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
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
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
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’.