Home : Archive : TSV 1-10 : TSV 3 : Review

Horror of Fang Rock

Reviewed by Paul Sinkovitch

I can't wait to see the 15th Season poll results. This story, I'm sure, will polarise opinion to the extreme, just like The Deadly Assassin did, i.e., you love it or hate it. Three responses I've heard about this story are: "Gee, that was rubbish"; "Wasn't Horror of Fang Rock brilliant?" "Silly..." These extremes of opinion probably relate to where you place your values of a good story - effects, models, sets etc., or script and acting. To me, all are important but in this story it was the wonderful, creepy atmosphere, the fine acting and good characterisation that made it brilliant. On the other hand, the effects (the Rutan going up stairs), and models (the lighthouse with Doctor hanging outside) were easily the worst effects I've seen in Doctor Who (although after watching Part Four of The Invisible Enemy, I think Horror of Fang Rock may have the second worst effects!) The model TARDIS at the end of Horror of Fang Rock was simply ludicrous.

After Part One, I was beginning to feel that this was going to be a rather dull, drawn out story. I mean, what can happen on a single lighthouse over four episodes? By Part Four, I had changed my mind. I found the story quite brilliant; characterisation was great, and all the actors were superb, from money hungry Palmerdale - whose fault it was that the ship crashed in the first place, to Vince, the young man who didn't know who to believe (the Doctor's science, or Reuben and his tales of sea monsters?). Also Adelaide, the young girl who had never seen death, and had obviously had a sheltered life, was a fine character and a fine contrast to the tough and ruthless Leela. The scene where Adelaide starts screaming after a death and the calm Leela slaps her was simply superb. Leela was in great form - her hunter instincts showing and her great practical approach to a situation without fear, such as the last scene: "Slay me Doctor, I am blind," (This was included as Louise Jameson was getting sick of wearing brown contact lenses). For some strange reason, I had terrible memories of Leela from watching her the first time round in late 1979 and early 1980. Watching her again, I can't see why I hated her so much. She is a fine character, and Jameson is a great actress. As Warwick Gray of Dunedin put it, "Jameson played her with some subtlety, not just turning her into a wooden-headed barbarian." I agree.

One fault with the story is that when the Doctor and Skinsale go down to get the diamonds and then kill the Rutan. Why not kill the Rutan with the gun (that has no recoil!) and then get the diamonds? Because the character of Skinsale had to be killed, that's why! Another problem is why didn't the spaceship move out of the beam? These Rutans must have pretty slow reactions. Looking at the one going up the stairs, I can believe this. I find it hard to believe that these green blobs are in a stalemate with the Sontarans. Then there are little problems that ruin the reputation for scientific accuracy the programme held in the 1960s - for the compass to spin (due to an electric field, said the Doctor), this would require a very concentrated field - there would be lightning bolts everywhere. Another problem: the Doctor says "Potential is proportional to charge squared, and inversely proportional to resistance." Rubbish, it's inversely proportional to distance! But what's the point of being so critical? Just sit back and enjoy this story - it's a good one!

This item appeared in TSV 3 (October 1987).

Index nodes: Horror of Fang Rock