An ancient evil arises near a secret British base during World War II, and the Doctor (McCoy) and Ace (Sophie Aldred) find themselves taking it on, in The Curse of Fenric.
This story, the penultimate of Season 26, was a four-parter that was penned by Ian Briggs and ran from 25 October to 15 November, 1989.
There is a lot going on in this story, a secret machine that the British are going to let a Russian commando team steal, as it has been booby-trapped with poisonous gas, Ace and the Doctor have a bit of a rough go of it, and the ancient evil, Fenric, is released to confront the Doctor. Again.
It seems the Doctor beat and trapped Fenric once before, a long, long time ago, and has manipulated a lot of moments, and even people to orchestrate its release. And to help it with its plans, Fenric brings Haemovores from a pollution-filled future Earth… in simpler terms, vampires (0f a sort).
The crazy thing is, all of this happens in four episodes, and the Doctor has to get it all wrapped up before continuing with his final adventure next week.
McCoy and Aldred are top-form here, completely at ease with each other and their characters. Ace’s character continues to be filled out, as we learn even more about her. There is a definite shift starting to share the focus between Doctor and Companion. Something we will see play out in the 21st century update of the series.
As the story progresses we get a look at Ace’s complete faith in the Doctor, her own connection to Fenric, and how the evil entity has been manipulating events since the Time Lord’s first encounter with the young woman.
I think this season sees some of the most development in terms of the Doctor and Ace, it makes for stronger storytelling because for the first time, we are becoming more invested in the characters than we have before. And their moments together onscreen in this story are some of the best they have done.
It’s too bad that this was happening in the last season of the series, well, at least until the relaunch in 2005. It does, however, show that the method of storytelling was already changing to incorporate more character moments and background, and this comes into play in a huge way in the future.
I will be sorry to leave McCoy, and the others behind, but am looking forward to throwing myself into the new series, and exploring that.
Next week, the Doctor and Ace take on their last adventure, Survival.