Tuesday, March 4, 2008

"Why" Is The Unanswerable Question

My enjoyment of Magic Bullet's Kaldor City audio plays has always been cut short by the smugness involved. The fact is, you need to have read every single damn article on their website to understand any reasoning about the decisions made in the series, and they are always so utterly convinced that THEIR interpretation is the only one - and don't try arguing or you'll drown in their "well, explain this then?!" Yet they often miss some incredibly obvious facts: Chris Boucher is a damn fine writer, but bigging up the first crew scene in Robots of Death is a waste of time. Rob Holmes wrote that, not Boucher. And their claims that Terry Nation came up with a brilliant subtext to Mavic Chen's plan to conquer the universe a) Terry scribbled down some notes on the way to the plan rather than writing the story b) John Peel, Terry's groupie, never suspected a thing.

And they've yet to justify Planet of the Daleks.

Now, my issue starts with their little article on Image of the Fendahl. As a Boucher story, it recieves the usual praise and in depth analysis, but then it gets disturbingly peculiar...

The idea of the host animals also raises an interesting point with regard to the relationship between humans and Time Lords. Humans, having been shaped by the dormant Fendahl, resemble the Core; interestingly, so do the Time Lords. If the Doctor is anything to go by, also, they are equally susceptible to its influence; they have a similar race memory and mythological horror to humans. Significantly, also, there are thirteen parts to the Fendahl gestalt, and the final one is Death (paralleling the Time Lord regeneration cycle). As Boucher tends to operate on the idea that all things that look human have a common origin, there is an implication that Time Lords are related to humans, even if neither party seems to have made the connection on their own. The serial also takes place in a season in which there are a number of stories featuring Time Lords, or else Time-Lord-like or -influenced figures (e.g. "Underworld"); whether this point of commonality stems from coincidence, or from the writers using a common source (Boucher has said that when Graham Williams took over he had "this extremely weird framework that he had come up with for the series, which involved time paradoxes and various esoteric formulae") is unknown, but it is definitely present. Ironically, then, had the Fendahl not escaped, or the Doctor succeeded in preventing it from coming to Earth, the Time Lords might have wound up retroactively aborting themselves.


For a start, are we really supposed to think that Boucher was so up to date with Doctor Who he knew about the regeneration limit? Surely the thirteen thing was just, you know, explaining why the number 13 is unlucky, since Image of the Fendahl pretty much explains every other single thing about humanity! There's certainly no evidence of the Doctor working on "race memory" any more than in Underworld. Hell, it is established in State of Decay that his pal the hermit told him stories, and unless you say the hermit is working on race memories, this whole thing seems stupid. As for Boucher's belief in common origins, well, I can't think of any other examples of this, nor has he ever to my knowledge asked "why is everything human"?

The one thing that clearly doesn't make sense is the Doctor makes it clear that the Fendahl was born on the Fifth Planet and the Time Lords trapped it there. Since the Time Lords were already in existence, how exactly did the Fendahl influence their evolution? And if it did, why did it allow them to nearly trap it on the fifth planet, forcing it to start again from scratch on Earth? The only possibility is that the Fendahl is some kind of intangible ghost, waiting for various civilizations to evolve a body for it (I'm paraphrasing a lot here), but the question remains: if the Fendahl managed to achieve a manifestation, why the hell didn't it eat the universe when it had the chance?

And let's be honest, the only real evidence the Doctor is "suscestiple" is when the Doctor, entranced, put his hand on the skull. There's no evidence that genetic makeup is what makes the Doctor do this, and the novelization, based on the script (the script CHRIS BOUCHER wrote) has him simply curious about the glow. The idea it's trying to mutate him I shrug off as the Fendahl tries to kill him plenty of other times...

Plus, if the Fendahl thinks the Doctor is such a good bet, why does it keep with the plan to appear on Earth?

In the end, the Fendahl's motivations remain mysterious.

Well, it wants to exist and eat things so it can continue to exist. Mystery, get your coat.

What is indisputable, however, is the fact that it is powerful, having influenced the evolution of both humans and Time Lords (and apparently being responsible for a connection between the two), and that the ways in which the various characters react to it reveals a good deal about Boucher's takes on evil, belief and interpretation.

Um, sorry? Indisputable? The Doctor points out that the whole thing can be coincidence and the Fendahl did nothing to human evolution! And if Boucher was that convinced about Time Lords and humans, don't you think he'd have a character mention it? At the end of the day, why put all this subtext into a kid's show he just wanted to pay the bills for?? Are Kaldor City just making up this stuff so he looks cleverer?

Eventually, I was in a position to talk to Alan Stevens (and/or Fiona Moore) about this, in regards to their work, so I sent Nigel Verkoff to do it.

VERKOFF: As far as I can make out from the article (and I could be wrong), your argument seems to go like this. 1) There is no such thing as 'evil'

NYDER: That's what Chris Boucher says, and he wrote the story.

VERKOFF: 2) The Doctor, scared by the idea of the Fendahl, calls it 'evil'

NYDER: Yes, that's right.

VERKOFF: 3) The Doctor can be controlled by the Fendahl

NYDER: He is certainly seen to come under its influence. Also, the Fendahl appears to considers the Doctor to be a better genetic match than Thea Ransome.

VERKOFF: 4) Fendahl needs thirteen followers and the thirteenth is death. 5) Which is very similar to the Time Lords

NYDER: It is. Also the Time Lords have a similar race memory and mythological horror to humans.

VERKOFF: Well... the DOCTOR does. And we know he's not exactly typical. In fact, it seems to me that the Fendahl was just one of the stories Kanpo tells him and the only one that scared him.

NYDER: So Kanpo told the Doctor a story about a real creature from Time Lord mythology to scare him. Where's the contradiction in that?

VERKOFF: I'm just saying there's no real proof. Unless telling a story is enough for a story to be real and simply the idea of the Fendahl was enough to trigger its creation.

NYDER: Cogito ergo sum-- if you think, therefore you are, then why not?

VERKOFF: I was worried you'd say that. Problem with that, smartarse, is that no one else ever mentions the Fendahl, do they?

NYDER: When did the opportunity arise?

VERKOFF: You'd think it'd be worth a mention in The Invasion of Time.

NYDER: DOCTOR: I think the Vardens are a front for an invader of a different kind? BORUSA: And what makes you believe that Doctor? DOCTOR: The Fendahl told me! (STARTS TO SCREAM) Doesn't really work, does it?

VERKOFF: Or maybe Underworld.

NYDER: HERRICK: The quest is the quest. DOCTOR: In another life, weren't you once married to Diana Dors? HERRICK: What makes you say that Doctor? DOCTOR: The Fendahl!!! [STARTS TO SCREAM] Doesn't really work, does it?

VERKOFF: You actually think you're amusing, don't you? It's just that the Fendahl is never, ever, ever mentioned again in televised Doctor Who. Bit odd for something so amazingly godlike and powerful. Such is life.

NYDER: Perhaps the Fendahl wants it that way: after all, “The greatest trick the Devil ever played was convincing the world he didn’t exist”-- Keyser Soze, The Usual Suspects.

VERKOFF: Don't bring the Usual fucking Suspects into this... Anyway, only the Doctor himself and the Fendahl seem to know what's going on.

NYDER: That's because he's a Time Lord and the other is the Fendahl itself, both of whom would be expected to know what is going on.

VERKOFF: Sigh... Which could be down to the Doctor's unique perspective, even amongst Time Lords.

NYDER: I'm not really sure what you are trying to say here. It wasn't the Doctor who Time Looped the Fifth Planet, or any of the other things. If the Time Lords have knowledge of the Fendahl, then all it would take is for the Doctor to be a Time Lord. No unique perspective needed.

VERKOFF: I mean, the Time Lords don't think about much. OK, SOME of them time looped the fifth planet. But that hardly means the whole race knows about them (they think their main power source is a myth!). So this mythological stuff is a) the Doctor's explanation to LEELA, who as we all know likes things simplified and b) not widespread knowledge among the Time Lords...

NYDER: If the Doctor is trying to wean Leela off he reliance on superstition, it would be rather counterproductive of him to then use superstition as fact. Also, don't underestimate Leela's intelligence.

VERKOFF: Ah, but the Doctor was shaken and disoriented when he said to Leela it couldn't be destroyed, so he simplified it then. Leela doesn't note the discrepency when the Doctor plans to drop it into the supernovae so either a) the Doctor's clarified that off-screen or b) the Fendahls' up to something. I have a nasty feeling I know which option you'll side with...

NYDER: I don't know why you say with such authority that it's not widespread knowledge among the Time Lords, since it's known of by the Doctor, and he only graduated from the Time Lord Academy with 51 percent at the second attempt.

VERKOFF: The Doctor says he knows Old High Gallifreyan, which is rare amongst Time Lords of his era. In the Five Doctors. So his arcane knowledge sets him apart from the others. Heck, maybe he was a Gallifreyan Goth too cool to do exams?

NYDER: There are also plenty of real-life precedents for taboo subjects being known about by everybody but not talked about: in medieval and early modern European societies where people believed that if you spoke the name of the Devil it would actually bring him into being, for instance (it wasn't that nobody knew about the Devil, quite the opposite, but nobody would have mentioned him). Or sex in the late Victorian period: just because Doctor Watson never gets an out-and-out love scene doesn't mean he didn't know what it was, just that his society didn't regard that sort of thing as discussable in public.

VERKOFF: I'm saying it is not necessarily some race memory or the like. And I thought all information about the Fendahl was thus rendered invisible by the time loop? That IS why the Doctor starts kicking stuff around in the TARDIS. Isn't it?

NYDER: Correct. So how do the Time Lords know about it? Answer: it exists as part of their race memory, adding fuel to the idea that they are the children of the Fendahl.

VERKOFF: 6) Ergo, the Fendahl created the Time Lords and 7) This is 'indisputable'

NYDER: Based on the evidence from "Image of the Fendahl".

VERKOFF: Yes, but based on evidence from the rest of Doctor Who...

NYDER: I think I can build a case, based on evidence from the rest of Doctor Who, that all life resembling humans throughout the universe, was created by the Fendahl.

VERKOFF: Well, whoopee shit. I know at least one story that says categorigically otherwise.

NYDER: Then name it.

VERKOFF: Zagreus.


VERKOFF: Rassilon's to do list has 'turn all life in the universe as close to Gallifreyan as possible' crossed off.

NYDER: No contradiction there; it just means that Rassilon was working towards the Fendahl's interests, whether he knew it or not.

VERKOFF: God, I despise you. Just because the Doctor is succeptible to the Fendahl doesn't mean its because the Fendahl hotwired his species DNA.

NYDER: If the Doctor is a better genetic match than Thea Ransome, and she, with the rest of the human race, were engineered by the Fendahl as a "food" animal then, by implication, the Time Lords were also created by the Fendahl. That's why Time Lords and the humans resemble the Fendahl Core.

VERKOFF: This is, of course, working on the assumption that the cliffhanger to part two shows the Doctor being 'mutated' by the skull.

NYDER: It's not an "assumption," it's what the Doctor states in the episode. "You're becoming a mutation generator, aren't you?... t's seeking appropriate genetic material to recreate itself."

VERKOFF: He doesn't say, 'you tried it on me'? Did he? No.

NYDER: Effectively, yes. I've already quoted this to you before: "you're becoming a mutation generator, aren't you?... it seeks appropriate genetic material to recreate itself," right after the skull forces him to put his hand on it. In the context, that's about as blatant as actually saying "You tried to do to me what you are doing to Thea Ransome, but I'm wise to it."

VERKOFF: And if the Doctor was such prime conversion material, why couldn't it zombify him like it did Thea? Why did he need to touch it?

NYDER: Direct contact works faster.

VERKOFF: Why did it have to be faster? The Fendahl's impatient? After twelve million years?

NYDER: Okay, this is what happens. When the Time Scanner is switched on its beam damages a nearby Time Fissure. The energy generated by that is absorbed by the skull and used to generate one Fendahleen. When the Time Scanner is switched off the skull becomes dormant again. However, at the point the Doctor touches it, the skull has enough energy to activate independantly of the Time Scanner, so it lights up, forces the Doctor to place his hand on it, and then starts its work. It works faster and more directly with the Doctor because it now has its own independent power supply.

VERKOFF: It's equally possible (and the novelization heavily implies) that the skull has gone, "A Time Lord? Right, he's got to die!" and starts to suck the life out of him. It also suggests the Fendahleen in episode one wasn't attacking the Doctor by chance, but was an assassin.

NYDER: I have Terrance's novelization in front of me now, and the above implication is not made in that scene at all.

VERKOFF: What a nerd.

NYDER: At one point Terrance states that the Fendahl attacked the Doctor when he made contact with it by patting the skull. Whereas in the episode the skull uses it telekinetic powers to make the Doctor place his hand on the skull. That's a huge difference. Well, as I point out in my article, that implication of the Fendahleen targeting the Doctor also appears in the episode.

VERKOFF: ...After all, the very last story showed him succeptible to the Nucleus of the Swarm.

NYDER: Firstly, "The Invisible Enemy" was written by Bob Baker and Dave Martin, not by Chris Boucher

VERKOFF: No shit, sherlock.

NYDER: And secondly, the fact that both humans and Time Lords were succeptible to the Nucleus of the Swarm suggests a certain genetic similarity.

VERKOFF: It also has the virus infecting K9. Who is, I think we can agree, NOT genetically similar to humans. Or Time Lords.

NYDER: No, but it is an advanced machine built by human minds, and therefore, resembles them.

VERKOFF: Jesus Christ. So K9's breakdown in part one is because of the Fendahl?

NYDER: Is it? Where did you get that idea from?

VERKOFF: Well, it mysteriously breaks down for the duration of the adventure and you said that K9's brain is in various respects similar to Time Lord and human ones...

NYDER: I think that had more to do with the fact that "Image of the Fendahl" was written before the idea was introduced that K9 would be a regular companion.

VERKOFF: That. Was. A joke. You half-wit. Moving on. The Invisible Enemy also established that the Doctor's brain is not half as well structured as another Time Lord.

NYDER: Really? Where's the evidence for this?

VERKOFF: Well, off the top of my head, the Doctor notes to Leela that when he was 'kicked out' his brain was altered, so he cannot 'plug in' to the Time Lord intelligencia. So he's not precisely like other Time Lords.

NYDER: While walking around his own head, the Doctor points to a piece of meat and says, "That's a reflex link, whereby I can tune myself into the Time Lord intelligentsia--a thousand superbrains in one," however, he then says that he lost that particular faculty when he was expelled from Gallifrey. So, it was not a case of his "brain being altered", just that a particular faculty has been recinded. A bit like there being a block put on your library card.

VERKOFF: Then there is the matter of the huge holes PUNCHED through his brain that they walk through while they are saying that.

NYDER: As we have never walked around a Time Lord's brain before, or after, this adventure, we have no idea whether what we are seeing is normal, or not.

VERKOFF: The Doctor notes the holes torn in it by the Virus. That's how they follow it (with Leela's tracking skills). And after all the mind probes and brain alterations the Time Lords have given him, this is just the tip of the ice berg.

NYDER: So any damage was caused by the Virus, not by the Time Lords; again, nothing to suggest the Doctor's brain is terribly abnormal.

VERKOFF: I know that! I just told you, you stupid bastard! The fact is, we KNOW the Doctor's brain is still damaged from The Invisible Enemy, so the Skull can take him over because of that damage NOT NECESSARILY because it created Time Lords!

NYDER: There is no evidence within the series that the Doctor had been brain damaged by the Time Lords, and, seeing that he can regenerate, then, even if that had happened on one occasion, then it would have been repaired.

VERKOFF: But the Doctor's regeneration's aren't the smoothest, are they? My main point is, who is to say if the Master or someone else was there, maybe they could have resisted the skull without even realizing?

NYDER: Well, that's a non-starter, since they weren't there.

VERKOFF: Besides, the Fendahl seems to have influenced man's evolution. And if the Doctor is half-human...

NYDER: 1/ He wasn't half human when "Image of the Fendahl" was written, 2/ If the Doctor is 'half human' then that implies that the Time Lords are genetically compatible with humans.

VERKOFF: Besides, the Fendahl seems to have influenced man's evolution. And if the Doctor is half-human, well, that explains a lot without saying this horrible dark God...

NYDER: What makes you say it is a "horrible dark God"?

VERKOFF: Tormenting people...

NYDER: Who does it torment?

VERKOFF: You think Thea was happy to be the Core?

NYDER: As she was no longer human, it's difficult to know.

VERKOFF: She was very upset when yelling at Colby that she planned it all.

NYDER: Adolescence is a pretty stressful time for people, and incoporates for most of those who experience it a fear of the adult state and a wish to retreat into childhood at some points-- but most people go through it OK in the end.

VERKOFF: What the fuck does adolescence have to do with it?! Plus the way it leaves Stael to last just to know how screwed he is?

NYDER: Someone's got to be last.

VERKOFF: And smiles at him while it does so?

NYDER: You are giving human interpretations to something that isn't human.

VERKOFF: Well, it DOES leave him last. And the Core DOES smile at him when he starts yelling 'this is not how it should be!' Besides, surely the Fendahl must be human to an extent, as if it effected our evolution to become better hosts and the like?

NYDER: Yes, it does. Maybe it was Thea that was smiling at him. After all, she was now a significant part of the Gestalt.

VERKOFF: So you agree with me?

NYDER: FUCK! Clearly Fendahl-like traits must be present within its host creatures, but the question is, how significant are they? Cattle are affected by our tinkering with their evolution and behaviour-- which includes encouraging them to think of us as friendly-- but who knows how cattle really think of us?

VERKOFF: And what about sucking their life forces out through the back of their necks?

NYDER: That's the way it eats. Are you evil because you chew up bits of animal flesh, and then break it down using acid? Are you also evil because, before you could chew them, those animals had to be herded into a small room, restrained, knocked on the head and drained of their blood? Or, if you're a vegetarian, because hundreds of living beings had to be cruelly uprooted from the patch in which they were quietly and happily germinating so that you could eat?

VERKOFF: The question is... is having a hamburger acceptable if it gives me the strenth to wipe out every last living thing on the planet?

NYDER: People who build nuclear bombs eat hamburgers. Does that make eating a hamburger unacceptable?

VERKOFF: What do you think?

NYDER: My point is, that just because the Fendahl is capable of destroying the universe, that doesn't make it inherently evil, any more than it makes the hamburger-eating fellow in the command centre of the nuclear bomb store inherently evil. We might view the Fendahl as evil, but that's because we, in our current state, don't want to be consumed by it; remember my example of the cat and the sentient mice. Just because the sentient mice think of the cat as evil, doesn't mean it is, or that it's doing anything more than get dinner. The Fendahl is just doing what it needs to do to survive!

VERKOFF: You're assuming that the Fendahl is just doing what comes natural instead of, say, being totally nasty and cruel for the hell of it.

NYDER: You're assuming that the Fendahl is just being totally nasty and cruel for the hell of it.

VERKOFF: What is actually in the story to suggest it ISN'T doing that?

NYDER: It never speaks; all we have in the story is the motives assigned to it by the Doctor. Who is a biased witness, his race having been responsible for the destruction of Planet Five twelve million years ago. Are we being totally nasty and cruel for the hell of it just because we tolerate the existence of slaughterhouses? Or continue to eat battery-farmed chicken even after the cruelty of the practice has been splashed over every newspaper in the Western world?

VERKOFF: If we can't know its intentions, how can we know they are a simple following of its life cycle?

NYDER: By observation.

VERKOFF: Besides, didn't the Fendahl go about scaring old women?

NYDER: She frightened herself.

VERKOFF: Right. Yes. Obvious. The fact she says the Fendahl was hungry for her soul and it left her near catatonic - overreaction from Ma Tyler.

NYDER: Yes, you've got it.

VERKOFF: I've misjudged the Fendahl. It's a very nice being.

NYDER: It isn't good, it isn't evil. It just is.

VERKOFF: How dare the Doctor stop its becoming.

NYDER: Um hello? He wanted to save the Earth.

VERKOFF: Ah, so it's all right to stop its life cycle as long as it's nothing personal?

NYDER: From a human point of view, it will always be personal, and we're going to regard any attempt to consume or change us as such.

VERKOFF: Still, at least he threw it into a supernovae which gave it a boost. Which does make me wonder why it didn't go straight for the supernovae in the first place, but that's probably the gestalt making me miss the obvious.

NYDER: It had the Time Rift on Earth, and it had genetic material, which isn't something you are going to find in the vicinity of a supernova.

VERKOFF: So why does it want to go to the supernova then, braniac?

NYDER: The Fendahl works in mysterious ways.

VERKOFF: Oh, piss off!

NYDER: Because it had all the energy it needed to reshape life on Earth; what would be the point?

NYDER: Oh yeah. FUCK!

VERKOFF: What about turning people into Fendahleen - that's nasty, isn't it?

NYDER: Why is that a bad thing?

VERKOFF: They didn't want to be turned into Fendahleen. Ted Moss BEGGED not to be.

NYDER: Well, I never used to like pizza, until I tried it. How do we know that a caterpillar doesn't find the idea of becoming a butterfly very disturbing?

VERKOFF: So, you're saying the little baby Fendahleen formally known as Ted Moss was saying, 'Hey, on second thoughts this isn't half bad!' Apart from the imminent death by salt and reality implosion...

NYDER: Yes, you're right. That little baby Fendahleen was murdered by the Doctor. What a bastard! Anyway, it is stupid to call the Fendahl "horrible".

VERKOFF: OK, I'm fickle like that.

NYDER: Agreed.

VERKOFF: Fuck you. Anyway you bastard, the story pretty much says the Time Lords nipped the Fendahl in the bud.

NYDER: Where does it say that?

VERKOFF: Well, they time looped the fifth Planet with the clear intention of walling in the Fendahl and stopping it from escaping.

NYDER: They did that, but that's not "nipping it in the bud". How do you stop God?

VERKOFF: Easy. And as far as I can make out from the Doctor, the Fendahl leaps from the fifth planet to Earth and starts its work on mankind.

NYDER: The Doctor says, taking in Mars on the way.

VERKOFF: So what? He also says probably. If it travels by astral projection, why would another planet get in its way?

NYDER: It didn't get in its way. It just went there because it was a food source.

VERKOFF: I'm saying, this is the Fendahl's first come back tour after the Time Lords stopped the original.

NYDER: All we have is evidence that the Time Lords tried to wall the Fendahl up with a Time Loop.

VERKOFF: Yes, and since we work on the evidence to hand, anything else is hearsay, surely?

NYDER: But you can't wall up God.

VERKOFF: But the Fendahl isn't God, is it?

NYDER: It's our creator.

VERKOFF: Whatever. It's an alien life form, a very powerful alien life form. It can conjure up Fendahleen, which are just alien monsters, and hiding in a skull it MIGHT be able to affect Mankind's evolution (remember, we get this info from the Doctor who admits it might not).

NYDER: He's in denial.

VERKOFF: YOU'RE in denial, arsehole. The fact is this alien creature is also a bit stupid by sending out Fendahleen after Fendahleen against opponents armed with salt (and not bothered to use its powers of manipulation to make sure all the salt has been removed from Fetch Priory), causing it to waste time creating MORE Fendahleen. And then is unable to stop the Doctor snatching the skull and ending everything.

NYDER: You say yourself, it tried to remove the Doctor from Fetch Priory; that would have been enough.

VERKOFF: What about the fact the planet is covered in salt and thus it was only a matter of time before the Fendahleen got nuked by UNIT salt missiles?? Why didn't the Fendahl work out some kind of back up against that?

NYDER: It did. It was called becoming a Gestalt. The Fendahl was still in the process of manifesting, and it wasn't in direct control of everyone at the priory. Some people had outgrown its influence. Or were subconsciously predisposed to resist it. Once it had achieved manifestation, however, it would have been virtually unstoppable.

VERKOFF: Now, if, as you say, the skull WANTED the Doctor to do that, why did it not simply possess him in episode two to take it to the TARDIS and head for Canthares?

NYDER: Why would it do that? It had all it needed on Earth. And if it wanted to go to Canthares, it had its own means of getting there, given access to enough power.

VERKOFF: So, it DIDN'T want to go to Canthares. And so it stuck with its flawed plan to manifest on Earth.

NYDER: It's not a flawed plan. It's the Fendahl's cycle of life.

VERKOFF: So it cannot think outside it's nature? I thought it was God! If this is God, it needs a second cup of coffee in the morning.

NYDER: Does God drink coffee? I didn't know that.

VERKOFF: Well, obviously after making sure which is the salt and which is the sugar.

NYDER: I think one of the problems here is that we're working to different ideas of "God." You seem to be assuming that God is benign, all-knowing, and working to a plan as he keeps an intelligent eye on the universe.

VERKOFF: Well, the all-knowing and working to a plan stuff seems to fit Fendahl, doesn't it?

NYDER: Retard. What we see in "Image of the Fendahl" is closer to the central premise of Lovecraft's "Cthulhu Mythos," which is: "What if God were to turn out not to be God, but just an alien creature whose motives are utterly incomprehensible to us, and whom we worship out of confusion and fear?" Boucher has just added an evolutionary element to it, making that God an alien creature which is simply trying to survive-- as if we were seeing cats from the perspective of sentient, deity-worshipping mice.

VERKOFF: The fact is, only one Fendahl escaped.

NYDER: There was only one Fendahl on the fifth planet.

VERKOFF: Colby clarifies by saying the Fendahl also consumed 'its own kind'.

NYDER: He says "a creature evolved which prospered by obsorbing the energy waves of life itself.... So, this thing ate life, all life, even that of it's own kind?" It evolved, but we do not know at which point in its evolution it ate it's own kind, or when it became a Gestalt creature.

VERKOFF: So there's a chance there's some others on the planet?

NYDER: It is implied that there was only the Fendahl on the planet when the Time Lords attacked it.

VERKOFF: Yes. Is it me or is 'implied' a word being overused in this conversation?

NYDER: It's you. Boucher likes people to think about his stuff, and not to put everything on a plate for them.

VERKOFF: You seem to be worshipping Boucher like the Fendahl, buster, ever think of that?


VERKOFF: Why doesn't that surprise me. Now, one Fendahl or many? Unless we say that because of gestalt mechanics, only one part needs to leave the planet for the whole thing to escape...

NYDER: It is implied that only the skull is transported.

VERKOFF: More fucking implications...

NYDER: Excuse me?

VERKOFF: Why not the rest of the skeleton? Is there a femur on Mars with a pentagram etched in it?

NYDER: Boucher was implying that God springs from the head. I seem to recall there is a Fendahl femur, or something, that turns up in Deus Le Volt, but although I read an outline ages ago, I haven't read the final version yet...

VERKOFF: THEN I GUESS IT DOESN'T MATTER! Anyway, if the Fendahl is the core of physical existence, surely it doesn't need to do a damn thing as it already has won?

NYDER: I don't understand what you are saying here. Can you please clarify?

VERKOFF: The Fendahl wants to consume everything - by death, absorbtion, whatever. Yet you say, and I'm definitely paraphrasing here, that it exists in some form in every living being in the universe.

NYDER: It created the human race in the image of the Core.

VERKOFF: Or it just affected the human race's natural evolution. And it was in a queue to do that, remember.

NYDER: The Fendahl got there first.

VERKOFF: No, I think you'll find that was Scaroth, dumbass.

NYDER: Why would human's natural evolution turn them into something that looked like the Fendahl Core? Hell of a coincidence, isn't it?

VERKOFF: You mean, just like the Doctor suggests in part four? That's the thing about coincidence! IT HAPPENS!

NYDER: Every civilization the exists in the universe that resemble the Core, were created by the Fendahl.

VERKOFF: Even the Tythonians?

NYDER: You think a Tythonian resembles a Core??! What the fuck is wrong with you?

VERKOFF: And the Axons?

NYDER: They just made themselves look like humans.

VERKOFF: And the Arcturans?

NYDER: They don't look like humans.

VERKOFF: And the Usaurians?

NYDER: They just made themselves look like humans.

VERKOFF: And the Nibble-Pimplies?

NYDER: No information. Can not comment.

VERKOFF: If it's so powerful, why hasn't it already changed these non-human-shaped aliens? So... why is doing this?

NYDER: To eat. We breed cattle, don't we?

VERKOFF: If it's already part of the entire universe, why does it need to become the Core?

NYDER: It needs a Core to exist.

VERKOFF: I thought it already existed!

NYDER: Correct.

VERKOFF: It must - how else could it manipulate events to get the ceremony to occur in the first place!

NYDER: They contain the means to create the Gestalt.

VERKOFF: Why isn't it happy enough?

NYDER: What does happiness mean to the Fendahl?

VERKOFF: Well, you seem to think it has a very good reason for wanting to wipe out all life on Earth. If it doesn't need some kind of satisfaction, why should it bother? It IS - surely that would be enough.

NYDER: That's how it feeds. If it wants to survive, it has to.

VERKOFF: Why doesn't it stay as a skull?

NYDER: Why do you stay as a human?

VERKOFF: Why not stay on the fifth planet?

NYDER: The Fifth Planet was destroyed.

VERKOFF: If it wants something then obviously because it needs that something to be complete, content, happy.

NYDER: According to Carnell, in "Death's Head" the Fendahl's motives are a complete mystery to the human race.

VERKOFF: Oh, that's it. Bring in your own work! I thought this was all about Image of the Fendahl?! If it's part of everything, why is it so dependant on that skull?

NYDER: Because that is what the Fendahl is.

VERKOFF: I thought the Fendahl WAS everything?

NYDER: It may well be everything. If it can travel in time, and is indestructible, eventually it will succeed in absorbing the whole universe-- and who's to say it hasn't already.

VERKOFF: And if it's more powerful after the supernovae, why does it have to do the ritual instead of just cutting to the chase?

NYDER: It needs a genetic match to form the Gestalt, material to build them, and also it understands human psychology, and what will induce them to procure these things-- God turning up and saying "I need X, and Y, and Z, and then we will do a ritual to make you all-powerful," is different to an alien turning up and saying "I need these things, and never mind why, or what it'll do."

VERKOFF: I still can't wrap my head around this. If the Fendahl is God, why can't it just hotwire the DNA of Thea so she becomes the Core WITHOUT any of this fussy diabolic stuff?

NYDER: Because it only becomes God after it had manifested itself into the Gestalt. That's twelve Fendahleen, and one Core. And again, you're working to the idea that the Fendahl is the actual, miracle-producing, Biblical God, where the point is, again, that the Fendahl is an omnipotent, omniscient living creature, with a life cycle and needs, whom we worship as God, out of ignorance and/or incomprehension. Remember, Boucher is an atheist, not a theologian; his agenda is not to write a story which assumes the literal truth of God and tries to determine his/her/its nature, but to say "people who worship God are deluding themselves".

VERKOFF: Why didn't it turn the ape or whatever it first encountered straight into the perfect Core?

NYDER: Because it needs genetically compatable material to achieve manifestation.

VERKOFF: The material MUST have been compatable to some degree, or else the fucking Fendahl wouldn't have headed to Earth, WOULD IT?! Oh, no, don't tell me, it was knackered from its escape. So it wasn't all powerful.

NYDER: Not at that point, no. Before it achieves full manifestation, it's still vulnerable, as repeatedly established in the story; as also established, afterwards is another story.

VERKOFF: And thus, is not God.

NYDER: Not at that point, no.

VERKOFF: And thus, it is entirely possible when the Doctor slam-dunked it into a supernovae, he utterly destroyed it and his claim to Leela the skull was indestructible meant 'you can't just smash it with a base ball bat or anything in the priory'?

NYDER: a) You can't destroy God


NYDER: And b) it turned up in the desert on Kaldor City, with the full knowledge, consent and participation of the Fendahl's original creator Chris Boucher, so no.

VERKOFF: Oh, aren't you fucking magnificent?! It doesn't change the fact that the Fendahl could have survived by sheer fluke!

NYDER: It created all human lifeforms in the universe.

VERKOFF: I mean, far be it for me to claim this is a very LARGE extrapolation from an implication without validation, but it seems to me the argument is 'The Fendahl created all human-shaped life in the universe because it did and since its so unutterably unknowable we just can't begin to fathom out why so we might as well just deal with it.'

NYDER: All right, you bitch. This is what we think we know about the Fendahl. According to the Doctor, it was created on the Fifith Planet about 12 million years ago, when evolution went up a blind alley. When fully manifested, it consists of a humanlike Core and twelve Fendahleen. To achieve manifestation it sets up a mutation field that genetically alters other lifeforms around it to make them compatable. Once it manifests, it absorbs the energy waves of life itself and then, once it has wiped out its host race, it sets up the cycle once again, with another species.

VERKOFF: But why hasn't evolution gone up 'a blind alley' anywhere else in the universe? Why is it always down to a skull with a pentagram on it? Why can't the Fendahl multitask between species? Why is it trying to manifest when surely the first time it manifested that was IT - game over?

NYDER: It will. It's only a matter of time. Again, you're assuming that the Fendahl is God in the sense of some white-bearded chap that lands on the Earth and says "I think I'll create man-- poof! There he is!" But the big difference between the Fendahl and the white-bearded chap is, the Fendahl evolved. All it's doing is eating, in the way it did on Planet 5; evidently for it, that involves complicated things with mutation generation and assembling twelve individuals. Why does Cthulhu only rise when the stars are right? Because that's what it is, and what it does.

VERKOFF: You think telling me how much Boucher ripped off Lovecraft is making me want to agree with you?

NYDER: Sort of. It has God like powers. It created the human race. People see the creator of the human race as God. It is not some bloke with a white beard who says "I think I'll create man"; it's the cat as seen by the sentient mice.

VERKOFF: SHUT UP! "White beards" "sentient mice" "cthulhu mythos"! IMAGE OF THE FENDAHL IS A PIECE OF CRAP! You just say that "oooh, Fendahl incomprehensible" where I say, "Boucher shithouse!" That script told us who created man, why the number thirteen is bad, why we throw salt over the shoulder, where ghosts come from, why telepathy and precognition occurs, the power of the pentagram, AND rips off Quatermass! But, apparently, as long as the Fendahl DOESN'T MAKE SENSE then it is beyond reproach!


(Nyder bitchslaps Verkoff.)

VERKOFF: Look, was this Chris Boucher's intent to say that the Fendahl had a hand in Time Lord evolution? Or are we attributing theories afterwards?

NYDER: All I am pointing out is what's in the story.

VERKOFF: No, no, no, I asked a question. Is THAT what Chris Boucher was saying? That the Fendahl DID create all civilization in the universe? Or is that what YOU are saying, based on what you think of Image of the Fendahl?

NYDER: No, it didn't create all civilizations in the universe. It created all humanlike lifeforms. However, I do know that Chris is not keen on the idea that beings that look like humans having spontaneously appeared all over the universe, because the chances of that happening are astronomical.

VERKOFF: I suppose the fact that the TARDIS only goes places that can support human-ish life when its crew are human-ish is also astronomical?

NYDER: No, because the Tardis is sentient. Also, the Tardis has gone to the Moon and to Saturn.

VERKOFF: It goes to the Moon by accident (the gravitron rays) and Saturn? I don't remember that. Unless you mean Titan in Invisible Enemy where it lands inside the station with breathable atmosphere and humandoids. Now, answer the fucking questions, Voc features - Is THAT what Chris Boucher was saying?!

NYDER: Untimately, it's what Chris is saying, because that's what he says in his story.

VERKOFF: Simple yes or no!! Has Chris Boucher, who you presumably know, said something along the lines of, 'my idea was that the Fendahl created all humanlike lifeforms'?

NYDER: I haven't asked Chris that specific question; however, the fictional convenience of humanoid aliens is something he avoids if possible (note that in all of his stories for Doctor Who, all the humans have an Earth origin, with the exception of the Fendahl Core, and in Blake's 7, no humanlike life appears that doesn't have an Earth origin; even the Auronar are said to have terrestrial ancestry), and in regard to "Image of the Fendahl," he's explicitly said that he's working within the von Daaniken/Quatermass/"uplift war" idea of humanity's development having been shaped by an outside, alien, force. Thus, since, as far as Chris is concerned, all humanlike life has a common connection, and the Fendahl has shaped the humans... discuss.


(He stabs Nyder through the head with laserson probe.)

The moral of the story is, don't argue with an interviewer when he has a laserson probe and not enough sleep.


Jared "No Nickname" Hansen said...


Man, that Nyder is full of crap. His entire argument was essentially based on Vila saying "All life evolved from Earth", and ignoring the fact that Soolin flatly says he's talking out of his arse directly afterwards. And that the story where Cally is revealed to be a clone from colonists wasn't written by Boucher but the episodes where she is introduced as the 'alien' member of the crew effectively were.

I have to say that I got the impression that

a) The Doctor was just curious about the skull more than anything

b) The skull was clearly quite powerless against him

Which shoots his incomprehensible "Fendahl created the Time Lords" theory right in the foot.

Did you notice the wonderful way his original post went from "It's possible that..." to "It is indisputable that..." in the space of a paragraph?

Youth of Australia said...

God that was exhausting...

Man, that Nyder is full of crap. His entire argument was essentially based on Vila saying "All life evolved from Earth", and ignoring the fact that Soolin flatly says he's talking out of his arse directly afterwards.
Despite writing a book where he tells everyone the original script had Vila saying that to Cally, just so she could call him a moron - it was JOKE! From Rob Holmes!

I mean:
VILA: Everyone came from Earth originally. That's a well known fact.
SOOLIN: It's a well-known opinion, actually.
TARRANT: Most well-known facts are.


And that the story where Cally is revealed to be a clone from colonists wasn't written by Boucher but the episodes where she is introduced as the 'alien' member of the crew effectively were.
Hell, Terry Nation said he kicked himself for giving Cally the line about "our ancestors" in Terminal, even though she's talking about a planet that maps out the evolution of ALL life, not just humans...

I have to say that I got the impression that
a) The Doctor was just curious about the skull more than anything

And this is Tom Baker, remember, so him bulging his eyes out and not talking means diddly squat.

b) The skull was clearly quite powerless against him

Which shoots his incomprehensible "Fendahl created the Time Lords" theory right in the foot.
Apart from anything else, the Time Lords were ALLREADY around when it appeared on the Fifth Planet. If the Fendahl created the Time Lords... how come the Time Lords haven't already been eaten?! If it achieved godhood unstoppableness, why the hell was it stopped?!

Did you notice the wonderful way his original post went from "It's possible that..." to "It is indisputable that..." in the space of a paragraph?
In the fury, yes.

Cameron Mason said...

I can't believe you read the whole thing Jared.

I had to stop about three quarters of the way through when my eyes started bleeding...


Youth of Australia said...

I tried to make it as visually interesting as possible...

Jared "No Nickname" Hansen said...

I can't believe you read the whole thing Jared.

Believe it or not, I think this is the second time I've read it.

Because, unless my memory cheats me, this comes from an ancient Outpost Gallifrey thread that Ewen asked me to save for him shortly after his banning...

I believe it was called "Kaldor City - what happened there?", addressing the issue of what the hell was going on in a story where Paul Darrow acquired the power of time travel and decided to use it for the sole purpose of killing people that he didn't like, before the Fendahl hunted him down like a dog.

(This is from memory of what I read - the only KC thing I've listened to is The Mark of Kane, which I thought was pretty crap)

Youth of Australia said...

I believe it was called "Kaldor City - what happened there?",
Your memory does not fail you, sir.

addressing the issue of what the hell was going on in a story where Paul Darrow acquired the power of time travel and decided to use it for the sole purpose of killing people that he didn't like, before the Fendahl hunted him down like a dog.
It's not as clear cut as that. Imagine if "Natural History of Fear" was the next story after "Neverland" and then there were no more stories.

It's that sort of confusion.

(This is from memory of what I read - the only KC thing I've listened to is The Mark of Kane, which I thought was pretty crap)
What about Logic of Empire?

Jared "No Nickname" Hansen said...

It's not as clear cut as that. Imagine if "Natural History of Fear" was the next story after "Neverland" and then there were no more stories.


You know, I quite liked the central premise behind The Natural History of Fear.

Everything else is crap, though.

What about Logic of Empire?

I haven't listened to it since I heard the first five minutes and was put off by the fact that it seemed quite cheap and boring.

In terms of listening priority it goes:

*The rest of PMG's
*Stuff I feel like re-listening to
*The AVs
*Get This Podcasts
*The Tomb of the Daleks
*Kerry O'Brien
*The Logic of Empire

Youth of Australia said...

You know, I quite liked the central premise behind The Natural History of Fear. Everything else is crap, though.
You are not alone.

I haven't listened to it since I heard the first five minutes and was put off by the fact that it seemed quite cheap and boring.
... yes. Yes it is. Still, considering it is basically "Kerr Avon is rude to people over dinner", it's quite entertaining.

But then, as ever, this is the Last Ever Blake's 7 story and it is official and if you don't like it well tough because Magic Bullet don't serve things up for you on a plate!!

...god I hate them.

*The rest of PMG's
*Stuff I feel like re-listening to
*The AVs
*Get This Podcasts
*The Tomb of the Daleks
*Kerry O'Brien
*The Logic of Empire

Move Tomb of the Daleks up a notch - it's quick and relatively painless...

Cameron Mason said...

The AVs are worth a listen to.

Personally, I think Nick Briggs peaked with the AVs...


Youth of Australia said...

Indeed. I'm utterly taken aback at BBV's "The Wanderer". They just changed the damned title music, and even let "Fred" chat about his good pals Ria and Truman, his obsession with tea, and his surprisingly-small-bigger-on-the-inside-time machine!

Shameless! Utterly shameless! And it's interesting they let "Fred" talk all about the AVs, knowing that no SFX reviewer will ever make the connection! Cunning bastards, using their humility as a weapon against the BBC!

Oh, if only I could get "Vital Signs..."

Cameron Mason said...

You might have to actually BUY a copy...


Youth of Australia said...

Except there's no stock left, and they've never been available in Australia. So that goes straight to number one as "most stupid idea since the Trojans wanted a horse-shaped conversation piece for their dinner parties"...

Cameron Mason said...

There's always eBay...

Youth of Australia said...

That's like saying "you've still got your health".

Besides, I've nearly finished starting CWOC34...

Cameron Mason said...