a real world point of view
|Horror of Fang Rock|
|Novelised as:||Doctor Who and the Horror of Fang Rock|
|Main enemy:||Rutan Host|
|Main setting:||Fang Rock, Earth, the 1900s|
|Number of episodes:||4|
|Premiere broadcast:||3 September - 24 September 1977|
|Doctor Who television stories|
|The Talons of Weng-Chiang||The Invisible Enemy|
Horror of Fang Rock was the first story of Season 15 of Doctor Who. Graham Williams' three-year stint as producer of the series began with this story. It is the only time that the Rutan Host — the oft-mentioned mortal enemies of the Sontarans — have been depicted in a broadcast television story.
The cursed island of Fang Rock off the south coast of England is a place of rumour and tales of beasts from the sea. Three lighthouse men at the turn of the century face their fears when something comes from the sea to bring death to all it touches.
Part 1 Edit
The Doctor's plans to show Brighton to Leela are on hold for now, as the TARDIS yet again takes its occupants to the wrong time and place. This time it's the island of Fang Rock off the south coast of England around the start of the 20th century. Noticing that the lighthouse isn't functioning properly, the Doctor decides to investigate and to ask for directions. After arriving at the lighthouse and introducing themselves, the Doctor discovers the dead body of one of the keepers, Ben. The two other keepers - old, superstitious Reuben and keen young Vince - say that a light fell from the sky near the island. They also say the electricity flow to the lamp on the lighthouse has become erratic. The Doctor deduces something is feeding on the flow. Reuben does not help matters with his constant references to the mythical Beast of Fang Rock which supposedly once terrorised the lighthouse.
As the Doctor and Leela explore, something moves Ben's body out of the lighthouse and onto the island. A curious electric crackling seems to have killed the local fish. The Doctor believes Ben was electrocuted. The freak fog continues to descend. A ship passes, ignoring the fog and darkness. It crashes on Fang Rock.
Part 2 Edit
There are four survivors of the yacht's wreck: the bosun Harker; Colonel James Skinsale, a MP; the owner, Lord Palmerdale; and his highly strung secretary Adelaide Vessage. It emerges slowly that Palmerdale has bought government secrets from Skinsale and was desperate to reach the stock exchange to make a killing - that was why the ship was travelling at such a clip.
The Doctor continues to analyse the threat being faced. Reuben believes the Beast of Fang Rock is back, but the Doctor assures Leela there is no such thing. He thinks the light which fell from the sky was a spaceship landing. Aliens unfamiliar with humans are attracted to the lighthouse's electricity. They are keeping themselves out of sight while isolating Fang Rock by creating the fog. The Doctor deduces an attack is imminent.
Reuben goes to stoke the boiler. While he is in the boiler room Leela feels another cold wave and the electricity fails again. All is silent in the dark, save Reuben screaming in the boiler room.
Part 3 Edit
The Doctor and Leela go to investigate. Reuben returns while they are away, behaving very oddly. The others put it down to shock. The pattern of death now speeds up. Palmerdale is killed in the lamp room by a glowing alien presence outside the lighthouse. Harker is killed when Reuben corners him in the boiler room. Judging by the alien light emanating from Reuben, he has been possessed or transformed by the alien creature. The Doctor determines their best protection is to secure the lighthouse to keep the creature out.
While inspecting the boiler room, the Doctor and Leela find Harker's body and Reuben's. The Doctor says that Reuben's body is in rigor mortis, meaning he's been dead for hours. Leela is confused, as she knew that Reuben was in his room. The shocked Doctor realises that he has overlooked the chameleon factor, which he says is sometimes called lycanthrope. In securing the lighthouse, the Doctor has locked the creature in with them.
Part 4 Edit
The creature, in the guise of Reuben, appears to Vince, with a grin, and kills him in a flash of blue light by placing a hand on his head.
The Doctor and Leela discuss the creature as Leela fills the boiler. The Doctor says it has great power, but it needed to study the human life pattern first. He says that, "Organic restructuring is elementary physiology for Time Lords". Leela misunderstands, believing that if the creature is a Time Lord, then they have no chance to stop it. The Doctor corrects her, saying that what his people consider elementary might take other species thousands of years to master, and she says, "then we have nothing to worry about," because the Doctor, as a Time Lord, should be able to deal with the creature easily. The Doctor seems buffered by her blind faith in his people, and begins to consider why the creature took the form of Reuben. Leela suggests trying to deceive the creature into thinking its ruse was effective, but the Doctor says it's too dangerous. They then find an alien power relay being used with a distress beacon. He goes to look for the signal modulator, but sends Leela to gather the rest of the living humans and bring them to the lamp room.
Adelaide begs Skinsale to stop pacing. They're startled by the appearance of Leela, who tells them that Harker has died, the creature is inside, and they must fight for their lives. To Leela's consternation, Adelaide faints. Reuben interrupts the Doctor as he searches someone's bunk. The Doctor evades him by climbing out the window to dangle by his fingertips. Adelaide is revived by Skinsale, but doesn't want to go. They get her moving, only to find that Reuben has found them. The Doctor laboriously climbs back inside, revealing that he has found a device. Reuben kills Adelaide right in front of Leela and Skinsale. They run. The Doctor confronts the alien and it sheds its disguise, revealing an tentacled glowing green gelatinous sphere. It is a Rutan, who uses plural pronouns to reference itself, and declares that it is a new scout trained in the latest metamorphosis techniques. The Doctor tells him it'll get better at them in time. It refuses to tell the Doctor why it is there, but the Doctor angers him, saying they must be losing their war with the Sontarans. The Rutan calls it a strategic retreat, and although the Earth is remote, it has a sound enough strategic position to launch a counterattack. The Doctor is alarmed, as the Sontaran will use photonic bombardment to kill many people. He realises that the Rutan scout ship crash landed in the sea, and it says that it is trying to summon its mother ship. The Doctor reveals that he has deactivated both the primary transmitter and the backup. The Rutan says it was transmitting long enough, and the Doctor says it won't last that long.
Leela and Skinsale have continued upstairs and start following the Doctor's instructions to break open the maroons (maroon flares) and spread the powder down the stairs. The Doctor rushes in, and uses the powder and a fuse to hurt the scout. He explains that Ruta III is an icy planet, and it's inhabitants find heat painful, and asks if they have more gunpowder.
The Doctor wishes for a flamethrower. Skinsale shows him a kind of mortar they brought up from below. The Doctor grabs a flare device and they load it with items from their pockets. As they do so, he explains that the real threat is the Rutan ship that is on the way.
The three devise a plan, with Leela suggesting that the Doctor change the lighthouse into a laser, but the Doctor needs crystalline carbon - diamond - to focus it. Skinsale says that Palmerdale always carried diamonds, and they get to work.
The Rutan Scout returns, and the men make their way downstairs while Leela covers them with the flare. Skinsale retrieves the diamonds, which he found in a hidden pouch, and the Doctor selects on and runs upstairs. The Scout kills Skinsale, and Leela shoots it before gloating over it's death. As the Doctor converts the lighthouse into a high-energy laser using the diamond, they watch it approach. They run for cover as the laser destroys the Rutan mother ship. Leela sneaks a look back, and the flash blinds her. She begs to be killed rather than suffer the disability. The Doctor takes the knife, and laughs as he gets a closer look at her eyes. The blindness was temporary, but the flash has turned Leela's eyes from brown to blue. The Doctor quotes Wilfrid Gibson's poem Flannan Isle as they take their leave.
- The Doctor - Tom Baker
- Leela - Louise Jameson
- Reuben - Colin Douglas
- Vince Hawkins - John Abbott
- Ben - Ralph Watson
- Lord Palmerdale - Sean Caffrey
- James Skinsale - Alan Rowe
- Adelaide Lessage - Annette Woollett
- Harker - Rio Fanning
- Writer - Terrance Dicks
- Assistant Floor Manager - Bill Hartley
- Costumes - Joyce Hawkins
- Designer - Paul Allen
- Film Cameraman - John Walker
- Incidental Music - Dudley Simpson
- Make-Up - Jackie Hodgson
- Production Assistant - Peter Grimwade
- Production Unit Manager - John Nathan-Turner
- Script Editor - Robert Holmes
- Special Sounds - Dick Mills
- Studio Lighting - Bob Gell
- Studio Sound - David Hughes
- Theme Arrangement - Delia Derbyshire
- Title Music - Ron Grainer
- Visual Effects - Peter Pegrum
- Producer - Graham Williams
- Director - Paddy Russell
- This is the first appearance of the Rutans, who were at war with the Sontarans.
- The Rutan is a scout from the Rutan Empire.
- The Doctor turns the lighthouse into a laser.
- The lighthouse has maroon flares. The Doctor has Leela and Skinsale remove the powder from them for use as a weapon.
- The Doctor wishes he had a flamethrower.
Story notes Edit
- This story had the working titles The Rocks of Doom, The Monster of Fang Rock and The Beast of Rang Rock.
- Horror of Fang Rock was a late replacement for the scripts Terrance Dicks had originally submitted, a vampire-based tale entitled The Vampire Mutations, which was cancelled close to production lest it detract from the BBC's high-profile adaptation of Bram Stoker's classic novel Count Dracula, due for transmission close to when the serial would have aired. A re-written version of The Vampire Mutations eventually saw production in 1980 as State of Decay.
- Director Paddy Russell cast John Abbott as Vince Hawkins after seeing him play Snoopy in a play in the Edinburgh Fringe. (DCOM: Horror of Fang Rock)
- At the end of the final episode, as the TARDIS leaves the island, the Doctor recites some lines from Flannan Isle by Wilfred Gibson.
- The "pigment dispersal" scene at the end of the story when Leela's eyes change from brown to blue was a practical (rather than story) motivated event. It was so Louise Jameson did not have to continue wearing brown contact lenses. This was done to keep her as a member of the cast, as she found wearing the lenses uncomfortable and considered leaving the show. Horror was actually the second story filmed of the season, after TV: The Invisible Enemy, so when the time came to don the contacts for this story, Jameson's eyes had had a rest for several weeks.
- The story's exact year is never made explicit, but a reference to the beast being seen "eighty years ago" in the "twenties" suggests the early 20th century, as does a reference to King Edward VII, who reigned from 1901-1910. Lance Parkin's unofficial chronology aHistory dates it to c.1902. Colonel Skinsale also refers to his feeling uneasy in the presence of Balfour, Salisbury and Bonar Law while Lord Palmerdale makes him feel uneasy when he is not in his presence — Lord Salisbury died in 1903, Balfour was PM in the second half of the first decade of the 20th century and had been First Lord of the Treasury under Salisbury, and Bonar Law was a notable MP already in that decade, and early that decade was Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Trade, though not yet in the cabinet. All three were prominent Conservatives who became Prime Minister. Marconi's Wireless Telegraph is prominently featured in the story and was the latest thing in the first decade of the 20th century, most notably being used on the Titanic. Electric lamps in lighthouses started to replace oil at the turn of the 20th century as well.
- According to the DVD commentary by Louise Jameson, a scene in Part 3 was crucial to the behind-the-scenes relationship between her and co-star Tom Baker. In one scene, he consistently came in ahead of his cue, upstaging her. On the grounds that this move was "not what they had rehearsed" she insisted on three successive retakes until he came in at the rehearsed time. This apparently won his respect. From that point forward, she claims, their working relationship was much smoother.
- This is the second of two serials in which Leela does not wear either of her famous leather outfits. After this, however, it was decided to return her to her original, more revealing costume introduced in TV: The Face of Evil.
- This story marks the last time that the Doctor travels with only a single companion until TV: The Caves of Androzani in 1984. However, if the introduction of Nyssa on TV: The Keeper of Traken does not qualify her as a companion, then the next occasion really occurs in that story.
- This would be the final televised story in which every character other than the Doctor and his companion(s) is killed until (arguably) TV: The Parting of the Ways in 2005. In early drafts of the story, Adelaide and Skinsale survived; however, this was changed to make the story more resonant with the poem Flannan Isle. (INFO: Horror of Fang Rock)
- Although they are referenced in several other stories, particularly those featuring their enemies the Sontarans, this is to date the only televised appearance of the Rutans in Doctor Who.
- This is the only story of the original series in which every character, except for the Doctor and his companions, dies. Stories in which most of the characters die include Pyramids of Mars and Warriors of the Deep.
- Part 1 - 6.8 million viewers
- Part 2 - 7.1 million viewers
- Part 3 - 9.8 million viewers
- Part 4 - 9.9 million viewers
- Louise Jameson breaks character and corpses on camera after delivering Leela's "pep talk" to the Doctor in the boiler room. (She can be seen breaking into a smile and laughing after Tom Baker turns his back, but Jameson says on the DVD commentary that the laughter was scripted.)
Filming locations Edit
- Horror of Fang Rock was the only story of the classic series run to be made entirely outside of London. Due to engineering work at BBC Television Centre, the programme's usual production base, its principal studio location was Pebble Mill Studios in Birmingham.
- The Rutans were previously mentioned in TV: The Time Warrior and TV: The Sontaran Experiment. They would be mentioned again in TV: The Two Doctors and TV: The Poison Sky.
- An Eighth Doctor audio story written by Paul Magrs for Big Finish Productions, broadcast on BBC 7 on 14 January 2007, is entitled Horror of Glam Rock, a play on this serial's title.
- The Doctor eventually does visit Brighton with Romana II in TV: The Leisure Hive.
- The Rutans appear on screen again in the independent film HOMEVID: Shakedown: Return of the Sontarans. In the novelisation of the film, PROSE: Shakedown, which was expanded to include the Seventh Doctor, the Rutan host mentions to the Doctor the events of this story.
- The Rutans also appear in PROSE: Lords of the Storm and PROSE: The Infinity Doctors.
- Leela has blue eyes hereafter as a result of the climax of this story.
- The Fifth Doctor would later encounter the Rutans in Stockbridge in 1199. (AUDIO: Castle of Fear)
- Leela would be blinded once again, for a considerably longer period, during the Gallifreyan Civil War (AUDIO: Fractures) but her sight was eventually restored through the transfusion of Vampire blood on the Gallifrey of an alternative timeline. (AUDIO: Annihilation)
- While the Doctor is talking about the electrical generator, Leela reminds him that she is not a "Teshnician". (TV: The Face of Evil) The Doctor later remarks at her mispronunciation/pun. Later in the story, she misstates "module sigulator" for "signal modulator".
Max Headroom signal intrusion incident Edit
- Main article: Wikipedia: Max Headroom broadcast signal intrusion incident.
On 22 November 1987, a rebroadcast of Horror of Fang Rock on PBS affiliate WTTW in Chicago, Ill., was the target of a prank in which individuals managed to hijack WTTW's broadcast feed and, for nearly 90 seconds, the pranksters aired footage of two individuals, one wearing a Max Headroom mask, spouting gibberish and advertising catchphrases including those at the time associated with Max Headroom and Coca-Cola, and humming music. The two also engaged in mildly risqué behaviour. The signal intrusion occurred twice that evening: first during a newscast on commercial station WGN-TV, and later during the broadcast of Horror of Fang Rock on WTTW. The first attempt appeared to be partially unsuccessful as those responsible were unable to broadcast sound. The Doctor Who interruption had sound, albeit distorted.
The Doctor Who interruption appeared to have been pre-recorded. It begins with the individual in the mask appearing to parody commercial pitchmen and can be heard cursing. A reference to his brother is also heard and he can be heard saying, "I still see the X", possibly referencing the camera, then humming the theme tune to the animated series Clutch Cargo. Then the tape cuts to another angle where a second individual appears to slap the first individual on his bare rear end with a flyswatter several times. The transmission cuts to black and then Doctor Who resumes; representatives for the TV station later admitted they were powerless to stop the broadcast.
In the days following, the scene from Fang Rock that had been interrupted was rebroadcast on local Chicago and national media.
As of 2012, the individuals responsible for the illegal hijacking of the two broadcast signals have never been identified or apprehended. Also a mystery is whether the Doctor Who broadcast had been targeted specifically, or if the pranksters just happened to choose that moment to begin their hijack.
Home video and audio releases Edit
DVD releases Edit
This story was released as Doctor Who: Horror of Fang Rock.
- Commentary by Louise Jameson, John Abbott and Terrance Dicks.
- Terrance Dicks: Fact & Fiction - With a writing career spanning 6 decades, Terrance Dicks is featured in this special documentary that looks at his work for books and television, with contributions from many of his friends and colleagues.
- Paddy Russell: A Life in Television - In this specially shot interview, Paddy looks back over her forty year career in television as an actress, stage manager and director.
- The Antiques Doctor Who Show - This short film from 1993 gives an insightful look into the merchandising of Doctor Who.
- Photo Gallery
- Production Subtitles
- Easter Egg - Countdown clock for Part 3. To access, go to the special features menu and press left at the cursor for 'The Antiques Doctor Who Show'.
- Editing for the DVD release was completed by the Doctor Who Restoration Team.
VHS releases Edit
This story was released as Doctor Who: Horror of Fang Rock.
- Horror of Fang Rock at the BBC's official site
- Horror of Fang Rock at BroaDWcast
- Detailed synopsis of Horror of Fang Rock at the Doctor Who Reference Guide
- Horror of Fang Rock at Shannon Sullivan's A Brief History of Time (Travel)
- The Tardis Library: Video release information for Horror of Fang Rock
- Adelaide: The Annette Woollett Online Centre (An Adelaide Lesage fan site)
- The Max Headroom incident archive footage (YouTube) (language and content warning)