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11 December 2014

Will Brooks’ 50 Year Diary - watching Doctor Who one episode a day from the very start...

Day 710: The Curse of Fenric, Episode One

Dear diary,

Just as a recap to those of you who may not have been keeping up with the Diary over the last few weeks - I’m watching lots of Seasons Twenty-Five and Twenty-Six out of broadcast order because… well, because they work a bit better being watched in the order that they were intended to be seen in! I’m also going all out with The Curse of Fenric, and watching the Special Edition on the DVD, though I’m still breaking it down into individual days, just pausing the DVD at the appropriate cliffhanger points. I can’t tell you how tempting it was today just to carry on and watch it as a movie-length version, though! I think this story may have been the first McCoy tale that I ever saw, and there’s certainly a fair bit that I like about it…

Perhaps largely, it’s the relationship between the Doctor and Ace. It’s something I’ve been touching on for a while now, but they really do gel together as a team in a way that other Doctors and companions haven’t since about the time Romana was on the show. Don’t get me wrong - Davison worked very well with Tegan, and Colin Baker went well with Peri (even when they were arguing, in an odd sort of way) - but McCoy and Ace just fit, don’t they? I speculated during Remembrance of the Daleks that up to six months may have passed for the pair between their first meeting and the events of that story, and by the end of last season I’d decided that they’d already spent a year together. I think I’m willing to take another big leap here and say that we might well be coming up on the two-year mark. Something about the fact that the seasons are so short in this period (over in a fortnight!) makes it feel automatically as though there must be a lot of off-screen adventures happening somewhere, and the relationship between our leads just fits that idea beautifully.

I’m finding this episode a bit strange to come to now, because it’s a story that I’m so familiar with. I know that the Doctor will go on to battle with Fenric by the end, and that Ace is a pawn in this game, and yet this first episode doesn’t really give you many clues as to what’s going on. The Doctor has obviously come here with a distinct purpose (Ace is even dressed for the period when they arrive), and then he spends the episode running from location to location, but he seems to switch between knowing what’s going on, to not having a clue. I think I’m right in saying that he’s worked out that Fenric is involved somewhere (or, at the very least, he’s almost entirely certain that it must be him), but that he’s not entirely sure how everything factors in to Fenric’s plan? Or is he looking in to all of these things to confirm his theories about what’s happening? The problem is that because I’ve become so used to looking at this story as part of the ‘bigger picture’ within the era, it’s suddenly throwing me to be watching it properly again - it’s been a good few years!

From tomorrow’s instalment, I’m going to try and block all of that out of my mind, and just go along with the story. Certainly I’ve enjoyed today’s episode, but perhaps not as much as I was expecting to because there’s so much back and forth trying to get everything in to place so that the story can progress. It’s one of those occasions when knowing too much can have a detrimental effect - but I’m also quite keen on the idea of watching this story again in the very near future, once I’ve regained a better grounding of how the story works in itself, as opposed to being part of the overall story.

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