The TARDIS is sidetracked by a time anomaly, depositing the Doctor and Leela near a secluded priory which has been serving as the laboratory of Dr. Fendelman and his colleagues. The object of the scientists’ study is what appears to be a human skull…which, according to dating, originated over eight million years before homo sapiens existed on Earth. But Fendelman isn’t sharing the whole story with his fellow scientists – in fact, one of them has unknowningly become a channel through which something sinister is emerging. The Doctor tries to intervene as the body count mounts in the countryside, but Fendelman has his well-armed security guards lock the Doctor away. The Doctor recognizes the threat as one from Gallifreyan folklore: the Fendahl, a gestalt entity, was exiled by the Time Lords, its world time-looped for twelve million years. Fendelman knows that the skull is alien, and hopes that studying it will reveal new insights into the origins of man. But Fendelman’s trusted assistant has other designs on the alien artifact, plans which involve black magic. And somewhere between science and black magic, the Fendahl will gain the power it needs to strike.
written by Chris Boucher
directed by George Spenton-Foster
music by Dudley Simpson
Guest Cast: Wanda Ventham (Thea Ransome), Denis Lill (Dr. Fendelman), Edward Arthur (Colby), Scott Fredericks (Max Stael), Edward Evans (Moss), Derek Martin (Mitchell), Daphne Heard (Martha Tyler), Graham Simpson (Hiker), Geoffrey Hinsliff (Jack Tyler), David Elliott, Roy Pearce (Security Guards)
Broadcast from October 29 through November 19, 1977
LogBook entry & review by Earl Green
Review: Well, hey, they had to figure out some way to re-use the giant maggots from The Green Death. This early horror effort from the oft-criticized Graham Williams era may not be quite up to the gorier stories of the preceeding Philip Hinchcliffe era, but it is helped by a crisp Chris Boucher script. There’s a lot of wit among the nearly-nonsensical pseudoscience and occult plot points. There are also some major additions to Doctor Who’s Time Lord mythos – one throwaway reference in particular, to the Superstitious Disconnect in Gallifreyan society, led to numerous major developments in the New Adventures novel series. It’s also one of the first instances of Time Lord interference which wasn’t personally handled by the Doctor, something which seems to surprise him (he describes it as “criminal”).
The cast is mostly low-key, which fits. Scott Fredericks stands out as the quietly menacing Max, and would later team up with writer Chris Boucher and director George Spenton-Foster to create the memorable character of Carnell in an early second season episode of Blake’s 7. Actually, the number of future Blake personnel in this four-parter is fairly high.
In the Something Cool I’ll Bet You Didn’t Notice category, when a certain structure implodes violently (represented by film of explosions running backwards), note that Dudley Simpson thoughtfully provided a piece of incidental music which would also run backwards, but progress forward. George Martin would be proud!