Doctor Who - The Horror of Fang Rock (c) BBC
Doctor Who – The Horror of Fang Rock (c) BBC

Horror of Fang Rock: Part Three

First Broadcast September 17th 1977 @ 6.15pm (9.8m viewers)

‘Horror of Fang Rock’ is a beautifully crafted piece of drama. It just so happens to be a Doctor Who story. Prolific writer and Doctor Who legend Terrance Dicks delivers a skillfully constructed story which is a masterpiece in how to unravel a narrative. Originally Dicks had submitted a script featuring vampires but the BBC was due to broadcast a high-profile coproduction of Dracula so the story had to be held back. That story was later reworked and became ‘State of Decay’ broadcast in 1980.

Doctor Who - The Horror of Fang Rock (c) BBC
Doctor Who – The Horror of Fang Rock (c) BBC

Down one script, Robert Holmes asked his long time collaborator Terrance Dicks to compose a different story. A lighthouse setting was considered as it could be achieved relatively cheaply in studio. Due to work at Television Centre in London, the studio used was actually Pebble Mill in Birmingham. The lighthouse also provided a remote and isolated location for the story, adding to the vulnerability of the characters, plus the confines of the small rooms in the narrow building added to a sense of unnerving claustrophobia. These elements aid themselves perfectly in delivering a particularly dramatic cliffhanger.

Memorable Moment (Spoiler Warning)

Leela, I’ve made a terrible mistake. I thought I’d locked the enemy out. Instead I’ve locked it in… with us!

Doctor Who - The Horror of Fang Rock (c) BBC
Doctor Who – The Horror of Fang Rock (c) BBC

The cliffhanger is as chilling a finale to an episode as we’ve ever seen in Doctor Who. Not because of any space monster threatening our heroes but the realisation that the Doctor has messed up. Suddenly he has become fallible. That fallibility has now put them all in grave danger. This dramatic revelation also ramps up the tension for the final episode of the story heightening the claustrophobic setting even further.

The final instalment would also see the Rutans portrayed onscreen for the first time. Mentioned by the Third Doctor in ‘The Time Warrior’ (1973/4) as being at war with the Sontarans, viewers finally got to see what they looked like. Their amorphous green blobby shape was also a brilliant contrast to the physical brutality of the Sontarans. This first appearance of a Rutan, and the fact that only the Doctor and his companion make it out alive makes ‘Horror of Fang Rock’ another notable story in Doctor Who’s history.


Doctor Who – Tom Baker
Leela – Louise Jameson
Reuben – Colin Douglas
Vince – John Abbott


Director – Paddy Russell
Producer – Graham Williams
Writer – Terrance Dicks

Also First Aired On This Day…
  • The Smugglers: Episode 2
  • The God Complex
  • Doctor Who Confidential: Heartbreak Hotel


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