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Image of the Fendahl was the third serial of season 15 of Doctor Who.


The present day: just as the Fourth Doctor and Leela arrive in Fetchborough, England, Professor Fendelman prepares to experiment on a fossilized skull which science says should not exist. The skull is actually an artefact of the Fendahl, a god-like being who feeds on the life force of others. It has begun to awaken and kill. Worse yet, others seek to exploit the Fendahl's dreadful power.


Part one[]

The skull takes control of Thea Ransome.

In Fetch Priory, scientists Thea Ransome and Adam Colby are examining a skull they have nicknamed "Eustace". The skull is twelve million years old, and they are incredulous at the evolutionary implications. Meanwhile, lead scientist Dr. Fendelman and his collaborator, Maximillian Stael, begin their night-time experiments with a time scanner. Its power seems to affect the skull, of which they seem unaware. The skull in turn has some sort of effect on Thea. In the woods outside of the Priory, a hiker walking by is attacked and killed by an unseen creature.

Meanwhile, the Fourth Doctor and Leela are in the TARDIS, worrying over the damaged K9. The Doctor insists on referring to K9 as an "it", to Leela's chagrin. As the Doctor tries to repair K9, the TARDIS is affected by a Relative Continuum Displacement Zone — a hole in time. The Doctor traces it to Earth, and the TARDIS lands near the Priory the next day. The Doctor and Leela find a man called Ted Moss. He says there are strange things going on in the Priory.

Adam finds the corpse of the hiker while out walking his dog, Leakey. Fendelman suggests covering this up, loathe to media and police interrupting their potentially groundbreaking work. Fendelman tells Stael to have armed guards posted and to do a post-mortem on the body. Thea and Adam learn of the lockdown though guard David Mitchell after a loud argument between him and an old local woman, Martha Tyler, who is a white witch and the cook at the priory. Stael reports to Fendelman his inability to discover the cause of the hiker's death; although the outward signs are that the man died very recently, the body is decomposing rapidly. Fendelman orders Stael to dispose of the hiker's body.

The Doctor and Leela decide they must investigate the priory just as Thea switches on the time scanner. A compulsion draws her to the machine and she and the skull seem to merge. Leela splits up from the Doctor and investigates a nearby cottage, where she is fired upon with a shotgun. Meanwhile, the Doctor feels the presence of the same unseen creature who killed the hiker. He finds himself paralysed, unable to run as the creature is about to consume him.

Part two[]

The Doctor regains control of his legs and runs from the creature. Ted Moss reloads his shotgun and moves to the door of the Tyler cottage, where Leela overpowers him. Jack Tyler gets rid of Ted Moss and talks with Leela.

Thea is being gradually taken over by the skull, the Fendahl. The Fendahl kills Mitchell, the security guard. Embryo Fendahleen briefly appear on the unconscious Thea as the Doctor and Adam watch. Fendelman has the Doctor locked up in a storage room on suspicion of Mitchell's murder. Jack Tyler talks to Leela about his "gran" and the old religion, and being involved with "something nasty".

Adam goes to talk to Dr. Fendelman about the disconnected telephone. Fendelman tells him that he thinks the skull is extraterrestrial. He shows Adam a skull x-ray; a pentagram is part of the bone structure, and he believes it is a neural circuit that stores energy and then, eventually, signals to others that there intelligent life on the planet.

Meanwhile, Mrs. Tyler returns to the cottage, terrified. She says that something was after her, "hungry" for her soul.

Thea is again drawn to the room where the time scanner is kept and sees the x-ray of the skull. Stael appears and, revealed as the leader of the local coven, proclaims she is the key to his power, the chosen one. Thea tries to leave, but Stael grabs her and uses chloroform to render her unconscious.

The Doctor grabs hold of the skull.

The Doctor enters the room where the skull is kept and witnesses the skull glowing brightly as it "powers up". He is compelled to touch it, and, when he does, he yells in pain as the skull glow ever brighter.

Part three[]

Leela arrives and pries the Doctor away from the skull. The Doctor tells her it's a Fendahl's, a species he believed a myth. He rouses Mrs. Tyler from her shock and asks her about the being which attacked her. She has precognition as a result of growing up near a time fissure. She later tells Jack that the figure she saw in her mind was a woman.

The ritual begins.

Meanwhile, Stael pulls a gun on Dr. Fendelman and Adam. He shackles them to pillars in the cottage's basement. The Doctor and Leela use the TARDIS to follow the time fissure and find the Fendahl's home planet. However, they discover the planet has been placed in a time loop, making it and all its records permanently invisible — and according to the Doctor, only the Time Lords could do that. Stael assembles his cult, preparing their ceremony. Fendelman realises what is happening; the Fendahl has used his ancestors and him to regain life. He pleads desperately with Stael and his followers to stop, but Stael shoots him.

When they return, the Doctor, Leela and the Tylers head back to the priory. Suddenly they find their legs cannot move. The group are all stuck as a full-grown Fendahleen bears down on them.

Part four[]

The Doctor uses Jack's gun, loaded with rock salt, to kill the Fendahleen. The group concentrate and escape its telepathic influence. Meanwhile, the cult uses Thea's body as a host for the Fendahl Core to manifest. The Fendahl Core turns the cult members into Fendahleen and paralyses Stael when he catches its gaze. The Doctor and Leela sneak into the cult's room and free Adam. The Doctor tells Leela to get Adam to safety and tries to help Stael, but there is nothing he can do. Stael begs the Doctor to bring him his gun, but the Doctor says bullets will have no effect on the Fendahl Core. Stael says the gun is not for the Fendahl Core, but for him. The Doctor brings the gun, saying he's sorry it's all he can do, and Stael thanks him. As the Doctor leaves, Stael takes his own life by shooting himself.

The building explodes.

The Doctor confers with the others. He realises the Fendahl requires thirteen Fendahleen to become an incredibly powerful gestalt entity, but with Stael and a Fendahleen dead, the creature is incomplete. While the Doctor works on the time scanner, he theorises the Fendahl may have guided human evolution. This may explain mankind's darker nature. Leela and Jack are attacked by the Fendahl's forces and kill one of the Fendahleen. The Doctor rigs the scanner to destroy the entire priory. He and Leela enter the basement and take the skull. The Fendahl Core tries to stop them, but in its weakened state, they avoid its paralytic effects. Without the skull, the core is rendered powerless and is destroyed in the explosion.

The Doctor and Leela leave in the TARDIS to find a star about to go supernova and drop the Fendahl skull into it. The Doctor calls K9 a "him", saying that he can if he wants — after all, K9 is his dog. K9 nods in agreement.


Uncredited cast[]




  • The Doctor declares a love of fruitcake.
  • Fendelman is said to be one of the richest men in the world, having made his money in electronics.
  • Leela doesn't know what "whopper" means.
  • A Hartman is mentioned.


  • The Doctor discovers "sodium chloride affects conductivity... and prevents control of localised disruption of osmotic pressures". "Salt kills it," clarifies Leela.
  • The TARDIS generates a low intensity telepathic field.
  • The sonic screwdriver does not seem to be able to open the wooden door, at least initially.
  • Ten years ago, while working on a missile guidance system, Fendelman noticed what he calls a "sonic shadow".



Cultural references to real world[]

Story notes[]

  • This story was the last to be commissioned by script editor Robert Holmes.[2]
  • Writer Chris Boucher was unable to complete rewrites to the script due to his appointment as script editor on the BBC television series Blake's 7 so incoming script editor Anthony Read took over. This fact explains why, for a Boucher script, the story is unusually full of info-dumps, whereas they tend to crop up in Read's work, such as The Horns of Nimon.[3]
  • The god-like entity of the Fendahl does not speak. Chris Boucher had been similarly resistant to writing lines for the messianic computer Xoanon in The Face of Evil on the grounds that one could not write dialogue for God.[4]
  • This story introduced a new version of Leela's famous leather outfit. It was noticeably lighter in colour than the last. The new version was created because the original was wearing out. Furthermore, it had caused Louise Jameson some problems because it was a leotard. The new version, by contrast, was actually a dress. Producer Graham Williams had also instructed the designer, Amy Roberts, to make Louise look sexier in the new outfit. The original leotard appears briefly at the end of part four (mainly to facilitate the punchline to a joke in part one) and returned in the following story, The Sun Makers, before the new version came back for Leela's final two appearances.
  • K9 appears only briefly, in the opening and closing TARDIS scenes; he is suffering from circuitry corrosion and stays in the TARDIS. Image of the Fendahl had been written before it was known K9 would be joining the series on a regular basis. John Leeson was not recruited to voice the character, who had no dialogue.
  • According to the 2009 DVD release documentary After Image, Anthony Read was brought on as script editor to help in the transition during Robert Holmes's departure from the role. Only Holmes received the on-screen credit.
  • Louise Jameson claims the reason her hair is done up in this episode is because a BBC hairstylist had mistakenly cut six inches off her hair just prior to filming. Her final scene in the story was filmed some five weeks after this incident, by which time her hair had grown long enough to allow her to wear it down for a single scene. (DCOM: Image of the Fendahl)
  • There is no clear on-screen indication in the story as to how the Doctor got out of the store room in part two. In Terrance Dicks's novelisation of the story, the Doctor opens the door with "a hearty kick", but he does no such thing on-screen. Prior to his exit, the Doctor is shown using the sonic screwdriver, but it does not appear to be having any effect at that time.
  • No year is given on-screen for the story, but in a trailer broadcast after part four of the previous adventure, The Invisible Enemy, the setting was given as "1977".
  • Tom Baker was credited as "The Doctor" in Radio Times, as opposed to the usual "Dr. Who".
  • In the DVD commentary, Wanda Ventham states that her appearance in this story marked her first major acting job since giving birth to her son, future Sherlock star (and Big Finish Productions contributor) Benedict Cumberbatch.
  • Unusually, for a Dudley Simpson-scored story, part one contains less than thirty seconds of his music.
  • A potential fourth wall break is observed in part four. After Adam Colby leaves to help Mrs. Tyler with the salt as ordered by the Doctor, the Doctor turns to stare directly into the camera and, as if addressing the audience, says "Time's running out!" This is not the first instance in the programme, for example, William Hartnell as the First Doctor wishes viewers a "Happy Christmas" in the seventh episode of TV: The Daleks' Master Plan, "The Feast of Steven".
  • Anthony Bate, John Franklin-Robbins, Michael Gough, Robert Hardy and William Lucas were considered for the role of Dr. Fendahlman.
  • Leela kissing Adam Colby on the cheek was ad-libbed by Louise Jameson. The surprised look on his face is genuine.
  • Max Stael was originally supposed to shoot himself on-camera, but this was rejected as being too dark for a series aimed at a family audience.
  • Chris Boucher took inspiration from the work of archaeologist Louis Leakey, who had been excavating human remains for many years until his death in 1972. Boucher named Colby's dog Leakey as a tribute to him, although he later realised that people would miss the reference and assume the name came because "he p***ed all over everything". Terrance Dicks's subsequent novelisation of the serial in fact gives both reasons for the name.
  • Louise Jameson regards this as one of her best stories due to it being written by Chris Boucher. It was however during the making of this serial that she decided to leave at the end of the series.
  • George Spenton-Foster took the cast out to lunch before the read-through and afterwards, Tom Baker made numerous jokes about the script, picking out all the double entendres and sending it up. This caused Chris Boucher great upset at the time, but had the knock-on effect of him combing through his scripts from thereon for any signs of double entendres.
  • Two days after filming was completed Tom Baker and Louise Jameson attended the world's first ever Doctor Who convention in London.
  • George Spenton-Foster would later cast Scott Fredericks and Graham Simpson in Chris Boucher's January 1979 Blake's 7 episode Weapon.
  • Graham Williams had worked with George Spenton-Foster previously on Z-Cars and chose him to direct this serial due to his experience with night filming.


  • Quatermass and the Pit
  • Chariots of the Gods
  • The Sirens of Titan


  • Part one - 6.7 million viewers
  • Part two - 7.5 million viewers
  • Part three - 7.9 million viewers
  • Part four - 9.1 million viewers


  • This story had a working title of The Island of Fandor. (It didn't. This myth originated when Gordon Blows, then editor of the Doctor Who Appreciation Society magazine TARDIS, misheard the title of the story over the phone and reported it incorrectly. The Big Finish story Island of the Fendahl was set on Fandor as a nod to this.)

Filming locations[]

Production errors[]

If you'd like to talk about narrative problems with this story — like plot holes and things that seem to contradict other stories — please go to this episode's discontinuity discussion.
  • In the scene when Thea merges with the skull, just before she merges, the side of her nose takes on the texture of the skull for a few seconds.
  • In several scenes when the skull illuminates, there is sometimes a green speck inside the eye, which is the green screen for the CSO.
  • During her final transformation into the Fendahl Core, Wanda Ventham blinks just as the top of her face is transformed


Home video and audio releases[]

DVD releases[]

Video releases[]

External links[]