Doctor Who and the Curse of Fatal Death (1999) Movie Review

The Doctor Who series has been many things over the past few decades, but funny has never been one of them. And while director John Henderson and writer Steven Moffat may have only a tentative grasp on the Time Lord, they’ve nevertheless made a wickedly amusing parody sure to leave fans in stitches.

In “Doctor Who and the Curse of Fatal Death”, the good Doctor (Rowan Atkinson) has decided to retire and marry his longtime traveling companion. This doesn’t sit too well with the Doctor’s archrival, The Master (Jonathan Pryce). Allied with the Daleks, The Master tries to exact revenge before it’s too late.

As the principal Doctor, Rowan Atkinson (“Johnny English”) is superb. All wry, sardonic wit and occasional deadpan humor, Atkinson makes the perfect comedic doctor. Jonathan Pryce (“Pirates of the Caribbean”) is equally wonderful as the over the top Master, willing to shed any pretensions to get a laugh. “Curse of Fatal Death” also benefits from getting some major stars to do cameos, with Hugh Grant (“Two Weeks Notice”), Jim Broadbent, Richard Grant and Joanna Lumley all taking turns as various incarnations of the Doctor. While their appearances may be brief, they still add excitement to the spectacle.

It’s obvious that Steven Moffat and John Henderson know very little about Doctor Who, as evidenced by some glaring gaffes in the show. But the two men sure know comedy, and Doctor Who is ripe for a parody. The movie never takes itself seriously, with a lot of focus on the laughs (as well as some occasionally lowbrow humor). It’s obvious “Doctor Who and the Curse of Fatal Death” was never meant to be part of the show’s canon, and is instead just an enjoyable and highly funny romp in outer space.

Granted, there are a few problems. The plot is rather scant and seems to exist solely as a vehicle for jokes. Some of the special effects are quite sub par, especially by today’s standards. The creative team’s unfamiliarity with the source material hampers the production somewhat, since they probably could have made a better parody if they knew Doctor Who better. Several of the jokes are rim shots, possibly placed in the script to eliminate dead spots that would have been better left alone.

But why nit pick on an otherwise worthy production. “The Curse of Fatal Death” is a parody, and an excellent one at that. With a terrific cast, irreverent humor, and generally silly attitude, this is a terrific short for fans of Doctor Who and sci-fi in general. Non-fans will also appreciate the short’s star power and humor, making it a perfect chance to introduce new viewers to the series.

John Henderson (director) / Steven Moffat (screenplay)
CAST: Rowan Atkinson …. The 9th Doctor
Richard E. Grant …. The 10th Doctor

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