July 10th, 2012

The Curse Of Fenric

Thought I'd treat myself to some vintage Who. Turns out vintage Who can be as complicated and befuddling as anything of Stephen Moffat's. The Curse of Fenric (1989) features a wartime base on the Yorkshire coast, an eccentric code breaker, a Turing-era computer, a villainous British naval officer, evacuees, a viking curse, poison gas, aquatic vampires, noble Russian soldiers, an unbelieving vicar (played by Nicholas Parsons), a ranting Calvinist, an esoteric chess game and a creature called The Ancient One who comes from the future. I have only the flimsiest idea how all these elements hang together but the action moves at such a breathless pace it hardly matters. Sylvester McCoy is an engaging doctor and Sophie Aldred- as his companion, Ace- is engaging too but can't act for toffee. The vampires have big rubber heads and shuffle forwards with fingernails extended just as we used to do in the playground when we were pretending to be the Frankenstein monster. The moment when the Soviet officer repels the vampires with his hammer and sickle lapel badge- symbol of the revolution in which he believes- is rather wonderful. There's some adult stuff- political, religious, sexual- going on under the sub-Hammer theatrics.

Besotted fans of the show rate this one high. Me too. I saw it when it was first transmitted and it's stuck with me. Odd how something so sketchily written, clunkily acted and ham-fistedly directed can pack such a punch.