The Curse of Fenric was the third story in season 26 (the last of classic Who) and the season was something of a high point creatively for the show. The so called Cartmell Master Plan was in effect and we got a string of strong stories (though I’m not a fan of Survival.)
In terms of story The Curse of Fenric is a great mixture of classic Who elements. We have Evil… Evil from the dawn of time, a base under siege, a manipulative Doctor and death all around.
Sidebar: It’s a common modern misconception that Doctor Who is somehow bloodier than it used to be, this story is a good example of how that isn’t true.
Sylvester McCoy’s Doctor has been toned down a bit from his early appearances, although every now and then the director lets him indulge in a little too much slapstick. Similarly Sophie Aldred as Ace only slips into painfully stereotyped cool speak the once during this episode.
In many ways this story illustrates how the show was struggling to modernize itself. At times there are awkward dissonances like the scene where Ace seduces one of the soldiers to distract him. Here the notion of what a children’s show should be clashes against a more modern sensibility and we get some really odd and uncomfortable lines.
Yet there are a lot of subtleties going on here. Faith is a major component of the storyline and the different sorts of faith that a person might have. Ace is also the first companion that really gets a proper storyline of her own and she is a pivotal figure throughout this story.
In terms of special effects, this was a pretty large scale storyline for Doctor Who to tackle at the time. The effects for the Haemovores are still impressive (even if their choreographed method of killing lacks much tension any more) but it’s hard to hide the fact they really don’t have enough bodies for all the battles that are being fought, or a big enough budget for the sorts of explosions that ought to be happening.
Yes it’s a very melodramatic presentation: We play the contest again… TimeLord but it’s also (another case of past and present clashing) knowingly so at times Don’t interrupt me when I’m eulogizing.
It’s the episode that most makes me wonder what could have happened if there had been a season 27 and 28 and how the show might have progressed with small changes rather than the rebirth that it in fact got.