The one with the Zektronic energy beam – The Curse of Fatal Death reviewed

The Curse of Fatal DeathIn 1999, as part of BBC’s Comic Relief charity bonanza, viewers were treated to a mini four-part Doctor Who story, by none other than Steven Moffat, entitled The Curse of Fatal Death. In Starburst issue #389 JR Southall in his Watching Doctor Who column talks favourably about the Curse played in the journey from Classic Who to nu-Who which led me to re-watch it and jot down some thoughts…

The Story

The Ninth Doctor (Rowan Atkinson) meets up with The Master (Jonathan Pryce) on Terserus and through various means the Master ends up crawling the Terserus sewers for 936 years. Meanwhile the Doctor just wants to marry his assistant Emma (Julia Sawalha) as he has now saved every planet in the universe a minimum of 27 times. Of coure the Daleks arrive (Ro Skelton voicing for the last time) and we learn that the Master is in league with the Daleks and has promised them the Zektronic energy beam with which they can conquer the universe!

Of course the Doctor and Emma are captured, throw their lot in with the Master then the Doctor gets shot escaping and regenerated into the Tenth Doctor (Richard E Grant) who tries to fix the malfunctioning Zektronic beam but gets electrocuted and becomes the Eleventh Doctor (a timid Jim Broadbent) who quickly dies again to become the Twelfth Doctor (Hugh Grant).

Events then come to a head as the Doctor once again dies but still comes back as a Female Thirteenth Doctor (Joanna Lumley) but not until the Master and the Daleks renounce evil.

All ends with Emma looking on confused as the Doctor and the Master leave together enjoying a new found attraction.

The production and some observations

This is clearly a piece of light-hearted parody of much of Doctor Who with some wobbly TARDIS sets, techno-babble and a thin veneer of almost plot. It is easy to get carried away by consideration of the casting – Atkinson makes a good Doctor and Sawalha is every inch the companion. In the 80s Sawalha was considered for the part of Raine Creevy [see the Raine trilogy] but ended up in The Press Gang which was written by Steven Moffat! [Coincidentally one episode of this was called The Big Finish!]

[pullquote]Lumley convinces in any unlikely role[/pullquote]

Grant also does well (and of course was in Scream of the Shalka and played the Great Intelligence in The Snowmen and Name of the Doctor). Broadbent has little to do but Grant shines as the last Doctor and Lumley convinces in any unlikely role (including in Absolutely Fabulous with Sawalha).

The Daleks do little and the Master is as mad and over the top as we were afraid he could become.

What does this all tell us about Steven Moffat’s future as show runner? He clearly knows the show, we can join the dots backwards and say he acknowledges the Daleks but doesn’t like them to shine and he likes simple tales of love. He also isn’t afraid to kill the Doctor off, several times.

Final thoughts

Although this is a bit of fun and little more (though beware of any future episodes entitled Terserus) it is made with a certain respect and given it is freely available on YouTube there is no reason not to watch it. Julia Sawalha would make a decent companion and I’d take Hugh or Rowan as the Doctor (and Lumley as well!).


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