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A Haemovore Serial 7M:
The Curse Of Fenric

Working Titles: Powerplay, Wolf-Time, The Wolves Of Fenric.

Starring: Sylvester McCoy (The Seventh Doctor), Sophie Aldred (Ace).

Plot
The Doctor and Ace land in England during World War II, at a secret seaside base which houses the Ultima Machine, a powerful codebreaking device. But disturbances plague the installation: Russians are trying to steal the Ultima, mysterious Viking runes are found in a church crypt, and vampiric Haemovores are rising from the ocean. The Doctor discovers his ancient foe, Fenric, has manipulated events in order to gain his freedom. And central to Fenric's schemes is none other than Ace.

Production
Following the tumultuous production of Season Twenty-Three in 1986, Doctor Who producer John Nathan-Turner had requested -- not for the first time -- that he be transferred to a different BBC programme. His request had been granted and then retracted, and having no other option, Nathan-Turner remained for Season Twenty-Four. He was more compliant when it came to Doctor Who's silver anniversary season in 1988, but was adamant that this would be his last year on the show. Producer Paul Stone, who was responsible for such fantasy programming as The Box Of Delights, was apparently offered the post, but turned it down and left the BBC shortly thereafter. Nathan-Turner once again faced an ultimatum: produce Doctor Who or quit the Corporation. Reluctantly, Nathan-Turner was back at the helm for a ninth season.

Meanwhile, in May 1988 Ian Briggs began discussions with script editor Andrew Cartmel about a new storyline for Season Twenty-Six. Briggs had contributed the rather lightweight Dragonfire for the twenty-fourth season, and wanted to try his hand at something more atmospheric, preferably with a period setting. His original suggestion of the 1970s was dismissed by Cartmel as being too recent, but the pair subsequently agreed on an adventure set during the Second World War on the coast of Britain. Briggs wanted his interest in the dawn of the computer age, as well as vampire legends (particularly as popularised in Bram Stoker's 1897 novel Dracula) and Norse mythology. From the latter, he found his most notable influence in the wolf-monster Fenrir (also called Fenris or Fenrisulfr), who was mystically bound to a rock by the gods until the Ragnarok (literally, "the twilight of the gods").

Wolf-Time was commissioned on November 9th, and was retitled The Wolves Of Fenric shortly before New Year's 1989. It was originally to be recorded second, after Battlefield, and directed by Michael Kerrigan. However, actor Nicholas Courtney was required for Battlefield and would not be available until after the planned recording dates. Consequently, the two serials exchanged production slots and directors, with Nicholas Mallett -- who had last worked on Paradise Towers two years earlier -- taking over Wolves. Unfortunately, this left Briggs with a month less time to write his scripts than he originally believed, forcing him to complete work on the final two episodes far more quickly than normal. Minor but noteworthy changes at this stage were the elimination of any reference to Ragnarok (at Cartmel's request, in order to avoid confusion with the Gods of Ragnarok who appeared in Season Twenty-Five's The Greatest Show In The Galaxy) and a line of dialogue in part one indicating that Ace was not a virgin. (The latter was actually specified in the character outline Briggs had written for Ace -- whom he had created for Dragonfire -- which specified that she had had sex with the space pirate Sabalom Glitz.) Also, the Doctor was originally to recite the names of his past companions (beginning with Susan) as the focus for his faith in episode three.

Serial 7M was originally to be made with the mix of location and studio work standard on a McCoy-era four-parter. The scenes for the naval base exterior, the graveyard and the shore would be done on Outside Broadcast between April 1st and 11th, to be followed by three days in the studio beginning on April 25th. However, Mallett believed that the entire serial could be recorded during a single location shoot from the 3rd to the 20th of April without any need for studio time at all. This would save money because the cast would not have to be booked for as long. Nathan-Turner agreed, and Briggs performed some minor rewriting to take this into account.

Sylvester McCoy was given a new costume for Season Twenty-Six, with a darker jacket, hatband, tie and handkerchief to reflect the gradual development of the Seventh Doctor's personality. To surprise viewers with the revised outfit, it was decided the Doctor would begin the serial wearing a duffel coat over his regular clothes -- the belief at this time being that The Wolves Of Fenric would lead off the season. Later however, it was pushed back to third in transmission order, meaning that the effort went for naught, as the costume had already been seen in the first two serials.

Around the start of April, shortly before production began, Nathan-Turner pointed out to Briggs that the explanation of the term "wolves" did not come until episode four, and that the story's title might therefore confuse viewers. Briggs' suggested changing it to The Curse Of Fenric, although some publicity material would continue to bear the earlier title. Location work began at the Ministry of Defense training camp in Crowborough, East Sussex. Unfortunately, the weather played havoc with the production throughout the shoot. To compensate, Briggs rewrote some sections, such as giving Ace lines of dialogue to verbally indicate the heat. The bad weather also put cast and crew well behind schedule, and Nathan-Turner once again stepped in to direct a second camera unit to alleviate some of the pressure from Mallett.

After leaving Crowborough, various locations around Hawkhurst, in Kent, were visited, followed by Lulworth Cove in Dorset. April 19th was the date that the scene of the Haemovores rising up out of the water was filmed, and unfortunately the costumes proved prone to trapping air, and thus becoming difficult to submerge. Ultimately, the actors were given rocks to hold onto to keep themselves underwater. Amongst the extras playing Haemovores were McCoy's sons Sam and Joe Kent-Smith.

One major mishap occurred just prior to editing, when a videotape containing various close-up and insert shots was accidentally wiped. At that point, there was no way Mallett could go back and rerecord the material, and so he was forced to work without it. Amongst the losses were shots establishing that Haemovores leave behind a green blob when they are destroyed. Only a lone such remnant would have been seen in the gas chamber after the Ancient Haemovore attacks Fenric, implying that although the former had died, Fenric had found a way to escape.

After the first edits were compiled, The Curse Of Fenric was found to exceed its allotted time spectacularly, especially part four. Indeed, at one point it was thought that the serial could be reedited into five episodes, but the total overrun of about twelve minutes was not really sufficient to warrant another installment, and Briggs was concerned that this would destroy the dramatic pacing of the adventure. In the end, several important scenes had to be removed or drastically trimmed, including the information about the British troops' code from episode one (explaining the extant reference to "the House Guests" in part three), a scene of soldiers staking Haemovores on the church roof from episode three, and more of the confrontation between the Doctor and the Ancient Haemovore from episode four.

The Curse Of Fenric was the final Doctor Who work for both Nicholas Mallett and Ian Briggs. Mallett continues to direct, having contributed to programmes including EastEnders, Lovejoy and The Bill. Briggs has spent time both acting and writing, the latter for series such as Casualty and The Bill. Briggs was also originally asked to write the fourth and concluding novel in the Timewyrm story arc which began Virgin Publishing's The New Adventures range of original Doctor Who fiction in 1991. Ultimately, however, this did not come to pass.

Details
Original Transmission Details
Episode Date Time Duration Viewers Audience App.
1 25th October 1989 7.34pm 24'23" 4.3m 67%
2 1st November 1989 7.34pm 24'09" 4.0m 68%
3 8th November 1989 7.34pm 24'11" 4.0m 68%
4 15th November 1989 7.35pm 24'16" 4.2m 68%
Due to the low viewing figures for this serial, the exact chart ranking of each episode is unknown.

Principal Crew
Producer John Nathan-Turner
Script Editor Andrew Cartmel
Writer Ian Briggs
Directors Nicholas Mallett
John Nathan-Turner, uncredited
Designer David Laskey
Costume Ken Trew
Incidental Music Mark Ayres

Principal Guest Cast: Mark Anton (Vershinin), Joanne Bell (Phyllis), Tomek Bork (Captain Sorin), Joann Kenny (Jean), Dinsdale Landen (Dr Judson), Alfred Lynch (Commander Millington), Nicholas Parsons (Reverend Wainwright), Cory Pulman (Kathleen Dudman), Stevan Rimkus (Captain Bates), Raymond Trickett (Ancient Haemovore).

Novelisation: The Curse Of Fenric by Ian Briggs (book 151), November 1990; cover by Alister Pearson.

Video Release: The Curse Of Fenric, episodic format, February 1991; PAL (BBC Video cat.# 4453) and NTSC (Warners cat.# E1099) formats available; cover by Alister Pearson. Numerous deleted scenes are included, amounting to approximately six minutes' worth of material. One significant scene not added to this extended version is the sequence in which British troops stake some Haemovores, because it would have prevented the region from receiving a "PG" rating.

DVD Release: The Curse Of Fenric, episodic format, October 2003; two discs; Region 2/4 (BBCDVD cat.# 1154); photomontage cover. Extras include a brand-new movie-format special edition, with roughly ten minutes of added material and remixed stereo sound; commentary by Sylvester McCoy, Sophie Aldred and Nicholas Parsons (available both as an audio track and as subtitles), Modelling The Dead (a featurette about the making of the Haemovore masks), Claws And Effect (a featurette about the BBC Special Effects team on location), highlights from the Nebula 90 convention in 1990, featuring Sophie Aldred, Mark Ayres, Ian Briggs, Tomek Bork, Joann Kenny, Stephen Mansfield and Sue Moore, Take Two (a piece on the story presented by Phillip Schofield), Shattering The Cahins (a featurette in which Briggs analyses the story), Recutting The Ruins (an interview with Ayres about the special edition), an interview with costume designer Ken Trew, a photo gallery, and production information subtitles.

Rankings: 10th (78.13%, Doctor Who Dynamic Rankings website, 22nd June 1999); 12th (82.75%, DWM 1997 Annual Survey).

Sources


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