Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Doctor Who-The Curse Of Fenric
               With both the cold war environment and Doctor Who itself winding down roughly around the same time,it was only inevitable that the program would reflect on some of the changing moral conditions of the world. A lot was starting to be questioned in society around this time. It was a precursor to the "nothing sacred" attitude of the decade to come. Also there was one very important loose end to tie up. Since her debut in the episode 'Dragonfire',Ace had been a one of the few of the doctors travelling companions next perhaps to Sarah Jane who was a genuine sidekick rather than a screaming fellow traveler. The doctors mentoring relationship with her had also got to a point where he recognized a struggle within her between good and evil. In this episode that struggle,in general and within the Ace character herself was dealt with to the point of a near resolution.

             The doctor and Ace arrive in a small English Coastal town in 1943,as the Second World War is coming to a head. There are a number of events occurring all at the same time. There is a man using a new super computer called Ultima to crack an ancient Viking code,a Nazi double agent,a Reverend who is losing his faith and two young evacuees who are swimming in a taboo area. What do they all have in common? Every one of them is looking to assert themselves in an environment of violence and secrecy. Soon this code is uncovered by the doctor as being a connecting thread between families involving The Curse Of Fenric,an entity who is the very personification of evil and whom the doctor has encountered in the distant past.  While Ace meets a lady whose baby shares the same name as her mother,and while allegiances are splitting between Nazis and communists alike the Doctor at last faces down Fenric and his wolves-controlled henchmen consisting of both hemovores,vampire like humanoids and others represented later stages in human evolution.

           Fenric has been manipulating the events at the end of this war,hoping to destroy humanity many millennia before it is supposed to occur in order to gain easier control over life on the planet and of the universe. During this time Ace's allegiances are torn in every possible direction. The new friends she makes in the two female evacuees are transformed into hemovores,and even an officer which she begins to romantically involve herself with soon becomes the unwitting human host to Fenric himself. Even as Ace herself has figured out the solution to the chess game the doctor and Fenric must play to balance harmony. In the end there's a surprising revelation made in order to defeat Fenric;that Ace herself was another of these "wolves of Fenric" and the baby she was so attached to really was her mother. Upon the defeat of Fenric a very worn,but much wiser Ace leaves Earth with the doctor to conclude her travels with him.

          This serial qualifies as one of the most emotionally intense and dramatic stories written for Doctor Who. And perhaps one of the best the series has to offer. And it's not because the plot of vampires,WW2 and super computers cracking ancient codes are particularly original. Rather it's the personal consequences to the two main characters. As for the doctor this points more than any other serial perhaps how much of a personification of good he represents,and how much unspoken knowledge about his links to humanity just bubbling under the surface,yearning to come out but never able to. For Ace,it's an emotional roller coaster. In this serial new friends turn on her, a potential lover and she becomes the unwitting catalyst for her very existence by saving the life of her infant mother. And to top it off,the doctor must reveal his true reasons for taking her under his wing and (convincingly) persuade Fenric that Ace's faith in him is misplaced. This leads to a scene where the usually maverick Ace completely breaks down at the perceived betrayal,until the doctor explains what he did and she symbolically wipes her slate clean. This story has a strong encouragement to faith about it. Not faith in something unknowable. But faith in ones positive aspects to fend off evil of all sorts.
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