01/03/2011. Contributed by Geoff Willmetts
region 2 DVD: pub: BBC MBI 6139. Price: about GBP 5.00 (UK) if you know where to look. DVDs. 96 minutes 4 episodes with extras) stars: Tom Baker, Louise Jameson, Colin Douglas and John Abbott.
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This ‘Doctor Who’ DVD is another Dutch import although other than the cover notes, it doesn’t make any difference as everything else is in English.
‘Horror Fang Rock’ owes a lot to ‘It Came From Outer Space’ crossed Agatha Christie with an alien masquerading as a human and a rapidly growing body count as it asserts itself in a not so haunted house but definitely a lighthouse.
The TARDIS arrives on Fang Rock Island instead of Brighton by the Doctor (actor Tom Baker) miscalculating spatial co-ordinates just after an apparent meteorite crashes nearby. A freezing fog comes down and the three lighthouse keepers desperately try to keep things working as their electricity supply ceases for a while. His companion, Leela (actress Louise Jameson) also has a chance to get out of her leather outfit into appropriate costume for Brighton but quickly changes to lighthouse men gear for the warmth, especially as it frequently gets cold.
Things only get worse when a schooner crashes and its occupants add to the number at the lighthouse. The Doctor has a hard time working out just what they are facing until he realises they are facing Rutan alien metamorph that is systematically killing them off and rather than keeping it out of the lighthouse has actually ensured it stays with them.
The audio commentary by actors Louise Jameson and John Abbott with writer Terrance Dicks reveals this was the only Who story to be recorded at Pebble Mill, Birmingham with additional footage recorded at Ealing. Dicks puzzled over why the shipwrecked passengers were in dinner suits, forgetting his own script that they had left Europe in a hurry to get to London to do a little fast-dealing on the Stockmarket and hadn’t changed when they were shipwrecked.
The extras are quite varied. You have to love the idea of ‘The Antiques Roadshow’ with cybermen, daleks and K-9 roaming around. I was actually surprised that the very last toy dalek they showed was the same as the little one I bought in Woolworth’s back in the 60s and that I do know is kinda rare.
The interview with director Paddy Russell, one of the only two directors at the BBC at the time, shows her career from ‘Quatermass And The Pit’ right through to four ‘Doctor Who’ stories. With ‘Fang Rock’, she notes that the story was put together quickly to replace a vampires story and Baker and Jameson didn’t have a happy working relationship. The audio commentary brings some light as to what changed between the two actors in this story that made things easier.
The longest item is a look at Terrance Dicks’ career as script editor to novelisation writer and beyond into book series I’ve never heard of but would probably be in the younger generations’ young reading period. Considering the number of years and Doctor regenerations Dicks’ worked with, it’s inevitable that he added much to the Time Lord mythos and hope his own tag of being ‘professional’ is remembered in the years to come.
Watching this story again and bearing in mind the make-over the Sontarans had, it’s a shame that the Rutans haven’t had a re-appearance, especially with current CGI which could play up their ability to shape-shift.
The fact that ‘Fang Rock’ holds up well today re-enforces the original Agatha Christie plot can work in any genre and ‘Doctor Who’ is no exception. Just be careful not to be caught at a lighthouse with one.
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