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4.6 out of 5 stars
4.6 out of 5 stars
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 22 January 2014
Teatime television had two fixed points on winter weekends in the 1970s. Sunday brought the `Classic Serial', highly-regarded adaptations of Dickens, Austen, the Brontes etc. in half-hour episodes. Saturday gave us a modern classic serial - the first Saturday of September meant a new season of `Doctor Who'!

In September 1977 these two weekend fixtures seemed to merge in the Space-Time Continuum, producing the outstanding `Horror of Fang Rock'.

Terrance Dicks' script is superb, full of tension, incident, excellent dialogue and even some humorous moments, each character's motivation and personality clearly drawn and believable. The first-rate cast bring this script to life as sincerely if they were playing one of the Sunday classics, from the opening friendly argument between the lighthouse keepers about the rival merits of oil and electricity, to the arguing shipwrecked aristocrats (who are not feeling friendly to each other at all). The convincingly cramped lighthouse sets and swirling studio fog add greatly to the claustrophobic mood as danger closes in.

Tom Baker is in fine form, as the Doctor slowly pieces together the puzzle and even makes a rare mistake along the way - the Doctor's realisation of this is a dramatic moment. Of course he recovers from this to finish off his adversaries in a typically inventive manner before delivering the memorable final lines of the story, a quotation that stayed with me for more than 35 years.

Louise Jameson is excellent as Leela. The script gives her plenty of great material and she plays it perfectly as usual, laying down the law to timid earthlings, pushing heedlessly through Edwardian social conventions, even teasing the Doctor at one point and clearly enjoying it. Leela is still the fearless warrior, but also very intelligent and learning fast from her travels with the Doctor.

It must be said that the enemy, when it finally shows itself, is a product of its pre-CGI time in terms of special effects, but it's certainly different and the concept is a good one in a strong story.

`Horror of Fang Rock' must be one of the scariest DVDs to carry a U certificate. It was a brilliant response to the critics who said `Doctor Who' had become too violent. The critics were wrong anyway - I'd watched since Jon Pertwee's early years (my early years too) and yes, `Doctor Who' was frightening sometimes, it was meant to be, and we loved it!

DVD Extras include the interesting commentary with good anecdotes and Terrance Dicks giving the writer's perspective on this unforgettable tale, and a documentary about his career - one of the key figures in the success story of classic `Doctor Who'.

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on 28 November 2014
It is my absolute pleasure to introduce one of the classics of the Tom Baker era, a story that is surely of the same mighty stature as Robots Of Death.

At this point in time the show was under considerable pressure to tone down the supposed horror emphasis of Philip Hinchcliffe's tenure, but it seems that new boy Graham Williams couldn't resist delivering a story designed to be as creepy, oppressive, and downright disturbing as possible. Manna from heaven for a hardcore Hinchcliffe era fan like myself!

As in the Robots of Death, there is a feeling of real claustrophobia about Horror of Fang Rock; escape seems as impossible for the Doctor and Leela as it does for the unfortunate shipwreck victims (all of whom are played beautifully). Tom Baker is on magnificent form here, brimming with arrogance, unpredictable moodiness, and often quite inappropriate reactions to the events. Likewise, Leela is also at her best - fierce and fearless.

I love this story so much that I've had to step back a bit to write this review so as to analyse just what it is that makes it so special. I think a big part of it is that the environment is so convincing. I was surprised to discover that the entire lighthouse setting was mocked up in the studio - it still looks eerily "right". Another factor that helps it all work so well are the rich period details that combine to make you believe that what you are watching is taking place in the early 20th century. The supporting cast are excellent (not always the case with classic Who), Terrance Dicks' script is powerful and memorable, and even the 70s special effects stand up well.

All in all, this is an exemplary Fourth Doctor caper that deserves the high reputation it enjoys. "They always said the Beast of Fang Rock would be back..."
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on 14 June 2014
One of the best Who stories is this Victorian chapter that sees an Alien shape changer stalk a lighthouse on the coast of southern England.

A ship crashes on the rocks and deposits a few passengers in the form of a mad banker intent on contacting London to make money, his wife who a neurotic screamer and a retired army officer with a few skeletons in the closet.

This is dark, spooky and very much the essence of what made us hide behind the sofa at 5:30 on a Saturday night, It's kind of like Alien before Alien was made, a group of people locked up with an Alien threat on the loose.

Great stuff and one of the best of the Baker years.
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on 30 May 2015
A wonderful claustrophobic thriller that keeps you guessing with intelligent writing and some superb acting all round, I am not sure why this one gets over looked so often. The writing from Terrence Dicks is Masterful, the sets are are detailed and atmospheric, the story is tight and pacey. All the ingredients of a classic.
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on 27 February 2014
The Philip Hinchcliffe era of Doctor Who was renowned for its gothic horror stories. It is ironic really that the best ever Doctor Who horror story was produced not under Hinchcliffe but under his successor Graham Williams. 'Horror of Fang Rock' is a wonderful story, you'd never guess it was a last minute rush job which was written to replace a story about vampires (which later became 1980's State of Decay'), its very tightly constructed. The lighthouse setting is very well used.

The story makes perfect use of its isolated setting and its small cast. The idea of a murderous alien landing in the sea, isolating the nearby people by means of fog and then killing them one by one is chilling. All the sets are fantastic, the interior lighthouse sets are remarkably convincing and the sets for the exterior scenes on the rocks are very good. The model work for the lighthouse is also very impressive. Director Paddy Russell maintains her strong record of directing Doctor Who.

Tom Baker is on fine form as the Doctor bringing his usual energy and charisma to the role. Baker delivering the line 'This lighthouse is under attack and by morning we might all be dead!' and then grinning is a sight to behold. Louise Jameson gives a superb performance (as usual), and it's one of the best ever Leela stories. It is nice, for a change, to have a companion who is physically brave and scared of nothing; she even tells the Doctor not to be afraid. Another interesting point is how she is ignorant of early 20th century English customs; she starts undressing in front of Vince. Leela's loyalty to and faith in the Doctor is touching as well.

The guest cast are generally very good. Colin Douglas does a very good job as the kind old man and is also quite brilliant as the sinister, grinning Rutan in human form later on. John Abbott gives a strong performance as the young Vince Hawkins. The characters of Palmerdale and Skinsale are also very good, it is appropriate that both of their deaths are essentially brought about by their greed. The character of Adelaide's main function seems to be to scream, cry and faint.

Admittedly, the Rutan's true form isn't very impressive, but we don't see it very much and it really isn't as bad as some would have you believe; after all, it may be a green blob but its a green blob that can kill people merely by touching them.

In conclusion, 'Horror of Fang Rock' is one of the very best Doctor Who stories (it's in my top 5) and I would recommend it very highly.

There isn't a 'making of' documentary as such, but the writing and production processes of the story are delved into in the other extras. 'Terrance Dicks: Fact and Fiction' is a superb 36 minute feature mostly about Dicks' contributions to Doctor Who, although some of his other projects are mentioned.

The other main extra is 'Paddy Russell: A life in television', A good 14 minute long feature on Russell, one of the first ever female directors. Russell's admiration for William Hartnell is very nice.

'The Antique Doctor Who Show' is a short 'Antiques roadshow' style feature in which Doctor Who fans bring in items of Doctor Who merchandise to be valued.
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on 21 March 2005
When the Fourth Doctor and Leela materialised on a misty pile of rocks they realised that they had not made it to Brighton. But they were in the right time zone and on the correct planet so they were doing well by the Doctor's usual score. They found themselves on Fang Rock but cut off from the mainland. Not necessarily a problem for there's a lighthouse where the couple can shelter from the mist. But this is the Doctor we're talking about and Fang Rock is the ultimate closed room horror story with a small number of victi... er, survivors of a shipwreck, none of them particularly pleasant.
For the majority of the story, we only have a phosphorescent green glow to indicate the presence of the strange killer along with the occasional electrical discharge. Before getting to see the attacking alien, we see through it's eye. The final revelation of the alien is marginally disappointing and it looks rather more amorphous than it should in my opinion.
Leela gets to gloat splendidly after blasting the rutan with her improvised cannon while the Doctor muses over the validity of such activity. Leela also got a nice bit of violent dialogue when she promised to cut out the hearts of the shipwreck victims if they interfered with the Doctor's plans.
This is a fairly rare example of pure horror in the Doctor Who canon, and an excellent stab at the genre.
The only real problem I had with this was technical in the fact that the darker scenes, mixed with the mist, made it rather difficult to see what was going on.
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VINE VOICEon 30 January 2014
The loose background to this teleplay was based on a poem, and the prose refers to the true mysterious events surrounding the disappearance of three lighthouse keepers from a lighthouse around 1900. The feel of the show in terms of ‘set’ and atmosphere gives a rather claustrophobic nature to all four of the episodes, which I believe enhances the whole narrative and made the production rather nervy and scary for the target audience of the day.
For the narrative, in essence you have a group of people in relatively inaccessible location - the lighthouse, and rather like an Agatha Christie novel each protagonist is killed off one by one, by a mysterious killer. What follows is Doctor’s ability to solve this rather deadly puzzle. This was an interesting tale that by and large keeps the audience well entertained.
Once again Tom Baker is top of his game, and for companion Leela played by Louise Jameson and the other actors all do an excellent work here. One of my all-time favourite episodes hence my 5 star rating.
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on 17 October 2006
Story: 5/5 - Extras: 4/5

Five stars may be a little over-generous for this early offering by incoming producer Graham Williams, as penned by Who veteran Terrance Dicks, but "Horror of Fang Rock" remains a very atmospheric instalment of "Doctor Who", even though it was produced entirely in the studio.

The gloomy lighthouse is an innately claustrophobic setting, especially since the new electric generator is being tampered with, causing the lights to go out without warning on a semi-regular basis. Something alien is haunting the lighthouse, raising paranoia among its depleted crew, including the young and naïve junior keeper Vince (John Abbott) and the old-fashioned senior keeper Reuben (Colin Douglas). The Doctor and Leela, of course, arrive at exactly the wrong moment, but for once they don't spend most of the story under suspicion of murder.

A shipwreck on the rocks whilst the light is out brings a small collection of additional survivors into the confines of the lighthouse, all of whom are distinct characters, and they help to sustain the story (and the body count) over its full four episodes. The anxiety of the new arrivals is set against the backdrop of the intermittent lights and the sinister sound of the fog horn, and combined with the good set design it all works rather well. The lamp gallery is a particular technical accomplishment given the studio-bound nature of the story.

The special effects are poor, of course, and the enemy (when it finally reveals itself in its true form) is a massive disappointment, but on atmosphere and performances alone, "Horror of Fang Rock" deserves a high score. On the DVD, we have a commentary with writer Terrance Dicks, and actors John Abbott and Louise Jameson (Leela). The bonus documentaries are devoted to writer Dicks and director Paddy Russell and their respective careers, with particular focus on "Doctor Who". A decent package.
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on 26 October 2014
A classic Horror tale of Doctor Who Tom Baker is remarkable in giving this episode a really scary vibe to it. Imagine being stranded at a light house with people all around you dying for know reason at all until you discover there is a life force an Entity taking over the dead Humans and twhat he is trying to do will make you shudder. A Classic If you haven't seen this one. IT'S A MUST!!!!
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VINE VOICEon 20 January 2005
The Horror Of The Fang Rock, was the first story to feature Graham Williams as Producer, but in terms of style and atmosphere it is more like an adventure from the Philip Hinchcliffe, generally regarded as the peak period for the show by many fans. Although the Williams would descend more heavily into comedy, to the dismay of some followers of the series, it is a kept to a mininium here. Featuring a group of people isolated in a lighthouse, whilst been killed off one by one, by an unknown killer, this story is one of the best, and well worth seeing. Tom Baker is as usual on top form, as are Louise Jameson and the guest actors.
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