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19 of 19 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "What are you exactly, some sort of wandering armageddon pedler?"
Elaborately balanced between horrific and comedic, "Image of the Fendahl" comes in near the midpoint of Tom Baker's tenure as the Doctor, a justifiably classic phase of the series when those responsible for its making seem confident but not complacent that their efforts will entertain a wide segment of the BBC audience. That is, while a bit murkier and edgier than prior...
Published on September 20, 2009 by Crazy Fox

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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Pushing it...
I got this video. I don't regret it. Something rather marvellous about "vegging out" in front of the video with some toasted crumpets....
"Image of the Fendahl" possibly belongs to the loosely defined category of stories which might be classed as somewhat close to the margins. It doesn't matter. It is wonderful to watch Dr Fendahlman only just...
Published on March 31, 2000 by Mark Grindell


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19 of 19 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "What are you exactly, some sort of wandering armageddon pedler?", September 20, 2009
By 
Crazy Fox (Chicago, IL USA) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Doctor Who: Image of the Fendahl (Story 94) (DVD)
Elaborately balanced between horrific and comedic, "Image of the Fendahl" comes in near the midpoint of Tom Baker's tenure as the Doctor, a justifiably classic phase of the series when those responsible for its making seem confident but not complacent that their efforts will entertain a wide segment of the BBC audience. That is, while a bit murkier and edgier than prior years, this is still "Doctor Who" as the quintessential family show--somehow working on several levels at once. On the simplest and most tangible level we have big slug-like monsters (and, this being the olden days before CGI, I think we should stop a moment and appreciate the inventive craftsmanship that endowed them with a mouthful of squirming writhing tentacles). On an equally thrilling if less visceral level, we have a finely-scripted tale of suspense and mystery. On yet more sophisticated levels yet, all of this is framed and informed by a complex and intriguingly speculative science fiction premise of astronomical scale spanning eons--which might feel overly remote if it didn't all come to a crisis within the familiar context of rural England in the 1970's. And yet all these levels cohere in harmony rather than jarring and grating with each other, which takes astounding storytelling skill if you think about it.

It seems natural to characterize this story as the last gasp of the so-called "gothic" tendency seen in the show in the mid-70's. Certainly this is apt in that for all intents and purposes "Image of the Fendahl" follows the plot logic of a good horror story (in some ways it rather reminds me of John Carpenter's 1987 film "Prince of Darkness", in fact). It also works the old reliable "Doctor Who" alchemy of reinterpreting standard horror motifs in a science fiction idiom: the pentagram is a "neural relay", the inability to move as something wicked approaches (a prototypical nightmare) is due to some sort of psychic force, a pinch of salt to ward of evil works because sodium chloride "prevents control of localized disruption of osmotic pressures" and so on. For all that, though, this story is somewhat atypical. In such beloved classics as "Pyramids of Mars" and "the Brain of Morbius" and such, the scientific technical interpretation straightforwardly replaces the supernatural one, utterly displacing and invalidating it--a well-intended nod anyway to the show's original mandate to encourage an interest in science (and history) among its younger viewers. Here things are not so simple, however. The premodern, pre-scientific, indeed pre-Christian manner of explaining these phenomena, especially as they are articulated by the local wise woman/"witch" Martha Tyler, are portrayed not as backwards, ignorant, and wrong but merely as different, as an alternate frame of reference every bit as functional when the Fendahleen are slithering towards you down the hall. You know things are getting weird when the Doctor reels off three mutually-conflicting explanations for what's happening as if all three are equally valid and equally invalid. That's surely eccentric even by the Fourth Doctor's standards. But for those of us who suspect that a little epistemological doubt is healthy, it's also rather refreshing.

Multiple levels of significance and sophistication would mean little if not for the wonderfully varied cast of characters we have here though, all of them saved from the brink of stereotype and brought to life by impeccable acting of the first order as well as a superb script sensitive to the finer points of characterization. One actually cares what happens to them, and that's the ultimate sorcery that makes or breaks a tale.
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15 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "I look forward to your terror!", August 1, 2000
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This has to be one of my all time favourite Doctor Who stories. From the very first time I saw it (well over 18 years ago) I was gripped. It is very watchable and seething with atmosphere. Although part of Graham Williams's first season as the show's producer, in which he had the task of making Doctor Who a lighter, more humorous show, this is definitely a product of the Philip Hinchcliffe era. It is one of the closest stories to be able to be classed as horror. From the special sounds and incidental music, to the early scenes of the hiker being stalked through the woods, "Image of the Fendahl" keeps you on the edge of your seat. The scenes of the skull glowing in the dark are also truly terrifying moments, as are the fog shrouded acts in the Priory grounds. Chris Boucher, who had already written two of the best Doctor Who scripts in the Tom Baker era, delivers again with the plot. The concept of the Fendahl playing such an influential role in the development of humankind is certainly not new to science fiction, nor indeed Doctor Who itself - "The Daemons" is the obvious comparison, but in my opinion "Image of the Fendahl" is ten times better than the Jon Pertwee tale. Even the quieter moments, for example when Fendleman and Colby examine the skull in the laboratory and hypothesise its history, are fascinating and unsettling. Performance wise, most of the cast are pretty good, except New Zealand born actor Dennis Lill could have avoided the Germanic "eccentric scientist" accent of Dr Fendleman - it is trite to the point of cliche. But this is the only real qualm I have. Scott Fredericks is excellent as the megalomaniac Stael, as is Edward Arthur as Colby, the innocent bystander, with whom the audience is probably meant to sympathise with the most. Daphne Heard's Martha Tyler is also first rate. Oh yes, the monsters...Ahem...well, the Fendahleen may not be the most convincing monsters - but it's Doctor Who, a cheaply made BBC programme - so what else is new? However, the fact that they are hidden from view most of the time, and only revealed in their adult form at the end of episode three, is also a major contribution to the atmosphere. And, as usual, Tom Baker and Louise Jameson are wonderful as the Doctor and Leela. In fact, the entire story is wonderful. Watch it, enjoy it, and look forward to the terror!
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A story on how man might fundamentally view himself, September 13, 2003
The story starts out with the examination of a skull found in the volcanic sediment in Kenya. Thea Ransome's potassium-argon test shows the volcanic sediment to be 12 million years old, but Dr. Adam Colby cannot accept the evolutionary implication of the skull: "What I don't accept is that Eustace here got himself buried under a volcano at least eight millions years before he could have possibly existed." The two and Maximilien Stael are colleagues of Dr. Fendelman, a scientific genius who made it big in electronics and who is using a sonic time scanner on the skull. His discoveries could fundamentally affect how man views himelf.
Their experiments with the scanner plays havoc with the TARDIS, which is drawn to the grounds near Fetch Priory, where the team is based. The Doctor and Leela not only become involved with the happenings there, including a mysterious death, but with Jack Tyler and his elderly grandmother, who has precognitive powers. She and many of the villagers of Fetchborough believe in the old ways of superstition and magic. Logic has no place in her life but more human nature. "When most people believe what's said, that make it true." Jack says "Most people believed the earth was flat when it were round." She counters with, "Ah, but they behaved as if it were flat," emphasizing the word "behaved".
What Dr. Fendelman is unwittingly tampering with involves a creature from the Doctor's own mythology that began when a planet between Mars and Jupiter exploded. Unless the Doctor can stop them from messing with dangerous things, the population of Earth will go down from 4 billion people to 1 person.
There's a great deal of horror/suspense in this story, from the hiker walking in the forest at night, the eerie churning sound when the skull begins to glow, and the air of crisis described by Colby at one point. "The phone is cut off, the place is surrounded by guards, we are beset by a wandering lunatic, we have a pair of corpses on our hands, and on top of all that, the telephone seems to be very dead. We are trapped."
Tom Baker is at his usual goofiness. He asks a bunch of cows upon landing, "Which one of you has the time scanner?" Another time, they are hiding outside the Priory and espy a guard and a dog.
Leela: I shall kill him.
Doctor: No.
Leela: Why not?
Doctor: You'll upset the dog.
He also offers a jellybaby to the skull and even goes "Alas, poor skull" a la Hamlet. Here, Leela sports a lighter tan outfit that shows more cleavage and has her hair, of a more reddish tint, in a bun. "Don't worry, Doctor. I shall protect you." she says and does.
What really struck me about Wanda Ventham (Thea) was that rigid, stone-faced look of someone being possessed. It's very reminiscent of Elizabeth Sladen's reaction on feeling her soul leaving her body in the Who story Planet Of Evil. She has a stab at doing Dr. McCoy: "I'm a technician, not a human paleontologist." And this is one of Denis Lill's greatest TV moments as the misguided but persistent Fendelman, someone who is a passionate adventurer in unlocking mysteries of human evolution. Daphne Heard is quite a character as the superstitious, headstrong, but also kind Ma Tyler. The dialogue between her and her grandson show an argumentative but loving relationship.
Goofs: The Doctor mentions two victims, naming one of them, even though he hasn't been told the name. Another is a scene in Episode 2, when he is locked in a cupboard. The sonic screwdriver doesn't work, yet later, the lock outside is heard unlocking and the door swings open. Who let him out?
A mixture of science and the occult, this is the closest Dr. Who got to the horror genre.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars "Of course, it all could be just a coincidence", September 12, 2009
By 
Jason A. Miller (Brooklyn, New York USA) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)    (REAL NAME)   
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This review is from: Doctor Who: Image of the Fendahl (Story 94) (DVD)
"Image of the Fendahl" was the last of "Doctor Who"'s 1970s Gothic horror fests. Producer Phillip Hinchcliffe, who oversaw such classics as Doctor Who: Pyramids of Mars (Episode 82) and Doctor Who: The Talons of Weng-Chiang (Episode 91), had recently left the series; script-editor Robert Holmes (who authored the two above-mentioned stories) was on his way out. New producer Graham Williams was about to lighten the tone dramatically, and the show's violence content was about to fall off.

As a swan song for a well-regarded chapter in "Doctor Who"'s long history, "Image of the Fendahl" is a notable but somewhat frustrating story. The plot is complex, involving three conflicting menaces in the English woods: A high-technology "Time Scanner" that threatens to destroy the galaxy; an ancient time rift that's turned the local village into a haven for black magic (or "the Old Religion")... and a 12 million year-old skull that's going to exploit both the Time Scanner and the time rift in order to resurrect Death personified, which will in turn destroy the Earth's population (as opposed to, say, the galaxy). Of course it's never a great idea when the story's named villain poses less of a menace than the secondary plot device.

Story writer Chris Boucher (who previously wrote the futuristic Christie-esque Doctor Who: The Robots of Death (Episode 90)) was effective at writing for small but distinctive casts. One mark of a good writer is when the characters have different levels of intelligence. One example of this, as well as of the story's dry wit, is when archaeologist Adam Colby tries to define the term "gestalt" for local villager Jack Tyler. None the wiser, all Tyler can do is gesture at the Doctor and say: "He reads a lot".

There's a lot going on story-wise, so the rest of the cast turn out to be sophisticated plot devices as well as individuals. Dr. Fendelman, the inventor of the Time Scanner, turns out to have a mystical connection to the Fendahl skull, which awkwardly manifests in the character's final 30 seconds. Thea Ransome is (for no apparent reason) turned by the skull into a golden-skinned evil goddess. Local "white witch" Granny Tyler turns out to possess just the right amount of homespun wisdom that allows her to defeat the 12 million year-old menace with a few shakers of salt.

The text commentary for this disc is a rare failure for the DVD restoration team. A story of "Fendahl"'s complexity suggests the need for a text commentary that both explains a lot of the story's more rapid-fire expository dialogue and attempts to resolve some of the story's plot holes. Instead, the commentary here is full of distracting minutiae, such as "this scene was filmed on this date" and "this tertiary character appeared in minor roles in the following 11 TV shows 30 to 40 years ago". The commentary track features four cast members but no-one from the production booth; there are lots of reminscences about the BBC's Television Centre circa 1977. The DVD release itself is one of the "light" releases, so the only noteworthy extras are a standard making-of feature, and some black-and-white film outtakes.

The best part of the extras is the highlighting of Tom Baker's own, often ad-libbed, contributions to the Doctor's on-screen presentation. Baker was compulsively watchable even in a bad story, and his Doctor's eccentricities add just the right amount of whimsy to this otherwise scary story.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Pushing it..., March 31, 2000
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I got this video. I don't regret it. Something rather marvellous about "vegging out" in front of the video with some toasted crumpets....
"Image of the Fendahl" possibly belongs to the loosely defined category of stories which might be classed as somewhat close to the margins. It doesn't matter. It is wonderful to watch Dr Fendahlman only just manage not to laugh, and with some of the lines, I'm not surprised. My kids like this story precisely and specifically because of this.
One slight difficulty is that with this story, we have yet another explantion of how life started on earth. The ones prior to this that I can actually recall are
1. The Daemons did it as an experiment (which had failed)
2. A Jagaroth spaceship blew itself up and started the whole thing with massive radiation.
This time, The Fendhal, a wholly parasitical lifeform, feeding on the full spectrum of life energy, "guides" the evolution of life of earth. And also, while "it" is at it, persuades some humans to adopt the name Fendahl....
Oh brother....
This movie is pretty good on the aarrgghhh! rating front. Fendahlman has a marvellous line with his close to last words, delivered in fine style..
"I have been used! WE have used! MAN-KIND-HAS-BEEN-USED!" which honestly, I would give a great deal to say on camera. Must be great to tell your grand childre you did that!
Tom is even more detatched, bizzarre, and compassionate. He works well with both villians and (weird) heroes, reviving a lady in a trance state with tea and fruit cake. That was rather a good scene, equalled only where he offers the Fendahl skull a jelly baby...
The villians are headed up a rather good actor who decides to... take over the world.... using the Fendahl. Ah! But he doesn't and is destroyed!
This is completely stupid, you know. I'm nearly 40, and I still go ape over this... I should be watching Tenessee Williams by now and growing up. This is very embarassing, but I've got four kids so that's my excuse.
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11 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars My Favorite Classic Episode of Doctor Who, July 6, 2009
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This review is from: Doctor Who: Image of the Fendahl (Story 94) (DVD)
During the Tom Baker years, Doctor who took a very dark turn. This period has given us such chilling stories as "The Horror of Fang Rock" and "The Talons of Weng Chiang". "Image of the Fendahl definitely falls into this category and has the same spooky atmosphere. Even if the story is a bit far fetched, the execution of the effects in light of the restrictive budget of the time makes this episode a classic and one I have waited for on DVD with great anticipation. I'm fairly sure that it was also the very first episode I ever saw and it was the one that got me hooked for life. One of the more interesting aspects of this episode is its attempt to explain the occult significance of the pentagram and the classic fear of the number 13 in "scientific" terms. Again, this episode is not for the feint of heart (at least as far as youngsters are concerned).
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars try two and a half?, April 15, 2004
By A Customer
One review here states that Tom Baker's Golden Age ran for about four years. The Golden Age as some fans call it was that produced by Philip Hinchcliffe and it started with Ark in Space, Baker's second story in a seaosn which was also cut short, (there was only Ark, the two part Sontaran Experiment and Genesis of the Daleks to get excited about before the terrible Revenge of the Cybermen and ran until the end of Baker's third season. Deadly Assassin was about mid way through his third season. While it contained classics like Genesis, Pyramids of Mars, Deadly Assassin, Robots of Death and the Talons of Weng Chiang, it also suffered from some dross. Either side of Pyramids of Mars were major dissapointments, Planet of Evil and Android Invasion. Then there was the boring Masque of Mandragora and the terrible Hand of Fear and Face of Evil.
This story comes in Baker's fourth season, when the Golden Age was over and a new producer was at the helm. It's actually more entertaining than some of those dreary Golden Age stories, it is a Hell of a lot more fun than Mandragora or the silly Brain of Morbius. The Quatermass and the Pit rip-off plot about the origins of man is well used and there are amusing characters. But while the humor is good, it seems to detract from the suspense. The whole thing has a cool, gothic look and great atmosphere and overall, I like it better than some of the Golden Age stuff, which is overrated in my view.
It's quite memorable and I enjoy rewatching it, which says something and I really like things like the old lady who says to her Grandson, while helping battle the forces of evil, "There's gonna come a day when I'll be too old for this sorta thing!"
I've been rewatching my Tom Bakers recently and while he is the most alien of Doctors and very good in the role, and most of his stories are eminently watchable, I do not feel overly attached to him. I felt that the accessibility and sympathetic nature of Doctors like Pertwee and Davison made them more involving on a human/emotional level and brought out the suspense and drama, as it seemed possible that they could lose. Tom Baker breezes through situations like he's Superman! Pertwee's first season, and the Peter Davison era are my idea of the real "Golden Ages" of Dr.Who. But Tom's still pretty cool. Come to think of it, all of Dr.Who is pretty good really. In this time of CGI animation overkill to the point of boring us all stupid, Dr.Who is enjoyably character-driven and focused on dialog and performaces. So, I'd recommend this story, just like I'd recommend most Dr.Who stories.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars X-FILES BEFORE THERE WAS AN X-FILES, July 15, 1999
By 
W Mianecke (Rochester, NY) - See all my reviews
A fond fave from Tom Baker's run. Well-acted, chilling stuff. Juicy dialogue, fun interactions between characters, and nice ways of working around a limited budget. The plot concepts are intriguing, too. The Doctor addressing the cows is one of my favorite scenes in all WHO. Recommended!
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the best!!!!!!!, August 26, 2009
By 
Kevin Tackett (Staffordsville, KY USA) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Doctor Who: Image of the Fendahl (Story 94) (DVD)
I have been a viewer of Doctor Who since the fall of 1978 when I was flipping through the channels and came upon this unique program that was picked up by my local PBS in Huntington, WV. Keep in mind that I was only 6 years old at the time. This particular story is a memorable one that I have also waited for on DVD because of the occult/alien storyline, Tom Baker's acting at his best, and a memorable supporting cast like Louise Jameson, Edward Arthur, and Wanda Ventham. This was the period of the best writing, producing, and directing in the show's history (including the new series which has little to be desired in writing and storylines and relies on CGI effects for the show's impact). The story was expertly filmed especially on the tight budget of the time. Just watch one of the opening scenes where the hiker is killed on a foggy moonlit night by the Fendahl. This scene looks excellent even now in comparison to modern standards. I can remember making my mother sit close to me when I was little watching this scene and being scared to death. In all honesty, children aren't exposed to this type of fear in television anymore due to the PC agenda which dominates entertainment. This fear and fantasy was the ultimate in fun at the time for me and my friends. You will not regret buying this DVD and it would be an excellent first purchase for a beginning viewer of Doctor Who whether an adult or child viewer.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars "How do you kill death itself?", April 28, 1999
By A Customer
Could a 12 million year old human skull be the key to how humans evolved? "Image of the Fendahl" is a great horror story. The pace and execution of this story is very different from a lot of Who stories, it has the feel of an "X-Files" episode. "Image..." also contains some extreme violence(extreme for the Graham Williams eara). Max shooting Stahlman in the head is quite chilling. It's got sort of a pedestrian pace, and a little padding here and there, but never lets you down.
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Doctor Who: Image of the Fendahl (Story 94)
Doctor Who: Image of the Fendahl (Story 94) by George Spenton-Foster (DVD - 2009)
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