Horror of Fang Rock (1977)

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Review

This is a four-part serial, first broadcast between 3rd September - 24th September 1977. A brief and somewhat spoiler-ish summary of the plot: the Doctor and Leela plan to visit Brighton but find themselves at Fang Rock instead, where their visit means a nice change for the three men working at the local lighthouse who usually only have the seals for company. But then people start dying, as foretold in ancient legendů

In stead of this serial, the makers of Doctor Who initially had planned to do a vampire story. Writer Terrance Dicks had already written two episodes (the completed serial would later be broadcast as 'State of decay') when the BBC decided that, since they had planned a television version of 'Dracula', they didn't want Doctor Who to do a story with a similar subject matter. Under even more time pressure than was usual for Doctor Who, Dicks came up with 'Horror of Fang Rock'.

In a number of ways, the serial relies on what had become 'proven technology' for Doctor Who. Like several 1970's serials, it's a Victorian period piece. Like 'Pyramids of Mars' and 'The talons of Weng-Chiang' it's a genre piece - this time a nautical horror story - with a science-fiction twist and, like 'Robots of death', it uses the Agatha Christie plot device of getting characters together in a confined space and then killing them off one by one.

On the whole, the serial is solid and entertaining. There's not a great deal of action, but what there is of it is pretty effective. The entire serial was shot inside the studio and it does have that 'studio' look and feel, but the CSO that was used to show the sea and the sky is hardly noticeable, and it's clear that by 1977 the technology had come a long way. There's also a shipwreck that involves some quite convincing model work. The monster, on the other hand, isn't among Doctor Who's more successful creations. The concept - a gelatinous green blob with tentacles - isn't too bad, but having it convincingly swim, climb the outer wall of the lighthouse and negotiate a flight of stairs proved too much of a challenge. The shots from the monster's point of view are nice, though.

My verdict:

Quite good, actually.

Tough call. It's a solid, entertaining serial, but to me there's nothing that makes it stand out among the other average-to-good Doctor Who serials.

More about Doctor Who

An introduction:
On-site link, opens in this window Doctor Who reviews: introduction

More "quite good, actually" Doctor Who:
On-site link, opens in this window Doctor Who reviews: quite good, actually

More from the Tom Baker years:
On-site link, opens in this window Doctor Who reviews: 1974 - 1981

Similar stories:
On-site link, opens in this window Doctor Who reviews: genre benders

Original version of this review:
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More about this serial

Episode guides:
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Serial reviews:
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DVD reviews:
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