Wednesday 22 February 2012

457 Horror of Fang Rock Part Four

EPISODE: Horror of Fang Rock Part Four
TRANSMITTED: 24 September 1977
WRITER: Terrance Dicks
DIRECTOR: Paddy Russell
SCRIPT EDITOR: Robert Holmes
PRODUCER: Graham Williams
FORMAT: DVD: Doctor Who - Horror of Fang Rock

"Reuben" climbs the light house and kills Vince on the lamp gallery. The Doctor finds an alien power relay which he thinks is being used as a distress beacon. He orders the survivors to assemble in the lamp room, but while collecting Skinsdale & Adelaide, Leela is cornered by Reuben in the crew room. He kills Adelaide, but Leela & Skinsdale escape. The Doctor gets them to scatter powder from maroons down the stairs. He confronts "Reuben" who is revealed to be a Rutan, the ancient enemy of the Sontarans. The Rutan tells him that a mothership is on the way to Earth. The Doctor ignites the powder injuring the Rutan and driving it off. They decide convert the lighthouse lamp into a laser using diamonds carried by Palmerdale. The Doctor & Skinsdale go to the crew room to get the diamonds from Palmerdale's body. The Doctor takes the largest diamond and returns to the lamp room, but Skinsdale is killed trying to gather up the remaining ones. Leela kills the Rutan with a distress rocket. A glowing orange sphere approaches Fang Rock which the Doctor identifies as the Rutan mothership. The Doctor destroys it with his makeshift laser, but the blast temporarily blinds Leela permanently changing her eye colour from brown to blue.

Huzzah it's a Rutan! We've heard about the Rutans in the previous two Sontaran stories (Time Warrior & Sontaran Experiment) so it's nice to see them on screen at last. It's not a bad episode at all but I'm a little concerned about the diamonds: I can believe Palmerdale would carry them as insurance but it's not referred to until the point it's needed. Now if Palmerdale had tried to bribe Vince with a diamond in the previous episode, and the Doctor had found the diamond, damaged by the Rutan perhaps, on the the gallery floor giving him the idea for the laser.... Hang the gun on the wall, use the gun later. It's a minor point but it's still there.

In some ways Horror of Fang Rock could be described as formulaic Doctor Who done by the numbers: Base Under Siege, isolated location with a small group of people who are bumped off one by one. Maybe, it is but it's done so well here that you just don't care. Easily one of the best Base Under Siege stories and also the first story where every member of the guest cast dies:

Reuben - killed at the end of episode 2
Vince - episode 4
Ben - episode 1
Lord Palmerdale - episode 3
James Skinsdale - episode 4
Adelaide Lessage - episode 4
Harker - end of episode 3

The only survivors are the unseen remaining members of the boat crew, the Doctor and Leela, who's eye colour is changed in order to get rid of the contact lenses Louise Jameson had been wearing for the role and was having difficulty with.

Horror of Fang Rock was novelised by Terrance Dicks. It was released on video in July 1998 and on DVD in January 2005. The documentary on Terrance Dicks in this set comes especially recommended and is one of my favourite special features on the DVDs.

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