Six Smart Women Discussing Doctor Who

VerityExtraFatalDeathAs promised, we weren’t quite finished covering Red Nose Day shenanigans! Join Deb, Erika, Katrina, and Tansy as we discuss the longest, most involved, and most important(?) Comic Relief special of them all, “The Curse of Fatal Death”. What did we each think of Mr. Moffat’s first turn at writing televised Doctor Who? And what was it like seeing it for the first time back when we thought there was no more Doctor Who on TV ever?

What about you? Did you see this sketch back when it debuted? If so, have your views on it changed over the years? If not, what did you think seeing it out of context? Let us know in the comments!


Bonus links:
Red Nose Day on NBC
“Curse of Fatal Death” – Behind the Scenes (part 1)
“Curse of Fatal Death” – Behind the Scenes (part 2)

Download or listen now (runtime 52:55)  


Comments on: "Extra! – The Curse of Fatal Laughs" (17)

  1. Why do I still find this episode funny? I’ll explain later…

  2. Tansy cites the Wikipedia page for Fatal Death as saying that Sue Vertue on this was the first female producer for Doctor Who since Verity Lambert. If it does say that, a correction edit to that page is needed, because the author has missed that Jo Wright was Executive Producer for the BBC on the TV Movie.

  3. Again, loved the interesting tidbits you brought out today (as usual!) Just a thought about the “predictive” nature of Fatal Death. I think is it interesting to remember that Fatal Death and Series 5-7 were all created by the same mind, with the same memories, aspirations, impulses and experiences. So, of course the ideas from Moffat’s first foray into Doctor Who will be reflected and repeated when he has the opportunity to writes hours of story in the same universe. As with all of us, Moffat’s mind reiterates that same dominant themes over and over. What I think is so fabulous is how lovely, creative and clever those stories (dare I say that mind?) are.

    So, as you were talking, it struck me that the 13th Doctor in Fatal Death is a woman and Moffat has begun to talk about the world being ready for a female Doctor. Will Moffat once again expand upon that idea when it comes time for the real 13th Doctor? 🙏

    Thanks everyone!

  4. Great episode. What I really enjoyed was the different perspective from most UK conversation about a UK institution like Red Nose Day. It made me ponder that I’d love you to do some other related media products. How about looking a couple of episodes of other shows which may have influenced Dr Who like Quatermass. Or even other massive UK institutions with casting overlaps like the Carry On films which features William Hartnell, Jon Pertwee, Peter Butterworth and others. God the gender issues that would be “problematic” in that would be really fascinating to hear you discuss. Oh well, it’ll never happen as you have enough to cover but I’ll just imagine it. 🙂

    • I was raised on Carry On movies, and have (or at least had – I haven’t seen one in more than a decade) a deep appreciation and almost encyclopedic knowledge of them. I have long considered doing SOMETHING with this childhood quirk of mine, but I am a little concerned that the pure 60’s sexism would not play well with 21st century me. I do think that all Doctor Who fans should watch Carry On Sergeant, though.

  5. Richard S. said:

    Okay, 1999 diary, blow the dust off… 12th March, bold header: START OF FIRST WARM SPELL OF THE YEAR. RED NOSE DAY. Went to Colchester, bought 2 back issues of Locus magazine plus four CDs I’d enjoyed hearing on Nick Barraclough’s weekly show on BBC Radio 2…

    Aaaand, okay, here it is, my definitive contemporary review of The Curse of Fatal Death:

    “Watched Comic Relief 7-9, 9:30-11:20pm”

    During that missing half-hour, I saw the latest Channel 4 repeat of the one where Phoebe gets angry when Joey falls for her twin sister, lots of Lisa Kudrow talking to herself, unmissable. I did miss that night’s Frasier Christmas episode. King of the Hill wasn’t on, for some strange reason. Went to bed & listened to my then-brand-new, still well-loved CD by Martina McBride.

    …Which pretty much sums up my status as a Doctor Who fan in the 1990s, in that I still owned all the books I’d got as a kid, but I’d moved on to other interests. I do remember watching the Comic Relief DW episode, might even remember missing a segment that clashed with Friends? And in lieu of any relevant info from my diary (sorry, I am usually very good about writing stuff down), I’d guess my reaction would have been:

    “Ugh, celebs playing at being the Doctor. Hey, this writer guy does know his continuity. And the fan outrage at the TV movie. Time travel stuff is more than a bit like cheating. And going on for too long. FX quite good, still not a patch on DS9 or Voyager, or even Herc & Xena. Not as bad as Bab-5 thank goodness. Oh no, they’re talking about the last-ever regeneration; that’s always made me genuinely anxious for the eternal future of the show since it became canon when I was a kid. I wish this was still the 1980s when all these actors were funny. Oh, Rowan, you were brilliant live with Angus Deayton. I used to fancy Julia Sawalha in that Press Gang thing. Quite frankly, as a sidekick, she’s no Willow or Gabrielle.”

    Regarding Deb’s concerns about the sexual innuendo, it’s probably a cultural thing. In the UK, especially in the 1970s and early 1980s, very strong innuendo featured heavily in the top-rated primetime family TV shows: constant reruns of the Carry On… film series, sitcoms like Are You Being Served? & Allo Allo, and the sketch shows of Ronnie Corbett & Ronnie Barker, Benny Hill, Kenny Everett, etc. Adults laughed. Kids laughed, then asked their older siblings why that joke was funny.

    When Comic Relief lands itself in hot water over an ill-judged piece, it’s usually due to pre-watershed swearing, or that sketch about an atheist Archbishop of Canterbury played by… Rowan Atkinson.

  6. Richard S. said:

    Apologies, might have seemed to be dismissing Deb’s concerns there about the innuendo. Just making the point that it might not have seemed too strong to the average UK viewer.

  7. Tatiana said:

    Joanna Lumley is the 13th Doctor; regeneration from 12th to 13th incarnation is the 12th regeneration, so it is still allowed. But I remember an interview with Moffat in which he said that in the original draft there was one more Doctor and the female Doctor was supposed to be the 14th Doctor – so the one after the 13th regeneration.
    Also, as to “heteronormativity” – true, Emma wasn’t gay (after all she loved the 9th Doctor), but when the Doctor became a woman, she naturally assumed that they were still going to marry. She changed her mind only after Emma rejected her.

  8. I very much enjoyed the Red Nose Day discussions. Thanks for the laughs.

    I’m most puzzled by the fact that so few of the Verities knew the actors in this before seeing it. In fact, I’m fairly certain I could hear Liz’s eyes rolling across six time zones here in Minneapolis. I first saw “Curse of the Fatal Death” only about three years ago, and I loved it for what it was. But even if I had seen it back in 1999, I had context for all the actors:
    • Rowan Atkinson from Black Adder (and yes, Mr Bean—but I *like* that show)
    • Richard E. Grant from Withnail & I, and other films (and Posh Nosh—admittedly after 1999)
    • Jim Broadbent from Black Adder, Brazil, Topsy-Turvy, and so many other things
    • Hugh Grant from Four Weddings and a Funeral, and others
    • Joanna Lumley from Absolutely Fabulous and Sapphire & Steel
    • Julia Sawalha from Absolutely Fabulous
    • Jonathan Pryce from Brazil and Glengarry Glen Ross

    I sympathize with some of the negative reactions expressed on the podcast, but I believe British popular culture audiences are *far* more comfortable with innuendo and farcical humor on television that some are in North America. Watch any one episode of “Are You Being Served?” for context. Perhaps my streak of Anglophilia is wider and deeper than I knew previously?

    • Korina said:

      For me, Richard E. Grant was the brilliant Scarlet Pimpernel (back when A&E still meant Arts and Entertainment), and Jim Broadbent was (retroactively) Harold Ziedler in Moulin Rouge! Because we can can can!

      Jonathan Pryce made a terrific Master; ‘Dalek bumps’ still makes me giggle like a 12-year-old boy.

      I knew everyone but Julia Sawalha; never could get into AbFab, NOT my cuppa. Was kinda shocked that the Verities didn’t know them.

      ‘…I’m fairly certain I could hear Liz’s eyes rolling across six time zones here in Minneapolis.’ I WONDERED what that sound was! Thanks Elvisomar! Add a couple more time zones for Calif. ^__^

    • Although I was not on the episode, Curse of the Fatal Death was an early entry point for me. Michael showed it to me early in our courtship, specifically BECAUSE I KNEW ALL THE ACTORS. 🙂 He thought it would help me relate to the other stuff, and he knew I had enjoyed Coupling

      Also, weighing in that the innuendo didn’t bother me at. all. Everyone’s mileage varies, of course… but we put the “three settings” joke on the back of Chicks Dig Time Lords for a reason…

    • kaboobie71 said:

      “I’m most puzzled by the fact that so few of the Verities knew the actors in this before seeing it.”

      I was puzzled as well. Julie Sawahla was the only one I didn’t immediately recognize, but I later realized I had seen her in the Kenneth Branagh film “A Midwinter’s Tale”. Most surprising to me was not knowing Jonathan Pryce, already a veteran actor at this time, and Hugh Grant, given the popularity of “Four Weddings and a Funeral”.

    • This is me stating for the record that when I watched Curse of the Fatal Death, it was Michael showing it to me as a gateway to Doctor Who, because I knew who the actors all were! I was an anglophile before I was a DW fan. 😀

  9. James McCrory said:

    Joanna Lumley was also in the New Avengers – and has recently been campaigning for rights of retired Gurka solders in the UK.

  10. For context on British humour, Rowan Atkinson, innuendo, fund raising etc., one might go to the Secret Policeman’s Ball:

    • Korina said:

      Never could quite work out if it was the ball of a secret policeman, or a secret ball held for policemen. 😉

  11. Korina said:

    I can see Deb’s issues with the sexism, but it never bothered me, partly because I’m from the 70’s and that was normal, and also because I sometimes seem to have the sense of humor of a 12-year-old boy.

    As for the Doctor and the Master pairing up at the end, I always saw it as they were already all up in each other, but straight, so when suddenly their parts matched, running away together was natural. Which

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