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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Fruitcake, 17 Jun. 2013
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This review is from: Doctor Who - Image of the Fendahl [DVD] [1977] (DVD)
Phillip Hinchcliffe was out, Graham Williams was in, and Robert Holmes retained, for a while, and with stories like this - edited by Holmes and penned by his padawan learner, Chris Boucher, you'd hardly notice the difference.

There are four scientists in this house, and by the end of the story, only one will be left alive, just one - and it's the immensely likable Adam Colby, beautifully played by Edward Arthur - I wonder what happened to him.

The acting really carries this; the neat little ensemble cast really do shoulder the tale and run with it. It's hard to see what could have gone wrong - Dennis Lill, Scott Fredericks, Wanda Ventham as the other three scientists, and Geof Hinsliff as a little man with a hat and a shotgun. The scene where he makes friends with Leela is a delight to watch - in the midst of all this sinister madness about a prehistoric skull and a hole in time, two humans born worlds and centuries apart, just click. It's lovely.

And as if it couldn't get any better, Daphne Heard (just check her out as the senile nanny in Upstairs Downstairs - I know... but do it anyway) rises head and shoulders over the rest. As Louise Jameson says in The Making Of, 'An actress who really knew how to serve a text'. No mean praise from someone of Miss Jameson's standing.

It's as if (and I hope Mr Boucher will pardon the suggestion) the writer had watched Dr Who do Dennis Wheatley in The Daemons, and decided now to do HP Lovecraft, and instead of Damaris Hayman's brilliant and birdlike Miss Hawthorne, we get Daphne Heard as the dumpy, grumpy Granny Tyler.

Give the script its due; it's hard not to look at an old woman after someone's just threatened to set a dog on her, but by gum Granny hits back with 'Ain't a dog born that'd go for me, boy. They've got more sense than most people'. It's worth buying the DVD just to see this pitch-perfect performance. 'One day John, I'm going to be getting too old for all this'.

The plot is hokum, but so well constructed and delivered that it's quite palatable, with disbelief quite happily suspended - these are normal people, they argue about dinner, ride bicycles, own (vanishing) dogs named 'Leakey', so of course the skull must be real.

The VFX aren't great; the implosion fits where it touches, and the two baby Fendahleen are quite dodgy, though the full size version looks very good, and it doesn't seem to matter that there really is only one of them, because the fourth episode runs at such a clip that it's easy to believe that there's getting on for a dozen, and in any case it's the transformed Thea that's the really scary thing by then.

The Fifth Planet thing in Episode 3 is fairly flagrant padding, but that's forgivable as the rest of the story works so well, and the omission of K-9 (because they didn't know if they were keeping him or not) is a bit obvious, but the story is a triumph.

'The corpse; it's decomposing almost as you look at it'.

Brilliant.
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