The Curse of Fenric (TV story)

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The Curse of Fenric was the third and penultimate serial of season 26 of Doctor Who. It revealed that the events of Ace's arrival in the Seventh Doctor's life, and the uncanny chance of their secondary foe during Silver Nemesis using proper time travel, were all part of an evil entity's plan to release itself and gain revenge on the Doctor for imprisoning it in its flask. The chessboard from Silver Nemesis was also a hint; the Doctor had initially beaten Fenric by using an unsolvable chess problem.

This story revealed the Seventh Doctor's deceitful qualities much more than he had demonstrated them in earlier adventures, and the repercussions his manipulative schemes had on people; specifically, when he did what he thought was best for their sake without their consent, but his actions damaged them.

On 23 November 2019, a special edition of this story was shown at BFI Southbank along with a Q&A with Sophie Aldred and script editor Andrew Cartmel.[1][2] In 2020, The Curse of Fenric became part of the Time Lord Victorious multimedia event.

As part of the 60th anniversary celebrations in November 2023, the story was re-released as the sixth episode of Tales of the TARDIS. Each serial within it was edited together to form a single episode. Newly filmed material with the serial's original cast bookends each episode. (TV: The Curse of Fenric)


The TARDIS materialises at a secret naval base off the coast of Northumberland during the Second World War. Dr. Judson, a scientist there, has created the Ultima Machine, an early computer designed to break German codes. But Judson also has a much more sinister use for the machine. He plans to translate the ancient runes in a crypt of the nearby St. Jude's Church, which will release Fenric, an evil entity from the dawn of time whom the Doctor trapped seventeen centuries earlier.

As Fenric's Haemovores attack, the Doctor must once again face the entity in a battle which will reveal devastating truths for Ace...


Part one[[edit]]

During World War II, two dinghies manned by Soviet soldiers row towards Maiden's Point on the English Northumberland coast, but one gets lost in the fog. Nearby, the TARDIS materialises, and the Seventh Doctor and Ace step out. The Doctor claims that this is a top-secret naval installation, but Ace seems doubtful, stating that it should not be so easy to trespass. Indeed, only a few steps later they are confronted by armed guards. The Doctor befuddles the guards by complaining that it took them long enough and insulting their discipline and then asks them where Dr. Judson's office is.

Going to see Judson, who uses a wheelchair, the Doctor ingratiates himself with him by recognising the Prisoner's Dilemma which Judson has on a blackboard. Ace, too, impresses Judson by identifying a logic game that he also has mapped out. By the time the guard commander arrives to confront the Doctor and Ace about their unauthorised presence, the Doctor has already forged letters of authority from the Prime Minister and the Head of the Secret Service.

The Soviets, meanwhile, have discovered the sole survivor of the other dinghy, delirious and pale. The Soviet commander, Captain Sorin, asks the survivor where the sealed orders are but he is unable to answer. The orders are discovered washed up on the shore by another Soviet soldier. Inside is a photograph of Judson, but something in the water kills the soldier before he can bring the orders back to Sorin.

The Doctor and Ace have been put in barracks. The Doctor tells Ace to go to bed while he walks around the grounds, noting to a guard that eyes are watching.

The next morning, the Reverend Mr. Wainwright finishes his service, speaking to a local spinster, Miss Hardaker, and her two charges, Jean and Phyllis, evacuees from the East End of London. The Doctor and Ace show up, looking for Judson, who is working on Viking inscriptions in the crypt of the church. Ace strikes up a conversation with Jean and Phyllis and makes an appointment to meet up with them later at Maiden's Point. As they enter the crypt, Ace notices a lot of silver around and says it might get stolen. Wainwright assures her that the locals are too frightened of the Viking curse: the church was built on old Viking graves, and they say evil was once buried here. In the crypt, Judson is confident that the ULTIMA code machine, which he is using to decipher German intercepts, will be able to crack the inscriptions. Ace tells the Doctor she hears the sound of machinery, but the Doctor dismisses it as the sounds of the church organ.

The Doctor and Ace visit the churchyard and note that it contains graves of descendants of Vikings. When they go to Maiden's Point, they find the open packet of the sealed orders and realise that there are Soviet soldiers about. The Doctor decides to go back to the church and warns Ace not to go into the water. He finds Wainwright in the church and correctly guesses that someone has already deciphered the inscriptions. Wainwright shows the Doctor a translation made by his grandfather, speaking of a curse following the Vikings who came here carrying Oriental treasure. They wished to go back to the "North Way" but the curse claimed their lives at Maiden's Bay. The Doctor reads part of the Soviet orders that mentions Norway, the "North Way", and takes the translation to Judson.

Ace returns to the Doctor and they continue looking around the base. They come across the room where some WRNS are listening to coded transmissions. One of the WRNS, Kathleen Dudman, has a baby whom Ace takes to even though she is named Audrey, the same as Ace's mother, whom she hates. Millington, however, is not as sympathetic, and orders Kathleen to get Audrey off the base within 24 hours or face dismissal from the service. Exploring further, the Doctor and Ace enter Millington's office, a perfect replica of the German cipher room in Berlin, where he tries to divine the mind of the enemy. There are two differences, though: a picture that shows that Judson and Millington went to school together, and a Viking-themed chess set.

In his office, Judson continues to read the translation, which tells of the final battle of the gods at the end of the world, which Millington seems to believe is nigh. As he reads, new runes appear burning into the wall of the vault, and a creature hiding behind a ruined Viking ship stirs. While searching Maiden's Point for more clues, Ace and the Doctor find the body of the soldier who found the orders earlier, with a strange object in his hand. They are then confronted at gunpoint by the other Soviets.

Part two[[edit]]

The soldiers take them back to Sorin once they discover that the Doctor and Ace know about their sealed orders. The Doctor tells Sorin that an assault on the base will be suicidal, and letting them go to investigate further is the only way to stop the evil that is killing his men. Already another soldier has been attacked and is delirious, holding on to a similar object which he hands to the Doctor.

In the meantime, Judson is carried away from deciphering the new inscriptions by his nurse, Crane, who finds the crypt too cold for an invalid. Millington insists that Judson use the ULTIMA to decode the inscriptions, even though it is needed for the German intercepts. The Doctor and Ace return to the crypt, noticing the new inscriptions. Remembering the machinery Ace heard earlier, they look for a secret door, but Millington finds them first, taking them at gunpoint into the hidden passages connected to the church. Inside, men are mining toxins from a natural source, a chemical weapon to end the war. The Doctor makes an allusion to the Well of Hvergelmir, where serpents spew their venom over the roots of Yggdrasil. This persuades Millington that the Doctor believes in Norse mythology as he does, and offers to show the Doctor all of it. The Doctor goes with Millington to the ULTIMA, leaving Ace behind in the church to talk to Wainwright, who seems to have lost his faith in humanity. He also says the church has lost its sense of sacredness.

At the ULTIMA, Millington reveals that the computer is bait for the Soviets, with a beaker of toxin hidden inside the machine. Millington shows the Doctor a room with row on row of shells, and an isolation chamber to test the toxin. As a demonstration, he breaks a vial inside the chamber, killing a cage of pigeons. The plan is to let the Soviets take the ULTIMA, and when they try to decrypt the British codes, a single word, "Love", implanted in a cipher will detonate the beaker.

In the crypt, a wall shakes open of its own accord, revealing an ancient looking urn, which is cast aside by the soldiers working there to seal up the church. At Maiden's Point, Jean and Phyllis enter the water again, fully dressed (Miss Hardaker having earlier confiscated their bathing suits) and splashing around, as a mist drifts into the bay. When it clears, the girls have disappeared.

Millington is informed that the operations at the church are being closed down, and he orders that all radio transmitters and outside telephone lines be disabled and any chess sets in the camp be burnt. Judson starts to decrypt the inscription and the ULTIMA spits out, "Let the chains of Fenric shatter."

Jean and Phyllis rise from the waves, skins pale and with long claws in place of fingernails. They lure a Soviet soldier into the water, but before he can reach them, monstrous hands grab and drag him under.

Ace realises what the inscriptions are — a complex logic diagram for a computer program, and tells Judson this in his office. Armed with this knowledge, Judson excitedly tells Crane to take him to the ULTIMA room.

Meanwhile, Jean and Phyllis go to Miss Hardaker and kill her. When Ace and the Doctor find Miss Hardaker's body drained of blood, the two vampire girls are already approaching Wainwright, who lost his faith when he heard about British bombs killing innocents. They are about to feed on him, but the Doctor arrives and dismisses them. They threaten to return for Wainwright.

The Doctor says that as long as Judson does not solve the inscriptions, everything will be all right. Ace, horrified, realises she has given Judson the solution and says that the Doctor should have told her. They rush to the ULTIMA room as more monstrous vampires, some dressed in archaic clothing, rise from the bay. When the Doctor, Ace and Wainwright reach the machine, it is running at top speed and cannot be stopped. The urn in the crypt glows with a green light, as Millington says triumphantly that the Doctor is too late. He is convinced that once the chains of Fenric shatter, all its dark powers will be his.

Part three[[edit]]

The Doctor points out that the base's defences have been weakened because Millington wanted the Soviets to steal the machine, and reinforcements cannot be called for because the transmitters have been disabled. He explains that the vampires are really Haemovores, mutations from mankind's far future. Ace wants to make sure that Kathleen and Audrey are all right before they go back to the church. Wainwright traces the names of the descendants of the Viking settlers while the Doctor and Ace explore the crypt for clues. Ace finds the cast-aside urn and puts it in her backpack without telling the Doctor, not considering it the Oriental treasure he is looking for. Wainwright finds the names the Doctor is looking for — the curse of Fenric passing down through the generations.

The Haemovores attack the church and Wainwright and Ace trying to beat them back with the church silver. Ace tries to escape through the roof but is attacked by the Haemovores. Sorin and two of his men spot her struggles and rescue her, although their shots only slow the Haemovores down. What eventually drives them back, however, is the Doctor's faith — as he chants the names of his former companions, the Haemovores scream and retreat. The Doctor explains that faith forms a psychic barrier that the Haemovores cannot penetrate. He then orders everyone into the crypt, but Sorin says he needs to go back to his men. His faith in the revolution will protect him. He gives Ace his scarf and tells her to be careful.

The Doctor finds the tunnel to the toxin stores (and a back way out) sealed, but Ace blows it open with two cans of Nitro-9. The two Soviet soldiers stay a bit behind to slow the Haemovores down. Ace takes out the flask she found, hoping to use it to mix more Nitro-9, but the Doctor recognises it as the treasure they've been searching for. Outside, Sorin keeps the Haemovores at bay with his Soviet Army badge, but they turn away from him and start moving back to the church, being drawn to the flask. When the Doctor, Wainwright and Ace reach the exit, Millington is waiting, and takes the flask, sealing the exit even though the two Soviet soldiers are still inside, now trapped with the Haemovores. They plead with Millington to open the shutters, but their pleas are ignored.

Ace is captured outside the church.

Sorin moves back into the camp, telling his men to abort the mission if he is not back in ten minutes. He calls out to Millington to talk terms, officer to officer. However, Millington is not interested and places Sorin under arrest. Sorin manages to warn his men, and they retreat. The Haemovores start to burn through the metal shutters of the tunnel, while Ace discovers Kathleen sitting alone in the barracks, numb with grief at receiving a letter informing her of her merchant navy husband's death at sea. Judson continues with the decoding of the inscription, now with the flask sitting in the ULTIMA.

Ace confronts the Doctor, demanding to know what he knows, bitterly complaining that he always seems to know, but just cannot be bothered to tell anyone, like it's a game that only he knows the rules to. The Doctor tells Ace about an ancient evil that has existed since the birth of the universe - Fenric is just Millington's name for it, and it is trapped in the flask.

Ace lures Sorin's guard away while the Doctor frees the Soviet captain — they have to stop Fenric before he finds a body. Wainwright waits while the Haemovores break through the tunnel gates, and tries to hold them back with the Bible, but his faith is too weak and the Haemovores overwhelm him.

The flask in the ULTIMA flashes, hitting Judson with green energy, causing him to collapse out of his wheelchair. A storm whips up as the Haemovores advance over Wainwright's lifeless body. As the Doctor, Ace and Sorin reach the ULTIMA room, Millington murmurs that the chains of Fenric are shattered and the gods have lost the final battle. Ace thinks that Fenric has taken Millington, but she is wrong. Behind the Doctor, the Fenric-possessed Judson rises to his feet, his eyes glowing yellow, and proclaiming "We play the contest again, Time Lord."

Part four[[edit]]

Fenric/Judson says that the Doctor trapped him in the Shadow Dimensions since the 3rd century, but now he has a body again and the preparations are complete. He teleports away as British soldiers rush in. Millington orders that the Doctor, Ace and Sorin be shot for treason. Before the firing squad can carry the order out, however, Sorin's men attack and the three escape. Fenric/Judson reappears in the tunnels, meeting the Haemovores and asking them to fetch him the Ancient One. At the bay, the Haemovores perform the summoning, and the Ancient One, a hideously mutated Haemovore, rises from the waters. The Ancient One is from the far future of Earth, a time where it is the last thing left alive — the ultimate destiny that evolution and pollution has shaped for mankind.

The Doctor tells Ace that he needs a chess set, and they remember the one in Millington's office, but Millington has wired the chess set to explode, and they barely get out before the office is destroyed. Millington, meanwhile, meets Fenric/Judson in the toxin chamber, where Fenric reminisces about the time the Doctor beat him — carving pieces out of bones taken from the desert sand and setting up a chess problem. Fenric was unable to solve the puzzle and was banished, so now he seeks revenge.

The Doctor explains to Ace why the names are important — they tell of where the curse has passed, to family names like Judson, Millington, Wainwright and Dudman. Ace remembers that Kathleen still has a chess set which escaped Millington's destruction order, and they go to retrieve it.

The two vampires.

The British soldiers use toxin grenades against the Soviets, but the Haemovores start killing the British soldiers. The WRNS become Haemovores and turn on the soldiers who come to rescue them. Fenric allows the Haemovores to kill Nurse Crane, in return for all the humiliation she forced on Judson over the years. When Bates, the guard commander goes to warn Millington of the massacre, he overhears Fenric/Judson tell Millington that he will use the toxin stores to poison the world forever. Bates sneaks out again and joins forces with the Doctor and Sorin to fight the real enemy. Sorin praises Ace for her bravery and gives her his Soviet Army badge.

Ace and the Doctor reach the barracks and take Kathleen's chess set but Ace stays to look after Kathleen and Audrey. The Haemovores crash in through a window, and they barely escape out through another. Ace bundles Kathleen and Audrey into a jeep, telling them to go to London, where Ace's nan will look after them. Kathleen gives Ace a picture of Audrey, and Ace kisses the baby goodbye, saying she will always love her and they drive off.

The Ancient One.

Fenric/Judson tells the Ancient One to take the poison into the oceans, and kill the other Haemovores. He concentrates, and the Haemovores collapse and crumble to dust — and so do the vampirised Jean and Phyllis, in front of a horrified Ace. The Doctor sets up the chess puzzle in the toxin stores and challenges Fenric to solve it.

Millington is about to shoot Bates, but Sorin's last man kills Millington instead.

As Fenric/Judson desperately contemplates the chess puzzle, the Doctor speaks to the Ancient One. He knows the Ancient One comes from a world where industrial pollution has caused the Earth to die in a chemical slime, and what Fenric is asking the Haemovore to do is to be the act that begins that — another one of Fenric's games.

When Sorin goes to kill Fenric, the weakened entity possessing Judson tells Sorin that he was chosen for this mission because his grandmother was English and a descendant of one of the Viking settlers. Sorin is touched by the curse, too — one of the Wolves of Fenric. When Ace enters the toxin store, it is Sorin who is contemplating the puzzle, and Ace tells him the solution, realising too late that Fenric is now in Sorin's body. Fenric/Sorin solves the puzzle as the Doctor enters, and he gloats. All the descendants of the Vikings who buried the flask were pawns in his game — Judson, Millington, Sorin, the Ancient One, and even Ace. In thirty years, Kathleen Dudman's daughter Audrey will become Ace's mother, the one Ace hates. In saving Kathleen and Audrey, Ace has created her own future.

"Kill her."

Fenric/Sorin orders the Ancient One to kill them. Ace, however, still has faith in the Doctor's infallibility, and that faith creates a psychic barrier that keeps the Ancient One back. Fenric/Sorin takes up a vial of the toxin, saying that he will kill the Doctor anyway, but if he would like Ace to live, to kneel before him. The Doctor callously tells him to kill her, revealing that he knew all along that Ace had Fenric's evil inside her. Why else would he have taken in a social misfit and an emotional cripple who could not even pass chemistry, yet somehow created a time storm in her bedroom? The Doctor saw Fenric's hand in it from the start as soon as he saw the chess set in Lady Peinforte's study, and was just using Ace to get to him. With these belittling revelations, Ace's faith in the Doctor is shattered, and she falls to the floor weeping. The Ancient One is free to move, but, instead of killing the Doctor and Ace, he forces Fenric/Sorin into the isolation chamber, shattering the vial of poison and killing them both. The Doctor pulls Ace out of the store as it explodes behind them.

The Doctor tries to explain to Ace that he didn't mean what he said, but had to break Ace's faith in him to allow the Ancient One to act. He would have done anything not to hurt Ace, but he had to save her from the curse. On the shores of Maiden's Point, Ace wonders why she cannot stop hating Audrey, her mother, even though she loved her as a baby. Ace dives into the bay, no longer frightened of the water, and surfaces, liberated. In doing so, it is implied that she has overcome her psychological troubles after being forced to face them by the Doctor's harsh words. The Doctor and Ace walk off, back to the TARDIS.


Uncredited cast[[edit]]


Uncredited crew[[edit]]



  • The Doctor chants the names of his former companions to ward off the Haemovores. Names that can be heard include: Susan, Barbara, Vicki and Steven.
  • As part of Fenric's plan, the Ancient One was "carried back tens of thousands of years in a time storm to Transylvania". The Ancient One followed the flask in his search for Fenric to return him home. Earth's vampire legends are due (in part) to the Ancient One.
  • When the Doctor first meets Rev Wainwright, he mentions the philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche.

The Doctor[[edit]]

  • The Doctor types his own letter of authorisation, and forges the signatures of the Head of the British Secret Service and the Prime Minister. He is ambidextrous, using two pens at the same time.
  • The Doctor met the Ancient One in the far future.


  • Fenric met the Doctor during an unrecorded adventure set in 3rd century Constantinople and, defeated at chess, was banished to "a shadow dimension" while its earthly essence was imprisoned in a flask for 17 centuries.
  • Fenric is the name given by Vikings to an ancient evil created at the dawn of time.
  • Fenric's flask was carried to England by the Vikings in the 9th century where a survivor of their expedition, Sundvik, settled and spawned generations of "wolves" who carried Fenric's taint. Descendant daughters of the line married into the families of Millington, Judson and Wainwright. Sorin is also a wolf of Fenric through his English grandmother, as is Ace through Kathleen Dudman, her maternal grandmother, and Audrey, her mother.


  • The Doctor describes the Haemovores as the species that mankind will evolve into, when the Earth is "rotting in chemical slime" after "half a million years of industrial progress". (The Ancient Haemovore's sacrifice, stopping the gas seeping into the sea, prevents this timeline from occurring.)


  • Ace mistakes Russian letters for Greek.

Story notes[[edit]]

  • The Curse of Fenric was originally going to have been shot, as with most Doctor Who serials, as a mixture of studio interiors and location exteriors. However, after reading the script, director Nicholas Mallett persuaded producer John Nathan-Turner that given the settings involved, the serial could be made more effective and realistic by shooting the entire production on location. Nathan-Turner eventually agreed to this proposition.
  • This story was originally going to be titled The Wolves of Fenric and before that, Wolf-Time. Other working titles were Powerplay and Black Rain. Fenric does refer to his servants as his "wolves" (and wolves have a strong link to Norse mythology). However, John Nathan-Turner felt that as the "wolves" connection was not revealed until quite late in the story, the title would not initially make any sense to the audience.As the change of story title to The Curse of Fenric came quite late in the day, the Radio Times programme listing for Ghost Light part three bore the footnote "Next week a new story begins: 'The Wolves of Fenric' ". (original published text)
  • For the scenes in part one involving Captain Sorin and his men paddling to the shore in dinghies, subtitles — in block capitals and in the style of a ticker tape print-out — were superimposed on-screen (e.g. "WHAT'S HAPPENED TO OUR COMRADES?") to translate the Russian dialogue. This was the first use of subtitles in Doctor Who since The Mind of Evil in 1971, and is currently the last.
  • Although there are several references in the story to the Norse belief in a final battle at the end of the world, the word "Ragnarok" was removed from the script to avoid confusion with the Gods of Ragnarok from the previous season's The Greatest Show in the Galaxy.
  • The Radio Times programme listing for part two credits Alfred Lynch (Commander Millington) as "Millington", Peter Czajkowski (Sgt. Prozorov) as "Prozorov" and Marcus Hutton (Sgt. Leigh) as "Leigh".
  • Cory Pulman (Kathleen Dudman) is credited as "Kathleen" in Radio Times for parts one and two.
  • Aaron Hanley (Baby) is uncredited on-screen for part two, but is credited in Radio Times.
  • Radio Times credits Nicholas Parsons (The Reverend Mr. Wainwright) as "The Rev. Mr. Wainwright" for part one, and as "Rev. Mr. Wainwright" for parts two to four.
  • Writer Ian Briggs based the character of Dr. Judson on Alan Turing. (The "ULTIMA machine" of the story is based on the real Bombe machine built to crack the encryption of the Enigma machine.) In an interview for the DVD release of this story, Briggs said that, since at that time it was not considered appropriate to depict a character's struggle with homosexuality in a family programme, he transformed Turing's frustration at being unable to express his true sexual identity into Judson's frustration at being crippled. The intended backstory was that Judson and Millington were gay lovers in the past and that Millington crippled Judson in a rugby match when he saw him exchanging a look with another boy. This made it into the novelisation.
  • Ace mentions to Kathleen an old house in Perivale, which the Doctor overhears. Originally, this was supposed to be a foreshadowing of the events of Ghost Light, but the rearranging of the broadcast schedule turned it into a reference to a past, unseen adventure. Also, the Doctor starts off the story in a duffel coat that hid his altered outfit which was supposed to be revealed for the first time during the course of this story. This too was affected by the rearranging of the schedule, as the new outfit had already been seen in Battlefield.
  • Shooting on the serial went over-length to such a degree that consideration was briefly given to editing the story into five rather than four episodes. However, Ian Briggs strongly opposed this as he felt that the narrative flow would be badly disrupted. As it turned out, there was never enough material to warrant a fifth episode.
  • The climatic confrontation between the Doctor and the Ancient One in part four was not as Nicholas Mallett had originally planned, as a videotape of recorded material containing close-up and insert shots was accidentally erased during filming, and there was no way the lost footage could be remounted in time. Fortunately, Mallett was able to compose the scene using mostly wide-angle shots instead.
  • The infant Audrey was portrayed by the son of the proprietors of The Bush Hotel on Shepherd's Bush Green who was familiar to the production team as it was near the Doctor Who offices.
  • Sylvester McCoy enjoyed a visit from his wife, Agnes, and their sons, Sam and Joe Kent-Smith. As McCoy was busy and couldn't spend much time with the boys, John Nathan-Turner offered Sam and Joe the chance to play Haemovores in the mine shaft sequences. Their scenes were cut from the transmitted version of part four, but were reinstated for the extended BBC Video version and the Special Edition movie-length version included on BBC Worldwide's DVD release of the broadcast version.
  • In Ian Briggs' novelisation of the story, when Fenric kills Nurse Crane, he reveals that she was a Russian agent and had led the soldiers to the installation, which may explain how Millington knew that the Russians were going to steal the ULTIMA machine. This was not derived from any information given in the televised version.
  • A reference to Ace having lost her virginity was removed from the script, as it was felt this was unsuitable for a programme aimed at a family audience. (Ace's character outline specified that Sabalom Glitz had done the honours.)
  • This is the first televised story to be set during World War II. It was set in Coventry during the Blitz to avoid all the London cliches.
  • This is the first televised story to link together events and aspects from previous ones to a significant extent: Fenric is revealed to have caused the time storms that sent Ace to Iceworld in Dragonfire and Lady Peinforte to 1988 England in Silver Nemesis, and is implied to have manipulated up to the entirety of the Seventh Doctor's life up to that point as part of his revenge plot. Though Logopolis previously provided an explanation for the CVE that took the Fourth Doctor and Romana II to E-Space in Full Circle, The Curse of Fenric provided a single plot point that tied together two other stories (and presumably the entirety) of the Seventh Doctor's tenure. The concept of linking stories together in this manner would reappear in Series 4, approximately 20 years later, and would become a fundamental aspect of the series when Steven Moffat became the show's head writer and executive producer in 2010.
  • Andrew Cartmel didn't think Nicholas Mallett handled the action scenes well and felt the Ancient Haemovore costume was risible.
  • Ian Briggs drew on Norse Mythology, inspired by a vacation to Sweden. In particular, he drew upon the legend of the vast wolf-monster Fenrir or Fenrisúlfr, who was foretold to cause the death of the chief god Odin and so was mystically bound to a great stone until Ragnarok — the “twilight of the gods”.
  • This was intended to be shown as the season premiere, before Ghost Light, so that Ace telling Kathleen about "the old house in Perivale" would have been foreshadowing for that story. But John Nathan-Turner wanted The Curse of Fenric to air around Halloween, meaning it ran after Ghost Light had already gone out. It also had the side effect of removing what was supposed to be a major turning point that season: the Doctor is wearing a duffel coat for most of part one, and removes it later on to reveal his new costume with a darker jacket, with the intention being to surprise the viewer with the reveal of the new costume, which was ruined by the fact that this story was no longer running first. The aforementioned duffel coat was originally to keep Sylvester McCoy warm on cold location filming days, but it eventually became part of the Doctor's wardrobe during Season 26.[3]
  • Ace jumps into the sea because Sophie Aldred wanted to do it this season.
  • Ace spends the entire serial in an appropriate period outfit (complete with hairnet), because Sophie Aldred had yet to really dress up in period garb on the show.
  • Tomek Bork had issues with the cod-Communist dialogue and had rows with Ian Briggs and Nicholas Malllett about changing them. John Nathan-Turner intervened and placated.
  • Ian Briggs originally suggested a 1970s setting. Andrew Cartmel dismissed this as being too recent.
  • Edward Hardwicke, Martin Jarvis and David McCallum were considered for the role of Dr. Judson.
  • Christopher Eccleston and Peter Capaldi were considered for the role of the Reverend Mr. Wainwright. They would go on to play the Ninth and Twelfth Doctors.
  • James Warwick was considered for General Millington.
  • Shooting on the serial went over-length to such a degree that consideration was briefly given to editing the story into five rather than four episodes. However, Ian Briggs strongly opposed this, feeling that the narrative flow would be badly disrupted (it is not known if the BBC would have given permission for an extra episode, in any case).
  • The serial was intended to end with an implication that Fenric had found a way to escape, with a shot inside the chamber showing the Ancient Haemovore's remains, but nothing of Fenric. Unfortunately, the videotape with this and other close-up shots was accidentally erased and reused during filming and the missing material could not be remounted in time.
  • Briefly, the weapon hidden in the Ultima machine was an atomic bomb.
  • There was going to be a coda in which an older Ace is putting a baby to bed when she catches a glimpse of the Doctor watching over her.
  • Filming was hampered at times by unseasonably cold and snowy weather, and on other occasions by heavy rains. As a result, the ground became extremely muddy, and the prop tunnel entrance constructed by the BBC design team started to sink; Ian Briggs also had to rewrite some of his dialogue to account for the conditions. During Ace's seduction scene, her line "Too hot, the clothes are sticking to me", had to be changed because it brought laughter from the crew in the cold weather.
  • Ironically, the recording of the Haemovores' rise from the water was beset by the same problem which had afflicted a similar scene in The Sea Devils, as the costumes trapped air and became difficult to submerge. Ultimately, the Haemovore actors were given rocks to which they could cling, in order to keep themselves underwater.
  • Sylvia Syms was originally offered the part of Miss Hardaker but eventually played Mrs Pritchard in Ghost Light.
  • When the Doctor, Ace and Reverend Wainwright are inside St. Jude's Church and the Haemovores descend upon them, the Doctor notices the water on the floor by the door but the Reverend assures him that it's because the church has a leaky roof when it rains and a strong eastern wind. The Doctor refutes this saying the wind is westward that day and it's not raining, despite the fact that it is raining earlier and a little later for the rest of the story. The Doctor also uses his umbrella as a proper umbrella when it does rain in part two to stop himself and Ace getting wet.
  • Interestingly, the Doctor has to translate many of the languages for Ace in this story, such as Russian, despite the fact that the TARDIS translation circuit had already been established at this point in the show. This issue is never addressed on-screen and it is never explained why the Doctor needs to do this for Ace, who has already been inside the TARDIS.
  • Ian Briggs considered bringing back the Meddling Monk for this story, but then decided against it. (DCOM: Buried Treasure: 30 Years of The Curse of Fenric)
  • Ace giving Sorin her scarf was improvised by Sophie Aldred.
  • Nicholas Parsons was very proud of his role in the serial because he was a longstanding follower of the series and many people had either forgotten, or were completely unaware, that he had originally trained as a serious actor despite becoming known for his hugely successful comedy and light entertainment career.
  • John Nathan-Turner was adamant that the monsters not be referred to as Vampires, as they had previously appeared in State of Decay. Instead, Ian Briggs developed the idea of the Haemovore, literally, “blood eaters”.
  • Michael Kerrigan was originally supposed to direct. He was assigned to Battlefield instead.
  • During rehearsals, Tomek Bork suggested to Nicholas Mallett that the Soviet troops should speak in Russian during the opening moments. Mallett agreed, as long as the Polish-born Bork was willing to translate the dialogue himself and assist the other actors with the delivery of their lines. It was also Bork who came up with the idea of the Russian soldiers scaling the walls of St Jude's, rather than ascending the stairs.
  • The production team struggled to locate a church which could pose as St Jude's and its graveyard, since they required both a bell tower and a flat roof which could support the cast and crew. In the end, advertisements were placed in newspapers asking for the public's assistance, and a historian recommended St Laurence's Church in Hawkhurst, Kent. It was suitably ancient: much of the building had been constructed in the fifteenth century, but the oldest sections dated from the early years of the second millennium.
  • John Nathan-Turner directed second-unit in St. Laurence's Church and some underwater photography.
  • In post-production, Nichoals Mallett was distressed to learn that one of the videotapes from a recording at Crowborough had been reused the following day, with all of the footage wiped as a result. In particular, this meant that he had lost various close-up and insert shots from the climactic confrontation between Fenric and the Ancient Haemovore. With no option to remount the affected material, Mallett had to assemble the scene using mostly wider-angled shots. As a result, some of the Ancient Haemovore's dialogue was dropped, as was a shot which suggested that only Ingiga's remains were left behind in the gas chamber, the implication being that Fenric had contrived a way to escape.
  • After the first edits were compiled, the story was found to exceed its allotted twenty-five-minute timeslot in spectacular fashion, with part four especially overlong. Consideration was given to re-editing it as a five-part story, but the total overrun of about twelve minutes was not sufficient to warrant another instalment; furthermore, Ian Briggs was concerned about the effect this would have on the story's pacing. Amongst the most drastic trims Mallett was forced to make were a scene of soldiers staking Haemovores on the roof of St Jude's from part three, and more of the exchange between the Doctor and the Ancient Haemovore from part four.
  • During the scene where the Doctor and Ace enter Miss Hardaker's cottage in part two, John Nathan-Turner's dog Pepsi can be seen in the garden behind them.


  • Dracula - the North East setting.
  • Anton Chekov - Sorin is the owner of the estate which serves as the setting of 1896's The Seagull, Prozorov is the name of the family central to 1901's The Three Sisters (in which Vershinin is a soldier), and 1904's The Cherry Orchard deals with the heirs of the Gayev family. 
  • Dennis Potter - Miss Hardaker was based on Miss Tillings from Stand Up, Nigel Barton and The Singing Detective (Janet Henfrey played both characters).
  • The Man Who Fell to Earth - The origin of Ingiger, the Ancient Haemovore, on a dying future Earth was inspired by the main character, who comes from a world ravaged by drought.
  • Norse Mythology - There are many references to Norse Mythology. The Doctor mentions the primordial spring Hvergelmir. Millington mentions "the Great Ash," referring to Yggdrasil. Fenrir is the huge wolf chained up by the gods, who shall break his chains and kill Odin at the end of time.
  • Swamp Thing - Andrew Cartmel suggested aquatic vampires from the story "Still Waters".


  • Part one - 4.3 million viewers
  • Part two - 4.0 million viewers
  • Part three - 4.0 million viewers
  • Part four - 4.2 million viewers

Filming locations[[edit]]

  • Crowborough Training Camp, Uckfield Road, Crowborough, East Sussex (Army camp)
  • Bedgebury Lower School (now known as Lillesden School for Girls), Hastings Road, Lillesden, Hawkhurst, Kent (Tunnels beneath the church)
  • Yew Tree Farm, Slipway Hill, Cranbrook, Kent (Tunnels beneath the church)
  • St Lawrence's Church, The Moor, Hawkhurst, Kent (St Jude church)
  • Roses Farm, Gills Green, Hawkhurst (Mrs Hardaker's cottage)
  • Lulworth Cove, Dorset (Maiden's Point)

Production errors[[edit]]

If you'd like to talk about narrative problems with this story — like plot holes and things that seem to contradict other stories — please go to this episode's discontinuity discussion.
  • Ace fights a pair of Haemovores on the roof of the church, during which the mask of one of the actors becomes dislodged from the neck of his costume. The Haemovores also drop out of character during the fight, emitting very human sounds of mask-muffled grunting as they are attacked (in contrast to the inhuman, post-production sounds of pain they otherwise make in this serial).
  • The explosion that destroys Millington's office hurls debris into the camera, bouncing off the lens and causing it to shake.
  • The canisters of poison in the base arsenal are very obviously just a single wall of moulded plastic.
  • During Fenric's death scene in part four, the size of the fire on the chessboard changes between shots.


  • Some sources have incorrectly claimed that the baby, Audrey, has a SuperTed toy in her crib in part one, a character who wouldn't exist until the 1980s. (It is, in fact, a knitted teddy bear which is an authentic 1940s period design.)
  • The story featured a suspenseful scene where the Reverend Mr. Wainwright tries desperately to stop the Haemovores from forcing their way into the church, which was cut at the editing stage. (There was no such scene: the photographs that exist of this were specially posed for publicity purposes only.)


Home video and audio releases[[edit]]

DVD releases[[edit]]

This story was released as Doctor Who: The Curse of Fenric in a two-disc set. The DVD included a movie-format "Director's Cut / Special Edition" version which was assembled by incidental music composer Mark Ayres from notes left by director Nicholas Mallett and discussions he had previously held with the director. It featured roughly ten minutes of additional footage, CGI effects and a new Dolby 5.1 soundtrack. As well, it opened with a dedication to Nicholas Mallett and producer John Nathan-Turner, both of whom had passed away by the point the DVD was produced.

It was released:

Special features:[[edit]]

  • Commentary by Sylvester McCoy, Sophie Aldred, and Nicholas Parsons
  • Music-only Option - Allows the viewer to hear Mark Ayres' score on an isolated music track
  • Production Subtitles
  • Photo Gallery
  • Nebula '90 - The cast and crew reunited at a 1990 Doctor Who convention
  • Take Two - The BBC children's show looks behind the scenes of this story
  • Modelling the Dead - How to make a Haemovore mask
  • Claws and Effects - A look at the production recce and visual effects tests
  • Clean title sequences - 1987-1989 version
  • Shattering the Chains - Author Ian Briggs talks about writing The Curse of Fenric
  • Costume Design - An interview with Ken Trew
  • Recutting the Runes - Behind the scenes of this new DVD version
  • Easter Eggs:
    • Continuity announcements. To access this hidden feature, press left at Claws and Effect on Disc One's Special Features menu to reveal a hidden Doctor Who logo.
    • Mark Ayres bonus interview. To access this hidden feature, press left at Recutting the Runes on Disc Two to reveal a hidden Doctor Who logo.
    • Opening and closing theme tune sans sound effects. To access this hidden feature, enable Isolated Score in the Audio Options section of Disc One's Special Features menu, then enter the Episode Selection menu and select Part Two, at which point the feature will play.
    • Sound effects sans the opening and closing theme tune. To access this hidden feature, enable Isolated Score in the Audio Options section of Disc One's Special Features menu, then enter the Episode Selection menu and select Part Three, at which point the feature will play.
    • 'Spot the Haemovores' challenge. To access this hidden feature, enable Information Text in Disc One's Special Features menu, then return to the Main Menu and select Play All. In between Parts Two and Three, a text screen will appear telling the viewer about the nicknames assigned to the ten Haemovores present on set, and encouraging the viewer to guess which nickname belonged to which Haemovore. The correct answers are then subsequently given in another series of text screens between Parts Three and Four.

Editing for the DVD release was completed by the Doctor Who Restoration Team.

Blu-ray releases:[[edit]]

This story was released on Blu-ray as part of the Season 26 box set on 27 January 2020

Disc One:[[edit]]

  • The Curse of Fenric: Original TV Version - The original four-part version screened on BBC1 in 1989, newly restored for Blu-ray.
  • Audio Commentary - Sylvester McCoy, Sophie Aldred, and Nicholas Parsons (Wainwright).
  • 5.1 Surround Sound Mix - New for Blu-ray.
  • Isolated Music Soundtrack - Listen to Mark Ayres incidental music.
  • Info Text - Production information and trivia delivered via an optional subtitle track.
  • Commentary Footage - Behind-the-scenes video from the commentary recording.
  • The Curse of Fenric: Special Edition - A feature-length version of the story featuring deleted material, enhanced special effects and music score, with a 5.1 surround sound mix. This version features revised CGI not seen in the DVD release.
  • BBC1 Trails & Continuities
  • Special Edition Featurette - A look behind-the-scenes at production of the Special Edition.
  • Mark Ayres Interview - Composer & editor Mark Ayres discusses the Special Edition.
  • HD Photo Gallery - Including rare shots captured by the cast and crew.

Disc Two:[[edit]]

  • The Curse of Fenric: Extended VHS Version - The much-loved 1991 four-part VHS release which saw previously unseen deleted material integrated back into the story. Newly restored from the best available sources, with original stereo or brand new 5.1 surround sound mix.
  • Making-of Documentary - New for Blu-ray, featuring Sylvester McCoy, Sophie Aldred, Tomek Bork (Sorin), Nicholas Parsons, Cory Pulman (Kathleen), Marek Anton (Vershinin), Ian Briggs (Writer), Andrew Cartmel, Stephen Mansfield and Ian Collins (Haemovore).
  • Behind the Sofa - The Season 26 team prepare to dive back behind their sofas.
  • Ian Briggs Interview - Recorded in 2003 for the story's DVD release.
  • Ken Trew Interview - The story's costume designer discusses his contribution in this interview from 2003.
  • Location Recce & FX Footage - From the original 1989 location recce and special effects tests.
  • Location Footage - Rare material from the location tapes, including underwater photography supervised by producer John Nathan-Turner, and behind-the-scenes footage of Sophie Aldred's stunt dive sequence.
  • Take Two - A location report screened as part of the BBC2 children's show on 19/04/89.
  • Prosthetics Featurette - Screened on 23/09/90, Sue Moore and Stephen Mansfield demonstrate how they bought the Haemovores to life, during BSB's 31 Who weekend.
  • Convention Footage - The Curse of Fenric panel at the 1990 Nebula convention. Featuring Sophie Aldred, Tomek Bork, Joann Kenny (Jean), Ian Briggs, Stephen Mansfield, Sue Moore and Mark Ayres.
  • PDF Written Archive - Delve into official BBC production files, plus scripts, VFX sketches and more.

This story was also released as part of the Time Lord Victorious: Road to the Dark Times blu-ray.

VHS releases[[edit]]

  • Released as Doctor Who: The Curse of Fenric, the release, in episodic format, included roughly an additional six minutes of extra footage which was reinstated by John Nathan-Turner. Although included on the movie-length edit of the story (see DVD releases above), one scene not reinstated for this release was part of the action sequence on the church roof in part three, where Captain Sorin and his men take hammers, along with several wooden stakes, from their backpacks, and (unseen) drive the stakes through the Haemovores' hearts, as this would have precluded a "PG" certificate.
  • It was released:


Main article: The Curse of Fenric (soundtrack)

The Curse of Fenric was one of the first serials to be awarded its own individual soundtrack album, as Mark Ayres' score was released in 1991 by Silva Screen Records on FILMCD 087. Besides the music from the serial, the album also included a new Ayres arrangement of the Doctor Who theme. Excerpts from the soundtrack also appeared on the 1994 release The Worlds of Doctor Who, also by Silva Screen (FILMCD 715).

External links[[edit]]