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'Doctor Who and the Curse of Fatal Death'

12 March 1999, 4 episodes

Writer: Steven Moffatt
Director: John Henderson

Roots: Blackadder; Withnail and I; Absolutely Fabulous; Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice; Victoria Wood As Seen On TV, and of course Doctor Who.

Goofs: The Master's rather enthusiastic TARDIS console looks like it's about to shake itself apart! The Doctor's shirt changes colour with each regeneration. The waistcoat of his female incarnation is of a different design and is buttoned down the opposite side (c.f. 'The Power of the Daleks', 'Castrovalva'). If the Master falls into the sewers three times within the space of a few minutes - relative to the Doctor - then surely he should meet himself trying to climb out earlier. Why then don't his 'older' selves warns his 'younger' self about what has happened so they can avoid falling into the sewers once again?

Fashion Victims: The Master's Gallifreyan robes. Emma's two-colour outfit.

Technobabble: The Master's Dalek bumps can detect ion-charged emissions and operate as etheric-beam locators ('Genesis of the Daleks') at a distance of up to twenty thousand light years. The Master has given the Daleks a 'zectronic energy beam'.

Dialogue Disasters: 'Oh no, the planet of the bottom burpers.'

'Goodbye forever, Mr and Mrs Doctor!'

'Prepare for five hundred miles of fear and faeces.'

The Master on the Doctor's final female form: 'I have to say, Doctor, you are rather gorgeous.'

Dialogue Triumphs: 'Your certain death is now certain!'

'It will be the deadly vengeance of deadly revenge!'

The Master and the Doctor try to outwit each other: 'Say hello to the Spikes of Doom' 'Say hello to the Sofa of Reasonable Comfort'

'I have grown weary of all the evil in the cosmos. All the cruelty, all the suffering, all those endless gravel quarries.'

The tenth Doctor to Emma 'You're the only companion I've had.'

'Oh. Bugger'

Emma's eulogy to the dying twelfth Doctor is rather splendid.

'Maybe even the Universe can't bear to be without the Doctor.'

'I think I can see the On switch!'

But the best line in the entire production has to be the Doctor's: 'Look after the Universe for me. I've put a lot of work into it.' Lovely stuff.

Continuity: The Doctor and the Master have been battling for many centuries. The Master initially plans to lure the Doctor to the planet Zaston Four. A long, multi-coloured scarf can be seen hanging off the hat stand in the Doctor's TARDIS, and a second Doctorish stovepipe hat rests on a nearby table.

It is not exactly clear which incarnation of the Master this is. His Gallifreyan robes suggest that this adventure takes place after 'Doctor Who', but no explanation is offered as to how he escaped the Doctor's TARDIS or why his physical appearance is different. The Master once again has his own TARDIS. He can view the interior of the Doctor's TARDIS on his scanner ('The Time Monster', 'Castrovalva'). Direct visual and verbal communication is possible between TARDISes.

The natives of the planet Tersurus were once the most kindly and peace-loving race ever encountered by the Doctor, but also the most shunned and abhorred species because they communicated by precisely-modulated gastric emissions. Both the Doctor and the Master communicate with the Tersuron Architect [presumably in this manner; both Time Lords are clearly well-versed in the language and later communicate with each other in it on the Dalek spaceship]. The Tersurons were all wiped out when they discovered fire. No-one has set foot on the planet for a hundred years [it was on Tersurus that Chancellor Goth found the dying Master, as recalled in 'The Deadly Assassin'. An obvious opportunity to tie this in with the events of 'The Curse of Fatal Death' by having the aged Master become the near-rotten version seen in the former has been overlooked - or perhaps even deliberately avoided].

The Master falls into the sewers of Tersurus thanks to the Doctor having bribed the Architect to move the trapdoor. It takes the Master 312 years to climb out, with only dung slugs for food and occasional company on long lonely nights. He makes it back to his TARDIS and travels back in time to the present day [via an earlier attempt to bribe the Architect and then onto Skaro] bringing with him the Daleks [this implies that it is possible for the Doctor and the master to meet outside each others' relative timelines]. The Daleks augment the Master's body by replacing his right hand with a plunger.

The Master falls into the sewer pit for a second time when he rushes at and misses the Doctor. he falls in a third time when a Dalek knocks into him. In all, the Master spends a total of 936 years climbing out of the sewers.

The Daleks augment the Master's aged body for a second time, giving him back his appearance as well as fitting him with firm 'Dalek bumps' on his chest (see Technobabble). For some strange reason the Daleks have chairs on board their spaceship, a fact that does not go unnoticed by Emma.

The Doctor is currently in his ninth incarnation. According to the Master the Doctor still has many many more lives left. The Doctor has grown weary of saving the Universe and wants to retire and get married. For the first time the Doctor has fallen in love with his female companion. He is fatally wounded by Dalek energy-weapons fire. His 'lick-the-mirror-handsome' tenth persona is injured by an explosion when he attempts to rewire the Daleks' zectronic energy beam controller. His shy-in-the-presence-of-girls eleventh self is blown up when he goes down the corridor to examine a console in another area of the spaceship. The Doctor loses his boyishly handsome twelfth form (his third regeneration in the space of a minute) when he is hit by residual zectronic energy. Pure zectronic energy is so powerful that it can destroy the ability to regenerate. However, the Doctor's will to survive triggers his twelfth and final regeneration, but he is no longer the man he used to be. His thirteenth incarnation is female. The Doctor says he has always wanted to get his hands on one.

At the end of the tale the Master decides to renounce evil and follow the path of goodness in honour of his fallen foe. The Daleks likewise plan to honour their enemy.

The sonic screwdriver has three settings, one of which is 'vibrate'.


If it is absolutely necessary to do so, it is rather difficult to reconcile the Valeyard into the Doctor's final series of regenerations. Of course, the twelfth Doctor is out of view briefly, so the power of the zectronic energy could have 'created' the Valeyard off-screen. Indeed, the Valeyard's dark side could have arisen from the Doctor's subconscious horror at losing so many lives in such a short time, hence the Valeyard's desire to extend his own life by taking the sixth Doctor's future incarnations.

Location: The space-time vortex, the planet Tersurus, a Dalek space ship

Untelevised Adventures: Obviously there is an adventure in which the Doctor regenerated for an eighth time. The Doctor's meeting with Emma is off-screen and presumably on Earth (she knows about father Christmas, the Wizard of Oz and Scooby Doo), but the style of her dress suggests she is not from a contemporary time period. They have since fallen in love with one another. During the 'two hours relative' between his first conversation with the Master and his arrival on Tersurus, the Doctor goes back in time by a hundred or so years on three separate occasions to bribe - or dine with - the Architect of Castle Tersurus. The Doctor knows about the Tersurons and their ultimate fate. He estimates that he has saved every planet in the known Universe a minimum of twenty-seven times.

Q.v. The TARDIS Scanner, 'Full Circle'

The Bottom Line: 'I'll explain later'.

As spoofs go, this is one of the best. Rowan Atkinson unexpectedly downplays his usual comedy style and as a result offers a very likeable Doctor. The all-too-brief cameos of future Doctor (played respectively by Richard E Grant, Jim Broadbent, Hugh Grant and Joanna Lumley) provide a humourous taste of what could have been had the series continued. Having Joanna Lumley as the first female Doctor sees the dream of many fans finally realised. Jonathan Pryce's OTT Master looks like Delgado but exudes some of the camp charm of the Anthony Ainley and Eric Roberts versions. This interlude is best not analysed too deeply, and should be accepted for what it is - a tongue firmly in cheek take-off in aid of a good charity cause. Besides, it is doubtful that even the money-hungry BBC would be so stupid as to let the Doctor officially lose all his remaining incarnations in such an overtly silly manner.

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