For the next four months Big Finish have given us Torchwood listeners a real treat, we’ve got all new adventures featuring the return of popular/classic Doctor Who monsters. Night of the Fendahl is just the first, we’ve got The Green Life featuring the infamous maggots this month as well as the return of Jo Grant/Jones, Slitheen and Autons to enjoy all the way up to June.
As the title suggests, Night of the Fendahl features the return of the Fendahl, made famous from the 1977 Tom Baker story, Image of the Fendahl. Written by Tim Foley and starring Eve Myles, we are in for a real treat!
Right from the get-go, this is a very adult release. I liked the little note at the beginning of the story, presumably something that will now feature all the way through the range that Torchwood contains adult themes. Surprisingly for the television series, the subject of horrific snuff-films wasn’t something that it explored and as a result, this story feels topical thanks to the recent movements from campaigners for better equality.
I’ve always been a fan of the 1977 television adventure. I’ve always thought it was quite creepy if a little confusing in places. I’ve always been a fan of the Fendahl and there is some interesting Time Lord mythology to explore there, even if the show never did a follow-up. In fact, the Fendahl had always been a villain I thought would be great for Torchwood. Others include the Mara, Autons, Slitheen, Sontarans and the Berserkers from Sarah Jane Adventures. Already, this release had me excited.
I was very impressed with the world that Foley managed to create. Setting it in the original location was a stroke of genius too and it was nice to hear what had happened to poor Colby, the only scientist there to survive the first time around. But it was nice to return to Fetch Priory and the various locations that that story took place in.
Foley’s characters are also thoroughly despicable, including Ged, Derek and Marco, cleverly named Marco Fendhalman. Each one border on the obscene, with Derek, determined to make Gwen take part in as little clothing as possible. Each character their comeuppance nicely and strangely in keeping with the elements that the original television production had set out.
It is Phil, played by Eve Myles’ real-life husband, Bradley Freeguard who gives the standout performance from the guest cast. His scenes with Gwen are electric. While he is horrible for taking part in these films, it isn’t as black-and-white for him as it is for the others. He doesn’t want to hurt Gwen, especially when he finds out she has a daughter and it makes him quite likeable in a strange sort of way. Even though he is making these terrible films, you almost want him to survive until the end and get away from Fetch Priory. But this being Torchwood means there is rarely a happy ending. And the ending is suitably chilling as Gwen makes sure he gets what he deserves.
What I really loved though was how Foley took some of the groundwork from original Chris Boucher script and expanded on them, particularly the idea of women being exploited, something that is apparent if you want to read that into Image of the Fendahl. The scientists do treat Thea horribly there and it is no wonder they get theirs when she becomes the Core. But there is some humour in this script, neatly placed to balance out the darker tones.
Eve Myles is just amazing as usual. Through Big Finish she has delivered a number of stellar performances, my favourite being Katheryn Ellis in Blind Terror: Gods of Frost. But no matter what else she does, I will always see her as Gwen Cooper and her performance here doesn’t disappoint. Throughout the episode, her range is incredible, she goes from being the normal, lovable Gwen, to a slightly sinister version to the Core of the Fendahl, at the drop of a hat. It’s incredible and goes to show what a great actor she is. As long as Eve continues to make Big Finish audios, Big Finish will certainly continue to empty my wallet!
Another thing that will strike you about this audio is how good the sound design and music are. Blair Mowat does a brilliant job on the music front, never intruding on the emotions given off by the superb acting and making sure his score only helps to aid the moment. And the sound effects are suitably disturbing from Mark Hendrick uses new sounds and the established effects from the original to make the whole piece really interesting and exciting.
Once, Night of the Fendahl comes to its conclusion, you’ll wonder why it was never a television episode. The visuals from the writer, Tim Foley, tight direction from Scott Handcock, music and sound design and performances all work together to make something truly unique.
Even if you aren’t a fan of Image of the Fendahl, I urge you to pick this release up. Not only does it expand on some of the themes from the original, but it also delivers a truly dark and gritty science-fiction drama that deserves to be listened to, sat in the dark, wondering if that is a Fendahl in your speakers or a Fendahl behind you?