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Serial 4X:
Image Of The Fendahl

Plot

The activation of a time scanner draws the Doctor, Leela and K-9 to modern-day Earth, where a team of scientists has uncovered an ancient skull. The skull is that of the Fendahl, a creature which thrives on death and which was thought to have been destroyed by the Time Lords. One of the scientists, Thea Ransome, is converted into a host for the Fendahl, and she creates minions -- the deadly Fendahleen -- to deliver her lethal message across the planet.

Production

Ironically, the final Doctor Who story to be made under the aegis of script editor Robert Holmes would also be the last, for all intents and purposes, in the Gothic tradition he had established with former producer Philip Hinchcliffe. This was Image Of The Fendahl, which was commissioned from Chris Boucher on May 2nd, 1977. Boucher had written two consecutive stories -- The Face Of Evil and The Robots Of Death -- for Season Fourteen and had greatly impressed Holmes. Indeed, at about the same time, he recommended Boucher as script editor for the fledgling BBC science-fiction series Blake's 7, a job that Holmes himself had declined because he wanted to return to freelance writing full-time.

For Image Of The Fendahl, Boucher was influenced by the 1967 film version of Quatermass And The Pit, most obviously with the inclusion of a group of scientists who discover a skull which predates humanity. Boucher also recalled a short story he had read about aliens accelerating mankind's evolution for their own purposes. During the making of The Invisible Enemy in April, the principal Doctor Who cast had unexpectedly expanded by one member when it was decided to keep K-9 on the programme. Since Boucher was unfamiliar with the character, however, it was agreed that the robot dog would appear only fleetingly in Image Of The Fendahl. K-9 would be mute in these scenes, and so John Leeson (who provided his voice) would not be required.

As development of his scripts proceeded during the summer, Boucher found that his new job on Blake's 7 was consuming much of his time. With Holmes leaving Doctor Who in July, this left incoming script editor Anthony Read to perform many of the final rewrites. To this point, Image Of The Fendahl had been planned as the fourth story of the season, both in the recording and broadcast line-ups. With the early part of the transmission schedule disrupted due to production problems on Horror Of Fang Rock, however, it was now decided that Image Of The Fendahl would become the third serial to air, coming between The Invisible Enemy and The Sun Makers, both of which were set on human colonies. Nonetheless, it would remain the fourth adventure to go before the cameras, and hence was designated Serial 4X.

Because Boucher was still a relative newcomer to scriptwriting, he had inadvertently included several night scenes in Image Of The Fendahl, without realising the expense and production difficulties these entailed. Instead of asking Boucher to revise his storyline, Doctor Who producer Graham Williams instead decided to assign Serial 4X to a veteran director with considerable experience in such matters, to ensure that these sequences were completed as efficiently as possible. This was George Spenton-Foster, who had been both a producer and a director on shows like Out Of The Unknown and Thirty Minute Theatre, and had also helmed episodes of Dr Finlay's Casebook, Paul Temple and Survivors, amongst others.

Unusually, it was decided that Louise Jameson should wear her hair up as Leela in Image Of The Fendahl, because the BBC stylist had accidentally cut it too short. This was not the only miscue to arise in connection with Serial 4X. For years after the broadcast of Season Fifteen, Doctor Who fandom was led to believe that a story called “The Island Of Fandor” had been dropped from the schedule at the last minute. In fact, Gordon Blows -- editor of TARDIS, the leading fan publication at the time -- had simply misheard the title of Image Of The Fendahl during a telephone conversation.

Location filming for Serial 4X saw Doctor Who return to Stargrove Manor in East End, Hamphire, which had also been employed for Pyramids Of Mars two years earlier. Work there spanned August 1st to 4th. Unfortunately, the shoot did not go entirely smoothly, despite Spenton-Foster's experience: on the night of August 2nd, while filming material set in Fetch Wood, the generator which powered the lighting equipment caught fire. Fortunately, a replacement was obtained from London quickly enough to finish the required sequences before dawn.

Studio recording for Image Of The Fendahl then began with a two-day session on August 20th and 21st, in BBC Television Centre Studio 6. These were devoted to episodes one and two, respectively, with only part two's climactic confrontation between Thea and Max omitted. The part three scene in the Priory kitchen was also taped on the 21st. Meanwhile, the Fendahleen costumes were in preparation for the second studio block. Concerns now arose that these were too phallic in appearance, and so the ribbing effect was added to mute this impression.

The rest of Image Of The Fendahl was recorded between September 4th and 6th, again in TC6. The 4th dealt with the conclusion of episode two, as well as the majority of the third installment, leaving the scenes in the large cellar for the next day. Also recorded on the 5th was part four material which involved Wanda Ventham as Thea Ransome, prior to her transformation. September 6th then saw the completion of the final installment, encompassing the latter stages of the episode in which Ventham played the Fendahl Core.

Image Of The Fendahl was Boucher's last Doctor Who serial. Shortly afterward, he began discussions with Williams and Read about an adventure set in a remote Earth outpost under attack. This was quickly vetoed by BBC Head of Drama Ronnie Marsh, who wanted to keep the writing staffs of Doctor Who and Blake's 7 separate. In 1985, Boucher made a further story suggestion to script editor Eric Saward, but this was not taken up. After leaving Blake's 7, Boucher continued writing and script editing, working on programmes such as Juliet Bravo, Bergerac and The Bill. He also created the science-fiction programme Star Cops. Boucher finally returned to Doctor Who via BBC Books' line of novels, writing four books between 1998 and 2005, starting with Last Man Running. He was also involved with the Magic Bullet Productions audio series Kaldor City, which combined elements from both The Robots Of Death and Blake's 7.

The transmission of Image Of The Fendahl part four marked the last time that Robert Holmes was credited as Doctor Who's script editor. (Although Anthony Read had also worked on the serial, he would not receive his first on-screen acknowledgment until the next story in production, Underworld.) Holmes would maintain close ties with the programme, however, contributing two more serials for Season Sixteen, and several further stories in the mid-Eighties. Holmes remained a prolific writer for other programmes, as well, including Blake's 7, The Nightmare Man, Juliet Bravo and Bergerac, and served as script editor on Armchair Thriller and Shoestring. Holmes also novelised his script for The Two Doctors for Target Books. He passed away on May 24th, 1986, after a brief illness, partway through work on his final Doctor Who adventure, the conclusing segment of The Trial Of A Time Lord.

Sources
  • Doctor Who: The Handbook: The Fourth Doctor by David J Howe, Mark Stammers and Stephen James Walker (1992), Virgin Publishing, ISBN 0 426 20369 8.
  • Doctor Who: The Seventies by David J Howe, Mark Stammers and Stephen James Walker (1994), Virgin Publishing, ISBN 1 85227 444 1.
  • Doctor Who Magazine #197, 17th March 1993, “Archive: Image Of The Fendahl” by Andrew Pixley, Marvel Comics UK Ltd.
  • Doctor Who Magazine Special Edition #8, 1st September 2004, “Nobody Does It Better” by Andrew Pixley, Panini Publishing Ltd.
  • In-Vision #26, August 1990, “Production” edited by Justin Richards and Peter Anghelides, Cybermark Services.

Original Transmission
Episode 1
Date 29th Oct 1977
Time 6.12pm
Duration 24'38"
Viewers (more) 6.7m (70th)
· BBC1 6.7m
Episode 2
Date 5th Nov 1977
Time 6.10pm
Duration 24'44"
Viewers (more) 7.5m (64th)
· BBC1 7.5m
Appreciation 75%
Episode 3
Date 12th Nov 1977
Time 6.07pm
Duration 24'22"
Viewers (more) 7.9m (63rd)
· BBC1 7.9m
Episode 4
Date 19th Nov 1977
Time 6.14pm
Duration 20'32"
Viewers (more) 9.1m (46th)
· BBC1 9.1m
Appreciation 61%


Cast
Doctor Who
Tom Baker
Leela
Louise Jameson
Thea Ransome
Wanda Ventham
(more)
Martha Tyler
Daphne Heard
Dr Fendelman
Denis Lill
Ted Moss
Edward Evans
Maximillian Stael
Scott Fredericks
Adam Colby
Edward Arthur
David Mitchell
Derek Martin
Hiker
Graham Simpson
Jack Tyler
Geoffrey Hinsliff


Crew
Written by
Chris Boucher
Directed by
George Spenton-Foster
Produced by
Graham Williams
(more)

Incidental Music by
Dudley Simpson
Production Assistant
Prue Saenger
Production Unit Manager
John Nathan-Turner
Lighting
Jim Purdie
Sound
Alan Fogg
Film Cameraman
Elmer Cossey
Film Recordist
Bill Meekums
Visual Effects Designer
Colin Mapson
Special Sound
Dick Mills
Costume Designer
Amy Roberts
Make Up Artist
Pauline Cox
Script Editor
Robert Holmes
Designer
Anna Ridley


Media
DVD Release
Doctor Who: Image Of The Fendahl (2009)
Buy: Canada · UK · USA
Novelisation
Doctor Who and The Image Of The Fendahl by Terrance Dicks (1979)

Updated 10th September 2009