Image of the Fendahl (1977)

Image of the Fendahl is a very strange story in that it is very dull but is at the sametime very watchable. This is the third story from Chris Boucher in the space of a year and its very different from The Face of Evil and The Robots of Death in that it has a earth settin with familiar things like proper chairs and tables and scientists in white coats and some very dodgy accents. The story takes place in a village called Fetchborough where four scientist are working on a skull that they found in Kenya which is apparently over twelve million years old. It’s not long before things start going wrong and the race if on to stop the Fendahl.

With its very dark and gothic story you’d be forgiven for thinking that this was a Philip Hinchcliffe story and not a Graham Williams and whilst the story itself is fairly dull it’s the cast that makes this story what it is. Lets start with Wanda Ventham who is just brilliant at the beginning. As Thea Ransome she seems to be the most normal member of the science crew. She is really good as Thea but then in the latter half become the Fendahl Core she goes into a different style of performing. I also liked Denis Lill as Doctor Fendelman who puts on the oddest accent that I have ever heard. It’s quite funny to think that these two would go on to play the parents of Cassandra in the BBC Comedy ‘Only Fools and Horses’. Lill has to spend the early part of this story playing to fans potential theries that because his character’s name is close to the name in the title that he would become the bad guy but this a nice little red herring thrown in by Boucher. Another familiar face that appears in this story is that of Geoff Hinsliff who would play Don Brennan in the ITV soap Coronation Street from 1987 to 1997. In this story he plays the son Jack Tyler who’s mother is quite the strict person. He is involved in one of the most bizarre cliffhangers in Doctor Who history. I thought that the person playing his mother was far more entertaining. Daphne Heard played Martha Tyler like a very typical TV mother. She starts off a very odd but then by the half way stage she develops into a very fun and likeable character and when the story starts to get bogged down its good that she was there to provide some entertainment.

There is something about Louise Jameson in this story that doesn’t quite work. I think it might be her outfit or it might be the fact that she seems to be wearing more make up than she usually does. She massive brown stains on her cheeks which become distracting as well as her hair being up as opposed to down which is how she normally has it. Now it could be argued that this is the Doctor’s continuing attempt to make Leela more civilised but I just think that if your going to change someone then go the full hog and just dress her up like she was in Horror of Fang Rock and Talons of Weng-Chiang. This just made Jameson look odd. Performance wise, Jameson is on very good form and is on par with Baker who seems to be growing in confidence to make the Doctor more comedic than he has ever been.

The design of the Fendahl is very impressive and way better than that stupid looking prawn in ‘The Invisible Enemy’. It’s only when it moves that it becomes a little bit silly but when you see it and you look at pictures of it you cant help but be impressed with it. Jokes are made about how rubbish some monsters are but on this occasion a lot of time and effort has gone into making the Fendhal creature look as good as it can.

The story begins and ends with scenes featuring K9. The ‘loveable’ tin dog who debuted in the previous story doesn’t feature quite as prominently as I thought he would which says to me that his introduction to the TARDIS crew was a very late addition. I have to say that I am glad because I really couldn’t see the point of K9 and thankfully this story doesn’t lose anything from not having him in it. Image of the Fendahl is a story the benefits from some really good directing but the main problem with the story is that it isnt very interesting and its only because of the performances that makes this story worth watching.

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