Island of the Fendahl

Posted in Audio by - July 13, 2019
Island of the Fendahl

Released July 2019

SOME SPOILERS FOLLOW

Four lifetimes ago in a place called Fetchborough, the Doctor encountered and destroyed the Fendahl, the ultimate evolution of death lying in wait at the far end of the food chain. When the TARDIS lands on the remote island of Fandor, however, it seems that death just may not be dead, and the Doctor finds that he has been part of a far grander scheme than he could have ever imagined in Alan Barnes’s ‘Island of the Fendahl.’

As one of the lesser-known Doctor Who enemies, the psychevore Fendahl by necessity requires a greater amount of time dedicated to explaining its unique means of existence than most, but Barnes quite adeptly includes this background information without ever becoming overly cumbersome or detailed. Indeed, the inclusion of ancient pentagrams and mysterious caterpillars that appear only once per year is so intrinsic to the plot that this could easily be an introductory story for the menace, but in the process it also manages to avoid simply retreading the events of ‘Image of the Fendahl’ while still remaining absolutely linked to that serial and its characters with the correct genetic inheritance who find themselves in this locale some forty years later. This is a place where nothing is quite as simple and straightforward as it seems, and eventually the Doctor realises that he has been an unwilling pawn in a sequence of events spanning back across his past several journeys that will soon threaten the lives of millions across a vast expanse of space as he himself begins to glow as the Fendahl core.

While this box set is not necessarily one of a tightly-linked serial nature, ‘Island of the Fendahl’ wonderfully explains the ominous Darkness from the opener ‘The Dalek Trap’ while directly connecting those events to the Fourth Doctor’s initial victory. Yet even smaller moments that garnered suspicion in the second and third stories here are put into an entirely new and fearful context when the true scope of the deadly Fendahl’s nefarious plan to traverse the stars once more is revealed. Few beings have been able to infiltrate and warp the Doctor’s adventuresome nature to this extent, and the Fendahl becomes all the more chillingly effective as a villain as a result, the Doctor’s insistence that Lucie take off his head after she refuses to let him sacrifice himself to another dimension providing a sequence that thankfully compensates for what initially seemed to be an underwhelmingly easy victory relying on the Fendahl’s known weakness of rock salt. Not that Lucie at this point needs a story to prove just how incredibly determined, resourceful, and valuable she is aboard the TARDIS, but ‘Island of the Fendahl’ captures everything about its lead character’s relationship that is so beloved and absolutely gives Lucie a standout heroic moment that again ties neatly into the Fendahl’s lasting legacy and mythology.

Give that the title, the name of the island, and the name of one of the characters take away any surprise that the Fendahl is the central menace of this tale from the outset, some of the intended plot twists don’t deliver nearly the impact that might have otherwise been achieved. Still, the supporting cast ably brings to life this isolated locale and the malevolent importance thrust upon the Doctor with the needed menace and emotion. As with all of the stories in this set, ‘Island of the Fendahl’ makes the most of a tense atmosphere that the sound design and direction accentuate perfectly, and Paul McGann and Sheridan Smith again give spectacular performances throughout that will leave fans eagerly anticipating another series of adventures with these best of friends. The Fendahl might not top the list of top Doctor Who foes, but it definitively proves its genuine and unique power and danger here before again meeting what certainly seems like a final end.

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