The Fragile Yellow Arc Of Fragrance

Doctor WhoThe Doctor, Susan, Ian and Barbara prepare to leave the planet Fragrance, where they’ve enjoyed a pleasant, uneventful stay. One of the locals, however, has fallen in love with Barbara, and he tries to work up the nerve to ask her to remain on Fragrance instead of leaving with the TARDIS. Susan learns of the two phases or love on Fragrance – the thin purple line, and the fragile yellow arc – and also learns that the people of Fragrance ritually end their lives if they are turned down by the objects of their affection. Susan is sure that this is merely a metaphor, but when Barbara turns down the advances of her suitor and the time travelers leave aboard the TARDIS, it’s discovered to be tragically literal.

written by Moris Farhi
adapted for audio by Nigel Robinson
directed by Lisa Bowerman
music by Toby Hrycek-Robinson

Cast: William Russell (Ian Chesterton), Carole Ann Ford (Susan Foreman), John Dorney (Rhythm)

Notes: The Fragile Yellow Arc Of Fragrance is an “audition” script written Moris Farhi for Doctor Who script editor David Whitaker as proof that he was capable of delivering a filmable script, though it really seems to be either a stand-alone that begins in mid story, or the last episode of a multi-episode story. Along with Farewell, Great Macedon, Arc is a lost script unearthed by Moris Farhi at the request of the editors of the semi-pro-zine Nothing At The End Of The Lane in the 21st century, as they were following up on reports that Farhi had written scripts for both Doctor Who and The Prisoner (all of which were ultimately turned down). Big Finish adapted the stories for audio and produced them with surviving cast members Carole Ann Ford and William Russell – the first time the actors had reprised the roles of Susan and Ian in the same audio production.

LogBook entry and review by Earl Green

Review: A lovely stand-alone piece, The Fragile Yellow Arc Of Fragrance is a story surrounded by mystery. There’s the fictional mystery – what else happened during the time travelers’ visit to Fragrance? – as well as the factual mystery, namely: what part of this story was deemed unsuitable for Doctor Who in 1964? Farhi wrote his scripts as the early story Marco Polo was unfolding on TV, and he demonstrates a remarkable grasp of the show’s main characters and their chemistry.

The only thing that seems even slightly “off” is the Doctor’s willingness to show the elders of Fragrance how the TARDIS works, and even then I can give that a pass. The first Doctor was paranoid about the immature residents of Earth learning of time travel (and of time travelers in their midst), but he clearly here recognizes a far more peaceful culture. (Bear in mind, this is the same Doctor who was ready to stop traveling for a while and hang out with the advanced culture he believed he had found in The Savages, so it’s not completely out of character.)

Fragrance is a world populated by people who were probably intended to look, more or less, human (though you have the option of imagining something a bit more outre since it’s in audio form), but bearing in mind the production realities of making something at the BBC in 1964 (and particularly at the Lime Grove Studios), let’s assume that these people were going to look human, their boats were going to look like human boats, and so on. And yet Fragrance is a more fully-realized alien culture, in this short space of time, then many of the other alien cultures visited in 1960s Doctor Who. One can get the feel for their beliefs, their traditions, and their culture. Moris Farhi has a keen sense for building the world in which the Doctor’s adventure takes place, a trait shared with his other attempt to sell a Doctor Who story, the fully fleshed-out six-parter Farewell, Great Macedon. I’m left with only one big question at the end of these two stories.

Why – no, actually how – did Moris Farhi not end up writing a televised Doctor Who script?