Doctor Who #458: Horror of Fang Rock Part 3

"Leela, I've made a terrible mistake. I thought I'd locked the enemy out. Instead, I've locked it in, with us."
TECHNICAL SPECS: First aired Sep.17 1977.

Reuben is killed and replaced by the creature. Henry is just killed after trying to bribe Vince. Oh, and Harker too.

The Henry/Skinsale subplot realizes its potential when, the protect his honor and prevent Henry from ruining him, Skinsale sabotages the telegraph. The one link to the mainland is severed, tension is ramped up and the sense of claustrophobia heightened. It's Henry's duplicity that makes him hide out on the ledge where he is killed. After corrupting poor Vince with a wad of money - does Vince burn the cash so that suspicion doesn't fall on him, or as an act of contrition, asking whatever karmic spirits might kill those with a blight on their souls? - he was on his way to destroy two men, so he deserved what was coming to him. Not so Harker, who was only trying to keep the "boy pressure" up and the lighthouse working. In other words, there is no karma in this world. The monster will get you whatever you do, and leave you on the floor with a creepy rictus grin.

If there's a sense of hopelessness to the whole affair, it's because this is essentially a story about the Doctor getting it wrong, with dreadful consequences. And even before that cliffhanger where he realizes he's locked the creature in with them, he knows it. You won't see a more serious, even dour, fourth Doctor. He stares out into space, has no patience for anyone, gives a very still performance. He doesn't have enough data to figure out which species he's dealing with, and that seems to haunt him. He's trying to figure it out before it's too late, but that ship might already have sailed.

While he deals in hard facts, Leela is more intuitive, and we might take her irascibility with the Doctor as a sense she has that he's not infallible. Certainly, this is the kind of situation where he should be listening to her more, even is she's "only a savage". Never one to sit down when something can be done, Leela takes actions into her own hands, breaks down doors, and most hilariously, slaps hysterical Adelaide right out of a scream. And yet, her faith in the more passive Doctor is unshaken, as we discover when she tells Adelaide, a believer in astrology, that it's better to believe in science. Of course, the way she says it, so reverently, Leela's just replaced one religion for another. She understands science as little as she does magic. And of course, this is doubly ironic given that the Sevateem's religion was a cargo cult where science and technology were deemed magic.

THEORIES: Do Time Lords have an accent? The Doctor pronounces chameleon, shameleon, and back in The Green Death, Pertwee more famously pronounced chitinous as tshitinous. Am I on to something?

REWATCHABILITY: Medium-High - The plot is really coming together, and I just love what Dicks is writing for the two principals.


Tim Knight said...

Why shouldn't Time Lords have an accent? They're alien after all and can't be expected to speak The Queen's English with a Home Counties accent ;-)

Wriphe said...

I think this serial is when I fell in love with Leela as a companion. If I had to be trapped in a lighthouse with a monster, she's the sidekick I'd want.

Siskoid said...

Tim: Other planets have Home Counties.

Wriphe: Oh I was convinced long before that. At "They say the Evil One eats babies".

Calamity Jon said...

I've always taken Leela slapping the hysterical secretary as a not-so-subtle critique of the screaming companion trope, particularly as Leela fell prey to it in Weng-Chiang...

Siskoid said...

Adelaide screams at the drop of a pin, so she's an extreme version of the type.


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