Horror of Fang Rock: Wikis


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092 – Horror of Fang Rock
Doctor Who serial
Morphing Rutan.jpg
A Rutan undergoing a chameleonic metamorphosis.
Guest stars
Writer Terrance Dicks
Director Paddy Russell
Script editor Robert Holmes
Producer Graham Williams
Executive producer(s) None
Production code 4V
Series Season 15
Length 4 episodes, 25 minutes each
Originally broadcast 3 September–24 September 1977
← Preceded by Followed by →
The Talons of Weng-Chiang The Invisible Enemy

Horror of Fang Rock is a serial in the British science fiction television series Doctor Who, which was first broadcast in four weekly parts from 3 September to 24 September 1977.



The cursed island of Fang Rock is a place of rumour and tales of beasts from the sea. Three lighthouse men face their fears when something comes in from the sea, which brings death to all it touches.


On the way to show Brighton to Leela, the TARDIS lands on the island of Fang Rock off the south coast of England in the early years of the 20th century. Noticing that the lighthouse isn't functioning properly, the Fourth Doctor decides to investigate, as well as to ask for directions, as the TARDIS seems to have got 'lost in the fog'. Upon arrival at the lighthouse, and after introducing themselves, the Doctor discovers the dead body of one of the keepers, Ben. The other two keepers, old superstitious Reuben and the keen young Vince Hawkins, report that a light fell from the sky near the island. They also explain the electricity flow to the lamp on the lighthouse has become erratic and the Doctor deduces something is feeding on the flow. Reuben does not help matters with his constant references to the mythical Beast of Fang Rock, which reputedly once terrorised the lighthouse. As the Doctor and Leela explore, something moves Ben’s body out of the lighthouse and onto the island, and they witness a curious electric crackling which seems to have killed fish nearby.

The loss of the electric light due to the unexplained draining of power from the generators causes a luxury yacht to crash on to Fang Rock. The four survivors are brought to the lighthouse: the bosun Harker; an MP named Colonel James Skinsale; the owner, Lord Palmerdale; and his highly strung secretary Adelaide Lessage. Over time it emerges Palmerdale has bought government secrets from Skinsale and was desperate to reach the stock exchange to make a killing – hence the reason the ship was travelling at such a pace.

Harker and the Doctor retrieve Ben’s body and the Time Lord deduces it has been used as an anatomy lesson for an alien life form. He determines that their best protection is to secure the lighthouse to keep the creature out. Reuben then disappears for a time and then reappears a changed man, which the others put down to shock. But the pattern of death now speeds up. Palmerdale is killed in the lamp room by a glowing alien presence on the outside of the lighthouse, and then Harker is killed when Reuben corners him in the boiler room. From the alien light emanating from Reuben it is clear he has become possessed or transformed by the alien creature. The Doctor finds Harker’s body and then Reuben’s own – the latter cold for some time – which means the creature in Reuben’s form, has chameleonic properties.

The creature now stalks down and kills the others in the lighthouse. Vince dies first, then Adelaide. With its presence now revealed, the alien among them sheds its disguise: it is a Rutan, a green blob like amphibious life form (with chameleonic 'metamorphosis' capabilities), whose scout ship crash landed in the sea and is trying to summon its mother ship. The ship is part of the Rutan battle fleet, engaged in a seemingly interminable war with the Sontarans. The Lighthouse and Victorian technoloogy provide little ammunition in dealing with the Rutans, however the Doctor modifies a weapon (an 'early chamerly') and uses this to destroy the Rutan (the life forms evolving on icy Ruta 3 are susceptible to high temperatures).The Doctor had previously obtained diamonds from Palmerdale's body belt (Skinsale, stopping to collect the discarded diamonds, was fatally electrocuted by the Rutan) – and then the Doctor uses the diamonds (as 'carbon oscillators') as a focus for the light(the electric lighthouse beam), and convert it into a high-energy laser by which the Doctor destroys the Rutan mother ship. The blinding flash even turns Leela’s eyes from brown to blue. The Doctor quotes Wilfrid Gibson's poem Flannan Isle as they take their leave.

Cast note

Alan Rowe had previously played Dr. Evans and the voice from Space Patrol in The Moonbase as well as Edward of Wessex in The Time Warrior and later appeared as Garif in the serial Full Circle.


  • For the dating of this serial, see the Chronology.
  • Louise Jameson (Leela) stops wearing her brown contacts at the end of this serial, with the sudden change in colour being explained away as resulting from a pigment dispersal caused by looking directly into a bright explosion. Jameson had found the contacts painful to wear, and made their removal a condition for her agreeing to play Leela for another season.
  • An Eighth Doctor audio story written by Paul Magrs for Big Finish Productions, broadcast on BBC 7 on 14 January 2007, is entitled Horror of Glam Rock, a play on this serial's title.
  • The Fourth Doctor eventually does visit Brighton with Romana in The Leisure Hive -- though the TARDIS still misses the opening of the Pavilion by some 200 years.
  • This is the only televised Doctor Who story to feature the Rutans, the archenemies of the oft-seen Sontarans.


Serial details by episode
Episode Broadcast date Run time Viewership
(in millions)
"Part One" 3 September 1977 (1977-09-03) 24:10 6.8
"Part Two" 10 September 1977 (1977-09-10) 24:10 7.1
"Part Three" 17 September 1977 (1977-09-17) 23:12 9.8
"Part Four" 24 September 1977 (1977-09-24) 23:49 9.9
  • Working titles for this story included The Monster of Fang Rock and The Beast of Fang Rock.[4]
  • Horror of Fang Rock was in fact a late replacement for the scripts Terrance Dicks had originally submitted, a vampire-based tale entitled The Witch Lords, which was cancelled close to production as it was feared it could detract from the BBC's high-profile adaptation of Bram Stoker's classic novel Count Dracula, which was due for transmission close to when the serial would have aired. A re-written version did, however, eventually see production in 1980 as State of Decay, part of the eighteenth season of Doctor Who.[4]
  • The serial is the only one of the original series to have been produced at BBC studios outside of London; it is also the only 1970s story not produced at BBC Television Centre (bar Spearhead from Space, which did not employ regular studio production at all). Engineering work meant that it was made at the Pebble Mill Studios of BBC Birmingham instead.[4][5]
  • According to the DVD commentary supplied by Louise Jameson, John Abbott and Terrance Dicks, a scene in Part Three was crucial to the behind-the-scenes relationship between Jameson and co-star Tom Baker. In one scene, he consistently came in ahead of his cue, thereby upstaging her. On the grounds that this move was "not what they had rehearsed" she insisted on three successive retakes until he came in at the rehearsed time. This eventually won his respect. From that point forward, she claims their working relationship was much smoother.

The Ballad of Flannan Isle

Max Headroom Intrusion Incident

On 22 November 1987 a broadcast of Horror of Fang Rock by Chicago television station WTTW was interrupted for around 90 seconds by a pirate broadcast featuring an individual disguised as television character Max Headroom. The incident made national headlines and the persons responsible were never identified.

In print

Doctor Who book
Book cover
Doctor Who and the Horror of Fang Rock
Series Target novelisations
Release number 32
Writer Terrance Dicks
Publisher Target Books
Cover artist Jeff Cummins
ISBN 0-426-20009-8
Release date 30 March 1978
Preceded by Doctor Who and the Face of Evil
Followed by Doctor Who and the Tomb of the Cybermen

A novelisation of this serial, written by Terrance Dicks, was published by Target Books in March 1978. According to the DVD commentary, this novelisation features his favourite cover.

Broadcast, VHS and DVD release

  • This story was released on VHS in July 1998.
  • This story was released on Region 2 DVD in the United Kingdom on 17 January 2005, in Australia on Region 4 DVD on 7 April 2005, and in the United States on Region 1 DVD on September 6, 2005.The DVD contains a commentary by writer Terrance Dicks and actors Louise Jameson and John Abbott


  1. ^ Shaun Lyon et al. (2007-03-31). "Horror of Fang Rock". Outpost Gallifrey. http://gallifreyone.com/episode.php?id=4v. Retrieved 2008-08-30. 
  2. ^ "Horror of Fang Rock". Doctor Who Reference Guide. http://www.drwhoguide.com/who_4v.htm. Retrieved 2008-08-30. 
  3. ^ Sullivan, Shannon (2007-08-07). "Horror of Fang Rock". A Brief History of Time Travel. http://www.shannonsullivan.com/drwho/serials/4v.html. Retrieved 2008-08-30. 
  4. ^ a b c "Horror of Fang Rock". A Brief History of Time (Travel). 2004-03-21. http://www.shannonsullivan.com/drwho/serials/4v.html. Retrieved 2006-09-08. 
  5. ^ Howe, Stammer, Walker (1994). Doctor Who: The Seventies. Virgin Books. 
  6. ^ "The Ballad of Fang Rock". Time Space Visualiser issue 3. http://nzdwfc.tetrap.com/archive/tsv3/ballad.html. Retrieved 2007-09-13. 

External links


Target novelisation

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