Sep. 4th, 2017

purplecat: The Seventh Doctor and Ace (Who:Seven)
The Curse of Fenric is, probably correctly, considered one of the best seventh Doctor stories. However I've always felt vaguely dissatisfied with it. There was much talk at the time about how much of the story ended up on the cutting room floor, so we opted to watch the extended version which restored a great deal of this lost material. I'm not sure that really helped. Its flaws, which are the flaws of many of the stories overseen by Andrew Cartmel, are not really addressed by the additional scenes.

I feel like I'm being churlish because I do like the story and the Cartmel era a lot. Maybe it is just that Curse of Fenric comes in for so much praise that it makes me feel contrary. We have the single most unconvincing seduction scene I have ever seen in visual media. The villain destroys all his henchmen for no readily apparent reason, in fact a number of events take place because the plot requires them to and not because they actually make sense (e.g., Kathleen Dudman being left behind after the evacuation of the base). It's been said that Cartmel was deliberately trying to evoke some of the stuff that was happening in comics at the time and I do wonder if this sensibility explains why so many of the scenes are cut short to a ridiculous extent: the Doctor and Ace show up, they exchange three or four entirely to the point remarks with someone in the scene and then they leave. I think a comic would start such scenes in media res (though I can't really see why the show could not do this). In the first episode, in particular, it's like the two of them just keep popping up places and then dashing off. Ace forms strong emotional attachments (to the Baby, to Sorin) apparently out of the blue. It doesn't help that a lot of the dialogue is... a bit not good (see unconvincing seduction scene). The extended version makes a great deal, in the dialogue, that "undercurrants" is a theme. This doesn't actually help any character sound like a real person actually talking the way real people do.

On the plus side, it has a lot of cool ideas and visuals. The idea of the curse of Fenric descending through the generations in this isolated location is revealed well. In fact, in general, the back story and the way all the various elements tie together is done well (which may be an advantage of the extended version) and actually makes sense. Nicholas Parsons is unexpectedly excellent as Wainwright, making the most of a part written with considerable nuance - and in fact interesting stuff is done in general with the various characters wrestling with their consciences over their behaviour and the behaviour of their "side" in the war. The Timey-wimeyness with the baby, while a bit heavy-handed is an interesting idea. Given the budget, the production both looks and sounds impressive.

I prefer Rememberance of the Daleks, both because it is playing to the fans and because it seems to be having more fun. The Curse of Fenric takes itself more seriously and is trying to do more with its various themes, but while I can admire its ambition and its earnestness, and admire how well it manages to pull everything off, it is still not quite good enough to make me warm to it.

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