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Doctor Who - Horror of Fang Rock

episode 92

UK 1977
produced by
Graham Williams for BBC
directed by Paddy Russell
starring Tom Baker, Louise Jameson, Colin Douglas, John Abbott, Ralph Watson, Sean Caffrey, Annette Woollett, Rio Fanning, Alan Rowe
written by Terrance Dicks, script editor: Robert Holmes, music by Dudley Simpson

tv-series
Doctor Who, Doctor Who (Tom Baker), Doctor Who (classic series), Rutan

review by
Mike Haberfelner

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The Doctor (Tom Baker) wants to take Leela (Louise Jameson) to Brighton, beginning of the 20th century in his timemachine the TARDIS, but somehow gets lost in the fog & lands somewhere near a godforsaken lighthouse off the British coast - & as ever so often where the Doctor goes, trouble follows, as in the lighthouse he soon finds its keeper (Ralph Watson) murdered  (by some kind of monster, but that's known only to the audience at this point), & the other crewmen, young Vince (John Abbott) & old Reuben (Colin Wilson), are quick to suspect the Doctor & Leela as possible killers.

Soon thought he attention of everybody is diverted by a ship crashing into the nearby rocks, & only just can the passengers & the captain be saved.

This bunch doesn't make it any easier once they are tended to at the lighthouse though, as does not everybody seem to have his/her own agenda, they have all come to hate one another: There's Lord Palmerdale (Sean Caffrey), who thinks it's mandatory to reach the London stock exchange, as he has gotten an invaluable tipat the casino the other night, then there's Lord Skinsale (Alan Rowe), who would be ruined if  Palmerdale reached the stock exchange, captain Harker (Rio Fanning), who is mad at Palmerdale for making him steer his boat through the fog & endangering the lives of everybody aboard, & Palmerdale's secretary Adelaide (Annette Woollett), who's freaked out by pretty much everything.

& among all their fighting, nobody (including the Doctor) seems to have realized that the monster has since performed a post mortem on the lighthouse keeper to be able to convinvingly shapeshift into a human being, & soon kills old Ben to take its place.

& despite everybody starts to notice that Ben acts a tad weird, he is able to bump off the humans in the lighthouse one by one for a while, until the Doctor can finally make his conclusion on who the killer is ... & has to realize that, while he has at one point tried to lock the killer out, he has really locked him in with them. & he finds out that the monster - a Ruton, a bloblike thing with the ability to shapeshift - is actually the scout for a large invasion army & has placed 2 navigational beacons in the lighthouse, using the lighthouse's power resources to send a signal. The Doctor manages to disable the beacons - but alas too late ...

By now besides the Doctor & Leela only Skinsale is still alive, & they on one hand decide to construct a makeshift mortar to put the Ruton out of action, & on the other hand decide to shoot the Ruton's mothership by producing a laserweapon out of the lighthouse & one of the diamonds Palmerdale has carried on his body.

Constructing the mortar goes fine, but when retrieving the diamond from Palmerdale, Skinsale gets a bit greedy, & as a kind of poetic justice, he is killed by the Ruton.

The Doctor & Leela however manage to both kill the Ruton & ashoot down its mothership, thus saving earth from an alien invasion ...

 

Watching this Doctor Who episode, one can't help but notice the extremely wobbly, unconvincing sets & special effects - on the other hand though, one can't help but notice the toght script, that puts a handful of fully fleshed out characters into a claustrophobic setting & has them bumped off one by one, spinning its tale as a whodunnit with sci-fi elements tagged on (as should be suitable for the series). Despite this rather uncommon genre blend the story works beautifully, & the Doctor & Leela (staying wholly in character throughout) work nicely in it as well. Probably one of the best Doctor Who tales.

 

review © by Mike Haberfelner

 

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Robots and rats,
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Tales to Chill
Your Bones to

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Tales to Chill
Your Bones to
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ranging from the horrific to the darkly humourous,
from the post-apocalyptic
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Tales to Chill
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the new anthology by
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Out now from
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On the same day
a Burglar wants to kill you
and your Ex wants
to make up ...
... and for the life of it,
you can't decide
WHICH IS WORSE!!!

 

A Killer Conversation

produced by and starring
Melanie Denholme
directed by
David V.G. Davies
written by
Michael Haberfelner
starring
Ryan Hunter and
Rudy Barrow

out now on DVD