Rather like an apple
riddled with small holes, you know there could be a maggot in there somewhere
and you are reticent to bite into it, I always held the Sylvester McCoy seasons
at bay (and, due to boredom, probably the first season not wholly watched since
seems to be everywhere (TIME AND THE RANI, PARADISE
TOWERS, DELTA AND THE BANNERMEN, THE HAPPINESS
PATROL) though adulterated apples being few
and far between.
CURSE OF FENRIC is one such infestation-free DOCTOR WHO.
After such turmoil and uncertainty over the previous 3 years, it is regarded
that with season twenty-six of DOCTOR WHO was again on top form
(the last 3 stories being exceptional in execution), complete with a seemingly ‘darker’ characterised
DVD package has been extended include a ‘feature length’ cut (wanted
by the Director, the late Nicholas Mallett.), with previously deleted scenes
and a re-structured score by Mark Ayres. Whilst this spices-up the original,
adopting the epithet of ‘movie’ is stretching it, due to the fact
it was shot in an episodic format and removing/shuffling cliffhangers does not
make it cinematic in pace. It’s an okay job done on a superior DOCTOR
DVD extra, RECUTTING THE RUNES explains why in fact the ‘special
edition’ was created at all. Technically the discussion is absorbing, Ayres
delineating the process of filmmaking and the expectations of Mallett.
behind-the-scenes of, as it was, THE WOLVES OF FENRIC, the BBC
children’s magazine show, TAKE 2, uncovers how the special
effects were created and why John Nathan-Turner censored eyes dropping out of
the socket of dying ‘vampires’. Surely, wilful slaughter of animals
within a poison gas chamber was equally horrific, if not more based within reality?
in tandem with this, CLAWS & EFFECTS follows the production
crew on an initial recce to numerous locations and some second unit filming (underwater
shots). “We can do anything if you give us the money”, can
be heard by a FX man off camera, and this gives the hardened DOCTOR WHO fan
an idea how little the BBC invested in the programme and how hard the crew worked
to create it. If anything THE CURSE OF FENRIC is testament to
their skill, ingenuity and passion.
charming and erudite Ken Trew recalls the diversity of costume design required
for the shoot, the naming of Haemovores (“we had a Mrs Mopp”),
and how the local hardware store “must have thought it was Christmas”.
studio commentary by McCoy and Aldred, joined by Nicholas Parsons is biased toward
the tit-bit recollections as opposed to the technicality of the story (though
Parson’s is surprisingly complementary about his involvement and the DOCTOR
WHO brand itself).
DVD commentary can, like this one, be narcissistic
unless a balance of critique versus fun is struck; the ideal combination is an ‘actor
+ writer + producer/director’.