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Doctor Who - The Curse of Fenric  [DVD] 
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This is one of the best Sylvester McCoy stories. The plot craftily borrows from John Carpenters 1979 chiller The Fog. Guest stars Nicholas Parsons as a vicar.
Doctor Who: The Curse of Fenric is one of the best of Sylvester McCoys Seventh Doctor adventures, a complex tale set around a naval installation on the North Yorkshire coast during WWII. The busy plot involves a Russian commando unit, a code-breaking computer, opening gambits in the Cold War, ancient Norse inscriptions concerning even more ancient evil, a new twist on vampirism, chess, global pollution and a creature from the end of human history. Key to all this is the theme of faith and a time paradox centred on Ace (Sophie Aldred), which ultimately turns out to be the resolution to mysteries that have haunted the Doctors companion all her life (they were first touched upon in 1987's Dragonfire, also written by Ian Briggs).
The show was shot entirely on location and has above average production values, generating tension and exciting set-pieces even when the plot threatens to get lost in its own tangles. Nicholas Parsons complements McCoy and Aldred by turning in a strong performance as the local minister and the tale pays homage to such horrors as Plague of the Zombies (1966), Night of the Living Dead (1968), and John Carpenters The Fog (1980) and Prince of Darkness (1987) with aplomb. Sadly there would only be one more story, the disappointing Survival (1989), before the BBC put the Doctor into suspended animation.
On the DVD: Doctor Who: The Curse of Fenric is presented in two versions on a truly remarkable two-disc set. Disc 1 contains the four original 25-minute episodes exactly as originally broadcast with stereo sound. Disc 2 offers a completely updated version of the Special Edition originally released on video in 1991. This 103-minute version is supervised by composer Mark Ayres and follows director Nicholas Malletts original cut. The episodes are edited like a feature film and incorporate approximately 10 minutes of extra story material. The picture has been regraded and the sound remixed into full Dolby Digital 5.1 by Mark Ayres using the original stereo sound elements and his music files. The result is a massive improvement over the original series' episodes.
Disc 1 also includes an informative commentary with McCoy, Aldred and Parsons and an isolated score. There is the usual information text, scored photo gallery and subtitles for the episodes and the commentary. "Modelling the Dead" shows Sue Moore and Stephen Mansfield making the Haemovore masks; "Claws and Effect" shows the BBC Special Effects unit on location; also included are 20 minutes of highlights from the 1990 Nebula 90 SF convention with Aldred, Ayres, Briggs, Tomek Bork, Joann Kenny, Mansfield and Moore, while "Take Two" is a four-minute piece on the story presented by Phillip Schofield. Disc 2 also features "Shattering the Chains" (an excellent analysis of the show by writer Ian Briggs), "Recutting the Runes" (a fascinating interview with Mark Ayres on preparing the Special Edition) and a good interview with costume designer Ken Trew. --Gary S DalkinSee all Product description
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Ace is also introduced to a direct ancestor and a whole slew of relatives she'd never had any idea ever existed.
When the full horror is exposed, the Doctor has to make sure that a chess game is not completed but he'd not taken account of Ace.
I quite liked this on original transmission but on watching the DVD release, I found it very slow and Sylvester McCoy, as the Doctor appeared to be practically guiding Sophie Aldred through the story virtually by the hand. The transformed humans and the haemovores from the future weren't too bad, though the latter were a tad overly heavy looking in my opinion. This was the first time that I've seen Nicholas Parsons in an acting role and I have to say he was quite good.
The attempt to make the Doctor even more mysterious than being 'merely' a Time Lord was well underway by this story, something the Doctor Who team was attempting in order to boost the Doctor's flagging popularity. Unfortunately, they had left it too late and _Curse of Fenric_ proved to be the penultimate Doctor Who story for seven years.
Uncle Sylvester is the dark doctor to a tee, especially effective as he "rejects" Ace. Sophie gets to play Ace reacting to seeing her family history come alive. Does she inadvertantly engineer her own future?
A top notch guest cast with Alfred Lynch as the thoroughly unpleasant Millington, Dinsdale Landen as a sightly unnerving scientist/codebreaker and ....(watch it to find out) plus Nicholas Parsons as a priest who doubts his own faith. I'm not a fan of stunt casting (Ken Dodd-aarrhggh!) but the old gameshow host gives a beautiful performance. I can't mention them all but there are no bad turns here and watch for Anne Reid of "Smith & Jones" fame (obviously she's got a thing about blood sucking menaces!).
Great monsters, when the Haemovores rise out of the sea it's a standout moment and in fact a pretty well directed tale all round.
A slight demerit for the business of revealing why the Doctor moved a chess piece in Lady Peinforte's study the year before (in Silver Nemesis). Without a clip or better explanation it's just a pointless throwaway reference really.
All in all the last classic for the epic original run of the Police Box Show.
We get a feature length special edition (different to the extended video version) as well as the broadcast version and there are some interesting differences but there's still not much to choose between them for overall quality. A featurette discusses putting together the special version.
There's a master class in making Haemovores, a location recce'that makes it look a terrible place and a vintage piece from a kids show about filming the story.
A convention panel reunites most of the cast and the writer and gives an insight into making the story with plenty of good stories e.g. Sophie's dip in a freezing sea.
To top it off there's a charming commentary with Sylv, Sophie and Nicholas Parsons all justly proud of this story.
I doubt Uncle Sylvester will get a better release.
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