The Horror Of Fang Rock: Doctor Who: Season 15
The Horror Of Fang Rock SYNOPSIS:
A falling star lands near Fang Rock lighthouse. The Doctor and Leela also land on the island and find from the lighthouse crew one of their number has already gone missing. An unusual fog clouds the island and the alien creature stalking it starts to drain the lighthouse power.
With the lighthouse in darkness, a ship crashes on the island marooning the only survivors, three passengers and one crewman. While Lord Parmerdale and Colonel Skinsale bicker over their honour, the Doctor, Leela and Vince set about barricading the light house to prevent the alien intruder from getting in.
Unfortunately lighthouse keeper Reuben starts behaving oddly and the Doctor realizes too late the alien is a shape changer and the Reuben now locked in with them is the alien, a rutan, the sworn enemy of the sontarans. It corners the human group and begins to kill them one by one.
With the radio smashed by Lord Parmerdale and only a piece of stolen alien technology at their disposal there seems to be no way out.
Return to top of page
The Horror Of Fang Rock SERIAL DETAILS:
Return to top of page
The Horror Of Fang Rock CAST & CREW
Tom Baker (Fourth Doctor)
Louise Jameson (Leela)
Colin Douglas – Reuben
John Abbott – Vince Hawkins
Ralph Watson – Ben
Alan Rowe – Colonel Skinsale
Sean Caffrey – Lord Palmerdale
Rio Fanning – Harker
Annette Woollett – Adelaide
Production Staff for serial 4V:
Writer - Terrance Dicks
Director - Paddy Russell
Script editor - Robert Holmes
Producer - Graham Williams
Return to top of page The Horror Of Fang Rock REVIEWS
Rocky the Horror Of Fang Rock...ok that was unnecessary...Producer Hinchcliffe may be gone but Holmes is still around and the impact of their era hasn't faded yet. The Horror Of Fang Rock is made as though Graham Williams had never come on board as producer. It's still classic gothic horror and a return to the 'base under siege' plot, as the Doctor & Leela land on Fang Rock and find the inhabitants of the lighthouse there under attack by something nasty.
Well not that they find out straight away, but as everyone is picked off one-by-one including a boatload of rich toffs who crash land on the island, the Dr deduces an alien is at work. The Horror Of Fang Rock sees Tom is at probably his most moody, rude and brilliant best here, so seriously intent you think there really isn't a way out for anyone on the rock, especially as the lighthouse is the only cover. Leela still has shades of Eliza Dolittle about her and continues to display her contrast to the people of the era with her survival instinct and primitive ways. The secondary characters are well realized; Reuben and the young lad Vince being standouts. Unfortunately none of the stereo typed rich toffs are memorable....ok maybe the stiff upper lipped Colonel who acts honest but isn't really...
One thing about the Horror Of Fang Rock, is it's shown just how hard it is to shoot a story set in a lighthouse. But the atmosphere is tense and extremely claustrophobic in this as the Rutan creeps about picking every one off one-by-one, It's POV effects shot is very chilling too. The fact that it can shape change and can infiltrate shows they can't keep it out and when it impersonates Reuben and goes from his gruff exterior to a creepy smile before killing whoever is in it's way very effective acting wise. Hard to follow Talons greatness but a nice try none the less. 7.5/10
There is one thing that sticks in my mind about the Horror Of Fang Rock. It's not it is the first story produced by Graham Williams, nor is it because Horror was filmed at Pebble Mill and Tom had therefore cracked the shits. Its not even cos (spoiler ahead) everyone except the Doctor and Leela die in a grizzly fashion. No, its cos of that one scene where Adelaide becomes all hysterical so Leela gives her such a WHACK!!! across the chops that if Adelaide was a Warner Bros cartoon character her head would be spinning round and round 360 degrees for five minutes.
As a kid I was scared shitless by the Horror Of Fang Rock cos little by little everyone was getting bumped off by Reuben the Rutan or his original form - Mr Jellyfish. I reckon its still a leftover from the Holmes/Hinchcliffe era as everyone gets zapped quite graphically and by the end of episode four you can't run up a flight of stairs in that lighthouse for fear of tripping over another recently deceased body. Tom Baker plays it mean and moody in this one and as mentioned earlier its cos he cracked the shits about the production being moved from Television Centre to Pebble Mill Studios and decided to take it out on the cast around him. Tim Long did a very similar thing in All My Sons at Mordialloc in 2004 when he threw a big hissy fit cos one rehearsal had to be moved off the stage at Mordi to Eryl Lowe's lounge room three streets down.
So while Tom does a Tim and sits in the corner in a bad mood and refuses to contribute to the goodwill of the show, its up to everyone else to pitch in and help out. No one could be arsed at Mordialloc when it came to Tim, but in Horror of Fang Rock everyone just buckles down and gets on with it regardless of whether Mr Sulky wants to join in or not. Actually, having recently watched this on DVD it does look like everyone is tip-toeing around their leading man and just waiting to get fried so they can collect their money and fuck off home. The cast - most of whom had very little acting experience when this was done - do a fairly good, if at times staged, performance. Some of them do appear to be acting for the stage instead of TV which adds to the melodrama of the episodes.
Production-wise it all looks okay since it was filmed rather than video-taped at Pebble Mill and the studio sets for the outdoor scenes look very good although at times they can't disguise the fact they are walking on a studio floor! The model ship looks horrendous though when that decides to smash into the rocks and the model shot of the lighthouse (complete with painted backdrop sky) is okay. There are some niggly points such as how does the Doctor get back in through the window since he was dangling outside it when the windows open OUTWARDS. Or what WAS the original Beast of Fang Rock that Reuben was yapping on about? Or if Leela had to change into Vince's clothes cos her original clothes were wet cos of the fog, how come she didn't change them again when she went out a second time to hunt the creature on the rocks?
Anyway, I'll go an 8/10. Generous I know but tommorrow episode is The One With The Talking Prawn.
I thought that they were all really happy about working at Pebble Mill? Williams said that everyone there was so eager to please, and prove themselves to be equal (or better) than their London counterparts? I also remember seeing an interview with Tom on Countdown where Tom talked up the Horror Of Fang Rock? Anyway, there's something that's just a little bit, I don't know, dull about this one for me. It's not one I've seen for a while, and I do remember thinking it wasn't that dull when I saw it last... but I still don't have an overwhelming drive to watch it again.
I think the most disappointing thing could be the Rutans... why are the Sontarans warring against jelly? I pictured their nemesis as being a similar kind of impressive warrior. That's not to say The Rutans aren't impressive - the ability to take the form of others (ala Zygons - but maybe not Slitheen!) is always a good thing - but I don't know, it's not what I wanted to see in a classic Space Battle... I wanted something like Storm Troopers I guess! As for the story - yeah, it's OK... Reuben is kind of cool, and plays the part very well - possibly the best beanie acting in Dr Who ever. And the whole thing with everyone getting killed, and the diamond and the lighthouse... all clever and interesting, but just a little dull.
BTW - did you know that Louise Jameson wanted to leave after season 14, but was talked into another season by Williams? One of the conditions of her staying was that she no longer wanted to wear the coloured contact lenses that they made her wear in season 14... so the bit where she was hit in the eye by the light thingy was written in so she could ditch the contact lenses. And also BTW - did you know that the rehearsal at Eryl's house was awesome cos we got to watch the footy while we were rehearsing? I had no problems with that at all!!