Number : Season 15, serial 1 of 6.
Which One : The lonely light house and the alien shape-shifter.
Cast : The Doctor : Tom Baker
Leela : Louise Jameson
Vince Hawkins : John Abbott
Reuben : Colin Douglas
Ben : Ralph Watson
Lord Palmersdale : Sean Caffrey
Colonel Skinsdale : Alan Rowe
Adelaide : Annette Woollett
Harker : Rio Fanning
Written By : Terrence Dicks.
Produced By : Graeme Williams
First UK Broadcast : 3 – 24 September 1977.
Length : 4 x 25 minute episodes.
Plot : The Doctor attempts to take Leela, to Brighton but lands the Tardis – on a lonely island outcrop; known as “Fang Rock” – at the turn of the 20th century. A schooner then runs aground nearby. The Doctor, Leela and the Schooner survivors take refuge in the nearby lighthouse However, not everyone in the lighthouse, is who – or what; they seem.
Whats good : Similar to Terror Of The Zygons and The Android Invasion. Paranoid “The Thing”-style – who is the monster type number. The characters. The tone. The lighthouse setting. The Rutan.
Whats bad : Too similar to Terror Of The Zygons and The Android Invasion. The Rutan might not convince everyone. Adelaide is annoying.
Review With Spoilers : The Horror Of Fang Rock is the first serial of season 15 and another effective John Carpenter’s – The Thing – style paranoid, mystery thriller. Featuring a chameleonic alien lifeform, which kills and takes the form of it’s victim.
Setting a similar tone to Terror Of The Zygons and The Android Invasion; the bottom-line here is – trust no one; not even your closest allies.
The Horror Of Fang Rock was the first story of new producer Graham Williams; following outgoing producer Philip Hinchcliffe. Hinchcliffe had signed off a fine run of stories, with previous the seasons finale; The Talons Of Weng-Chung.
In many ways, it was one of Williams best produced stories (bar City Of Death & Invasion Of Time) and the last; before a slow decline into more average Who-fare. Ironic then, that The Horror Of Fang Rock was actually an unused script from Hinchcliffe’s run, written by Who maestro – Terrence Dicks.
It has Hinchcliffe all over it. Set in a confined, dark and lonely lighthouse, with a smaller rosta of strong characters; The Horror Of Fang Rock is an exercise – in sparse horror and mistrust.
As a result of the closed in surroundings of the lighthouse and lack of varied locations, Horror Of Fang Rock works as a strong ensemble character-piece.
That is apart from the female character of Adelaide, who is not needed in this story and is just really there to scream/faint alot – and be annoying.
“Gentlemen, I’ve got news for you: This lighthouse is under attack and by tomorrow morning – we might all be dead. Anyone interested?” The Doctor
We also have a sub-plot of Schooner passengers; Palmersdale and Skinsdale -attempting to return to London to commit fraud and some of the events transpire from their motivations. Eg. Skinsdale smashing the wireless transmitter to stop Palmersdale contacting the outside world (after changing his mind on the fraud) but stranding the survivors from help.
The creepy foghorn ringing out every few minutes, helps set the scene. It’s especially powerful, when Lighthouse keeper Ben is killed by the Rutan but the foghorn drowns out his death cry. Chilling!
Rutan’s – a kind of luminous green land jellyfish, are the oft-mentioned mortal enemy of the Sontaran’s. They are much referenced in Who but have only ever featured once, in this story.
Their design might not be to everyone’s fancy; a ball of snot with white tentacles. But Doctor Who needs to be commended, everytime – that they attempt to move away from a ‘man-in-a-monster-suit’.
Indeed, the Rutan in human-form presents a formidable challenge to the Doctor, especially in the confines of the lighthouse; due to anyone venturing within a few foot of the Rutan – being electricuted to death.
The probable reason why previous producer Phillip Hinchcliffe, didn’t use this story – during his time on the show. Was maybe due to the fact that, tonally speaking – Horror Of Fang Rock is very similar to Terror Of The Zygons and The Android Invasion.
There isn’t a great deal of difference between them, in terms of the monster hiding inside a fake human angle. That said, Horror Of Fang Rock does edge itself into worthiness, as another type of these stories. By the setting, atmosphere and Rutan concept.
New producer Graeme Williams’ run, never got any better than this (perhaps City Of Death maybe). So it’s perhaps intriguing, that one of his best – was also his first broadcast episode, too – and a Hinchcliffe era story.
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