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Tom Baker
Horror of Fang Rock
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Synopsis


The Doctor and Reuben
The Doctor and Reuben
 A mysterious light in the sky, an unnatural glow in the ocean and a thick fog bring terror to the lighthouse keepers of Fang Rock. When The Doctor and Leela arrive, the first death has already cast doubt on the safety of the lighthouse.

 But The Doctor discovers something more terrifying and evil than even he could have imagined.

Source: BBC DVD


General Information

Season: Fifteen
Production Code: 4V
Story Number: 92
Episode Numbers:454 - 457
Number of Episodes: 4
Percentage of Episodes Held:100%
Working Titles:"The Rocks of Doom", "The Monster of Fang Rock" and "The Beast of Fang Rock"
Production Dates: April - June 1977
Broadcast Started: 03 September 1977
Broadcast Finished: 24 September 1977
Colour Status: Colour
Studio: Visual Effects Department Model Stage (London), Ealing Television Film Studios and Pebble Mill (Birmingham)
Location: None
Writer:Terrance Dicks
Director:Paddy Russell
Producer:Graham Williams
Script Editor:Robert Holmes
Production Assistant:Peter Grimwade
Production Unit Manager:John Nathan-Turner
Assistant Floor Manager:Bill Hartley
Designer:Paul Allen
Costume Designer:Joyce Hawkins
Make-Up Designer:Jackie Hodgson
Cameraman:John Walker
Incidental Music:Dudley Simpson
Special Sounds (SFX Editor):Dick Mills
Studio Sounds:David Hughes
Lighting:Bob Gell
Visual Effects:Peter Pegrum
Title Sequence:Bernard Lodge
Title Music:Ron Grainer and the BBC Radiophonic Workshop. Arranged by Delia Derbyshire
Number of Doctors: 1
The Doctor: Tom Baker (The Fourth Doctor)
Number of Companions: 1The Companion: Louise Jameson (Leela) Additional Cast: Colin Douglas (Reuben), John Abbott (Vince), Ralph Watson (Ben), Sean Caffrey (Lord Palmerdale), Alan Rowe (Skinsale), Annette Woollett (Adelaide), Rio Fanning (Harker)Setting: Fang Rock, Earth (circa 1900) Villain: The Rutans

The Episodes

No. Episodes Broadcast
(UK)
Duration Viewers
(Millions)
In Archive
454Part 103 September 197724'10"6.8PAL 2" colour videotape
455Part 210 September 197724'10"7.1PAL 2" colour videotape
456Part 317 September 197723'12"9.8PAL 2" colour videotape
457Part 424 September 197723'49"9.9PAL 2" colour videotape

Total Duration 1 Hour 35 Minutes


Audience Appreciation

Average Viewers (Millions) 8.4
Doctor Who Magazine Poll (1998)80.00%  (Position = 21 out of 159)
Doctor Who Magazine Poll (2003)629 Points (Position = 21 out of 159)
Doctor Who Magazine Poll (2009)82.28% Higher (Position = 26 out of 200)
Doctor Who Magazine Poll (2014)82.65% Higher (Position = 32 out of 241)


Archives


 All four episodes exist as PAL 2" colour videotapes.



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Notes


This story, written by former Script Editor Terrance Dicks, was a late replacement for "The Vampire Mutations" (also known as "The Witch Lords") which Terrance Dicks had originally submitted. This vampire-based tale was cancelled close to the start of its production date as it was feared it could detract from the BBC's high-profile adaptation of Bram Stoker's classic novel "Count Dracula", which was due for transmission close to when the story would have aired. A re-written version did, however, eventually see production in 1980 as "State of Decay".

Even though this story was the first story shown in Season Fifteen it was filmed second in the recording schedule in order to give more time for it to be written and filmed.

Many elements of the story were based on a poem, "The Ballad of Flannen Isle" written by Wilfred Wilson Gibson. The poem was inspired by the mysterious disappearance of three lighthouse keepers from the Flannan Isles in 1900. At the end of this story, The Doctor is actually heard reciting part of this poem.

Having originally been contracted for "The Vampire Mutation", the director assigned to this replacement story was Paddy Russell, returning to Doctor Who after a two-year absence since "Pyramids of Mars". Unfortunately, Paddy Russell felt that "Horror of Fang Rock" was a much poorer story than Terrance Dicks’ original effort, and was particularly underwhelmed by the lighthouse locale. Not only would this mean dealing with a lot of curved sets (which made filming laborious), but the exterior walls of the lamp room - in which much of the action took place - would have to be largely glass and hence transparent, with a background achieved via Colour Separation Overlay (CSO), which limited Paddy Russell even further.

This story was recorded the studios at Pebble Mill in Birmingham as it was discovered that there was no space available at BBC Television Centre due to engineering work. This is the first, and only, time a Doctor Who story, of the original run of the show, to have its’ studio scenes recorded outside of London. It is also the only 1970’s story not produced at BBC Television Centre (bar the 1970 Third Doctor story "Spearhead From Space", which did not employ regular studio production at all).

This change in venue caused concern in several members of the crew especially as the recording of this story was by far the most ambitious drama production ever staged at Pebble Mill at that time. Unfortunately, the inadequacies of Pebble Mill became particularly obvious during the final days of recording which involved a large amount of CSO – a filming technique that had only rarely been used at Pebble Mill.

Due mainly to all of the technical and logistical difficulties Paddy Russell, who became exhausted and frustrated after this story’s completion, vowed never to work on Doctor Who again – thus making this her final Doctor Who story. She went on to helm episodes of The Omega Factor (with Louise Jameson), Emmerdale Farm and other programmes before retiring from television in the early Eighties.

As well as playing the part of Reuben, the Head Lighthouse Keeper, Colin Douglas also provided the voice of the Rutan in Part Four. Colin Douglas had previously played Bruce in the 1967/68 Second Doctor story "The Enemy of the World".

Alan Rowe, who played Skinsale, had previously played Dr. Evans and the voice from Space Patrol in the 1967 Second Doctor story "The Moonbase" as well as Edward of Wessex in "The Time Warrior". He would later play the part of Garif in the 1970 story "Full Circle".

Ralph Watson, who played Ben, had previously played Captain Knight in the 1968 Second Doctor story "The Web of Fear" as well as Ettis in the 1974 Third Doctor story "The Monster of Peladon".

This is the second of two stories in which Leela does not wear her famous ‘savage’ Sevateem costume - the other story being the previous season’s final story "The Talons of Weng-Chiang". After this story it was decided to return her to her original, more revealing costume that was introduced "The Face of Evil".

Louise Jameson stopped wearing brown contact lenses at the end of this story; the reason given for Leela's consequent change of eye colour, from brown to blue, was explained away as resulting from a pigment dispersal caused by her looking directly into the bright flash when the Rutan ship exploded. For the first three stories she appeared in Louise Jameson was required to wear brown contact lenses, as it was felt that her blue eyes were not appropriate for the savage character she would be portraying. However, she had found the contact lenses painful to wear and so when her contract was extended, at the end of Season Fourteen, she made their removal a condition for her agreeing to play Leela for another season.

According to the commentary, in the DVD release of this story, supplied by Louise Jameson, John Abbott and Terrance Dicks, a scene in Part Three was crucial to the behind-the-scenes relationship between her and co-star Tom Baker. It is revealed that in one scene, Tom Baker consistently came in ahead of his cue, thereby 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 eventually won his respect and from that point forward, she claims their working relationship was much smoother.

This story introduced the Rutans. This is the only televised Doctor Who story to feature the archenemies of the often seen Sontarans. Despite only appearing the once the Rutans had been mentioned, as being involved in a long and bitter war with the Sontarans, in the two previous Sontaran stories (the 1973/74 Third Doctor story "The Time Warrior" and the 1975 Fourth Doctor story "The Sontaran Experiment"). They would be mentioned again in the 1985 story "The Two Doctors" (for the Second Doctor and Sixth Doctor), and in the 2008 Tenth Doctor story "The Sontaran Stratagem/The Poison Sky".

The Rutans are luminous green blobs with tentacles. They can drain electrical power and use it to kill. Small projectiles go through them. They can climb sheer rock, and are amphibious, having evolved in the ocean. Their spacecraft, spinning fireballs with crystalline infrastructures, are amphibious too, and can release a freezing fog to mimic home conditions, Rutans hating heat.

This particular scout from the army of the Rutan Empire has been equipped with new shape shifting technology, organic restructuring similar to Time Lord regeneration techniques, and can imitate a species having dissected its victim.

The Rutans were later used in various spin-off productions at BBV, including the Lance Parkin include the Seventh Doctor in the Virgin Book’s The New Adventures novel "Shakedown" also written by Terrance Dicks. In this novel the Rutan host mentions to The Doctor the events of this story.

The Rutans also appear in the Virgin Books’ The Missing Adventures novel "Lords of the Storm", written by David A. McIntee, and in the BBC Books’ Past Doctor Story "The Infinity Doctors" written by Lance Parkin.

This exact period when the events of this story take place is never made explicit, but a there is a reference to the beast being seen ‘eighty years ago’ in the ‘twenties’ suggests that the period is in the early 20th century. There is also a reference to King Edward VII, who reigned from 1901-1910. 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, although yet to be in the cabinet. All three were prominent Conservatives who became Prime Minister. Marconi's Wireless Telegraph 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.

There are some obvious use of models, like the ship that crashes in part one, the lighthouse as the Rutan climbs up it and the TARDIS materialising and dematerialising.

Listen out for the scene where The Doctor is talking to Leela about the electrical generator. Leela reminds him that she is not a ‘Teshnician’. The Doctor later remarks at her mispronunciation/pun.

At the beginning of this story it is stated that The Doctor intended to visit the Brighton. The Fourth Doctor eventually does visit Brighton, with Romana, in "The Leisure Hive".

This story marks the last time The Doctor travels with only a single companion until the 1981 story "The Keeper of Traken".

An Eighth Doctor audio story, written by Paul Magrs for Big Finish Productions, that was broadcast on BBC 7 in January 2007, is entitled "Horror of Glam Rock", a play on this story’s title.

The Target novelisation of "Horror Fang Rock" was planned to be re-released by Virgin Books’ in 1994. This release however, was cancelled.



First and Last

The Firsts:

 The first story of Season Fifteen.

 The first story to have its’ studio scenes recorded outside of London.

 The first use of diamonds to defeat an enemy.

 The first and only appearance of a Rutan - an archenemy of the Sontarans.

 Graham Williams' first involvement in the show as Producer.


The Lasts (Subject to Future Stories):

 The last Doctor Who story to be directed by Paddy Russell.

 The last time The Doctor travels with only a single companion until the 1981 story "The Keeper of Traken".


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The Plot

WARNING: May Contain SpoilersHide Text
Survivors of the Shipwreck
Survivors of the Shipwreck

Intending to show Leela the seaside resort of Brighton, the TARDIS instead arrives on Fang Rock, a small rocky island off the English coast in the first decade of the 20th Century. On leaving the TARDIS, The Doctor becomes curious as to why a lighthouse, built on the rocks, is not functioning properly – its light not shining so as to warn ships off the treacherous rocks close by.

When The Doctor and Leela seek shelter in the lighthouse, and also to ask for directions, they discover it is inhabited by three lighthouse keepers, Reuben, Ben and Vince. They are made welcome but shortly afterwards Ben disappears. His body is later discovered hidden behind one of the generators. On inspecting his body The Doctor deduces that he has been electrocuted.

Unbeknown to The Doctor and Leela, earlier that evening, the youngest of the lighthouse keepers, the keen young Vince Hawkins, witnessed a light in the sky falling into the sea. What no one realises is that what is thought to have been just a shooting star is in fact a Rutan spacecraft crash landing on Earth, while it was involved in a space-battle as part of an interminable war with their sworn enemies – the Sontarans.

Leela Outside the TARDIS
Leela Outside the TARDIS

With the strange power losses still occurring the two remaining lighthouse keepers at first blame them on the recently-installed electric generators. But when it is discovered that Ben’s supposedly dead body has disappeared the superstitious Rueben becomes convinced that the strange goings on are due to the mythical Beast of Fang Rock which reputedly once terrorised the lighthouse.

The Doctor though is convinced that something more sinister is happening and that the reason for the electricity flow to the lamp on the lighthouse becoming erratic is due to something feeding on the electricity. He therefore starts to investigate assisted by Leela. It is not long before she witnesses something strange out on the rocks as a freak fog descends and engulfs the rocky island. This prompts the use of the lighthouse’s fog horn so as to continue warning any approaching ships of the dangerous rocks. The sounding of the fog horn soon becomes very important as once again the electricity powering the lamp suddenly fails.

Reuben with The Doctor
Reuben with The Doctor

Meanwhile a passing luxury yacht fails to heed the warnings and crashes on the rocks. There are four survivors: the ship’s coxswain Harker; MP Colonel James Skinsale; the ship’s owner, Lord Palmerdale; and his highly strung secretary Adelaide Lessage. They all seek shelter in the lighthouse only to find that they are now all prey to an alien creature which starts to pick them off one by one. Rueben is the next to be killed when he was tending the lighthouse generator and goes into the coal store to fetch more fuel.

At first no one realises he has been killed as he is seen climbing the stairs and then locking himself in his room. Everyone just assumes that his sudden change in character is due to shock. But when The Doctor later discovers Reuben’s dead body, which has been cold for some time, it dawns on The Doctor that the creature that has been attacking those in the lighthouse has chameleonic properties which means it can change its form and so has been masquerading as Reuben.

Instead of locking the creature outside The Doctor has in fact locked the enemy in with them. But this realisation comes too late as the Rutan starts to kill the survivors from the shipwreck. Lord Palmerdale is killed in the lamp room by a glowing alien presence on the outside of the lighthouse, and then Harker is killed when Reuben corners him in the boiler room. The sole remaining lighthouse keeper, Vince Hawkins, is the next to be killed followed by Adelaide. This just leaves The Doctor, Leela and Colonel James Skinsale still alive.

Leela and The Doctor
Leela and The Doctor

With its presence now revealed, the alien among them sheds its disguise and The Doctor recognises it as a Rutan, a green blob like amphibious life form. On talking with the Rutan, The Doctor realises that the Rutans are losing their perennial war with the Sontarans, but by using Earth as a launch point for a battle fleet the Rutans hope to gain the upper hand. Knowing that Rutans are susceptible to high temperatures The Doctor fights back by blasting the Rutan with a makeshift mortar bomb which kills it, but not before the Rutan kills Colonel James Skinsale, whose greed for some discarded diamonds, taken from a cache that Lord Palmerdale had hidden on his person, gets the better of him.

However, while talking with the Rutan The Doctor had discovered that it had been sending a homing signal to its mothership and even though The Doctor had disabled the device it had been transmitting long enough for the mothership to close in on Earth. With the Rutan killed The Doctor uses one of Lord Palmerdale’s diamonds to act as a focus for the light from the lighthouse thereby converting it into a high-energy laser beam to destroy the approaching Rutan mothership. The resulting explosion results in a blinding flash which temporarily blinds Leela. As her eyesight slowly returns it is discovered that no long lasting damage has occurred only that her eyes have changed from brown to blue.

With no one left alive on the rocky island The Doctor and Leela leave the deserted lighthouse, leaving a mystery in their wake. As the TARDIS dematerialises, The Doctor is heard reciting lines from Wilfred Gibson’s poem ‘The Ballad of Flannen Isle’.

 
Adelaide
Adelaide
Reuben and Vince
Reuben and Vince
The Lighthouse
The Lighthouse
The Doctor and Leela
The Doctor and Leela
 
Reuben or The Rutan?
Reuben or The Rutan?
The Rutan Takes on its True Form
The Rutan Takes on its True Form
The Rutan
The Rutan
The Doctor Confronts the Rutan
The Doctor Confronts the Rutan




Quote of the Story


 'Aye, though we hunted high and low, and hunted everywhere, of the three men's fate we found no trace, in any time, in any place, but a door ajar, and an untouched meal, and an over-tottled chair.'

The Doctor



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Release Information

FormatTitleRelease Date (UK)Code NumberCover ArtRemarks
Video
VHS
The Tom Baker YearsSeptember 1992BBCV 4839PhotoClip only Introduced and commented on by Tom Baker Double cassette release
Video
VHS
Horror of Fang RockJuly 1998BBCV 6536Photo-montage
Video
DVD
Horror of Fang RockJanuary 2005BBCDVD 1356Clayton Hickman
Audio
CD
Horror of Fang RockSeptember 2012Photo-montageNarrated by Louise Jameson (Leela)
Audio
CD
Classic TV Adventures - Collection TwoOctober 2017Photo-montagePart of the "Classic TV Adventures Collection Two" Box Set Narrated by Louise Jameson (Leela)
Audio
LP
Horror of Fang RockFebruary 2021Photo-montageLimited Edition Double LP - Narrated by Louise Jameson (Leela)


In Print

FormatTitleRelease Date (UK)PublisherAuthorCover ArtRemarks
Novel
Novel
Doctor Who and the Horror of Fang RockMarch 1978Target No. 32Terrance DicksJeff CumminsISBN: 0-426-20009-8
CD
CD
Horror of Fang RockFebruary 2017Target No. 32Terrance DicksJeff CumminsAudio version of the Target Novel read by Louise Jameson (Leela).
Novel
Novel
The Essential Terrance Dicks Volume 2August 2021BBC BooksTerrance DicksHardback with a forward by Robert Webb
Doctor Who CMS Magazine (In Vision)Issue 24 (Released: May 1990)
Doctor Who Magazine - ArchiveIssue 130 (Released: November 1987)
Doctor Who Magazine - ArchiveIssue 319 (Released: July 2002)
Doctor Who Magazine - Time TeamIssue 355 (Released: April 2005)
Doctor Who Magazine - The Fact of FictionIssue 460 (Released: June 2013)
Doctor Who DVD FilesVolume 61 (Released: May 2011)

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Photo Gallery


The Doctor and Companion

 
Tom Baker
The Fourth Doctor

   

 
Louise Jameson
Leela
 
   




On Release

Tom Baker Years VHS Video Cover
Tom Baker Years VHS Video Cover

BBC
VIDEO
VHS Video Cover
VHS Video Cover

BBC
VIDEO
DVD Cover
DVD Cover

BBC
VIDEO
   
Soundtrack CD Cover
Soundtrack CD Cover

BBC
AUDIO
Classic TV Adventures Collection Two CD Cover
Classic TV Adventures Collection Two CD Cover

BBC
AUDIO
Original Television Soundtrack LP Cover
Original Television Soundtrack LP Cover

Demon Records
AUDIO
   


In Print

Target Book Cover
Target Book Cover

Target
NOVEL
Target Audio CD Cover
Target Audio CD Cover

BBC
CD
The Essential Terrance Dicks Volume 2 Book Cover
The Essential Terrance Dicks Volume 2 Book Cover

BBC
NOVEL
   


Magazines

Doctor Who CMS Magazine (In Vision): Issue 24
Doctor Who CMS Magazine (In Vision): Issue 24

CMS
Doctor Who Magazine - Archive: Issue 130
Doctor Who Magazine - Archive: Issue 130

Marvel Comics
Doctor Who Magazine - Archive: Issue 319
Doctor Who Magazine - Archive: Issue 319

Marvel Comics
   
Doctor Who Magazine - Time Team: Issue 355
Doctor Who Magazine - Time Team: Issue 355

Marvel Comics
Doctor Who Magazine - The Fact of Fiction: Issue 460
Doctor Who Magazine - The Fact of Fiction: Issue 460

Marvel Comics
Doctor Who DVD Files: Volume 61
Doctor Who DVD Files: Volume 61

GE Fabbri
   

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