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28 December 2014

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

Day 727: The Curse of Fatal Death

Dear diary,

I’ve never been all that fond of The Curse of Fatal Death. It’s the way that I often seem to encounter other fans who tell me that it’s the funniest thing in the world, and I sort of smile and nod while secretly thinking that, yes, it’s a good laugh, but no, it’s not that good of a laugh. So why the decision to take a whole day out of the marathon in order to watch it? Ah, well, that’s simple. It’s become something of a joke over the years between a friend and me to view this short story as something of a template for Steven Moffat’s time on Doctor Who proper. Every year or so, something seems to come along which can be linked back (sometimes very tenuously - we seem to try and out do each other in that area) to Fatal Death. By my count, we’ve currently got;

A humanoid augmented by Dalek technology (Asylum of the Daleks, The Time of the Doctor), The Doctor getting engaged/married (A Christmas Carol, The Wedding of River Song et al…), A plot that gets a bit wibbly-wobbly (take your pick), a get out clause of engineering your escape after you’ve made said escape (The Big Bang), A Time Lord trapped on one planet for the better part of a millennium (The Time of the Doctor), Regenerating in to the opposite sex (Dark Water), Daleks needing the Doctor’s help (Asylum of the Daleks), The Doctor retiring from his role as saviour of the universe (The Snowmen), The universe not wanting to let the Doctor die (The Wedding of River Song), “Never cruel, never cowardly” (The Day of the Doctor, although this in fairness is a crib from Terrance Dicks), The Doctor and the Master flirting openly with each other (Death in Heaven), and The Sonic Screwdriver being used for innuendo (The Day of the Doctor).

As I say, some of those are extremely tenuous links, while some are more obvious, and I’m sure that we must have missed something somewhere. Quite a lot of them tie in to several other aspects of Doctor Who, too, and can’t simply be called something Steven Moffat does with the show. But I wanted to refresh my memory of the story before heading off into the revived series, so that it’s fresh in the mind when we reach some of Moffat’s later stories. Certainly, there’s a few links in that list that I’d not thought about until today!

The other thing that I have to confess to enjoying about this one is that it gives us some glimpses - some very brief - in to ‘could-have-been’ Doctors… and some are rather good at it! Rowan Atkinson, for example, plays the part up a little as the script requires him to… but he somehow makes it work perfectly well, and I could just about imagine him taking on the roll full-time in a not-too-dissimilar manner. I think I’d list Rowan Atkinson as the one actor I’d love to have seen helm the role at some point.

But then you’ve also got the likes of Hugh Grant turning in a decent performance in the part at pretty much the height of his fame, but the difference with Grant is that while I can enjoy his performance in this story as a bit of a one-off, I don’t think I could take him seriously in the show proper if he played it the way he does here. The same could be said for Richard E. Grant - but of all these temporary Doctors, he’s the only one who will get the chance to explore the character more over the next few days. Jim Broadbent’s Doctor is completely out there for the few brief moments he’s on screen (but even then, there’s shades of Matt Smith’s Eleventh Doctor in there!), and even Joanna Lumley makes a great Time Lord for a short time!


Is The Curse of Fatal Death the funniest Doctor Who comedy ever? Well… no. I don’t think so. Is there a lot in here to like? Very much so. I’ll be keeping it toward the front of my mind as I move on in to the 21st century series…

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