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15x3. Image of the Fendahl
Writer: Chris Boucher
Director: George Spenton-Foster
Script Editor: Robert Holmes
Producer: Graham Williams

Synopsis: The Doctor and Leela arrive in Britain, where a team of scientists, led by Dr. Fendelman, are using a sonic time scanner to examine an ancient skull that seems to predate humanity by far, unaware that their experiment may result in the awakening of the Fendahl, an entity that has subtly manipulated human history and evolution so as to create the conditions for its eventual return. The Doctor's attempts to prevent the Fendahl from reawakening -- after which it would conceivably consume all life on Earth -- are complicated by a local cult led by one of the scientists, Max Stael, who believe that they can channel the Fendahl's power.

Review: "Image of the Fendahl" has some interesting ideas and characters attached to a plot that eventually proves too restrained for its own good. The conflicts between three of the scientists -- Fendelman, Stael, and Colby -- are borne out of genuine personality differences rather than just differing roles in the plot. Colby remains defiant and scornful of Stael's megalomania to the end, and Fendelman is convincingly both overconfident and manipulative at first (he persuades the rest of the team to cover up an apparent murder and slyly suggests, when one of them accuses him of being insane, that he should therefore be humored) and later chastened as he realizes that his own life (and, as he says, all of mankind) has been used to bring about the Fendahl's re-emergence. The ideas behind the story, namely that the skull has been slowly influencing human evolution so as to create the conditions for the Fendahl's return, and that the paranormal phenomena in the area (and in other locations across the world) are the result of a nearby "time fissure," are a compelling take on common superstitions and on theories about alien influence on human history.

While derivative of Quatermass and the Pit, the serial is hardly a carbon copy or a ripoff. Unfortunately, it might have actually fared better if it had been. The Quatermass story was convincingly sweeping and large-scale: one really could believe that all of humanity was threatened at the end.  "Image of the Fendahl," however, never quite gets there. When the Fendahl partially materializes, having taken over the body of Dr. Thea Ransome, it doesn't actually do much of anything, and the whole threat is apparently foiled at the end by some salt and an explosion. This serial certainly has its strong points, but the writers probably should have either toned down the scale of the threat or enlarged the scope of the story.

Rating: *** (out of four)