This story served as a production bridge between the 1963 and 2005 versions of the programme. Most notably, it was the first script for televised Doctor Who by Steven Moffat, who would later become a regular writer for the show between 2005 and 2008, starting with The Empty Child, and executive producer and head writer between 2010 and 2017. As such, many of the themes introduced here would become major staples of his tenure as showrunner.
This story also marked the first post-production work by the Mill who were the company most usually credited with visual effects from 2005 to 2013. It was also the last time that Roy Skelton lent his voice to the Daleks, a role he was first credited with in 1967's The Evil of the Daleks. Skelton's first work in Who was as the voice of the Monoids in 1966's The Ark and he had also provided voices for the Cybermen.
While discussing the special in DWM 510, Moffat discussed how the intent of the special was to make a regular episode of Doctor Who which happened to also be funny rather than just a blatant spoof, meaning that extreme steps were taken to have it fit within the then-existing canon. Moffat went on to add that while it has since been disregarded, at the time it could have been seen as a legitimate continuation of the show.
- 1 Synopsis
- 2 Plot
- 3 Cast
- 4 Crew
- 5 References
- 6 Story notes
- 7 Home video and audio releases
- 8 Continuity
- 9 External links
- 10 Footnotes
The Master corners the Doctor and Emma on Tersurus, prepared to unleash the deadly vengeance of deadly revenge!
The Master pursues the Doctor in his TARDIS, maniacally bellowing that the Doctor's certain death awaits him on Zaston IV. The Doctor, from his own TARDIS, replies that the Master really ought to learn to turn off his speaker before he blabs his entire plan, and that he wants to meet him on the planet Tersurus to give him an important piece of news.
The Doctor and his assistant, Emma, land in a vast, empty castle on Tersurus. He explains that the Tersurons were a kindly, peace-loving race, but shunned and abhorred due to their communicating solely through precisely modulated farting. They destroyed themselves after discovering fire. The Master pins them to the wall with energy pulses, and having arrived a century earlier to bribe the castle's architect, prepares to subject them to the Spikes of Doom. Instead they find themselves relaxing in the Sofa of Reasonable Comfort, the Doctor having anticipated this and bribing the architect first. However, the Master declares that he anticipated this, and bribed the architect even earlier, and drops a giant block on their heads. The Doctor and Emma emerge from a door in the (hollow) block, of course having arrived even earlier.
Emma interrupts to prompt the Doctor to announce what he has come to say: Emma and he are in love, and the Doctor plans to retire from travelling through time and space, having saved every planet in the Universe a minimum of twenty-seven times, and settle down in domestic bliss.
Nauseated by this prospect, the Master announces that he will go back in time, buy the architect an expensive dinner and persuade him to place a lever next to where he is standing and a trap door where the Doctor and Emma are standing. He prepares to plunge them into the vast and disgusting sewers of Tersurus, warning them to prepare themselves for "five hundred miles of fear and faeces!"
However, when the Master pulls said lever, the trap door opens under his own feet, the Doctor having bought the architect an expensive dinner earlier. As they go to leave, the front doors burst open and the Master appears, significantly aged, having spent three hundred and twelve years climbing through the sewers, locating his TARDIS and travelling back in time to the current day. Accompanying him are the Daleks, the only creatures not repulsed by the Master's smell, having no noses. The Master boasts that his body has been augmented by Dalek technology; he now has a plunger in place of a right hand, though Emma points out that the Master doesn't know what it can do.
The Daleks prepare to exterminate them, but the Master decides he will kill them himself. He charges forward, but the Doctor steps aside and the Master plunges straight through the trap door again. He comes in again, another three hundred and twelve years older. The Daleks pursue the Doctor and Emma through the numerous and very similar looking corridors, but one Dalek accidentally bumps into the Master, causing him to fall through the trap door yet again. An extremely old Master then walks into view, complaining about having spent a grand total of nine hundred and thirty six years in a sewer.
The Doctor and Emma find what they believe to be the way out of the castle, but in fact turns out to be a room full of Daleks.
The Daleks have captured the Doctor and Emma rather than exterminating them ("Why?" asks Emma, "I'll explain later," replies the Doctor) and tied them to chairs (the presence of which on a Dalek ship is also questioned by Emma; a Dalek replies "We will explain, later."). They've also restored the Master to his original age and augmented him further... Dalek sensor bumps on his chest. The Master insists that these are etheric beam locators and they're very firm, but the Doctor mocks him over the sensors' resemblance to breasts. The Master announces that in exchange he has given the Daleks the secret to controlling a Zectronic energy beam, which will give them power over the entire universe in only minutes! "How?" asks Emma, "I'll explain later," replies the Doctor.
The Master charges up the beam, but the Dalek Supreme whispers to the Doctor that they plan to exterminate the Master after the beam is active. The Doctor realises that both he and the Master speak fluent Tersuran, so he farts a warning to him. The Master speaks the message out loud as he receives it for the benefit of the audience, but Emma inadvertently ruins the plan by breaking wind, causing the Master to suddenly start shouting gibberish, which in turn alerts the Daleks as to what's going on. This gives the Daleks the excuse they need to get rid of the Master, but they accidentally end up shooting both the Doctor and the Zectronic generator instead. The overloading generator is beyond the Master's capabilities to repair; only the Doctor can fix it. The Doctor tells Emma "I love you" in Tersuran, with the Master translating, before seemingly dying. Emma is distraught at his apparent death, but the Master reassures her that the Doctor is in his ninth body and has many more lives, as he begins to regenerate.
The result of the Doctor's regeneration is a quite handsome, if a bit vain, persona. He confirms that Emma is still very much interested and prepares to leave with her, but the Daleks beg the Doctor to help deactivate the Zectronic beam generator in exchange for his life, to which he agrees as a perfect way to finish his "career." However, an explosion causes him to regenerate again, this time into a shy persona, very nervous around girls and the Master with his oddly-placed etheric beam locators, and Emma is visibly disheartened by this new version, finding him nowhere near as attractive as his two predecessors. He goes to try again to deactivate the beam, when another burst of energy causes him to regenerate yet again.
The new Doctor, very handsome and charming indeed, is rather embarrassed that he wasted three bodies in under a minute simply because he forgot to unplug the generator first. The crisis appears to be over, and Emma is quite looking forward to getting to know this new Doctor, when a residual burst of pure Zectronic energy knocks him down. With the Zectronic energy preventing his regeneration, the Doctor appears to die permanently. The Master and the Daleks, to honour the Doctor's supreme sacrifice, resolve to permanently forswear evil. Yet to everyone's amazement, the Doctor's features begin to change and he regenerates, this time into a very buxom woman. Emma, alas, doesn't swing that way, so the wedding is off. The new Doctor is quite excited to discover that her sonic screwdriver has three settings, but then she and the Master lock eyes. The two express their mutual attraction and go off together, the Master laughing maniacally again.
- The Doctors - Rowan Atkinson, Richard E. Grant, Jim Broadbent, Hugh Grant, Joanna Lumley
- Emma - Julia Sawalha
- The Master - Jonathan Pryce
- Dalek's Voices - Roy Skelton, Dave Chapman
- Dalek Operators - Ashley Neal Fuller, Stephen Cranford, David Clarke, Chris Kirk
- The Master's stunt double - Gabe Cronelly (DOC: Comic Relief Doctor Who Uncovered)
|Executive Producer Richard Curtis|
|Director of Photography
• With thanks to Pinewood Studios, Comac Lighting, Positive Film & Television, Arri Media, The Mill, Willie's Wheels, Videosonics, The Spot Co, Michael Samuelson Lighting, The Location Cafe, Ashley Neal Fuller, Stephen Cranford, David Clarke, Chris Kirk, Gary Gillatt, David Saunders, Andrew Beech
|Not every person who worked on this adventure was credited. The absence of a credit for a position doesn't necessarily mean the job wasn't required. The information above is based solely on observations of the actual end credits of the episodes as broadcast, and does not relay information from IMDB or other sources.|
- The Doctor is in his ninth incarnation.
- The Ninth Doctor has calculated he has saved every planet in the known universe a minimum of twenty-seven times.
- The Ninth Doctor lists the endless evil and gravel quarries in the cosmos among the reasons for his retirement and marriage to Emma.
- The Tenth Doctor uses the regeneration of his predecessor to change his clothing.
- The Tenth Doctor suffers from some post-regenerative amnesia.
- The Twelfth Doctor comments that he used up three bodies in less than a minute because he forgot to unplug first.
- The first time the Master falls in the sewers it takes him 312 years. This then increases to 624 and later 936 years.
- The Ninth Doctor refers to the Master as "the beard and the buzzums".
- The Tenth Doctor refers to Emma as the only time-travelling companion he's "had".
- The Thirteenth Doctor asks if Emma's mother will get a shock at their wedding when they both wear white.
- Emma is familiar with the Daleks.
- The Master bribes the architect to create the Spikes of Doom as a trap in Castle Tersurus while the Ninth Doctor counters this by bribing him to make the Sofa of Reasonable Comfort. Both attempt to bribe him to place a trapdoor under where the other is standing.
- The Daleks augment the Master's right hand and replace it with a manipulator arm and suction cup. They later revert this change and rejuvenate his physical appearance by augmenting him with Dalek bumps. The Ninth and Tenth Doctors both joke about their resemblance to breasts while the Eleventh Doctor genuinely believes that's what they are.
- The Master's Dalek bumps can locate ion-charged emissions and can act as etheric beam locators at a distance of up to twenty thousand light years.
- The Master implies Emma has had breast implants.
- The Ninth Doctor claims that with a zectronic beam the Daleks could conquer the universe in minutes.
- The Zectronic Beam Controller contains zectronic energy.
- The Thirteenth Doctor uses her sonic screwdriver, which she remarks has three settings.
- The Ninth Doctor and the Master both speak perfect Tersuran as a result of their meals with the architect.
- There are chairs on the Dalek ship.
- Emma gets a bottle of champagne from the TARDIS.
- Emma describes the Doctor as like Father Christmas, the Wizard of Oz and Scooby-Doo when she believes him to have perished.
- The Ninth Doctor states the Tersurons were the most peace-loving race he had ever encountered.
- The Ninth Doctor calls Emma more exciting than an escape up a ventilation shaft and more thrilling than an army of cybernetic slugs.
- While in the sewers, dung slugs were the Master's only source of food and company on lonely nights.
- The Master refers to regeneration as the miracle of a Time Lord. Emma did not know of the process until the Ninth Doctor regenerated.
- The Master and the Twelfth Doctor both believe a Time Lord cannot withstand a blast of pure zectronic energy. To everyone's astonishment, the Doctor regenerates into a thirteenth incarnation.
- The Master and the Ninth Doctor both claim only the Daleks don't have noses.
- The Daleks accompanying the Master come in several casing variants. The light of their bulb-shaped head lamps vary from orange, yellow or red.
- Black Daleks with gold accessories (neck rings, slats, weapons platform/base unit rim, sense globes).
- Light grey Daleks (including neck ring) with black accessories (slats, weapons platform/base unit rim, sense globes).
- Dark grey Daleks (including neck ring) with black accessories (slats, weapons platform/base unit rim, sense globes).
- Mostly silver Daleks with blue sense globes.
- The Master plans for the Ninth Doctor's death on Zaston IV.
- Emma calls Tersurus the Planet of the Bottom Burps.
- At the time of the Ninth Doctor's and the Master's meeting in Castle Tersurus it had been one hundred years since anybody last stepped foot there.
- In his column for DWM 417, Moffat says Richard Curtis, creator of Blackadder and later to write an episode of Series 5 of Doctor Who, was the person who invited Moffat to write the segment.
- The opening credits and logo from the 1974-80 era are reused. During the original broadcast on Red Nose Day, the spherical Red Nose logo was superimposed over the "O" in "WHO."
- Visual effects footage of the TARDIS from the opening credits of the 1996 TV movie is reused for the opening scene in which the Master views the exterior of the Doctor's TARDIS on his scanner. As the TV Movie had not been released in the US on home video at this time, the 1999 US VHS release of the segment constitutes the first time footage from that movie appeared on any official US home video release.
- The TARDIS console, TARDIS walls, and Dalek props were provided by a group of fans who had made them for their fan-film Devious.
- This story reuses music from previous stories such as Meglos, Logopolis, Warriors of the Deep and Resurrection of the Daleks.
- The music from Tom Baker's regeneration scene in TV: Logopolis can be heard briefly during the first regeneration sequence when Rowan Atkinson regenerates into Richard E. Grant.
- An ad-lib by Jonathan Pryce calling Emma "Mrs. Who" was vetoed in an effort for the special to fit within the established canon.
- Gabe Cronelly was the stunt double for Jonathan Pryce and stood in for him during the scene where the Master falls through the trapdoor. (DOC: Comic Relief Doctor Who Uncovered)
- Joanna Lumley becomes the first woman to play the Doctor in an officially licenced production. The idea of the Doctor changing sexes during regeneration is not new, having been postulated as early as Tom Baker's time on the series.
- Richard E Grant would later play alternative version of the Doctor in WC: Scream of the Shalka, later Walter Simeon in TV: The Snowmen and then the Great Intelligence in TV: The Bells of Saint John and TV: The Name of the Doctor.
- In an episode of Doctor Who Confidential, Russell T Davies claims that Hugh Grant's Doctor is one of his favourites.
- This special could be interpreted as picking up threads from the Virgin New Adventures, as the Tersurrans had previously been introduced in Marc Platt's novels Cat's Cradle: Time's Crucible and Lungbarrow.
- Filming took place between 22nd and 24th February 1999 at Pinewood Studios. (DWM 560)
- The Master's statement that the dying Ninth Doctor has "many, many more" bodies would imply an unrecorded circumvention of the twelve regeneration life cycle, such that Lumley's Doctor may not necessarily be the final incarnation of the Fatal Death line of Doctors as observers would expect of a Thirteenth Doctor. Incidentally, later developments would place Jodie Whittaker's Thirteenth Doctor beyond the original life cycle of the mainstream Doctors.
- In 2021, when discussing how elements of the special had made their way into Doctor Who proper, Moffat remarked that he should ask Chris Chibnall to include footage from The Curse of Fatal Death as the natural next step to having "canonised" the Brain of Morbius Doctors (through their flashback appearance in The Timeless Children).
- Some themes presented here echo themes present in the 2005 revival, especially in episodes penned by writer Steven Moffat. These include:
- Romance between companions was briefly explored with Grace Holloway in 1996's Doctor Who, but returned in the revival with people such as Rose Tyler and River Song, as well as with Madame de Pompadour. Moffat wrote the latter two examples. The Doctor married River Song in 2011's The Wedding of River Song.
- Emma's brief eulogy for the Doctor, "Never cruel, never cowardly" reappears in 2013's The Day of the Doctor, also written by Moffat. In the anniversary episode, the phrase is given as part of the Doctor's promise to the universe. This phrase, however, first appeared in the 1972 reference book The Making of Doctor Who.
- The fact that the Daleks possess chairs despite their lack of legs reappears in 2015's The Magician's Apprentice.
- The Thirteenth Doctor who debuted in 2017's Twice Upon a Time and first regularly appeared in series 11 was also a woman.
- Emma's questions the use of a manipulator arm. This has been repeated multiple times, for example in 2005's Dalek.
- The Tenth Doctor promised to his companions that he would "explain later" in the Moffat-penned episode The Girl in the Fireplace.
- The Doctor retires from his travels in 2012's The Snowmen, albeit not to get married.
- Aliens that fart would be realised in series 1 as the Slitheen.
- Steven Moffat would later explore, through Rusty and Missy, the idea of the Daleks and the Master turning good.
After the credits of the final episode of The Curse of Fatal Death and a short shot of the live audience applauding, Rowan Atkinson, still in-character as the Ninth Doctor, asked for the viewers to donate to Comic Relief in an appeal which lasted roughly ten seconds.
On Tersurus, the Doctor approached his TARDIS and said when he wanted to save the world he used a phone box but that the audience could do it from home. He then recited the telephone number viewers could call to donate and at the same time it apppeared below him with onscreen text.
If taken as a separate entity to Curse, it marked the only other televised appearance of Atkinson's Doctor and concluded a trio of appearances on 12 March 1999, which had started with the short story Who's After Your Cash. The appeal has never been officially repeated following its original broadcast, having not appeared on the September 1999 VHS release, the 2009 edit of the story for YouTube, or the 2017 YouTube edit.
- This production is often assumed to have been a Children in Need charity event. This confusion likely stems from the 2005 series' dedication to CIN. In reality, this serial was made for Comic Relief.
- The title of the story is often misnamed The Curse of the Fatal Death.
- At several points, the Dalek operators can be seen in the section below the eyestalk.
- While following the Master, several Daleks repeatedly collide.
- The re-edited version posted by Comic Relief to YouTube is missing the visual effects of the gunstick beams.
Home video and audio releases
- BBC Video released The Curse of Fatal Death in September 1999 and treated it like any other Doctor Who story. The VHS release contained a two-part version with a new opening for part one, plus a "making of" feature titled Comic Relief Doctor Who Uncovered. Also included as special features were The Lenny Henry Show skit and The Silurian Disruption, a short parody sketch filmed but never aired for French and Saunders. As the special was never broadcast in North America, it was a video-exclusive release for that audience.
- The Australian release (right) used the diamond-logo and 1990s "Classic Series" fonts; the North American release used the current "Classic Series" logo and fonts.
- The full story has also been released in the UK iTunes Store as part of the Best of Comic Relief series.
- Money from each purchase of both the video and download is donated to Comic Relief.
- No DVD release has occurred, besides from a clip of the Ninth Doctor communicating to the Master in Tersuran on Comic Relief's 25 Monster Years release.
- In the TARDIS, the Fourth Doctor's scarf appears to be on the hatstand. (TV: Robot, et al.)
- The Doctor and Emma meet with the Master on Tersurus. (TV: The Deadly Assassin, PROSE: Lungbarrow, et al.)
- The Master has etheric beam locators installed. (TV: Genesis of the Daleks, et al.)