Please Enjoy Steven Moffat's 1999 Doctor Who Comedy Special

Gif: From “Cure of Fatal Death,” BBC

Today is Red Nose Day in the UK, an annual charity telethon organized by Comic Relief. Part of Red Nose Day is always a number of sketches and shorts from various TV shows. One of the most famous also happens to be Steven Moffat’s very first filmed Doctor Who story: “The Curse of Fatal Death.”


This year, for Red Nose Day, the official Doctor Who YouTube channel has put Moffat’s short—which was originally broadcast as four shorts and then released on VHS in two parts—on its channel in its full 20-minute glory. You’ll spend basically all of it wondering why Jonathan Pryce never did get to play the Master.

One of the other truly fascinating things about 1999's “The Curse of Fatal Death” is how it previews a number of things from the show’s revival years later: the tried and weary Doctor, the Doctor and Master’s complicated one-upmanship, making the romantic love between the Master and Companion explicit, same for that between the Master and the Doctor (although, it’s the Doctor who is female in this, and not the Master), etc. I’m actually most disturbed by the idea of the Dalek-Time Lord hybridization, since it reminds me of the horrible Dalek plot in “Daleks in Manhattan/Evolution of the Daleks.”

The other thing that makes this short more relevant than before is the flurry of regenerations at the end. Both Moffat’s time as showrunner and Peter Capaldi’s time as the Doctor are coming to an end soon, and people really want a Doctor who isn’t a white man. For proof that it would work fine, check out Joanna Lumley at the end of this. She’s great!

Anyway, since “The Curse of Fatal Death” has yet to be released on DVD, Doctor Who’s YouTube channel—and Comic Relief’s—remain the only legal place to watch it. Unless you still have a functioning VHS player, you lucky sod.

Katharine is the Associate Director of Policy and Activism at the Electronic Frontier Foundation and the former managing editor of io9. She writes about technology policy and pop culture.



“people really want a Doctor who isn’t a white man”

Some people do. This seems to be some people’s main focus. Others are vehemently against it.

Me? I’d rather we just had whoever is the best actor available for the part, whether that’s a white man or woman, a PoC, etc. What I don’t want is for the Doctor to be miscast for the sake of it. Although in fairness, I also thought Matt Smith was far too young and he proved me wrong, so I’ll keep an open mind!

I love the idea of Tilda Swinton. I hate the idea of Haley Atwell. I’d have loved Ian McKellen to do it at least once, but he’s probably too old and too big now. My out of the box choices would be Michelle Dockery (chanelling her Susan from Hogfather) or Navid Andrews.