Doctor Who – The Fragile Yellow Arc of Fragrance Review (or ‘How to Accidentally Write a Modern Doctor Who Story 45 Years Early’)

April 16, 2011

Double the bang for your buck today as I update with another Doctor Who story.

Included in the Farewell Great Macedon boxed set was another story by the same writer – Moris Farhi.

It is a story that is unusual in many ways for early Doctor Who and is seems very much ahead of his time.

And it has a great name as well – The Fragile Yellow Arc of Fragrance.

I’d often seen the name of this story included in lists of unmade Dr Who adventures. And I always assumed it sounded like some kind of historical story, maybe set in Egypt or Japan.

But its not. In fact it’s anything but…

Doctor Who – The Fragile Yellow Arc of Fragrance Review: What’s This One About?

This is a one part story set on the alien planet of Fragrance. Unusually it takes place just as the travellers are about to leave.

The Doctor shows an alien couple round the TARDIS while their son commits suicide because Barbara won’t stay with him.

Yup, that’s it.


For those of you familiar with Doctor Who up to the point we’ve got to with the reviews, you’ll notice the formula. TARDIS lands somewhere. Travellers get separated from the TARDIS. They encounter some kind of danger. They eventually get back to the TARDIS.

That’s it. That’s the formula. The Doctor isn’t some guy who wants to right the wrongs of the universe. He’s not some kind of intergalactic fixer. Yes, he eventually becomes that – I suppose he has to. But at this stage he’s just a traveller who

gets caught up in the affairs of the planets he lands on.

This is different. This is unique.

We join the ‘action’ as the TARDIS is preparing to leave. There doesn’t seem to be any danger, but instead it seems like they’ve landed in a nice place among nice people who they’ve enjoyed spending their time with. What a lovely premise.

As they prepare to leave, the Doctor shows a couple who he is obviously friends with, around the TARDIS. This in itself is very strange for the time, and – credit where its due – they make a point of noting how strange this is. Ian especially can’t quite believe it.

Barbara on the other hand is busy breaking some poor sod’s heart. You see, for some reason the people of Fragrance are dependant upon being in a couple. As the daughter of the family explains to Susan, everyone on Fragrance has two parts to their life. The first part is growing up and the second part (known as the Fragile Yellow Arc) is finding a partner. And they can only fall in love once. So unrequited love just isn’t something that happens (thinking about it, that doesn’t make too much sense, but we’ll go with it). Rhythm – the man who has fallen for Barbara – needs her to stay to continue on with his life. If she leaves then he must go on to the afterlife.

Of course, she doesn’t leave. So he has to snuff it. Callous bitch.

Knowing how the TARDIS works, Rhythm’s family tries to stop them leaving. Barbara does try to do the right thing and stay to save his life, but the Doctor makes the decision for her and dematerialises. While Barbara makes some quiet protests, you get the feeling there is a bit of relief that the decision has been made for her.

As you can see, it’s unlike any Doctor Who story throughout the entire original run of the series. As it happens, the story was rejected because of this. But put it in the context of today’s Doctor Who where the single episode format is king. It could work. And it would work. Replace Barbara with Amy, Rose, Donna or Martha and you have yourself a modern Doctor Who story.

Much like Farewell Great Macedon, the parts are played by Russell, Ford and Dorney. This time though, another actress – Helen Goldwyn – joins in. In terms of the voice acting, the only thing that is a bit weird is that it sounds like Barbara is having a conversation with Alexander the Great. It sounds a bit weird.

Should You Listen to The Fragile Yellow Arc of Fragrance

I enjoyed it. It wasn’t particularly gripping or exciting, but I enjoyed it because it was different. Farhi has written a 2011 Dr Who Script in 1963. He’s changed the format of Doctor Who a good 45 years early. It’s weird. But that’s what makes it good.

Give it a try!

Doctor Who – The Fragile Yellow Arc of Fragrance Review: Should This Story Have Been Made?

As I say, it was rejected because it wasn’t sticking to the Doctor Who format. It’s not massively exciting and it’s only one episode long. Should they have made it? Yes. As I’ve said before, they could easily have chopped away a couple of episodes from the Reign of Terror, and they could have punted Edge of Destruction altogether.

But then on the other hand, Dr Who was really considered to be a family show. I’m not sure kids would really appreciated the story. It doesn’t have danger and its not educational. The idea of suicide over unrequited love isn’t something you’d want your kids to see, even less so in the 60s than today. It seemed to be made for adults.

And as such, maybe it was too different for them to commission it.

So while I understand why it wasn’t made, I still think it should have been.