Doctor Who #459: Horror of Fang Rock Part 4

"Rutan, that's the empty rhetoric of a defeated dictator, and I don't like your face, either."
TECHNICAL SPECS: First aired Sep.24 1977.

IN THIS ONE... The Rutan is revealed and is killed, but only after it slaughters everyone but the two regulars.

REVIEW: So the Beast of Fang Rock is revealed to be a Rutan, previously mentioned as the species the Sontarans are waging war on, and two more different alien species you couldn't imagine (or could you? see Theories). The Rutan's true form is a green, glowing jellyfish with the semblance of eyes, and rather sharp I always though. I'd love to see them in all their CGI glory on the new show (they do appear in the computer games, but I've yet to experience those). Once the Doctor's figured it out, he's back on top, and the stand-out moment of the episode is his little chat with "Reuben the Rutan" in the stairway, confidently puncturing the monster's inflated ego. There's something very amusing too in that the creature is killed by a various bits from the Doctor's pockets, fired from a mortar, including a very familiar bag of sweets. Death by jelly baby.

But the Doctor didn't get his groove back all by himself, no, he had Leela's help for that. She gives her a rather cool pep talk about how he's a Time Lord, and quite above the relatively primitive creature hunting them. And it's Leela who has the bright idea to turn the lighthouse into a laser to destroy the incoming Rutan ship, getting a rare smile from the Doctor in this serial. Her naivete works in her favor here, since OBVIOUSLY the Doctor can do this extremely Whovian of things. She doesn't know it's an absurd notion. But our girl Leela has her ugly side too, and the Doctor must condemn her for gloating over the dying Rutan. She's still got a lot to learn.

She'll get a chance to, unlike the rest of the human cast. Vince gets it early, and then Adelaide (but not before Leela rolls her eyes at her for fainting). Colonel Skinsale seems a character begging for redemption, but his death is a touch off the "honorable" one the Doctor claims for him. Yes, he bravely risks his life to get at Henry Palmerdale's diamonds, one of which should work as a focus for the Doctor's makeshift laser, but when the Doctor throws the rejected specimens away, Skinsale stays behind to pick them up and gets caught out. It's his greed that does him in, not self-sacrifice. And perhaps the Doctor realizes it's his fault for once again misjudging human nature, and so he gives Skinsale better report. And then there were two, and since Leela ALSO wastes time recovering her knife, there might just have been one. In a sort of karmic reprisal, disobedient Leela gets temporarily blinded by the flash of the explosion, though this is just an in-story justification to allow Louise Jameson to stop wearing those irritating contact lenses. When I first saw this, long before I had any sense of what might be going on behind the scenes of any television program, it seemed a strange thing to do to the character. I dunno... will I like a blue-eyed Leela as much? And then this sanguinary story ends on a poem which serves as brilliant short-hand for an epilogue to a story that won't be remembered by any of the natives. Simply another mystery attributed to the Beast of Fang Rock.

THEORIES: Why are the Sontarans and Rutans consistently at war? Why don't the Sontarans, for example, wage war on other species as well? It's not the Milky Way is exclusive. There are clues in this very episode. One is that the Rutans have recently adapted the ability to shapechange, presumably as part of the arms race. The other is that they once ruled Muter's Spiral (the Time Lord designation for our galaxy). That paints a picture of a race with advanced genetic technology that can change its own make-up, but presumably, also create races of its own design. Could the Sontarans once have been the Rutans' cloned army, much better adapted to taking over the galaxy by force than squishy electric jellyfish? And once that army singularly bred for war had no more enemies to fight, might they not have turned on their creators? If the two species' histories are intertwined, it would explain why they are each other's preferred targets. They've got skin in the game.

VERSIONS: I'm unaware of any major differences between the Target novelization and the televised story.

REWATCHABILITY: Medium-High - It goes by a bit quickly for everyone's death to be really felt, but otherwise, a lot of great bits, especially for the principals, and a once mysterious alien race is revealed for us continuity junkies.

STORY REWATCHABILITY: Medium-High - My one small complaint is that is sags up front from spending two whole episodes on introducing a cast of cannon fodder, but that close to disappears when watched all in one go. Regardless, Horror of Fang Rock is a claustrophobic piece, very well plotted and full of excellent moments for the Doctor and Leela. I think the Rutans are pretty keen, and I'm sorry they were never used again. Come to think of it, there really aren't any "Sontaran at War" stories past the present day, so it's possible the Rutans were finally defeated relatively soon after this.


Anonymous said...

I have always wanted to see more of the Rutans, they seemed like quite an interesting race.

Siskoid said...

I hold out hope.

I mean, the Macra get a shot but not the Rutans?!


Blog Archive


5 Things to Like Activities Advice Alien Nation Aliens Say the Darndest Things Alpha Flight Amalgam Ambush Bug Animal Man anime Aquaman Archetypes Archie Heroes Arrowed Asterix Atom Avengers Awards Babylon 5 Batman Battle Shovel Battlestar Galactica Black Canary BnB 2-in1 Books Booster Gold Buffy Canada Captain America Captain Marvel Cat CCGs Charlton Circles of Hell Class Comics Comics Code Approved Conan Contest Cooking Crisis Daredevil Dating Kara Zor-El Dating Lois Lane Dating Lucy Lane Dating Princess Diana DCAU Deadman Dial H Dice Dinosaur Island Dinosaurs Director Profiles Doctor Who Doom Patrol Down the Rabbit Hole Dr. Strange Encyclopedia Fantastic Four Fashion Nightmares Fiasco Films Within Films Flash Flushpoint Foldees French Friday Night Fights Fun with Covers FW Team-Up Galleries Game design Gaming Geekly roundup Geeks Anonymous Geekwear Gimme That Star Trek Godzilla Golden Age Grant Morrison Great Match-Ups of Science Fiction Green Arrow Green Lantern Hawkman Hero Points Podcast Holidays House of Mystery Hulk Human Target Improv Inspiration Intersect Invasion Invasion Podcast Iron Man Jack Kirby Jimmy Olsen JLA JSA Judge Dredd K9 the Series Kirby Motivationals Krypto Kung Fu Learning to Fly Legion Letters pages Liveblog Lonely Hearts Podcast Lord of the Rings Machine Man Motivationals Man-Thing Marquee Masters of the Universe Memes Memorable Moments Metal Men Metamorpho Micronauts Millennium Mini-Comics Monday Morning Macking Movies Mr. Terrific Music Nelvana of the Northern Lights Nightmare Fuel Number Ones Obituaries oHOTmu OR NOT? Old52 One Panel Outsiders Panels from Sheena Paper Dolls Play Podcast Polls Questionable Fridays Radio Rants Reaganocomics Recollected Red Bee Red Tornado Reign Retro-Comics Reviews Rom RPGs Sandman Sapphire & Steel Sarah Jane Adventures Saturday Morning Cartoons SBG for Girls Seasons of DWAITAS Secret Origins Podcast Secret Wars SF Shut Up Star Boy Silver Age Siskoid as Editor Siskoid's Mailbox Space 1999 Spectre Spider-Man Spring Cleaning ST non-fiction ST novels: DS9 ST novels: S.C.E. ST novels: The Shat ST novels: TNG ST novels: TOS Star Trek Streaky Suicide Squad Supergirl Superman Supershill Swamp Thing Tales from Earth-Prime Team Horrible Teen Titans That Franchise I Never Talk About The Orville The Prisoner The Thing Then and Now Theory Thor Thursdays of Two Worlds Time Capsule Timeslip Tintin Torchwood Tourist Traps of the Forgotten Realms Toys Turnarounds TV V Waking Life Warehouse 13 Websites What If? Who's This? Whoniverse-B Wikileaked Wonder Woman X-Files X-Men Zero Hour Strikes Zine