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The Curse of Fatal Death was a Comic Relief segment created for part of 1999's Red Nose Day Celebration.

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 in Fatal Death 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; for instance, the Doctor is explicitly said to be in his ninth incarnation to make him a successor to Paul McGann's previously seen Eighth Doctor. Moffat went on to add that, while it has since been disregarded, it was seen as a legitimate continuation of the show at the time.

The special's original edit went out of circulation for a time, before being re-released on 24 March 2017 in honour of Comic Relief.


The Master corners the Doctor and Emma on Tersurus, prepared to unleash the deadly vengeance of deadly revenge!


Part one[]

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.

Sofa of Comfort

The Doctor and Emma emerge on the Sofa of Reasonable Comfort.

The Doctor and his assistant, Emma, land in the empty Castle 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 anticipation, 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, with the Doctor saying he 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. Horrified and 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!"

Part two[]

However, when the Master pulls said lever, the trap door opens under his own feet, the Doctor having already bought the architect an expensive dinner. 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 quickly figures out that he doesn't know what it can do.

Room of Daleks

A room full of Daleks!

The Daleks prepare to exterminate them, but the Master decides he will kill them with his bare hands. 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.

Part three[]

The Daleks have captured the Doctor and Emma rather than exterminating them and tied them to chairs, much to Emma's confusion. They've also restored the Master to his original age and augmented him further to have 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.

Final message

The Doctor delivers his final message to Emma in Tersuran.

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 rather than share the power withhim. 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, though without the Daleks hearing, but Emma inadvertently ruins the plan by breaking wind, causing the Master to suddenly start shouting gibberish, which does alert 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.

Part four[]

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 in marrying him 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.

Female Doctor and Master

The Doctor and the Master walk off together.

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 resolve to permanently forswear evil to honour the Doctor's sacrifice. Yet, to everyone's amazement, the Doctor's features begin to change and he regenerates, this time into a very buxom woman. Emma, however, calls the wedding off, due to the Doctor being, in a very literal sense, "no longer the man [she] fell in love with". 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.


Uncredited cast[]


General production staff

Script department

Camera and lighting department

Art department

Costume department

Make-up and prosthetics


General post-production staff

Special and visual effects


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[]

The Master[]





  • 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 still regenerates into his thirteenth incarnation.



Story notes[]

The Curse of Fatal Death logo 1
The Curse of Fatal Death title card
The Curse of Fatal Death logo 2



Atkinson appeal

The appeal.

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 as The Curse of the Fatal Death.

Production errors[]

  • 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[]

Australian VHS TheCurseofFatalDeath cover

Australian cover

  • 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.

External links[]