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Recap / Doctor Who: The Curse of Fatal Death

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He's difficult to get rid of — when he's not the direct cause of his own ridding. Repeatedly. Or hers.

The one with Mr. Bean.

"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 gender, 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.

A tie-in work, "Who's After Your Cash" was printed in The Mirror Official Comic Relief Newspaper issued by The Mirror on Comic Relief Day. Written by Rowan Atkinson, it was a letter by the Ninth Doctor urging readers to watch "The Curse of Fatal Death". Can be viewed for free here. The night itself also complemented special with promotional links, topped off with a short message to the audience from Atkinson's Ninth Doctor; these extras have been unofficially uploaded online.


"The Curse of Fatal Death" provides these examples, 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.
  • Actor Allusion: Jonathan Pryce starred in an unrelated film about mental patients in World War I three years prior to this. The name of this film? Regeneration.
  • Affably Evil: The Master is surprisingly polite and understanding throughout the story, perhaps to set up the ending twist.
  • Affectionate Parody: It's pretty much a send-up of the most common Doctor Who tropes.
  • 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.


Video Example(s):


312 years in a sewer

When the Master's plan against the Doctor backfires, he's forced to take a 312 year slow path before he can enact his revenge.

How well does it match the trope?

4.86 (14 votes)

Example of:

Main / TheSlowPath

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