Me: He was in Survivors. You liked him in Survivors.
Sue: It’s his accent. It’s all over the shop. Oh, that cabinet is gorgeous. I’d love a cabinet like that.

The TARDIS arrives on Earth, and as the Doctor opens its doors, cows can be heard mooing outside.

Sue: Oh, thank God. I thought that sound meant the Doctor needed to put some WD-40 on the TARDIS’ hinges. That’s a relief.

The Doctor and Leela encounter a local man named Ted Moss. He tells them that a rich foreign scientist, who made his money out of electronics – which doesn’t make sense because he isn’t Japanese – is up to no good at the priory.

Sue: At least we can rule Japan out for the accent. I’m leaning towards Mexico myself.

Image of the FendahlYou’ll be pleased to know she recognised Derek Martin in a heartbeat.

Sue: He’s a terrible actor. He was rubbish in EastEnders and he’s just as bad here. Oh well, at least he’s consistent.

Derek is having a blazing row with an old woman.

Sue: Now, that’s scary. Kids would have wet themselves, I bet. Old people are bloody terrifying when you’re young.

The Doctor and Leela hide in the bushes surrounding the priory.

Sue: I have no idea what is going on, but it’s very atmospheric, and the direction is okay. But why is the Doctor eating the shrubbery? That’s a bit silly.

The Doctor and Leela are separated by heavy fog, which means the episode ends with two competing cliffhangers – Leela is pumped full of lead, whereas the Doctor is knocked over by a camera operator who can’t see where he’s going.

Sue: Oh, make your bloody mind up. I can’t handle two cliffhangers at the same time. And what is the Doctor doing, anyway? And why should I care? And you should cut to the credits after you’ve fired the gun, you numpties!


Part Two

Image of the FendahlSue: Is this Mick Jagger’s back garden again?
Me: Funnily enough, I think you’re right.
Sue: I wasn’t joking. I recognised the brickwork. Flemish bond. It’s lovely.

Some tarot cards have been neatly arranged on a table.

Sue: If you took the Doctor out of this story, this could easily be an episode of Tales of the Unexpected.

She starts to hum the theme tune (she doesn’t do the dance, thank heavens) and I’m forced to intervene.

Me: Yes, alright, love. You’re missing the plot.
Sue: Oh, I don’t care about the plot. I’m bored already.

And then Sue’s Coronation Street detector goes off.

Image of the FendahlSue: Oh, it’s him. The taxi driver with the bad leg. Don somebody.
Me: Did you watch Coronation Street before you met me?
Sue: Are you joking? Of course I watched Coronation Street. You were the one who stopped me, remember? You said it was just old women gossiping in corner shops and we had to watch Brookside instead. I never did find out what happened to Don.

Derek Martin is killed by an unseen force, and when Colby discovers the body, he tells Thea that a look of pure terror was etched on the poor man’s face.

Sue: They can’t show his actual face because he can’t do that particular emotion. He’s useless.

Thea faints as the Doctor strolls into the kitchen.

Sue: Thank God. Maybe he can tell us what’s going on. I’m completely lost.
Me: I’m barely following it myself, and I’ve seen this before and read the book.

Image of the FendahlMaggot-like creatures suddenly appear over her Thea’s body.

Sue: What? Why? How? Eh?

They disappear again, but not before the Doctor can identify them as embryo Fendahleen. Unfortunately, Sue has other things on her mind.

Sue: What do the yellow pens represent?
Me: What?
Sue: All the men have yellow pens in their pockets. The only person who doesn’t have a yellow pen is Thea. That must be important.

In the very next scene, a yellow pen can be seen poking out of Thea’s lab coat pocket.

Sue: Hmm… Very interesting.
Me: No it isn’t!
Sue: I bet it is.
Me: Oh, knock yourself out. I give up.

Image of the FendahlSue is annoying me almost as much as Adam Colby is annoying her.

Sue: What a smug ****. I hope he dies next. A slow, painful death would be nice. I’m not fussy, really.

Colby continues to argue with an increasingly agitated Fendelman.

Sue: Fendelman should be in a Spaghetti Western. I think he’s definitely Mexican. “Do you want some jalapeños with that, Adam? Huh?”

We also discover that Stael is a member of a mysterious cult.

Sue: Where the hell did that come from? Isn’t having an alien skull, wormy things, and a scary old woman enough?

Fendelman suggests humans have evolved from aliens.

Sue: You know, I’m sure he’s a good actor, but why did they saddle him with that stupid accent? There’s just no need for it.
Me: Well, his name is clearly significant. Fendelman, Fendahleen…
Sue: So what? Who says you can’t have a silly name and a normal voice? Who would complain about something like that? “Oh, I don’t like this story because a man named Fendelman doesn’t have a silly accent”. What utter rubbish. And where the **** is K9?

Image of the FendahlIt’s not all bad news, though, and Daphne Heard’s performance as Grandma Tyler is rightly singled out for praise.

Sue: She’s brilliant. More of her, please. Don is holding his own, too.

Thea is abducted by Stael.

Sue: There isn’t a great deal of music in this one. It’s very quiet, even when stuff is supposedly going on. I think I actually miss Dudley’s marimbas.

When the Doctor enters Colby’s lab, he is immediately drawn to the ancient skull sitting on the table. He even offers it a jelly baby.

Sue: Now he’s just taking the piss. I bet that wasn’t in the script.

The Doctor is forced into touching the skull against his will.

Sue: The direction is good, and this has the potential to be very atmospheric. It definitely looks good. But it’s boring. Really, really boring. It’s too adult for the kids and too tedious for the adults. Nobody wins. It doesn’t help that Tom Baker isn’t taking it seriously, either.


Part Three

Image of the FendahlThe reprise begins with the Doctor offering the skull a jelly baby again.

Sue: It isn’t even a real jelly baby. It’s a liquorice allsort, for ****’s sake. Nice table, though.

Leela rescues the Doctor; she knew something was wrong thanks to her instincts.

Sue: Finally, her psychic superpower pays off. It’s been a long time coming.

Stael drugs Thea up to the eyeballs.

Sue: Is somebody down there playing a church organ? And does the yellow pen mean you’re a member of this cult? Is that the secret signal?
Me: No!

Stael will become a god!        

Sue: He comes from the same country that Fendelman wants to sound like he comes from. If that makes sense.

The Doctor revives Grandma Tyler with a recipe for fruitcake. And then he then explains that ghosts are merely the by-products of time fissures.

Sue: That’s the first plausible thing the Doctor has said in this story. Tom Baker has had to up his game now that he’s playing against the old granny. She’s excellent.

Stael takes Fendelman and Colby hostage in the basement. Colby still acts like a wise guy, even with a gun pressed against his lips.

Sue: Do us all a favour and shoot him in the ****ing head. Please.

The Doctor and Leela take the TARDIS to the Fendahl’s old stomping ground, the Fifth Planet. The Doctor explains that the Fendahl is using astral projection to manifest itself back on Earth.

Image of the FendahlSue: They are making this up as they go along. None of this connects to anything else, as far as I can tell. It’s just one bizarre explanation after another.

The Fifth Planet has been placed in a time loop.

Sue: Like Groundhog Day?
Me: It’s probably a bit worse than that. More like Groundhog Second. You wouldn’t get anything done.

Grandma Tyler gives her nephew a lecture about evil spirits as she fills some shotgun pellets with rock salt.

Sue: I could watch a whole series with these two fighting evil in the countryside. As a series, it’s definitely got legs.

Down the basement, hooded cult members are waiting for the show to start.

Sue: I hope this isn’t going to turn into Eyes Wide Shut.
Me: Speak for yourself.

The Tylers hear a gunshot.

Sue: The cult has executed Fendelman for crimes against foreign accents.

She doesn’t realise she’s right and Denis Lil has been shot in the head.

Sue: That was a bit bleak. And why shoot him and not the other ****? That makes no sense whatsoever. Hang on a minute! Maybe they were lovers! It all makes sense now!

The Doctor and Leela brave the fog and return to the priory.

Image of the FendahlSue: This story has all the right ingredients, but they don’t work when they’re mixed together. This would be a terrible fruitcake.

A fully-grown Fendahleen attacks!

Sue: Why has it got pink hair? It looks like a cross between a giant maggot and a Chinese Dragon. This isn’t scary at all.
Me: Really? It scared the crap out of me when I was eight.
Sue: Seriously? I think they could have shown you anything and you’d have found it scary. It’s rubbish. It’s the alien equivalent of Ashley Cole.


Part Four

Sue: Why can’t they run away?
Me: Well, the story implies the common dream people have, where they can’t run away from something, is derived from a race memory we have about these things.
Sue: You’re having a laugh! They probably can’t move because their jaws are on the ****ing floor. This is atrocious.
Me: We’ve seen much worse than this.
Sue: Not today we haven’t.

Sue believes she’s nailed the problem.

Sue: We’re watching two different programmes: Tales of the Unexpected and Doctor Who. And it’s a mash-up that doesn’t work.

Thea is transformed into a golden figure dressed in billowing robes. She rises from the floor, a giant pentangle behind her.

Image of the FendahlSue: This reminds me of Marc Bolan at Newcastle City Hall in 1973. Marc came up on this huge star and it got stuck, and when they finally got him off it, he was so pissed off, he starting kicking it. It was a bit embarrassing, to be honest.

Stael, who realises he’s made a terrible mistake, asks the Doctor to leave him with a gun so he can kill himself.

Sue: You and me both, mate. Bloody hell. This isn’t for kids. This isn’t for anybody, actually.

The Doctor hands the gun to Stael.

Sue: Bloody hell. You can’t throw a powerful scene like that into the middle of this incomprehensible mess. It isn’t appropriate.

Colby escapes with his life, but he quickly turns on Grandma Tyler, calling her a “stupid old witch” and even more cruelly, a “Swede-bashing cretin”.

Sue: Please stick him with one of your anus thorns, Leela.

The Doctor explains that rock salt is the perfect weapon against their enemy, which is why people throw it over their shoulders for good luck.

Sue: I bet it’s also the reason we use it to kill slugs.

The Doctor tells Leela the story of how the Time Lords interfered with the Fendahl on the Fifth Planet.

Sue: This is all very interesting, I’m sure, but it’s just another idea that’s being thrown into the pot at the last moment. I really don’t care any more.

The Doctor believes Dr Fendelman was genetically prepared for this moment, although on the other hand, it could be a massive coincidence.

Sue: For ****’s sake. Even the script hasn’t got the strength of its own convictions.

The Doctor comes up with a plan and Leela gives Colby a cheeky peck on the cheek.

Image of the FendahlSue: That’s completely wasted on him, pet. Still, nice rug.

The Doctor and Leela head for the basement, where, armed with flasks of salt, they battle a Fendahleen.

Sue: Tom Baker nearly took the camera out with that shot. It would have been a mercy killing, I suppose. And how did one of these things kill that hitchhiker at the beginning? He was running like the clappers and this lot can barely move.

As the Doctor places the skull in a lead lined box, he’s surrounded by tiny Fendahleen.

Sue: Which one of them is dropping babies all over the place?

Thea starts floating around the priory as a disembodied ghost.

Sue: Er… Why?

The Doctor rigs the time scanner to implode and our heroes escape in the nick of time.

Sue: They’re playing Dudley’s music backwards. I like it.

Incredibly, Colby survives.

Image of the FendahlSue: That’s ridiculous. How can you let him live after you’ve killed Benedict Cumberbatch’s mum? That’s unforgivable.

Leela lets her hair down.

Sue: Thank heavens for small mercies.

The Doctor drops the skull in a supernova (“So is it indestructible or not? Make your bloody mind up!”) and then, after some playful banter, the credits roll.

Sue: Is that it? Even K9 is hanging his head in shame.


The Score

Sue: That was rubbish. And boring rubbish, too, which is even worse. There were too many ideas that went absolutely nowhere. I don’t even know what the Fendahl is, or was. Was it the worm, the gold woman, or the skull? It made no sense. The atmosphere was nice, and the sets were great, but they were completely wasted on that script. I’ve forgotten it already.





  1. SparkyMarky  June 25, 2012

    You know, I’ve always loved this episode. I remember buying the VHS when i was about 14 or so and being really quite scared about. It’s also one of the few DVDs I bought when it first came out without waiting for Amazon to reduce it after a few weeks of release. But listening to Sue’s opinions I can see that there are a lot of elements in this that do seem to stick out. There are a lot of great ideas but I think there are too many of them and they couldn’t be brought together coherently enough. Despite this though, I do like the episode and it’s one that I will put on at night when I’m in the flat on my own. And it’s true there are lots of great stories still to come…but then I’m biased as I grew up watching the show in the 80s.

  2. Daru  June 25, 2012

    “Grandma Tyler gives her nephew a lecture about evil spirits as she fills some shotgun pellets with rock salt.

    Sue: I could watch a whole series with these two fighting evil in the countryside. As a series, it’s got legs.”

    God yes, Sue is so right here – I love all of the brilliant furniture too!

    I have got a weak spot for this tale I must admit. Maybe because of vivid childhood memories and that it aired in the period over my 7th birthday – but do totally agree that it is quite a whacked-out tale too. I definitely don’t find it boring tho (but can sympathise!). I think there are so many mad elements thrown together that it turns into the equivalent of an over-spiced soup.

  3. Lewis Christian  June 25, 2012

    “stick him with one of your anus thorns”

    Please tell me that’s not a typo!

  4. Robert Dick  June 25, 2012


    That is all.

  5. Barry Stavers  June 25, 2012

    Each to their own, but I love this story. Don’t ask me to explain the plot in full though. That would be like asking someone to explain the rules of Jasper Carrott’s gameshow, ‘Goldenballs’.

    Oh, and Sue, Don ‘Thingy’ Brennan from Corrie died after kidnapping someone (Audrey Roberts????) and driving his taxi into the canal. Hope this helps. 🙂

    • Robert Dick  June 26, 2012

      It was Alma Baldwin.

      You’re right that he died after that (well it’d be hard to have done it before) but that’s not when/how he died. He was arrested after that, wasn’t seen for a while, reappeared after The Battersbys had moved into his house, tried to run down Mike Baldwin and crashed the car, and died then. You could see the stain caused by the explosion for years. It’s where Nick’s Bistro is now, isn’t it?

      • Barry Stavers  June 26, 2012

        That was it. Knew it was something like that.

  6. Alex Wilcock  June 25, 2012

    “Oh, bloody hell, it’s Chris sodding Boucher again.”

    You’ll very soon be up to 1978, so have you considered breaking for a couple of months and having a summer of Blake’s 7? Sue would be so delighted to have Terry Nation or Chris Boucher almost every episode. And those are the good writers.

    I love this story. Last one that ever really scared me (cowering at the door at my Nana and Grandad’s. I liked our old people). So maybe I should have stopped reading at:
    “This is proper Doctor Who again: scary, dark, and shot on film in a real location. Lovely.”
    Yay! Sue loved it too!


    Did not even the steamed ash and the earthenware get an extra mark? Don’t tell me. They gained it an extra four.

    Oh, well, at least Sue didn’t get caught up arguing about how the Doctor gets out of the stockroom. As well as raving about all the brilliant bits, I’ve written an article where reckon I’ve settled that one with a comprehensive run-down of all nine suspects who might have let him out. So you can get back to enjoying how fabulous it is!

    Or not, as Sue would have it.

    • Dave Sanders  June 26, 2012

      We’ll find out in a few days, since the next story is as close to raw B7 as Who ever gets.

  7. fromEssex  June 25, 2012

    I never understood this story either and have often wondered why it’s held in high regard by some.

    • DPC  June 25, 2012

      Probably the feel of the piece.

      The actual plot does grossly gloss over a number of details, as Sue pointed out.

      I want to think many of the story’s fans, who like Chris Boucher’s style, probably tune in to various bits of dialogue and say how that might trump other elements.

      To me, the story is style over substance…

    • Alex Wilcock  June 25, 2012

      I never understood this story either and have often wondered why it’s held in high regard by some.

      Well, the earthenware is especially fine.

      Alternatively, I think it looks fantastically scary, the cast – Tom and Wanda especially – are terrific, the workplace bitching is hilarious and familiar, and it creates aTime Lord fairy tale about death, not just an Earthly one, putting it on a mythic scale.

      Mainly, I think the script’s brilliant in the way it doesn’t just shock but intelligently subverts expectations: the comedy cook becomes haunted; the ‘mad scientist’ is quite sane and too late in grasping what’s going on; the villain finds out he’s not the real villain after all; the Doctor gets flippant only to discover that with a monster that never speaks, he can’t talk his way out; Death personified turns out not to be just a slug or a skull but a beautiful woman, and the ‘helpless, abused female victim’ being much more aware of what’s happening than her tormentors then rising in hideous omnipotence to take revenge on all the pleading, screaming men around her.

      So, that’s what I see in it, anyway.

      • encyclops  June 25, 2012

        Thea’s glammed-out Gorgon mode is probably a big part of why I’ve always loved this episode. Chilling and glorious all at once. Aesthetics probably play a bigger part of my appreciation for this show than I’d like to admit, which is probably why I took so long to warm to next season’s first story (its virtues are far more verbal than visual).

  8. DPC  June 25, 2012

    “the general consensus”?

    If everybody followed that lemming philosophy, slavery would be re-legalized because the consensus would use spin and deception to make it *sound* good, because the one listening will think it won’t ever happen to them…

    Be an individual – different eras may or may not appeal, but just because some yokels on some website all whine and bleat… that’s not a good reason!

    Sue might indeed be surprised and there ARE a number of gems coming up!

    It’s been a WONDERFUL experiment. That’s my opinion and I’m sticking to it. 🙂

  9. Marty  June 25, 2012

    How sweary is Sue? Sometimes I read those little stars as her dropping the C-bomb, but don’t know if that’s too sweary.

    This story used to scare me, but I can’t really remember why. Now though I agree with Sue. Good ingredients but someone’s lost the recipe book and forgotten what temperature to set the oven to.

    Ignore the comments Sue, you’ve been through the worst stories. Ahead all the stories are present and they’re in colour. None of them are overly long and none of them are as terrible as some of the black and white era.

    • John G  June 26, 2012

      “None of them are overly long and none of them are as terrible as some of the black and white era.”

      For myself, I would rather watch The Dominators on a loop than sit through Timelash again, or Dragonfire.

  10. Steve Manfred  June 25, 2012

    Sue’s utterly and completely correct about this one (as she is most of them). But even moreso. This one always puts me to sleep too.

  11. Terry Francis  June 25, 2012

    I hope people who said “well, it’s all downhill from here” haven’t jeopardised the experiment. That is, after all, just their opinion. I love all of “Doctor Who” – there is merit and detriment in each decade of the series. One person’s ‘downhill’ is another’s ‘uphill’.

  12. Mike  June 25, 2012

    I’ve been in agreement with Sue for a good long while now, but for me at least this is a solid 8/10 story. The atmosphere is excellent and I think the cast do a good job. It’s one of those ones which benefits from not putting too much thought into it. Too much thought and all the plot threads start to unravel.

    • Simon Harries  June 25, 2012

      I know we’re talking about a series featuring an alien who flies through time and space in a ship disguised as a Police Box, accompanied by a talking tin dog… but saying “too much thought and all the plot threads start to unravel” – which is your perfectly valid opinion – seems to me to be rather an odd way of looking at it. Surely each story should stick by its own logic, however mad it may be? If everything in the script is a jumble, and the writer/script editor aren’t trying hard enough to make it all make sense, then you just end up with nonsense and you have to keep asking people to turn a blind eye, which is what happens here. All the great style and atmosphere and carpentry are useless by that time. One ends up thinking that if only they’d bothered to sort out the mess of the script before applying all that production to a great script, then we might have been left with a classic.

      • encyclops  June 25, 2012

        I would say that “too much thought and all the plot threads start to unravel” accurately describes at least 80% of 21st century Who, and somehow it’s working for people like gangbusters.

  13. Richard Lyth  June 25, 2012

    I’ve watched the DVD of this twice, and none of this rang any bells at all. That’s how memorable this story is. Saying it’s all downhill from here is a bit of an exaggeration though – the Hinchcliffe era is probably the most consistent, but there’s still plenty of really good stories to come. (Just not for a while…)

    • Dan  June 25, 2012

      It’s a really general comment. It’s understandable why people say it, but it only makes sense when understood as coming from people who are looking at the entire classic series and who know a lot about it to boot.

      It’s very subjective. I’d say, since I’ve thought about it too much, The Invisible Enemy (though I enjoyed it at the time) can be seen as the start of a long decline, but that “decline” only becomes really manifest about six years later, so it’s very much seeing a pattern after the fact. I’ve nothing really against the general style of the Graham Williams era, but he was quite unlucky, and a different producer following might have led to an entirely different outcome. And that assumes your not a big fan of JN-T, which some people are.

      So I think Neil’s very right to caveat this very fannish view of history, and Sue shouldn’t worry too much. Besides, seeing how it changed is an awful lot of fun. (Well, at least if you’re a fan.)

  14. Colin  June 25, 2012

    This was the episode which gave me the most nightmares when I was a kid. To this day the thought of a glowing skull is enough to start them off again … The plot didn’t matter so much to a 9 year old, it was scary and exciting and made my parents wonder if I should continue to be allowed to watch Dr Who. For me this is a 9/10 all the way.

    As to continuing ‘The Experiment’ – Sue, don’t listen to the naysayers! Some will have you believe there wasn’t a decent episode in colour! There’s some fabulous later Tom Baker stories, not to mention the Peter Davison ones and quite a few of Sylvester McCoy too (note I’m passing over you-know-who’s period in the TARDIS ;-))

    Glowing skull .. shudder ….

  15. encyclops  June 25, 2012

    This one’s in my top 20. I absolutely love it and have never thought of the plot as being difficult to follow. I’d be crushed that it earned only half the score of “The Invisible Enemy” but after “Robots” flopped, I’m armored against disappointment. 🙂

    Still, if my Fendahl-loving word is to be believed, no, Sue, it’s not all downhill from here. There are at least four stone classics in the Davison era alone and I’m crossing my fingers that one out of the four will hit with Sue. And we all know what’s coming two seasons from now.

    By the way, please don’t feel the need to truncate the carpentry discussions, at least not on my account. This may in fact be the first Doctor Who review corpus ever to feature regular commentary on wood and brick and I’m actually pretty fascinated by it.

  16. Neowhovian  June 25, 2012

    I’m with those on Sue’s end of the spectrum. It did nothing for me. I’m not sure I’d rate it as low as a 2, but it’s certainly nowhere above average in my book. ~shrug~

  17. Neon  June 25, 2012

    Dont worry sue, the best is still to come.

    You have the better of the two bakers still to come! ( to hell with the hater’s, 6 is the best)

    And peters era is pretty solid

    Plus mccoys later two seasons are good as well! It’s mostly uphill from here!

  18. Jazza1971  June 25, 2012

    I love the way Sue can make you think about something you never have before. “Where did she get that costume from? Did she make it herself? If she didn’t make it herself, why has the Doctor got that costume lying around in his TARDIS?” did that for me.

    I also love Sue’s humour (the aforementioned “anus thorn” made me chuckle).

    As regards it all being downhill from here, it just isn’t the case. I just looked at the DWM Mighty 200 poll, and there are 20 stories between this one and “Survival” that made it in to the top half of the poll (which when you take in to account that there are 29 stories from 2005 to present in that 100, isn’t too shabby), and some made it very high indeed. As to whether or not this poll is relevant to Sue’s opinions though is in doubt…”Image of the Fendahl” came in at number 73 in that poll!

  19. Warren Andrews  June 25, 2012

    This story is a classic “Ooh it’s just like the Hinchcliffe years” fan response which I detest as it implies that unless the show is doing “gothic horror” then it’s no good. The Doctor and Leela are missing for far too much of parts 1 and 2 and I don’t like the other characters.

    I’m totally with Sue on this one.

    Sue: KILL HIM! Leela, stick him with one of your anus thorns. LOL

    All down hill from now on? No it’s just like the rest of Doctor Who – some of it’s shit and some of it’s brilliant.

  20. gangnet  June 25, 2012

    I think it is time to put this experiment out of its misery. I’ve enjoyed it for some time, but Sue has the mind of a bureaucrat. She refuses to watch the story and then complains incessantly that she can’t follow it, and she only seems to care about how this actor was in that series that we Americans have never heard of, or the carpentry, or the effects, or some other irrelevant random comment. She seems totally incapable of taking anything in the spirit in which it was produced, at the time it was made… which is odd, because she was much more open-minded during the Hartnell years.
    It’s like trying to watch something and sitting next to someone who’s talking through it because they don’t want to be watching it. Well, we can’t change that, but what’s the point any longer? It’s just frustrating.
    I don’t mean to be nasty, because I have enjoyed it, but it’s clear that Sue just doesn’t care any longer. She’s just watching the clock during these stories. It’s very frustrating reading her constant comments on things that have nothing to do with the story, with no indication that she’s even processing the story or trying to do so. I don’t think Sue is participating in good faith any longer.
    And there ARE those of us who think that Doctor Who reaches perfection in the Williams era, that the Hammer Horror era was very overrated, and that JNT destroyed the series by sucking all the fun out of it. Is there any arguing that that’s why Baker ultimately left?

    • Neil Perryman  June 25, 2012

      One thing I would like to say (mainly because it was brought up in another forum today) is the reason Sue couldn’t follow this particular story isn’t because she was talking all over it. She’s followed other stories without any problems. Also, we pause a lot more than I indicate on the blog itself (it would be even more boring to you if I did that). If she ever misses anything important (in other words, if I’ve failed to shut her up before if happens), I will rewind and play it again. It’s not ideal but there you go. The only exception occurs with the video commentaries, but they are very few and far between.

      As for all your other comments, fair enough, but when she’s bored she tends to concentrate on other things.

      I just wish someone would give up on us after she’s given something a good score for a change…

      • encyclops  June 25, 2012

        If she’s bored enough to talk all over it, I’d say that’s at least in part the story’s fault. As much as I love it, it definitely takes its time.

        Surely gangnet is just the same horror-averse person who’s been threatening to stop reading any day now. Hopefully it goes without saying that most of us are in it for the long haul. I personally think the experiment is going to get even more interesting in a few seasons’ time.

      • Mr Hoppy  June 25, 2012

        2/10? A very fair score. Doctor Who can be forgiven for many things – Awful effects, scene-chewing acting, dodgy plotting, but being dull is not something it should ever be and much of Season 15 is dull.

        Oh, and to those complaining about Sue going on about soap actors – It’s part of the fun with watching old Who and it should be indulged and celebrated.

        • PolarityReversed  June 26, 2012

          Have to agree, this is a very tedious season. For me, at least, but there’s better to come.
          Nothing much to say about Fendahl – had some nice chills to it (particularly a man realising that his entire ancestry has led to him being a patsy, etc), but overall cack-handed, if occasionally pretty in some set pieces.

          Now, Night of the Demon – that’s how you do it!

      • Mag  June 25, 2012

        I’m guessing that many of your readership are not giving up on the experiment and personally, I hope you’ll let Sue convince you to watch the new series (as reviews) too.

      • Marky  June 26, 2012

        Sorry I can’t believe some of the negativity that’s coming across here!
        I sometimes agree fully with Sue and on others not at all but always love reading her viewpoints – this is the only blog I go straight to the moment I see there has been an update!

        Keep going both, this experiment is brilliant.

      • Matthew Marcus  June 28, 2012

        I could retroactively leave after Sue gave my personal bugbear Genesis of the Daleks a good score, if you want? (Actually, don’t answer that!)

    • Jeff  June 25, 2012

      I am sorry to inform you but my girlfriend and I are doing the same thing as WIS(no blog though. Just for fun). Only she is the Who fan not I. I Couldn’t follow this story either and the parts that did make sense were boring . If I had to rate it it earns a big 0/10 it is literally the worst episode of Who I have seen.

    • Simon Harries  June 25, 2012

      On occasion, Sue’s reviews can be inconsistent. It seems odd to moan about special effects being poor when they were made by a cash-strapped (but not imagination-starved) team in the midst of a devastating economic recession. Sue has sometimes slated stories that I hate, which makes me happy. Then she has slated others that I love, and that’s just life! I’d never expect my opinion and hers to coincide, except where Alan Bleasdale or perhaps Peter Flannery are concerned. There are many fans, myself included, who look upon Tom Baker’s years with great fondness because we grew up watching them even though we know as adults that there are some stinker stories in his pile. We choose to overlook them and so when they are held to close scrutiny by someone who isn’t a fan, then it can be tough. After all, there’s a reason why I never, ever watch 4Y, 5C and 5F and I’m not looking forward to hearing Sue’s thoughts on those! Hopefully they won’t put her off enjoying 5H or 5T.. Incidentally, I read far too many blogs written by Americans and Canadians that are full of series and people that I’ve never heard of, but I’d never dream of complaining to the authors about this – I hope to pick up a little extra patter to discuss with them the next time I meet them. So it might be helpful to store up all these little treasures about Don from Coronation Street and his kidnapping, car-crashing ways, you never know when they’ll come in handy.

      • Simon Harries  June 25, 2012

        Whoops, memory slip – I meant 5S there not 5T!

        • encyclops  June 25, 2012

          Oh, 5S. Well in that case never mind. Not one of my favorites. 🙂

      • encyclops  June 25, 2012

        I think it’s fair to talk about the effects and the sets when they actually do impair one’s enjoyment of the show. I’d rather she react honestly and from the gut than try to decide what to excuse on the grounds of a low budget (vs. poor choices on how to shoot the results of that budget). And when she summed up on this one, it wasn’t the effects that she cited as the big problems. Of course I don’t agree with her, but I can see how she might have felt that way.

        And 5C, really? I love that one. 🙂 But 4Y and 5F, yeah, no argument there. 5H is going to be a real nail-biter (my girlfriend didn’t take to it, but then I don’t think she has enough context to realize how unusual it was). And like you, I hope it goes well for 5T.

    • Davecw  June 25, 2012

      I strongly suspect that Baker’s real reason for leaving was connected with money.

      What I find especially interesting about Sue;s comments on this particular period, is that it doesn’t matter how boring the story is, or how interesting, or how many actors are in it that she recognises from later productions, or indeed, even the quality of the earthenware, it’s the engagement with Tom Baker. This is, I believe, is what grabbed our (childish) imaginations all those decades ago. It’s what helps define this as “the golden age” for many here (even if we may disagree over the merits of various producers). And ultimately, in the 1970s, the “spirit” in which any television (or film) was made was a simple: no one’s likely to see this twice and certainly not in thirty years time…

    • Wholahoop  June 26, 2012

      My thoughts in answer to a couple of your points (on the assumption that you are not just trolling):

      1) “I think it is time to put this experiment out of its misery.” or you could just stop reading the blog if it now causes you as much angst as appears to be the case. I think it is stated on the homepage that Sue comments on carpentry and actors who have appeared in Eastenders. This is, therefore, a Ronseal blog so why have an issue when Sue comments on carpentry and actors who have appeared in other shows?

      2) “Is there any arguing that that’s why Baker ultimately left?” Yes, plenty, unless you are actually Tom Baker and can say this with 100% certainty of the fact

    • Chris Too-old-to-watch  June 26, 2012

      Stop reading the blog then if you don’t like it. Oh, and may I apologise for any comments made about a British series made in Great Britain, by a British person that references othe British television shows that people from another country don’t understand.
      [Note to Sue: Please only reference, Dallas, Dynasty and Cagney and Lacy from now on for the benefit of our American readers]

      • Wholahoop  June 26, 2012

        and MASH as well please

        • Dave Sanders  June 26, 2012

          The version with the laugh track.

    • Paul Mudie  June 28, 2012

      So you think this blog should cease to exist, just because you don’t like it?

      Are you Michael Grade?

  21. Marcus Scarman  June 25, 2012

    I too rate this one highly, probably because I think it was the last Tom Baker I saw back in the bootleg days and a copy so bad it was black and white. Certainly a case of style over substance but so many great character scenes with Ma Tyler and some funny quips not going to far into farce or pantomime. A particular gem is the Doctor theorising several possibilities but admitting that it could all be coincidence, a rare moment of bafflement within a story that tends to defy the normal way these tales pan out. Thanks again Sue for making me think about the story in a different light and for re igniting an interest to view it again. Oh and I don’t give a stewed fig as to how the Doctor escaped from the locked room, didn’t Uncle Tewwance say in the novel the lock shattered, good enough for me.

  22. Lawrence McIlhoney  June 25, 2012

    Wait a minute – a replacement Invisible Enemy disc? For me? All praise to 2Entertain.

  23. Dave Sanders  June 25, 2012

    Harsh, but Sue’s nailed it as to why Spitting Image Of Nigel Kneale is an unsatisfying story; it’s pillages all the archetypes from Quatermass and the Pit, but doesn’t understand what made them work together as a drama. In Nigel Kneale’s work, we the audience follow the unravelling of the plot along with the main characters who are closest to the heart of the mystery, who then put the pieces together in order to make a difference to their destinies, overcoming all the skepticism and hostiliy that’s put it their way.

    In Image Of the Fendahl, not one of them gets to do that, and it removes from us any reason to care when all the script has them do is, metaphorically, read from a script. There’s no journey, no character development, and no motivation beyond being cop-out puppets of the Fendahl. It also diminishes any sense of actual threat, because nothing appears to be at stake aside from these cardboard cutouts, and Fendelmen screaming ‘MANKIND HAS BEEN USED’ right before being shot is nowhere near enough on its own to sell it. Apart from Ma Tyler providing the crucial rock salt, for all the difference any of them actually make to the pre-scripted proceedings, they might as well not have been introduced to us in the first place. And then, just to ram it home, you’ve got Adam Colby’s ‘ha ha, I’m going to live’ smugness dripping off every single line he utters, even when facing the barrel of a gun.

    Without any other source of forthcoming resolutions then, the script has nothing to fall back upon except an irritating cosmic smartarse who knows all the answers in advance, and knows early on that the only way to stop the Doctor from bringing events to a complete halt within ten minutes – which he does pretty much instantly the moment he gets back from the Fifth Planet, using the tools there at hand without actually having to think up a clever solution of his own – is to shove him out of the way as much as possible for three whole episodes. If the only reason the evil is able to manifest in the first place is because the ‘hero’ is locked in a broom cupboard, the plot has failed MISERABLY and no amount of script editing can save it.

    • encyclops  June 25, 2012

      That’s a good analysis of why Fendahl doesn’t work, except that it DOES “work” for me and a lot of other people. That’s the trouble with Doctor Who: it’s rare that you can truly say a story objectively “doesn’t work,” because you either have to accept the contrary evidence or say that the fans who like it are just idiots who don’t understand drama or know what they should and shouldn’t like.

      I don’t mind conceding that I’m probably reacting here on a visceral level to elements of the story rather than to the way they fit together. It wouldn’t be the first work of fiction I’ve done that with. I like that we seem to be watching adults with (not always cuddly) personalities interact. I love the atmosphere of dread, the glowing skull, the giant slugs in the darkened corridors, Thea’s frightening possession and then transformation as the incarnated Fendahl, the von Danikenism (which some fans seem to think is no fun just because they can put a name to it), Leela’s active role, and perhaps most of all another monster that even Tom Baker seems scared of, especially in that fantastic cliffhanger where he can’t let go of the skull. Hell, I even love that this story introduced a preteen kid (me, obviously) to the word and concept “gestalt.” Except that of course rather than the whole being more than the sum of its parts, I guess for me the parts are more than the value of the whole, if that’s even possible.

      Though sometimes I wonder if the fans who don’t like this episode are sometimes reacting negatively to the parts, and applying post facto justifications to account for why they don’t like the whole. This is hardly the only episode to shove the Doctor out of the way for large chunks of the episode, so I hope you have a similar criticism for “The Christmas Invasion.”

      I haven’t had the opportunity yet to see Quatermass and the Pit, but by now I’ve read enough about Kneale and his influence on (or theft by, depending on your take) Doctor Who that I know I ought to get around to it. I don’t doubt that what you say about its superior construction is true, and I’m looking forward to it.

      • Dave Sanders  June 26, 2012

        Actually, I have a similar criticism with quite a bit of RTD-Who; there are a number of episodes which, as scripted, seem to reinforce the idea that for all humanity’s potential, we’ll never amount to shit without some jovial two-hearted Christ figure to show us the way and save us from ourselves as much as any alien threat.

        • Davecw  June 26, 2012

          In RTD-Who it often seems that our only real potential is an inherent ability to survive, whatever the universe may throw at us.

        • encyclops  June 26, 2012

          Good to hear we’re on the same page there, at least. 🙂

          • charles yoakum  June 26, 2012

            then how do we explain those bloody awful road warrior rejects running around the utterly awful Utopia? RTD’s logic and science fell so utterly apart as to make the episode unwatchable until the last 10 minutes for a good Master reveal. You want end of the universe? at least Frontios tries, Utopia doesn/t. gack.

          • encyclops  June 28, 2012

            Charles, it’s been a while since I saw “Utopia.” I recall liking it at least as much as “The Sound of Drums” and much better than “The Last of the Time Lords,” but maybe that’s hindsight because the conclusion of that loose three-parter bothered me a lot more than its beginning. I really like “Frontios,” though — I don’t know if it does a better job with logic, science, and “end of the universe,” but I like it a lot.

            In case it wasn’t clear, I was agreeing with Dave Sanders’ comment about the RTD era. Maybe you meant to reply to Davecw’s comment rather than mine.

      • Dave Sanders  June 26, 2012

        Clearly, the atmosphere in Fendahl works very well, whether it’s pinched wholesale or not. It’s just doesn’t work (for me) as a story, and its fans, from what I’ve seen here, cite the former for its merit, but not the latter.

        However – and feel free to put this down to over-analysis if you like – the poor structure and characterisation leave another unintended and unpleasant aftertaste; on one level, Image Of The Fendahl can easily be seen as analogous to a rape fantasy. You’ve got a single female character in a clique of men, who has a overriding subconcious fear that she’s going to be violated in the most hideous way possible; she’s desperate for help, but doesn’t get it because it’s clumsily written out at the point where it would actually matter. When the inevitable act happens, it strips her of all humanity, and there’s no sense of justice in the ‘revenge’ (if you can even call it that) she takes, because she’s been turned into a literal monster and has to be put down because of it.

        • encyclops  June 26, 2012

          I’m not sure that reading would ever have occurred to me, but I don’t think it’s too far-fetched (and to be clear, overanalysis is what I call fun). I might take issue with the word “fantasy,” maybe, if only because it implies that enjoying this story means that you’re empathizing with the Fendahl rather than being frightened of it along with her. And yet there is a strange vicarious pleasure about her apotheosis that is difficult to account for, particularly since she’s not killing her actual violators and, as you point out, she’s been consumed, not empowered.

          I suspect we’re going to have some more very interesting conversations when we get to Peter Davison’s third story and its sequel. Those rate even higher among my favorites and lend themselves even more explicitly to the kind of reading you’re giving this one. Then again, I also love Captain Wrack and Chessene o’ the Franzine Grig, so there might be something else going on here entirely….

  24. Dave Sanders  June 25, 2012

    PS: The ‘general consensus’ is that the general consensus is talking shit. Or something. 🙂

  25. Doug  June 25, 2012

    “Tom Baker nearly took the camera out with that shot. It would have been a mercy killing.”

    That’s a T-Shirt!

  26. Mark Taylor  June 25, 2012

    Yep, Sue’s right, this one’s dull and boring. Never understood the love in some quarters for it.

    Either way, even if I don’t agree with her reactions/scores her points are usually pretty valid and always very entertaining. Keep going!!

  27. Sleazy Martinez  June 26, 2012

    I’m 100% with Sue on this one. Episode 1 is the most confusing cliffhanger since Jon, Bellal and that nice kitchen floor (or whatever it was).

    In 1976, my sister started her big Dr Who Scrapbook. It was filled with autographs, postcards, bits of the old Monster Book and a list of adventures that she added to as we went along. It speaks volumes that Fendahl is listed as “One With Skull”.

    To the correspondent who thinks the experiment should be wound up now because Sue isn’t paying attention: you’re lucky that you never had to watch Who with my dad. The constant mocking of my favourite programme was a staple from the 1970s until well into the 80s. Welcome to the world of the Not-We.

  28. Wholahoop  June 26, 2012


    • Bestbrian  June 26, 2012

      That Pot/Kettle/Black crack of yours should earn you at least one thrown cushion, Neil. 🙂

  29. Fuschia Begonia  June 26, 2012

    Not sure I’d have gone for a two, but it’s a nasty, bleak little story, particularly with the suicide element.

    Mind you, I only watched this last year and can’t remember much about it other than the glowing skull & the suicide, so that probably says it all. On the other hand, at least I didn’t mind sitting through it, unlike the next one which is proving to be a terrible struggle. I think this is about where I gave up in real life the first time round (but then, I was only about 7)

  30. Chris Too-old-to-watch  June 26, 2012

    Liked it when I saw it, and there are some good moments, but I love Sue’s take on the overall thing.
    Just goes to show that more ingredients don’t necessarily make a better fruit cake……

  31. Peter A  June 26, 2012

    “I Miss Dudley’s Marimbas”

    Can we have that on a mug, please? And can we send one to Murray Gold?

    • Wholahoop  June 26, 2012

      Should that be “I comma Miss Dudley’s Marimbas”?

      • Chris Too-old-to-watch  June 26, 2012

        Sounds like a great new pop group – “And now the latest hit from Miss Dudley’s Marimbas: Shake that Funky Jelly Baby”

  32. Jon Clarke  June 26, 2012

    I have always been frustrated by this story. It’s got great potential, lots of fantastic ideas, and is conceptually very scary, but sort of unravals a bit (assuming it was ever ravelled to start with).

    But don’t worry, lots of good stories to come.

  33. Robert Dick  June 26, 2012

    I’ve have genuinely never heard Adam Colby / Edward Arthur criticised until reading this blog. He’s one of the best (non-villain) guest character / turns in Dr Who. Whilst not quite at Snakedance level, this has one of the best ever ensemble Dr Who casts.

  34. John G  June 26, 2012

    I notice Sue seems to have ruffled a few feathers again with her views on this one, but I think she is pretty much right. I would give it a higher score than 2, beacuse it is a well made piece with some genuine atmosphere, but Boucher falls into the same trap as Face of Evil and presents some interesting ideas in an inaccessible, hard to follow plot which becomes an increasing chore to trudge through. I also dislike Adam Colby, and I don’t think the guest cast overall is that inspiring. For all its atmosphere, the story does give off the impression that the Gothic formula was starting to turn stale and that new creativity and imagination were called for. To his credit, Williams does try to provide these things during his tenure, though the results are very hit-and-miss (with the emphasis on miss in this particular season).

    I hope Sue is able to shake off the ennui she seems to be feeling at the moment (understandable during Season 15) and plough on with the experiment – after all, you have come way too far to stop now. I am in the camp that regards the show’s best days to be largely behind it at this point, but there are still a fair number of good-to-classic stories to come and it’s another 7 years yet before things really go belly-up. Besides, I want to read Sue’s reactions when they do…

  35. Chris Too-old-to-watch  June 26, 2012

    AT LAST: Sue has noticed (unlike nearly everybody else) that the “Jelly Babies” are nearly always Licquorice Allsorts. Occasionally they are (Face of Evil), but mostly they’re nor.

  36. Chris Too-old-to-watch  June 26, 2012

    With reference to actors from other series appearing: In the 1980’s I spent a lot of my time watching various regional reps. You could always tell an actor’s desperation when in the programme their previous work always included “Doctor Who”. Considering at the time it had been going for 20 years, you would have expected an awful lot of extras to have appeared somewhere or other.

  37. Erik Stadnik  June 26, 2012

    I actually really enjoy “Image of the Fendahl,” but it’s not really a traditional Doctor Who-type story. It’s DW story as actual horror movie, with an evil menace whose powers are beyond our comprehension and whose image is the cause of our shared nightmares nightmares. I think it’s rather special, but it’s certainly not for everyone. For me, it’s like “The Demons,” except good.

  38. DamonD  June 27, 2012

    Image has several good elements, but never quite comes together in a really satisfying way for me. I don’t think it’s a 2 but it does end up pretty middle of the road despite its strengths.

    Keep ruffling those feathers, Sue. Wasn’t the whole point of this to get a different perspective? And occasionally that can mean something beloved (or, okay, in Image’s case fairly liked) gets a trashing. Possibly an Ashley Cole boosted trashing, but still.

  39. Paul Mudie  June 28, 2012

    I could never be bothered with this one either, so I think Sue’s score is perfectly reasonable. The sets and lighting are nicely atmospheric, but everything else is very ho-hum and it’s one of those mediocre stories that I struggle to remember anything about.

  40. Tim Lister  June 29, 2012

    Hey Neil, there’s an error in the HTML link to this one. Clicking on the picture works fine but clicking on the text doesn’t because it’s missing the main web address. Sorry to post this here but I wasn’t sure how to send it to you privately.

  41. Frankymole  June 29, 2012

    The best biyt of this story is Glen Allen introducing it on UK Gold – it’s about the only off-air I have still got, as I had to record it twice due to the picture being all “snowy” due to rain interference on one transmission and the sound being dodgy on the other (again reception rather than any fault of UK Gold). Consequently it represents 1990s nostalgia for me far more than 70s when I would’ve remembered the skull and the giant Fendahleen (more for its terrifying noise than appearance), or the indifferent novelisation which makes for an okay quick read.

  42. Frankymole  June 30, 2012

    Sue: Oh, thank God. I thought that sound meant the Doctor needed to put some WD-40 on the TARDIS hinges. That’s a relief.

    The new series has the same “squeeeeak” effect EVERY. BLOODY. TIME. the door opens. Diabolically annoying once you notice it, and can never thereafter stop noticing it.

    As gor Fendleman’s Italian French German accent… perhap’s he’s Swiss? He is obsessed by chronological devices, after all.

  43. Dave Sanders  July 21, 2012

    With Robert Holmes preparing to chuck it all in and go freelance as well as writing his toys out of his pram at the taxman, it’s little wonder this story turned into Tales Of The Unedited.

    Oh boo yourselves.