Number : Season 15, episode 1 of 6.
Which One : The lonely light house and the Rutan.
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 parts.
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 last century. A schooner then runs aground nearby. They find a lighthouse and take shelter with the keepers, along the Schooner survivors. However, not everyone in the lighthouse, is – who or what they seem.
Whats good : “The Thing”-style – who is the monster type number? The characters. The tone. The lighthouse. The Rutan.
Whats bad : The Rutan might not convince everyone. Adelaide is annoying.
Review With Spoilers : The Horror Of Fang Rock is 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 order of the day 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 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-farce. 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. I.e. 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 feferenced 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 Who needs to be commended everytime they attempt to move away from a man-in-a-monster-suit look.
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.
New producer Graeme Williams’ run never got any better than this and City Of Death. So it’s perhaps fitting, that one of his best was also his first broadcast episode, too.
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