While discussing the special in DWM 510, Steven Moffat discussed how the intent of the special was to make a regular episode of Doctor Who which happened to also be funny rather than just a blatant spoof, meaning that extreme steps were taken to have it fit within the then-existing canon. An ab-lib by Jonathan Pryce calling Emma "Mrs. Who" was thus vetoed. Moffat went on to add that while it has since been disregarded, at the time it could have been seen as a legitimate continuation of the show.
The Master corners the Doctor and Emma on Tersurus, prepared to unleash the deadly vengeance of deadly revenge!
The Master pursues the Doctor in his TARDIS, maniacally bellowing that the Doctor's certain death awaits him on Zaston IV. The Doctor, from his own TARDIS, replies that the Master really ought to learn to turn off his speaker before he blabs his entire plan, and that he wants to meet him on the planet Tersurus to give him an important piece of news.
The Doctor and his assistant, Emma, land in a vast, empty castle on Tersurus. He explains that the Tersurons were a kindly, peace-loving race, but shunned and abhorred due to their communicating solely through precisely modulated farting. They destroyed themselves after discovering fire. The Master pins them to the wall with energy pulses, and having arrived a century earlier to bribe the castle's architect, prepares to subject them to the Spikes of Doom. Instead they find themselves relaxing in the Sofa of Reasonable Comfort, the Doctor having anticipated this and bribing the architect first. However, the Master declares that he anticipated this, and bribed the architect even earlier, and drops a giant block on their heads. The Doctor and Emma emerge from a door in the (hollow) block, of course having arrived even earlier
Emma interrupts to prompt the Doctor to announce what he has come to say: Emma and he are in love, and the Doctor plans to retire from travelling through time and space, having saved every planet in the Universe a minimum of twenty-seven times, and settle down in domestic bliss.
Nauseated by this prospect, the Master announces that he will go back in time, buy the architect an expensive dinner and persuade him to place a lever next to where he is standing and a trap door where the Doctor and Emma are standing. He prepares to plunge them into the vast and disgusting sewers of Tersurus, warning them to prepare themselves for "five hundred miles of fear and faeces!"
However, when the Master pulls said lever, the trap door opens under his own feet, the Doctor having bought the architect an expensive dinner earlier. As they go to leave, the front doors burst open and the Master appears, significantly aged, having spent three hundred and twelve years climbing through the sewers, locating his TARDIS and travelling back in time to the current day. Accompanying him are the Daleks, the only creatures not repulsed by the Master's smell, having no noses. The Master boasts that his body has been augmented by Dalek technology; he now has a plunger in place of a right hand, though Emma points out that the Master doesn't know what it can do.
The Daleks prepare to exterminate them, but the Master decides he will kill them himself. He charges forward, but the Doctor steps aside and the Master plunges straight through the trap door again. He comes in again, another three hundred and twelve years older. The Daleks pursue the Doctor and Emma through the numerous and very similar looking corridors, but one Dalek accidentally bumps into the Master, causing him to fall through the trap door yet again. An extremely old Master then walks into view, complaining about having spent a grand total of nine hundred and thirty six years in a sewer.
The Doctor and Emma find what they believe to be the way out of the castle, but in fact turns out to be a room full of Daleks.
The Daleks have captured the Doctor and Emma rather than exterminating them ("Why?" asks Emma, "I'll explain later," replies the Doctor) and tied them to chairs (the presence of which on a Dalek ship is also questioned by Emma; a Dalek replies "We will explain, later."). They've also restored the Master to his original age and augmented him further... Dalek sensor bumps on his chest. The Master insists that these are etheric beam locators and they're very firm, but the Doctor mocks him over the sensors' resemblance to breasts. The Master announces that in exchange he has given the Daleks the secret to controlling a Zectronic energy beam, which will give them power over the entire universe in only minutes! "How?" asks Emma, "I'll explain later," replies the Doctor.
The Master charges up the beam, but the Dalek Supreme whispers to the Doctor that they plan to exterminate the Master after the beam is active. The Doctor realises that both he and the Master speak fluent Tersuran, so he farts a warning to him. The Master speaks the message out loud as he receives it for the benefit of the audience, but Emma inadvertently ruins the plan by breaking wind, causing the Master to suddenly start shouting gibberish, which in turn alerts the Daleks as to what's going on. This gives the Daleks the excuse they need to get rid of the Master, but they accidentally end up shooting both the Doctor and the Zectronic generator instead. The overloading generator is beyond the Master's capabilities to repair; only the Doctor can fix it. The Doctor tells Emma "I love you" in Tersuran, with the Master translating, before seemingly dying. Emma is distraught at his apparent death, but the Master reassures her that the Doctor is in his ninth body and has many more lives, as he begins to regenerate.
The result of the Doctor's regeneration is a quite handsome, if a bit vain, persona. He confirms that Emma is still very much interested and prepares to leave with her, but the Daleks beg the Doctor to help deactivate the Zectronic beam generator in exchange for his life, to which he agrees as a perfect way to finish his "career." However, an explosion causes him to regenerate again, this time into a shy persona, very nervous around girls and the Master with his oddly-placed etheric beam locators, and Emma is visibly disheartened by this new version, finding him nowhere near as attractive as his two predecessors. He goes to try again to deactivate the beam, when another burst of energy causes him to regenerate yet again.
The new Doctor, very handsome and charming indeed, is rather embarrassed that he wasted three bodies in under a minute simply because he forgot to unplug the generator first. The crisis appears to be over, and Emma is quite looking forward to getting to know this new Doctor, when a residual burst of pure Zectronic energy knocks him down. With the Zectronic energy preventing his regeneration, the Doctor appears to die permanently. The Master and the Daleks, to honour the Doctor's supreme sacrifice, resolve to permanently forswear evil. Yet to everyone's amazement, the Doctor's features begin to change and he regenerates, this time into a very buxom woman. Emma, alas, doesn't swing that way, so the wedding is off. The new Doctor is quite excited to discover that her sonic screwdriver has three settings, but then she and the Master lock eyes. The two express their mutual attraction and go off together, the Master laughing maniacally again.
- The Doctor - Rowan Atkinson
- The Doctor - Richard E Grant
- The Doctor - Jim Broadbent
- The Doctor - Hugh Grant
- The Doctor - Joanna Lumley
- Emma - Julia Sawalha
- The Master - Jonathan Pryce
- The Daleks - Roy Skelton and Dave Chapman
- Dalek Operator - Chris Kirk
|Executive Producer Richard Curtis|
|General production staff|
Camera and lighting department
|Make-up and prosthetics
General post-production staff
Special and visual effects
|Not every person who worked on this adventure was credited. The absence of a credit for a position doesn't necessarily mean the job wasn't required. The information above is based solely on observations of the actual end credits of the episodes as broadcast, and does not relay information from IMDB or other sources.|
- Note: The usual definitions of Special Effects and Visual Effects were flipped around on this episode, meaning that The Mill were credited with providing the Special Effects and Andy McVean with the Visual Effects. For the sake of consistency with other post-1996 productions, they are presented here as they would be credited on the BBC Wales series.
- The TARDIS console, TARDIS walls, and Dalek props were provided by a group of fans who had made them for their fan-film Devious.
- Joanna Lumley becomes the first woman to play the Doctor in an officially licenced (if invalid) production. The idea of the Doctor changing sexes during regeneration is not new, having been postulated as early as Tom Baker's time on the series.
- Richard E Grant would later play another invalid version of the Doctor in WC: Scream of the Shalka, later Walter Simeon in TV: The Snowmen and then the Great Intelligence in TV: The Bells of Saint John and TV: The Name of the Doctor.
- The official series has previously visited the idea of the Doctor experiencing romance with his companion (only very briefly) in Doctor Who: The Movie, with Grace Holloway, and revisited the idea in the new series with Rose Tyler and River Song, as well as with Madame de Pompadour. Moffat also wrote the stories introducing the last two examples.
- This episode was written by Steven Moffat, who would write for the official version of the show beginning in 2005. He wrote several acclaimed scripts for the 2005- revival and in 2008 was appointed the show's executive producer. His scripts included the romantic relationships with River and Madame de Pompadour cited, above.
- In an episode of Doctor Who Confidential, Russell T Davies claims that Hugh Grant's Doctor is one of his favourites.
- In his column for Doctor Who Magazine #417, Moffat says Richard Curtis, creator of Blackadder and later to write an episode of Series 5 of Doctor Who, was the person who invited Moffat to write the segment.
- The opening credits and logo from the 1974-80 era are reused. During the original broadcast on Red Nose Day, the spherical Red Nose logo was superimposed over the "O" in "WHO."
- Visual effects footage of the TARDIS from the opening credits of the 1996 TV movie is reused for the opening scene in which the Master views the exterior of the Doctor's TARDIS on his scanner. As the TV Movie had not been released in the US on home video at this time, the 1999 US VHS release of the segment constitutes the first time footage from that movie appeared on any official US home video release.
- This was the final television Doctor Who performance by vocal artist Roy Skelton, who had done voice work on the series since The Ark and is commonly associated with providing Dalek vocals.
- Emma's brief eulogy for the Doctor, "Never cruel, never cowardly," reappears in The Day of the Doctor. In the anniversary episode, the phrase is given as part of the Doctor's promise to the universe: "Never cruel, never cowardly. Never give up, never give in."
- The music from Tom Baker's regeneration scene in TV: Logopolis can be heard briefly during the first regeneration sequence when Rowan Atkinson regenerates into Richard E. Grant
- This production is often assumed to have been a Children in Need charity event. This confusion likely stems from the 2005 series' dedication to CIN. In reality, this serial was made for Comic Relief.
- The title of the story is often misnamed The Curse of the Fatal Death.
- At several points, the Dalek operators can be seen in the section below the eyestalk.
- While following the Master, several Daleks repeatedly collide.
- The re-edited version posted by Comic Relief to YouTube is missing the visual effects of the Dalek gun beams.
Home video and audio releases
- BBC Video released The Curse of Fatal Death in September 1999 and treated it like any other Doctor Who story. The VHS release contained a two-part version with a new opening for part one, plus a "making of" feature and several other Who comedy skits which had been produced in the past. As the special was never broadcast in North America, it was a video-exclusive release for that audience.
- The Australian release (right) used the diamond-logo and 1990s "Classic Series" fonts; the North American release used the current "Classic Series" logo and fonts.
- The full story has also been released in the UK iTunes Store as part of the Best of Comic Relief series.
- Money from each purchase of both the video and download is donated to Comic Relief.
- No DVD release has occurred, besides from a clip featured on the '25 Years of Comic Relief' DVD, likely due to the prominence of Youtube making this unnecessary.