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An alien jellyfish hampers attempted insider trading in this legendary bottle episode

When an electric alien jellyfish crash lands its spaceship off the South coast of England near the lighthouse at Fang Rock, it signals the start of a rough night. Manning the lighthouse are three chaps, the superstitious Rueben who doesn’t make friends easily, the youngster, Vince, who’d have a different career if The Gap had been a thing in 1902, and Ben, whom we barely get to know but who, we feel certain, had a beard.

Soon afterwards, the alien being, a Rutan, begins siphoning electricity from the lighthouse and attacks the keepers. Coincidentally, our beloved Fourth Doctor and his companion Leela materialise in the foggy vicinity around the same time and what follows is a gothic game of Cluedo where one-by-one the non-recurring members of the cast get buzzed and/or jellied to death. Will any live to tell the tale? Will Leela get to glory in the death of an alien lifeform? Only time, and this episode, will tell.

 

Here's what we think of C092 Horror of Fang Rock

We rate Doctor Who stories on a scale from 0.0 to 5.0. For context, very few are excellent enough to merit a 5.0 in our minds, and we'd take a 0.0 Doctor Who story over a lot of other, non-Whovian stuff out there.

Leon | @ponken

2.5

Jim | @jimmythewho

3.0

Here's what we think of C092 Horror of Fang Rock

We rate Doctor Who stories on a scale from 0.0 to 5.0. For context, very few are excellent enough to merit a 5.0 in our minds, and we'd take a 0.0 Doctor Who story over a lot of other, non-Whovian stuff out there.

Leon | @ponken

2.5

Jim | @jimmythewho

3.0

Here's what you think 10 Responses to “C092 Horror of Fang Rock”
  1. Paul Fauber | @wordsmithpaul

    Writer Terrence Dicks based “Horror of Fang Rock” on Wilfred Gibson’s poem “Flannan Isle”, which the Doctor quoted in part. As the 20th Century began, three keepers really disappeared from a new lighthouse on Eilean Mor island after mighty storm rose from calm seas. Solutions to the mystery ranged from the supernatural to French, Russian, or German spies.

    A strange light crashed into the sea, heralding a sudden, chilling fog during which the Doctor and Leela arrived. Mysterious electrical problems drew the time travelers to the lighthouse to meet the three keepers. Ben favored the new technology that worried the senior man, Reuben. Vince, the youngster learning his trade naturally chatted with Leela until she began removing her wet dress to change into trousers and a wool jersey he provided.

    The Doctor discovered Ben had been electrocuted and eventually realized the killer was a lycanthropic Rutan scout. Before it infiltrated the lighthouse and began killing its occupants one by one, the story effectively featured its creepy point of view, accentuated with a sound reminiscent of a short electrical charge.

    The Doctor, of course, took charge once Seaman Harker, Lord Palmerdale, Colonel Skinsdale, and Adelaide arrived from a shipwreck and began dying one by one as each gave in to temptation or weakness. Later, he disabled two alien distress calls and set up the devices that killed the creature and destroyed its mother ship.

    Leela was well characterized, advising Vince to listen to tribal elders and Adelaide, with whom she had no patience, to believe in science rather than astrology. She also brandished her knife frequently and enjoyed gloating over the dying alien after suggesting how to destroy the Rutan mother ship. Her eyes changed color during the explosion so actress Louise Jamison would not have to wear uncomfortable contact lenses.

    “Horror of Fang Rock” is a base, or lighthouse, under siege story using a Rutan as the threat. The Doctor and Leela were both well characterized while other characters were cannon fodder until the monster was defeated. Shortly beforehand, the horror story transformed briefly into science fiction since the impending skirmish in the Sontaran Rutan war, which tied the story broadly into DOCTOR WHO, would wipe out humanity and destroy the Earth. As in Gibson’s poem, only the Doctor and Leela survived to take off in the TARDIS.

  2. Peter Zunitch

    The mood is what sets this story apart. The setting, sound effects and location are incredibly enticing. Is it a shame that we never see much of the outside, or does that simplicity adds to the claustrophobic feel of the base under siege?

    The Doctor is in command from moment one, and this story shows how much he’s come to rely on the aspects of Leela that he can not himself fathom. Interestingly, Leela relies on him for exactly the same reason. It’s what makes them such a good pair.

    The background characters have little to do, yet that void is filled with several interesting backstories that are explored just enough to pique interest. This however is where things start to fumble slightly.

    By episode 4, I’m tired of people getting electrocuted by something just off-camera. Several plot points are rehashed more than once, and lengthy discussions ensue when just the visual was enough. Finally whilst leaving while wanting more is a great thing, there are times when it isn’t. This walks the line. It’s a great story that I always enjoy watching, but slightly more depth could have made it epic.

    I leave you with three thoughts. 1) why does no one ever get winded from climbing steps? 2) Was Louise wearing contacts up until this point, or does she wear them from now on? 3) Is Vince colorblind, because he swears that the purple streak in the sky, “were all red and glowing”. 3.9

  3. Kristaps Paddock | @PaddockND

    Again, brilliant gothic horror-type story, with the added element of being a bottle episode. Claustrophobic, well constructed, well directed. I love this. This is a minor point, but I think the lighting in this story produces some of the best shots of Tom Baker in all of Classic Who – even though he’s the hero, Baker is in a bowler on a darkly lit set is very ominous. Also, when Leela slaps the screaming Adelaide, it cements her as a total badass. Not a perfect script, not a perfect set of effects, but enough to earn it a 3.7. Very, very rewatchable.

  4. Michael Ridgway | @Bad_Movie_Club

    Likes:
    • Oodles of dread, smothered in a fine H.P.Lovecraftian sauce.
    • Rutan-Reuben’s sickly smile (shudder).
    • The surprising and brutal deaths of Adelaide and the Colonel. Ouch.
    • Bloodthirsty, sarky Leela. Her best moment – slapping a hysterical Adelaide, Airplane-style.

    Beefs:
    • Special effects amateur hour. The miniatures were rubbish. Why couldn’t the producers have used a real lighthouse? Why didn’t they get a wind machine for the outside bits? Why didn’t Ben grow a real moustache?
    • Indefensibly naff cliffhangers.
    • Laughably immobile Rutan.
    • The Colonel “died with honour”. Of course, Doctor. Tell yourself that to sleep at night. He certainly didn’t die needlessly picking up the diamonds you carelessly tossed away, you TOTAL ARSE! Perhaps he was collecting them for the poor! And why are you so chipper at the end? Spare a thought for the dead – i.e. everybody you just met. The Seventh Doctor would have said something poignant and respectful.
    • Request for New Series: Sontaron-Rutan war please.

    Summary: mostly Terror, but with a pinch of ’ible.

    Rating: 2.9/5 toffs being fried by a space jellyfish. Ha ha ha!

  5. Daniel aka Doctor in Waiting

    What a great serial, our heroes arrive at a grim isolated lighthouse, an ideal location at which our cast are murdered one by an alien menace.

    The Doctor and Leela are on great form, especially the Doctor’s ‘oh shit moment’, I’ve trapped us in with the monster.

    Leela is once again the strong female role model ready for action polarised by the often fainting and screaming Adelaide.

    The supporting cast get plenty of screen time to give the story a wonderful period feel. My favourite interaction is the roguish Colonel Skinsale frictional relationship with Lord Pamlerdale.

    However this fantastic serial is not without disappointment. The rutan, the old blob from outer space stereotype is woeful.

    I understand the objective of trying to creat an opposite of the humanoid form of the Sontarans, but the result is such a let down and most likely why the Rutans never featured again in the television series.

    Perhaps it’s the limitations of 1970 technology and budget.

    The rutan is only menacing when it’s morphed into the lighthouse keeper.

    When in its blob form it reinforces it’s cute look by sitting down with the Doctor for a nice little chit chat on the stairs and some banter about losing the war.

    In conclusion I strongly recommend reading Lords of the Storm by David McIntee one of Virgin Books missing adventures which does the rutans and their war with the Sontarans fitting justice.

    4.1 green blobs out of five

  6. Nick aka The Doctor

    Another solid (solid as Fang-Rock) Baker story which for the most part is enjoyable. However, for me, it doesn’t rate as top tier Baker. This serial can be best described as base-under-siege meets Fraggle Rock, with a green blob chucked in for good measure. It is fairly slow-starting for a four-parter, and you don’t really get into the whole Rutan mythology until very near the end. That said I did enjoy it, although I think this is one which loses re-watch value (second time I have seen it). In terms of characters, Doc and Leela, great again; auxiliary characters, ok. The sea-dog types all have that stereotypical SouthWest accent and the old mystic sailor guy is suitably hammy. Every single episode which starts with a murder, the Doc walks right into the frame and this is no exception. When will he learn? The Rutan is an interesting concept and I suppose it is good to get more of an idea of the Sontarans’ nemeses. It would be good if Nu Who bought them back and gave them more of a mythology. 2.7

  7. Peter Zunitch

    Guys,
    This was an exceptionally great podcast to listen to. I could hear the enthusiasm throughout, learned quite a bit (contact lenses) and loved the Leela discussion(s). I also laughed out loud more than once.

    Thank you! This was just what I needed this week.

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