Which One : “Life and death” chess.
Cast : The Doctor : Sylvester McCoy
Ace : Sophie Aldred
Dr Judson : Dinsdale Landen
Commander Millington : Alfred Lynch
Captain Bates : Stevan Rimkus
Sgt Leigh : Marcus Hutton
Perkins : Christien Anholt
Captain Sorin : Tomek Bork
Sgt Prozorov : Peter Czajowski
Vershinin : Marek Anton
Petrossian : Mark Conrad
Rev Wainwright : Nicholas Parsons
Miss Hardaker : Janet Henfrey
Jean : Joann Kenny
Phylis : Joanne Bell
Nurse Crane : Anne Reid
Kathleen Dudman : Cory Pulman
Baby Audrey : Aaron Hanley
Ancient Haemovore : Raymond Trickett
Written By : Ian Briggs
Produced By : JNT
First UK Broadcast : 25 October – 25 November 1989.
Length : 4 x 25 minute parts.
Plot : The Doctor and Ace visit a WWII Northumbrian Naval base; which is being used to crack German secret codes, using the ULTIMO computer. Meanwhile, a Russian Army unit have infiltrated the base, to steal ULTIMO for themselves. Base Commander Millington and Dr Judson have also been using ULTIMO, to decipher local Viking ruins in an attempt to learn the secret of “Fenric”.
Whats good : Ace is given some more characterisation and backstory. The Haemovore’s are an effective monster. The chess game between the Doctor and Fenric is an interesting battle of wills.
Whats bad : That this episode wasn’t made the final of Season 26 and the final episode ever. As it was the best season 26 had to offer.
Review With Spoilers : Curse Of Fenric was easily the best episode of season 26 and would have been a much better send off for Who, than the horrible; Survival.
It provided some more backstory for the Ace, involving meeting her much despised mother; Audrey – as a baby. She also finally overcame her fear of water. This character progression was a first for Who and was by far the best facet of season 26.
It also pitted the Doctor against the evil entity known as Fenric, who the Doctor had battled and imprisoned previously – nearly a thousand years ago.
“For 17 centuries I was trapped in the shadow dimensions because of him. He pulled bones from the dessert sands and carved them into chess pieces. He challenged me to solve his puzzle. I failed. Now I shall see him kneel before me… before I let him die!” Fenric
His return chess battle with Fenric, was a nice change to the usual final matchup with the badguy and was even more interesting due to the fact the Doctor lost this time and other events then decided the outcome.
The Seventh Doctor’s character had nicely shifted into the darker spectrum by this episode and he spent much of Curse Of Fenric taking a backseat to proceedings.
He was contemplative, introspective and broody. More so than the juggling and clowning from season 24. It worked much better for the tone and tension and is one reason why this episode worked so well.
The ending of Ace diving into the sea and overcoming her fear of water was a much better ending to the show than the tacked on voice-over of Survival and would have been a fitting end to the original run of the series.
Curse Of Fenric is easily the best episode of Season 26, and is a strong contender for the best McCoy episode ever.