The Curse of Fatal Death is a 1999 Doctor Who Affectionate Parody, produced by The BBC for Red Nose Day between the 1996 TV movie and 2005 revival. It was written by Steven Moffat, who took over the revived series of Doctor Who in 2010.The Ninth Doctor (Rowan Atkinson) contacts the Master (Jonathan Pryce), wanting to meet him on the planet Terserus. The Doctor reveals that he's planning to retire and is engaged to his companion Emma (Julia Sawalha), after which things get... kinda weird. And then the Daleks get involved, aligned with the Master but with their own goals as well. When the Doctor and Emma are captured, he's killed several times and rapidly cycles through being Richard E. Grant, Jim Broadbent, Hugh Grant, and finally Joanna Lumley... who decides she'd actually rather shag the Master than fight him.The comedy special is notable for offering an early glimpse into concepts that Steven Moffat would later bring into Doctor Who proper, once he became the series' showrunner. These include the Doctor marrying a companion, Time Lords regenerating as a different sex, the Master getting stuck in sewers with Daleks, Emma's outfit (a version of which was seen on companion Amy Pond later on), extremely complicated time travel schemes, and the good ship Doctor/Master.Originally broadcast in four short parts, the BBC released a two-part version on VHS which, aside from the Comic Relief mentions, resembles any other Doctor Who release from around that point.
The Curse of Fatal Death provides examples of the following tropes, which we'll explain later:
- A-Cup Angst: The Master tries to inspire this in Emma, asserting that his "Dalek bumps" are "quite firm".Emma: What are you trying to say?!
The Master: [mockingly] Oh. Nothing.
- Adorkable: The Ninth and Twelfth Doctors, definitely. The Eleventh seems to parody the concept, though.
- Affably Evil: The Master is surprisingly polite and understanding throughout the story, perhaps to set up the ending twist.
- Affectionate Parody
- Air-Vent Passageway: The Ninth Doctor describes his companion as being "more exciting than an escape up a ventilation shaft".
- All Girls Want Bad Boys: The Thirteenth Doctor.
- BBC Quarry: One of the reasons the Doctor is planning retirement from saving the known universe on a weekly basis? He's tired of endlessly running around those rock quarries.
- Bestiality Is Depraved: The Master. Poor, poor guy.
- Big Heroic Run: In a parody of the classic series habit of running through corridors, the Ninth Doctor and his companion spend a good long while running through the same exact corridor over and over.
- Bi the Way: The Thirteenth Doctor. Possibly the Master as well, though that may be Single-Target Sexuality. (Moffat would later confirm, once he took over the show proper, that he considers gender on Gallifrey fluid and that it's not a factor in attraction for Time Lords.)
- Bizarre Alien Senses: Only the Daleks would join the Master on his quest for revenge, since the Daleks have no noses (and he'd just escaped from a sewer).
- Bond Villain Stupidity: Lampshaded.
- Cannot Talk to Women: The Eleventh Doctor. Humorously, the Master's etheric beam locators get the same response out of him.
- Canon Discontinuity: Obviously, but the Doctor Who Expanded Universe indicates that the Tersurons existed and really did communicate that way.
- Deadly Deferred Conversation: The Twelfth Doctor's last words to Emma are, "I'll explain later." This being the tail end of a Running Gag where something ridiculous happens and the Doctor goes, "I'll explain later."
- Deadpan Snarker: Rowan Atkinson's Doctor, naturally.
- Death Equals Redemption: Of a sort. Twelve's seemingly final death inspires the Master and the Daleks to renounce their evil ways.
- Death Is Cheap: Whenever Time Lords are around, it is.
- Department of Redundancy Department:
- The title (being that any death is, by definition, fatal), in a parody of similarly redundant classic title "The Deadly Assassin".
- Early on, the Master claims that he shall have the "deadly vengeance of deadly revenge!" He also says that the Doctor's certain death "is now... Certain!"
- Distracted by My Own Sexy: Richard E. Grant's Doctor finds himself so handsome that he licks the mirror.
- Dramatic Thunder: The Master somehow conjures thunder inside his TARDIS to accompany his Evil Laugh.
- Evil Laugh: The Master, of course. Jonathan Pryce goes all out with this.
- Expy: Emma shares a lot of mannerisms with Third Doctor companion Jo Grant, while Jonathan Pryce's Master is pretty much the Anthony Ainley version dialed Up to Eleven (except for his competency, which is dialed down to one). Averted by the various Doctors however, as each of the actors gives their own unique take on the Doctor. That said, Rowan Atkinson is definitely channeling some Blackadder, considering all the snarking he does.
- Farts on Fire: The tragic fate of the Tersurons.Ninth Doctor: They discovered fire.
- Fridge Logic: In-Universe. Why do Dalek ships have chairs? And why don't they just exterminate the Doctor when they have the chance?Ninth Doctor: I'll explain later.
- Gambit Pileup: Played for Laughs. The Doctor and the Master engage in a battle of temporal one-upmanship by travelling increasingly further back in time to bribe the same architect first.
- Getting Crap Past the Radar:Tenth Doctor: How could I forget the only time-traveling companion I ever had?
Emma: You've had lots of companions.
Tenth Doctor: The only time-traveling companion I ever had.
Emma: Oh, right!
- Hoist by His Own Petard: The Master's attempts to trap the Doctor backfire horribly on him, though not always through his own fault. His deal with the Daleks, however, is as ill-conceived as it sounds.
- Imperial Stormtrooper Marksmanship Academy: The Daleks announce that they're going to exterminate the Master... and promptly end up shooting the Doctor and the Zektronic generator instead.
- Insistent Terminology: They're not breasts, they're Dalek bumps.
- Is This Thing Still On?: The Master has serious trouble with closing the communication channel on cue early on. When the Doctor calls him out on it, he quickly claims I Meant to Do That.
- Large Ham: The Tenth Doctor and Jonathan Pryce's Master, resulting in Ham-to-Ham Combat.
- Lecherous Licking: Richard E. Grant's Doctor is so distracted by his own sexy that he licks his reflection in the mirror.
- Literal Metaphor: "You're just not the man I fell in love with."
- Mr. Fanservice: In-Universe example with the Tenth and Twelfth Doctors.Emma: Result!
- Ms. Fanservice: The Thirteenth Doctor.
- Names to Run Away from Really Fast: The Master. Ultimately, subverted:Thirteenth Doctor: Tell me, why do they call you "The Master"?
The Master: I'll explain later.
- Mythology Gag:
- The sound and visual effects used for regeneration most closely resemble those used for the First Doctor's regeneration into the Second.
- When the Twelfth Doctor dies and suddenly regenerates, Roger Limb's incidental music for the Fifth Doctor's regeneration in "The Caves of Androzani" plays. Later on, as Thirteen and the Master walk away, the regeneration music from "Logopolis" is played.
- When it appears as though the Doctor's death won't lead into regeneration, his companion says that the Doctor was "never cruel and never cowardly", one of the many Author Catchphrases of prolific Who writer Terrance Dicks during his stint writing novelizations of the show.
- Noodle Incident: How the Eighth Doctor regenerated into Rowan Atkinson's Ninth, and the circumstances where he met Emma.
- The Nth Doctor: Five of them, in fact. And the Seventeenth Master.
- Off-the-Shelf FX:
- The Daleks in the special are made and played by Fan Film producers, specifically those of Devious (which is most notable for its final scenes with Jon Pertwee as the Third Doctor). You can clearly see the actors inside them in some shots.
- The TARDIS console room and console are also from said fan film.
- Power Perversion Potential: Only now, after thousands of years, does the Doctor notice the Sonic Screwdriver comes with three settings.
- Retirony: The story is set off when the Doctor wants to tell the Master that he's retiring to marry his companion.
- Rule of Three: The Master falls into the sewers of Terserus thrice, each time taking 312 years to climb back out and growing ancient and repugnantly filthy in the process.
- Running Gag: The story has one, but we'll explain later.
- Science Fiction Writers Have No Sense Of Scale: The Dalek's new superweapon will enable them to take over the universe in minutes. How, you ask? We'll explain later.
- Single-Target Sexuality: Ho Yay Foe Yay becomes straight Foe Yay when the Doctor's thirteenth incarnation turns out to be Joanna Lumley.
- Sissy Villain:Tenth Doctor: I remember you, don't I?
The Master: And you still fear me, Doctor.
Tenth Doctor: You're the camp one.
The Master: I am not camp.
Tenth Doctor: Oh yeah? Nice tits.
- Slip into Something More Comfortable: Mocked with the Tenth Doctor saying it just after his regeneration.
- The Slow Path: The Master has to do this to get out of the sewers. Three times.
- Starfish Language: The Tersurons communicated via carefully-modulated flatulence. The Master and the Doctor are both fluent.
- Sweater Girl: Julia Sawalha's sixties companion look has this. (Her outfit would later be almost replicated by Moffat-written companion Amy Pond.)
- Timey-Wimey Ball: The Master and the Doctor have a duel using this as their weapon, each attempting to bribe the architect of the ancient castle they're currently in.
- Toilet Humor:
- The Tersurons, long-dead natives of the planet the action takes place on, communicated through farts. They became extinct when they discovered fire.
- The castle is built atop an extensive sewer system. When the Master is tricked into dropping himself down into it, it takes him 312 years of wandering with nothing but Dung Slugs for food (and companionship on long, lonely nights) to escape. He then falls down again. Twice.
- Too Dumb to Live: The Tenth, and Eleventh Doctors die in quick succession "all because I forgot to unplug first."
- We Meet Again: A Dalek to the Ninth Doctor.
- Woman in White: The Thirteenth Doctor wonders if she and her fiancée will both wear white on their wedding day.
- The World Is Always Doomed: The Doctor has saved every planet in the known universe a minimum of 27 times.