Sunday, 24 September 2017

457 Horror of Fang Rock: Part Four

EPISODE: Horror of Fang Rock: Part Four
TRANSMITTED: Saturday 24 September 1977
WRITER: Terrance Dicks
DIRECTOR: Paddy Russell
SCRIPT EDITOR: Robert Holmes
PRODUCER: Graham Williams
RATINGS: 9.9 million viewers
FORMAT: DVD: Doctor Who - Horror of Fang Rock

"Your mockery will end with your race, Earthling, when the mighty Rutan battle fleet occupies this planet!"

"Reuben" climbs the light house and kills Vince on the lamp gallery. The Doctor finds an alien power relay which he thinks is being used as a distress beacon. He orders the survivors to assemble in the lamp room, but while collecting Skinsale & Adelaide, Leela is cornered by Reuben in the crew room. He kills Adelaide, but Leela & Skinsale escape. The Doctor gets them to scatter powder from maroons down the stairs. He confronts "Reuben" who is revealed to be a Rutan, the ancient enemy of the Sontarans. The Rutan tells him that a mothership is on the way to Earth. The Doctor ignites the powder injuring the Rutan and driving it off. They decide convert the lighthouse lamp into a laser using diamonds carried by Palmerdale. The Doctor & Skinsale go to the crew room to get the diamonds from Palmerdale's body. The Doctor takes the largest diamond and returns to the lamp room, but Skinsale is killed trying to gather up the remaining ones. Leela kills the Rutan with a distress rocket. A glowing orange sphere approaches Fang Rock which the Doctor identifies as the Rutan mothership. The Doctor destroys it with his makeshift laser, but the blast temporarily blinds Leela permanently changing her eye colour from brown to blue.

DOCTOR: Blue. 'Aye, though we hunted high and low, and hunted everywhere.'
LEELA: What?
DOCTOR: The Ballad of Flannan Isle, by Wilfred Gibson.
DOCTOR: Wilfred Gibson. '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 needle and an over-toppled chair.'
What a fabulous end to the story!

Let's start with Vince's death. Poor lad, he's been in terror the whole story and ends up cut down by someone he thought was he friend without ever finding out what was going on, though I suspect he wouldn't have understood it anyway!

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But that's a lovely visual cut from "Reuben" in the lamp room to the corpse of the real Reuben hidden by the boiler and the Doctor & Leela examining it!

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"Reuben's" next target is Adelaide who'd have escaped had she not panicked and been a little quicker on her feet. She didn't do a lot to elicit any sympathy from me in her screen time this story I'm afraid just sticking up for her crooked employer, who I'm pretty convinced she was having a thing with, screaming and fainting! Thankfully it's a much better story and episode for the other woman in the cast!

Nice effect when Adelaide dies though and another great one shortly after as Leela attempts to kill "Reuben" with a knife.

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The effects work has been pretty good this story as too has the lighting, kept low which creates a decent atmosphere. Several later day Doctor Who lighting directors could have done with watching this story!

We get one more summing up of "what the alien can do", which explains some of the behaviour we've seen, before the big reveal.

LEELA: This alien must have great power to change its shape at will.
DOCTOR: It has. But it needed to study the human life pattern first.
LEELA: That is why it took the engineer.
DOCTOR: Organic restructuring is elementary physiology for Time Lords.
LEELA: Then there is nothing we can do.
LEELA: Well, if this creature is a Time Lord
DOCTOR: No, not a Time Lord. Elementary physiology for us is something that lesser species might master after a few thousand centuries.
LEELA: Oh. Then we have nothing to worry about.
DOCTOR: We don't?
LEELA: No. You will easily dispose of this primitive creature, Doctor. You are a Time Lord.
DOCTOR: Yes, but it took Reuben's form for a reason.
LEELA: To kill us stealthily, one by one. Doctor!
DOCTOR: What is it?
LEELA: Suppose we pretend that we still think Reuben is Reuben, and not the alien, then we can get close enough to it and kill it.
DOCTOR: No, no, no, no. We can't. If we got within touching distance of it, we're dead. It packs too many volts.
LEELA: What is it?
DOCTOR: It's some kind of power relay.
LEELA: Does it belong to the alien?
DOCTOR: Yes, yes. Rule one after surviving a crash landing, set up distress beacon. To do that it would have needed a power source. That's why it came here. There must be a signal modulator somewhere, transmitting. To whom? To it's own kind. Leela, get the surviving humans to the lamp room.
LEELA: To the lamp room.
DOCTOR: Yes, that's the easiest place to defend.
LEELA: Oh, but Doctor, where shall we look for this mognal sigulator?
DOCTOR: I'll do the looking. Hurry, there isn't much time.
Ah now the power relay is a nice touch, being used to reveal that the alien has been calling home for help. A nice bit of Chekov's Gun for later.

So finally The Doctor gets to confront "Reuban".

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DOCTOR: May I help you? Having trouble, Reuben, hmm? Not easy holding a human form stable, is it.
REUBEN: No longer necessary. We can abandon this ridiculous shape.
DOCTOR: Good idea. You'll find it a lot comfier.

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DOCTOR: Now I remember. Reuben the Rutan!
RUTAN: You know our form?
DOCTOR: Well, when you've seen one Rutan, you've seen them all.
RUTAN: We are a Rutan scout. We are specially trained in the new metamorphosis techniques.
DOCTOR: Well, I expect you'll get better at it in time. What are you doing in this part of the galaxy anyway?
RUTAN: That doesn't concern you. You are to be destroyed.
DOCTOR: Got it! You're at last losing that interminable war with the Sontarans.
RUTAN: That is a lie!
DOCTOR: Is it? You used to control the whole of the Mutter's Spiral once. Now the Sontarans have driven you to the far fringes of the galaxy.
RUTAN: The glorious Rutan army is making a series of strategic withdrawals to selected strong points.
DOCTOR: Rutan, that's the empty rhetoric of a defeated dictator, and I don't like your face, either.
RUTAN: Your mockery will end with your race, Earthling, when the mighty Rutan battle fleet occupies this planet.
DOCTOR: Why invade an obscure planet like Earth? It's of no value to you.
RUTAN: The planet is obscure, but its strategic position is sound. We shall use it as a launch point for our final assault on the Sontaran rabble.
DOCTOR: But if you set up a power base here, the Sontarans will bombard it with photonic missiles.
RUTAN: That is unimportant. It will serve the cause of our final glorious victory.
DOCTOR: And what about its people?
RUTAN: Primitive bipeds of no value. We scouted all the planets of this solar system. Only this one suits our purpose.
DOCTOR: I can understand your military purposes, but why murder a hatful of harmless humans?
RUTAN: It is necessary. Til we return to our mother ship, and the mother ship informs the fleet, no one must know of our visit to Earth.
DOCTOR: But you crashed, didn't you, just as you made your discovery. You failed.
RUTAN: Failed? We are sending a signal to the mother ship with the power from the primitive mechanism below.
DOCTOR: You're not, you know.
RUTAN: It's of no importance. The ship will home in on the primary signal.
DOCTOR: I'm sorry to disappoint you. I fixed that as well, oyster face.
RUTAN: All your interference is useless. The beam was transmitting long enough for the mother ship to trace the signal.
DOCTOR: You can't be certain.
RUTAN: It will come.
DOCTOR: But by then, you'll be dead.
RUTAN: What could you Earthlings possibly do to us?
DOCTOR: Well, if you'll just step this way, I'll show you.

Huzzah it's a Rutan! We've heard about the Rutans in the previous two Sontaran stories (The Time Warrior & Sontaran Experiment) so it's nice to see them on screen at last. The Doctor intimates here he's met them previously but we've not seen them, just their long time foes.

Like I said, the power relay, and that it's being used to transmit a signal serve a purpose flagging up that more of them are coming which creates an additional problem for the Doctor:

DOCTOR: Of course, it's not just this Rutan I'm worried about, it's the others.
SKINSALE: You mean to say there are more of these beasts?
DOCTOR: There's a whole battle fleet out there. By the time the Rutans and the Sontarans
SKINSALE: Sontarans?
DOCTOR: Yes. By the time they've finished with it, this planet'll be like a cinder hanging in space.
SKINSALE: You mean to say that there's a whole battle fleet coming here?
DOCTOR: Yes. Unless, of course, we could knock out both the mother ship and the scout ship. If we could do that, they just might conclude that this section of space was too dangerous.
LEELA: How can we do that?
DOCTOR: I don't know. We've nothing here that would stop a Rutan spaceship in its tracks. Rutan ships have a crystalline infrastructure, you see. Shielded, of course. Still, landing on a planet like this, they might just cut off the energy fields to save power. No, I'd need an amplified carbon oscillator.
LEELA: What is an am, what did you say?
DOCTOR: It's like a laser beam but much more destructive.
SKINSALE: A laser beam?
LEELA: Yes, that's some kind of very powerful light, isn't it, Doctor?
DOCTOR: Well, yes, put in it's simplest terms.
LEELA: Why don't we use this?
LEELA: This.
DOCTOR: That? Are you suggesting I convert the carbon arc beam?
LEELA: Well, obviously.
DOCTOR: Leela, that's a beautiful notion.
The look on Leela's face here is beautiful: from being a technologically ignorant tribesperson she's suddenly the star pupil who's gone to the top of the class!

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Small catch though:

DOCTOR: Unfortunately I'd need a focusing device, a fairly large piece of crystalline carbon.
LEELA: Crystallised carbon?
SKINSALE: A diamond.
DOCTOR: No, that's too small. I'd need a much bigger one for the primary beam oscillator.
SKINSALE: Palmerdale.
SKINSALE: Palmerdale. He always carried diamonds.
DOCTOR: He did?
SKINSALE: He called them his insurance.
I'm a little concerned about the diamonds: I can believe Palmerdale would carry them as insurance but it's not referred to until right at the the point it's needed. Hang the gun on the wall, use the gun later. It's almost as if Terrance Dicks has backed himself into a corner here and now needs to pull something from nowhere to perform the escape. Now if Palmerdale had tried to bribe Vince with a diamond in the previous episode, and the Doctor had found the diamond, damaged by the Rutan perhaps, on the the gallery floor giving him the idea for the laser.... It's a minor point but it's still there.

Even in the midst of the crisis the Doctor still has time for a funny line!

DOCTOR: All right. Remember, Leela, don't fire until you see the green of its tentacles.
LEELA: Doctor, how are you going to get past the Rutan?
DOCTOR: With discretion.
With the threat to his name gone with Palmerdale and Adelaide's deaths, Skinsale's military background and training kicks in against the threat and he aides the Doctor well locating the hidden diamonds on Palmerdale's corpse. However with the Doctor having got the diamond he needs he discards the ones he doesn't and it's while greedily scrabbling on the floor for the remainder that Skinsale meets his end.

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LEELA: Are you all right?
DOCTOR: You singed my scarf.
LEELA: And the Colonel?
DOCTOR: Dead with honour.
LEELA: Then at least we have avenged him.
So I don't 100% agree that Skinsale death was honourable but right up till the moment of his demise he had done much to redeem himself. We never learn what exactly advantageous piece of information he'd told Palmerdale in return for having his gambling debts ripped up!

In some ways Horror of Fang Rock could be described as formulaic Doctor Who done by the numbers: Base Under Siege, isolated location with a small group of people who are bumped off one by one. Maybe, it is but it's done so well here that you just don't care. Easily one of the best Base Under Siege stories and also the first story where every member of the guest cast dies:

Reuben - killed at the end of episode 2
Vince - episode 4
Ben - episode 1
Lord Palmerdale - episode 3
James Skinsale - episode 4
Adelaide Lessage - episode 4
Harker - end of episode 3
The only survivors are the unseen remaining members of the boat crew, the Doctor and Leela,
LEELA: It is here, Doctor. I did it! Finished!
RUTAN: Your triumph will be short, Earthling. Our mother ship will blast this island into molten rock.
LEELA: Empty threats, Rutan. Enjoy your death as I enjoyed killing you.
RUTAN: We die for the glory of our race. Long live the Rutan empire!
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Leela's gloating feels somewhat out of place but her attitude doesn't go uncorrected by The Doctor.

LEELA: They are hard to kill, these Rutans.
DOCTOR: Been celebrating, have you?
LEELA: It is fitting to celebrate the death of an enemy.
DOCTOR: Not in my opinion. I haven't got time to discuss morality.

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DOCTOR: Look out there.
LEELA: Is that the Rutan mother ship?
DOCTOR: It is. When it gets within range, this will lock onto its carbon resonator and knock out its anti-grav, I hope. We've got about a hundred and seventeen seconds to get out of here. Understand?
LEELA: Perfectly.
DOCTOR: Good. So when I switch on, you run for it, all right?
LEELA: Yes. It's getting nearer, Doctor.
DOCTOR: Come on. Whatever you do, don't look back. I said don't look back! Let's go. Now!
Unfortunately, like Lot's wife, Leela does look back and sees the improvised laser destroy the Rutan mothership.

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Fortunately she doesn't get turned into a pillar of salt and neither is her fate as bad as she initially fears:

DOCTOR: That'll teach them. I thought I told you not to look back!
LEELA: Slay me, Doctor.
LEELA: I'm blind. Slay me now. It is the fate of the old and crippled.
DOCTOR: You're neither old nor crippled. The effects of the flash will pass.
LEELA: You are sure?
DOCTOR: Mmm. Blink. That's interesting.
LEELA: What is?
DOCTOR: Pigmentation dispersal caused by the flash. Your eyes have changed colour. Leela, stop blinking now. Let's go.
LEELA: What colour are they?
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There's a real life reason behind this scene: Leela's eye colour is changed in order to get rid of the contact lenses Louise Jameson had been wearing for the role and was having difficulty with.

This is a last Doctor Who job for director Paddy Russell. She's started out as an actress appearing in the first two, surviving episodes of The Quatermass Experiment as a Crash Site Onlooker in Contact Has Been Established and a Comet Passenger in Persons Reported Missing, both of which you can see as part of The Quatermass Collection DVD. After that she turned to directing with Out of the Unknown: Come Buttercup, Come Daisy, Come...? as an early assignment which you can see as part of the Out of the Unknown DVD Set. Her first Doctor Who came shortly after as she directed The Massacre after which followed an extensive break before she returned for Invasion of the Dinosaurs, Pyramids of Mars and finally Horror of Fang Rock. Sadly she didn't have a good working relationship with Tom Baker during the making of this story and vowed never to do a Doctor Who again.

It's all the last Doctor Who for some time for writer Terrance Dicks. His next credit comes 3 years later for State of Decay which is a rehash of The Vampire Mutation, the story which Horror of Fang Rock replaced at short notice.

For me Horror of Fang Rock is one of the very best Tom Baker stories and is amongst my top Doctor Whos full stop. It's a great base under siege and is very well done in a limited set under somewhat trying circumstances. It's one of Leela's best stories, she gets lots to do and actually gets to wear some sensible clothes for a change! My wife Liz loves it too and it frequently goes in the bag to watch when we go away to the seaside so it gets seen more often than many of the stories.

Horror of Fang Rock was novelised by the television story's author Terrance Dicks. My local library didn't have a copy so I believe the first time I read it was when I borrowed it from the central library in Kingston. It is one of Terrance's thinner efforts though, right in the middle of his "knocking a Doctor Who novel out every month" phase!

Horror of Fang Rock was one of the later Doctor Who video releases appearing on July 1998 and on DVD in January 2005. The documentary on Terrance Dicks in this set comes especially recommended and is one of my favourite special features on the DVDs.

Sunday, 17 September 2017

456 Horror of Fang Rock: Part Three

EPISODE: Horror of Fang Rock: Part Three
TRANSMITTED: Saturday 17 September 1977
WRITER: Terrance Dicks
DIRECTOR: Paddy Russell
SCRIPT EDITOR: Robert Holmes
PRODUCER: Graham Williams
RATINGS: 9.8 million viewers
FORMAT: DVD: Doctor Who - Horror of Fang Rock

"Leela, I've made a terrible mistake. I thought I'd locked the enemy out. Instead, I've locked it in, with us!"

The Doctor searches for the missing Reuben, but while he is away Harker, working in the boiler room, is passed by the old lighthouse keeper looking rather odd. The Doctor pursues him through the lighthouse but he locks himself in his room and is bathed in a green glow. Palmerdale bribes Vince into sending a message for him. Harker & Leela lock them all in the lighthouse, bolting the door. While standing on the lamp gallery Palmerdale is killed by the creature. Leela tries to batter in the door of Reuben's room. Vince discovers Palmerdale is missing. The Doctor tells everyone the truth but they doubt his story. The Doctor, Harker & Skinsale go to investigate leaving Adelaide with Leela. They find Palmerdale's body outside and secure the door. A distraught Adelaide accuses Skinsale of killing him. Skinsale admits to wrecking the telegraph to prevent Palmerdale from contacting his broker. Reuben enters the boiler room and advances on Harker. The Doctor deduces that Palmerdale was electrocuted and that the creature must have climbed the outside of the lighthouse. Vince notices the boiler pressure has fallen, and investigating the Doctor finds Harker's body. Then in the coal store he finds Reuben's body which has been dead for hours. From that he deduces that the alien has assumed Reuben's form and is locked in with them.

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Yes it's more of the same, but it's so good that you don't mind. And of course in this episode the body count starts to rise a bit..... We discover Reuben died at the end of the previous episode then Palmerdale & Harker leave us during this one.

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I feel no sympathy for Palmerdale at all. The character irritated me from the moment he first appeared being just interested in the money he could make. Indeed he meets his end, having tried to bribe Vince, at the hands of the creature while hiding outside the lamp gallery in order to conceal his bribery!

Harker however....

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Harker is the only one of the four survivors from the yacht I have any sympathy for. He's crew and the story he related last issue is one of Palmerdale driving the rest of the crew on past safe limits for his own ill gotten gain. He's co-operated fully with the Doctor and indeed is helping keep the boiler going when he's cornered by an ashen "Reuben" who then kills Harker with a thoroughly nasty smile on his face. If any of the people from the yacht deserved to survive then he did!

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It's episode 3 and we still don't really know what our foe is!

VINCE: What do you reckon Reuben saw, Doctor?
DOCTOR: I don't know, Vince, but I think we'll find out by sunrise.
VINCE: Well, if it's the Beast come back, well, last time they found two of the keepers dead and t'other mad with fear. Well, Ben's dead, in't he? Reuben's mad. There's only me left now.
DOCTOR: That's superstitious nonsense, Vince.
VINCE: Is it? Look what happened to Ben!
DOCTOR: There are eight of us here. If it attacks again, we'll be ready and waiting. All the advantage is with us. Eight to one.
The survivors from the yacht still haven't grasped what's happening around them:
SKINSALE: What's all this about, Doctor?
DOCTOR: Survival, Colonel.
SKINSALE: Survival?
DOCTOR: Yes. Yours, mine, all of us.
SKINSALE: Oh, this mysterious beast that eats lighthouse keepers.
DOCTOR: Do you find that difficult to accept, Colonel?
SKINSALE: Oh come, Doctor, I'm a man of intelligence, of education.
DOCTOR: Quite so, quite so, and I don't believe in mythical sea creatures either.
ADELAIDE: Then why do you suggest that we're in danger?
DOCTOR: Because somewhere out there is a hostile alien from a distant planet, and I believe it intends to destroy us.
SKINSALE: A hostile alien from a distant planet?
ADELAIDE: You call yourself a doctor? That's the most insane suggestion I've heard in my life.
LEELA: Doctor, I cannot find the cowardly one.
DOCTOR: I've never been more serious, Colonel. We are facing an enemy of greater power than you can dream of.
SKINSALE: I do appreciate the scientific romanticism of Mister Wells, Doctor, but
DOCTOR: Herbert may have a few unimportant facts wrong, but his basic supposition is sound enough.
HARKER: Doctor?
DOCTOR: You think your little speck in the galaxy's the only one with intelligent life, hmm?

SKINSALE: You really believe in this thing, don't you.
DOCTOR: I do. Leela, stay here. Come on.

There's an interesting contrast between former tribeswoman Leela and the Adelaide, a typical Victorian/Edwardian lady:
DOCTOR: Leela, stay here. Come on.
ADELAIDE: I told him we shouldn't have come, but he wouldn't listen. He laughed when I said Miss Nethercott had seen tragedy in my stars.
LEELA: In your stars?
ADELAIDE: If only we'd stayed in Deauville. I knew something ghastly would happen. Her predictions are never wrong.
LEELA: I understand. She is your shaman.
ADELAIDE: What? No, Miss Nethercott is an astrologer. The finest. I consult her every month.
LEELA: A waste of time. I too used to believe in magic, but the Doctor has taught me about science. It is better to believe in science.

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Adelaide then completely looses it when it turns out her employer is dead.

ADELAIDE: I can't bear it!
SKINSALE: Adelaide, come along. You must be brave. Adelaide.
ADELAIDE: Take your hands off me! You did it! You killed him!
SKINSALE: Me? Oh, don't be so ridiculous.
ADELAIDE: You went out after him, you followed him and then you pushed him.
SKINSALE: I was never in the lamp room.
ADELAIDE: Then where were you!
SKINSALE: True, I followed him, but only to find out what he was up to.
ADELAIDE: You did it, I know you did it.
LEELA: Enough!
DOCTOR: And what was he up to?
SKINSALE: He was trying to bribe that young keeper to telegraph a message to his brokers.
DOCTOR: Ah. And so you came down here and wrecked the telegraph.
SKINSALE: It was the only way I could think of stopping him. I'd have been dishonoured, ruined.
DOCTOR: Of course. So to protect your honour, you've put all our lives in danger.
ADELAIDE: You mean we've no way of contacting the mainland now?
DOCTOR: Oh, no. We're on our own now.
The Doctor then sums up what they know:
SKINSALE: I did not harm him, Adelaide. I swear it.
ADELAIDE: Then who did?
SKINSALE: I don't know. Harker, perhaps.
SKINSALE: Why not? He attacked Henry earlier, blamed him for wrecking the ship.
ADELAIDE: That's absurd.
SKINSALE: It's no more absurd than thinking that I might have
DOCTOR: Murdered him? I wish you had.
ADELAIDE: What do you mean?
DOCTOR: Well, if you had murdered Palmerdale, everything would have been so much simpler. Unfortunately, he was dead before he hit the ground.
DOCTOR: Electrocuted. He was killed by a massive electric shock, in exactly the same way the keeper was.
SKINSALE: In the lamp gallery? That's not possible. That would mean that this creature can climb sheer walls.
DOCTOR: Oh, not only can it climb sheer walls, it's amphibious, it has some affinity with electricity and the technological ability to adapt its environment to optimum thermal levels. Are you following me?
DOCTOR: It likes the cold. Not enough data to place the species.
DOCTOR: But heat might be a method of defence.
LEELA: That was Vince. He said the boiler pressure has fallen, and the siren will not sound.
It certainly doesn't appears as if any of the Doctor's established foes are responsible for what's happening!

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Indeed from what little we see it doesn't even resemble anything we've seen or heard of before. But the next episode has a little revelation for us on that score....

This story is the first one shown, although as we've seen not the first one made, with Graham Williams listed as producer. He'd come from a writing & script editing background and had just created the series Target for the BBC when production of that ran into trouble at the point that Philip Hinchcliffe attracted some controversy for stories produced under his watch on Doctor Who. So Williams, who had expected to produce Target, found himself on Doctor Who with his baby in Hinchcliffe's hands. No sooner had he arrived than the Vampire crisis (see episode 1) hit the show well and truly plunging him in at the deep end!

Sunday, 10 September 2017

455 Horror of Fang Rock: Part Two

EPISODE: Horror of Fang Rock: Part Two
TRANSMITTED: Saturday 10 September 1977
WRITER: Terrance Dicks
DIRECTOR: Paddy Russell
SCRIPT EDITOR: Robert Holmes
PRODUCER: Graham Williams
RATINGS: 7.1 million viewers
FORMAT: DVD: Doctor Who - Horror of Fang Rock

"Gentlemen, I've got news for you: This lighthouse is under attack, and by morning we might all be dead!"

While The Doctor aids the stricken boat Leela spots a glowing green creature on the beach. The Passengers on the boat, Lord Palmerdale, James Skinsale and Palmerdale's secretary Adelaide Lessage, are brought to the lighthouse. Reuben tells the Doctor & Leela the legend of the Beast of Fang Rock. Palmerdale is racing to get to London before the stock markets open but the Doctor tells him he has no chance. One of the ship's crew, Harker, finds Ben's body in the sea. Palmerdale demands Harker take them back to sea but he refuses. Returning to the beach the Doctor examines the evidence and tries to work out what they are facing. He believes it was attracted from the sea to the lighthouse by the electricity powering the light. Palmerdale tries to bribe Harker to send a message back to London but once again he refuses. The Doctor tells the refugees from the boat that the lighthouse is under attack, that they may die and they must stay inside. A cold descends on the lighthouse, the electric lights fail and from the boiler room comes the sound of Reuben screaming....

So continuing from where we left off: chuck a few new characters into the mix, one of whom is thoroughly unpleasant. Yes you can tell from here that they're all just fodder for the monster because there's no way the light house crew would keep it occupied for four episode. Ratchet up the tension and end on a blood curdling scream. Job done. And done really rather well indeed. The description above doesn't do the episode justice: it works and works very well.

The mystery of the alien visitor continues with the Doctor now convinced it's behind the electricity losses:

VINCE: She's on again now.
REUBEN: Damned electricity. Wouldn't happen with oil. Ahoy!
DOCTOR: No, I don't suppose it would. It seems to need electricity.
We don't get to see too much of the remaining lighthouse keepers this episode, with attention switching to the yacht survivors.

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Leela however gets a very decent episode with lots to do, first operating the foghorn, and you can see how pleased she is with that job. However that enables her to be on the tower so she can spot the alien being:

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DOCTOR: What was it like?
LEELA: I could not see clearly. It shone like, like a fungus in the forest.
DOCTOR: Luminous. Do you think you could show me the spot?
LEELA: Yes. Yes, I think so. Don't tell the others. We don't want to start a panic.
REUBEN: What do you reckon be going on, mister?
DOCTOR: When I find out, I'll let you know.
REUBEN: I wouldn't try to find out. Tain't wise.
LEELA: What do you mean?
REUBEN: Reckon I know what you've seen. They always said the Beast of Fang Rock would be back.
DOCTOR: The Beast of Fang Rock.
Apart from that we don't see too much of the alien either, just the green glow and iris view we saw in the first episode. Who and what it is remains a mystery!

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LEELA: Do you thing the creature will come back?
DOCTOR: I do. I think he was taking Ben's body away for examination when you saw it.
LEELA: Into the sea?
DOCTOR: Under the sea. Earlier tonight Vince saw what he called a fireball fall into the sea not far away.
LEELA: Another Tardis.
DOCTOR: Not another Tardis. A spaceship, perhaps. Yes, an alien creature which has never before encountered human beings might just behave that way.
LEELA: But why come here? There's nothing on this foggy rock.
DOCTOR: There's electricity. Perhaps that's what attracted it.
LEELA: An alien creature
LEELA: Travelling through space
LEELA: And yet desperate, you said. Why?
DOCTOR: Yes. Just a minute. It's behaviour pattern is furtive.
LEELA: What is furtive?
DOCTOR: That means it keeps out of sight while it spies out the land, hoping to mount a successful attack.
LEELA: Then we are not facing an enemy that is bold.
DOCTOR: No, but cunning. I don't think this fog's a freak of the weather.
LEELA: What are you talking about?
DOCTOR: I think it's been contrived to isolate us. That creature, or whatever it is, will be getting bolder by now. It's seen this primitive technology, it's had time to calculate the physical strength of its enemies. I think we're in terrible trouble.
LEELA: Do not be afraid, Doctor. If what you say is true, we must arm ourselves and post guards.
DOCTOR: What about the others? They'll think we're mad if we start talking about creatures from outer space.
LEELA: But we're from space. We're not of this Earth.
DOCTOR: Shush. Don't tell them that, whatever you do. What do you mean, do not be afraid.

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The yacht survivors are mainly a thoroughly unpleasant bunch and the Doctor can't be had with their petty concerns in the face of what else is happening:

DOCTOR: Where's Harker, your coxswain?
PALMERDALE: He stayed behind to secure the boat.
DOCTOR: I'll wait.
SKINSALE: He'll, er, he'll be up directly.
SKINSALE: It was his seamanship got us ashore.
DOCTOR: And whose seamanship was it got you on the rocks?
PALMERDALE: Are you in charge here?
DOCTOR: No, but I'm full of ideas.
VINCE: Beg pardon, sir. Time I stoked the boiler.
DOCTOR: Yes, of course, Vince. Off you go. Leela?
DOCTOR: You'd better go with him.
LEELA: Yes, Doctor.
ADELAIDE: So, you're a doctor?
ADELAIDE: And you send women to stoke boilers?
DOCTOR: One of the keepers was electrocuted earlier this evening, and since then Vince doesn't like going down there.
SKINSALE: Yes, disturbing thing for a young fellow, first sight of death. I remember in India
PALMERDALE: Not one of your army stories, Jimmy. They're even more boring than your House of Commons anecdotes.
DOCTOR: Just a moment! We haven't been introduced.
SKINSALE: Oh. Well, this is Miss Lessedge, Lord Parmerdale's secretary. The wet gentleman is Lord Palmerdale, the financier. I'm Skinsale, the member for Thurley, Doctor er.
DOCTOR: Where were you heading?
DOCTOR: When your yacht struck?
PALMERDALE: Southampton. I've a special train waiting to take me to London, and I must be there before the 'Change opens.
ADELAIDE: If only we'd stayed in Deauville none of this would have happened.
PALMERDALE: We had a little flutter at the casino, though in Jimmy's case it was more of a plunge, what?
SKINSALE: Oh, I don't know. You lost your yacht.
DOCTOR: What about the rest of the crew? Were any other boats launched?
SKINSALE: We didn't wait to see. His Lordship was in rather a hurry to leave the sinking ship.
PALMERDALE: It's imperative that I reach London before the market opens.
SKINSALE: Oh, is that the reason
DOCTOR: Ah, you want to get to London?
DOCTOR: You've no chance in this fog.
SKINSALE: The wheel of fortune, eh, Henry?
SKINSALE: Perhaps you didn't win all you thought at the casino.
Arguments ensue leading to Harker attaching Palmerdale when the latter tries to force him to cooperate:
PALMERDALE: Harker, get off!
SKINSALE: Don't be such a damn fool, man. Harker!
DOCTOR: Let go, Harker!
HARKER: There are good seamen dead because of you! You deserve to die!
DOCTOR: Come on, sit down. Sit down. All that can wait. Gentlemen, I've got news for you. This lighthouse is under attack, and by morning we might all be dead. Anyone interested?
But that line of the Doctor's there is superb, love it, just cuts through their squabbles to what actually matters!

One of the newcomers to the lighthouse has previous & future form on the series: Playing James Skinsale is Alan Rowe who was previously in The Moonbase as both Dr. Evans & the Space Control voice and then The Time Warrior as Edward of Wessex. He'll be back in Full Circle as Decider Garif. His IMDB entry shows he was a much in demand actor, though I confess Doctor Who is the only thing I've seen him in. He was the partner of actor Geoffrey Bayldon who speaks about Rowe and their relationship during Whos' Round #117.

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Sean Caffrey plays financier Lord Palmerdale. Caffrey has also appeared in The Professionals: Runner as Ted, BBC Children's Sci Fi comedy Galloping Galaxies! as Space Pirate Chief Murphy and Edge of Darkness: Breakthrough as McCroon

His secretary, and I'm tempted to use inverted commas round that word, Adelaide Lesage is played by Annette Woollett. Director Paddy Russell would later reuse her on Emmerdale Farm alongside former Doctor who companion Frazer Hines.

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Coxswain Harker is played by Rio Fanning. He's got a Blake's 7 to his name playing Captain Deral in Children of Auron but you might have also seen him as Father Frost in Father Ted: Old Grey Whistle Theft. Toby Hadoke interviews him in Who's Round 67.

And, for completeness, you can hear the author of this story interviewed in Who's Round 55!

Sunday, 3 September 2017

454 Horror of Fang Rock: Part One

EPISODE: Horror of Fang Rock: Part One
TRANSMITTED: Saturday 03 September 1977
WRITER: Terrance Dicks
DIRECTOR: Paddy Russell
SCRIPT EDITOR: Robert Holmes
PRODUCER: Graham Williams
RATINGS: 6.8 million viewers
FORMAT: DVD: Doctor Who - Horror of Fang Rock

"I thought there might have been something nasty in the coal hole. There's something nasty somewhere!"

At an isolated lighthouse, keeper Vince sees a purple light streak across the sky but is ridiculed by his fellow keepers Ben & Reuben. As fog surrounds the island the Tardis arrives bearing the Doctor & Leela. The lighthouse's electric supply is drained causing the light to cut out and attracting the Doctor's attention. Something enters the lighthouse and attacks Ben. The Doctor offers his assistance fixing the generator, but in doing so they realise Ben is missing and the Doctor goes to find him, but instead finds his body, killed by a massive electric shock. The Keepers believes the generator is responsible but the Doctor thinks an alien is among them. Reuben is suspicious of the Doctor & Leela. Vince tells the Doctor of the light he saw in the sky and how the fog & cold arrived. Exploring the beach Leela finds a number of electrocuted fish and is stalked by something. Vince finds Ben's body has disappeared which spooks him. A boat is sighted not far off the island and unable to alter course runs aground.

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A small group of people, an isolated location and an alien menace bumping people off. That means one thing - It's "Base Under Siege" time! And this one's fab. It helps by looking decent and tapping into the BBC's natural ability to do period drama well by setting it around the start of the 20th century. So a limited number of sets and characters, all of which we know what they should look like, help this look really good.

Our starting point is the lighthouse with it's three keepers on duty:

VINCE: Ere, Reuben. Come and look, quick.
REUBEN: What is it, boy?
VINCE: This light, shot across the sky. Went under the sea, it did, and the sea was all glowing. Over there.
REUBEN: Nothing there now.
VINCE: Not now, maybe. I told you, it went under the sea.
REUBEN: It could have been a, what do they call them, meteor.
VINCE: Mmm. Weren't far off.
BEN: Oh, sightseeing now, are we? Hoping to spot some of them bathing belles on the beach, eh?
REUBEN: Vince here's been seeing stars.
VINCE: I saw a light. Clear across the sky it came and went under the sea.
BEN: Shooting star, eh?
VINCE: Weren't no shooting star. I've seen them before.
REUBEN: Bring you luck, boy, that will. Bit of luck coming for you.
VINCE: On this rock? Not till my three month is up.
BEN: Well, whatever it was, it's gone now. So long as it isn't a hazard to navigation we don't have to bother with it.
VINCE: It were all red and glowing.
BEN: Aye, well, I've heard enough about now, lad. I'm off downstairs for my supper. You just forget it.

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The keepers are great in this early section of the story continuing what are obviously long standing arguments and teasing each other:

REUBEN: The old days were simple enough. You just filled her up, trimmed the wick, and that old lamp just went burning away steady as you like.
BEN: It wasn't only the lamp that burned sometimes though, was it. What about all those fires they had, eh? Towers gutted, men killed.
REUBEN: Well, carelessness, that was. That or drink. Oil's safe enough if you treat her right.
BEN: Now listen, Reuben. I've seen the inside of some of them old lighthouses
REUBEN: I served twenty year in one.
BEN: Like the inside of a chimney, they was. Grease and soot everywhere, floor covered with oil and bits of wick.
REUBEN: Never, mate. Never.
BEN: And as for the light. Oh dear oh me. You couldn't see it from the inside, never mind from the out. Great clouds of black smoke, soon as they were lit.
REUBEN: If your electricity's so good, why are they going back to oil? You tell me that.
BEN: Ah, now that's an oil vapour system. That's a different thing altogether. They're going back to that as they reckon as how that's cheaper, see.
REUBEN: Course it's cheaper.
REUBEN: Time they've paid out all that coal. Ahoy.

VINCE: That you, Reuben? King Edward, eh? Well, your majesty, will you tell the principal keeper that there's a fog coming up here like nobody's business.

REUBEN: Vince says there's a fog coming up.
BEN: Fog? There weren't no sign of that earlier.
REUBEN: He reckons it's a thick 'un, Ben.
BEN: I'd best go and see for myself. After all, the boy's only learning.

BEN: I never seen a fog come in like that afore. And thick!
REUBEN: Worst thing for sailors that ever was.
BEN: Do you feel that cold too?
BEN: That come from Iceland, I reckon.
VINCE: It's come from where I saw that thing fall.
BEN: Oh, get along with you, boy. It's about time you got that siren started.
REUBEN: He might be right, Ben. It do seem unnatural.
BEN: Not you, too? And I want a blast every two minutes, and I don't mean ten.
REUBEN: Another thing with oil, it gives a better light in fog.
BEN: Oh, rubbish. Electricity's just as good, and a darn sight more reliable.
REUBEN: Reliable?

Right from the start we know something is up with the glowing object crossing the sky and crashing into the sea. Throw in the fog and the electricity cutting out and the mystery and tension quickly rises. It then soon becomes clear that something has survived the crash and although we don't see it it there's hints at it with the point of view shots and the green glow when it's very close.

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The Doctor meanwhile arrives in somewhat traditional fashion:

LEELA: You said I would like Brighton. Well, I do not.
DOCTOR: Does this look like Brighton?
LEELA: I do not know.
DOCTOR: It's not even Hove. It could be Worthing.
LEELA: The machine has failed again?
DOCTOR: Oh, not really, not failed. We're on the right planet, in the right time, roughly in the right general direction, assuming this is Worthing.
LEELA: You cannot tell.
DOCTOR: Because the localised condition of planetary atmospheric condensation caused a malfunction in the visual orientation circuits. Or to put it another way, we got lost in the fog. Never mind. Easy enough to pop back in and try again. That's odd.
LEELA: What is?
DOCTOR: A lighthouse without a light.
He's then immediately suspicious when the first dead body is found:
LEELA: You do not believe the machine killed him? Then what?
DOCTOR: I thought there might have been something nasty in the coal hole. There's something nasty somewhere.
LEELA: A sea creature?
DOCTOR: What, that can open and shut doors and doesn't so much as leave a wet footprint, and has the ability to drain off electricity?
But any further investigation is postponed till later episodes by the more immediate problem of the boat crashing into the rocks, itself possibly caused by whatever has turned the electricity off and dimmed the lights.

it's probably about as perfect a first episode as you could want really!

Of the three man Lighthouse crew, two have been in Doctor Who before: Reuben is played by Colin Douglas who was in Doctor Who 10 years previously as Donald Bruce in The Enemy of the World. Despite me only knowing him from Doctor Who his his imdb entry shows him to have been a very busy television actor in the 60s and 70s! I'll need to dig out my The Sweeney DVDs as he has a repeat role as the Flying Squad Commander in that appearing in Ringer and Contact Breaker. I know for certain I saw all the episodes of God's Wonderful Railway as a child so I would have seen him as George Grant in Fire on the Line, the final Second World War set segment of the production. I found an episode on YouTube and instantly recognised him!

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The already deceased Ben is played by Ralph Watson who was the Generator Scientist in The Underwater Menace, Captain Knight in The Web of Fear and Ettis in The Monster of Peladon. He's got a Porridge episode on his CV playing the Landlord in A Day Out. You can hear him interviewed by Toby Hadoke in Who's Round 154 and he appears on the Fantom Films Who Talk Commentary CD for this Web of Fear speaking about episode 1, 2 & 4.

The third member of the team, John Abbott playing Vince. The only other science fiction I can see on his CV is as Phipps in Timeslip The Wrong End of Time: Part 1 but he's been in loads of other things and most people will have seen him as the polite verger at the fourth wedding Four Weddings & a Funeral.

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By an odd coincidence both the first & last stories of this season have pretty interesting tales of how they came to be both involving scripts written in a hurry and recording outside of Doctor Who's usual studios. Script editor Robert Holmes commissioned his old friend (and former Doctor Who script editor) Terrance Dicks to write a story based on one of the few horror tales they hadn't previously "paid homage to" over the last few years: Dracula. Dicks duly supplied the scripts for "The Witch Lords"/"The Vampire Mutation" only to then have the story spiked (staked?) when high ups at the BBC realised it would be airing at a similar time to the prestigious adaptation of the original story, Count Dracula. So Terrance Dicks was sent away to write another script in an extreme hurry and given the instruction to "set it in a light house". The following story, Invisible Enemy, was pulled into production early to give the production crew some extra time.... At this point it was discovered that there would be no studio space at Television Centre to record the story so for the first and only time in the show's history they decamped to the Pebble Mill Studios in Birmingham to record the story. Dicks' original script went into a drawer where it stayed for three years .....

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