Doctor Who: Image of the Fendahl

Doctor Who: Image of the Fendahl September 25, 2015

Image of the Fendahl is a great episode for those interested in the show’s exploration of religion. It also has a moment which may be alluded to and revisited in a great episode from the Peter Capaldi era.

The episode begins with the discovery of a skull, 8 million years (based on potassium-argon dating) before a human-like skull should have been on Earth.

The episode features many details that relate to “the old religion” – a coven and pentagrams, and the suggestions that every haunted house has a time fissure, and that astral projection could be a race memory.

The episode also features humans seeking power – Max Stile says that he “shall be a god,” and that whether he allows others to live will depend on whether he enjoys having them worship him.

The enemy turns out to be the Fendahl – beings whose planet the Time Lords destroyed, subsequently covering up the fact.

The Doctor says at one point that most people used to believe that the Earth was flat, and so most people believing something doesn’t make it true.

We thus find the same uneasy relationship between religion and science, magic and skepticism. On the one hand, the skeptical are not to mistake aliens and science for magic. On the other hand, the skeptical who say that these things cannot be real are apparently too skeptical. Once again, science is said to be the reality rather than the supernatural – and yet mythological stories turn out to be truer than the skeptical should find acceptable.

My earlier mention of something that might connect with the Peter Capaldi era had in mind the Doctor’s reference to having been frightened in childhood by a mythological horror, too frightened to think clearly. Could the writers of the episode “Listen” have taken their inspiration from that detail?

The Doctor refers to the TARDIS as “she” and sentient, which also connects up with the episode “The Doctor’s Wife.”

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  • Cecil Bagpuss

    Ah, one of my favourites. If I remember correctly there was a bit of dialogue that went something like this:

    Good Guy: You’re going to kill us anyway.

    Bad Guy: That depends on whether I enjoy having you worship me!