"Rutan, that's the empty rhetoric of a defeated dictator, and I don't like your face, either."
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.