Click here to return to the main site.

Audio Book Review


Doctor Who and the Horror of Fang Rock


Author: Terrance Dicks
Read by: Louise Jameson
Publisher: BBC Audio
RRP: £20.00 (CD), £7.00 (download)
ISBN: 978 1 78529 565 2
Release Date: 15 February 2017

On a remote, rocky island a few miles off the coast of the English Channel stands Fang Rock lighthouse. There have always been tales of the Beast of Fang Rock – but, when the TARDIS lands here with Leela and the Doctor, the force they must deal with is more sinister and deadly than the mythical monster of the past. It is the early 1900s, electricity is just coming into common usage, and a formless, gelatinous mass from space must use the lighthouse generators to recharge its system. Nothing can stop the Rutan scout in its search and its experimentation on humans…

This is an unabridged reading of Terrance Dicks’s 1978 novelisation of his own serial from the previous year.

Dicks doesn’t make many alterations to the original narrative, but then he doesn’t really need to. Horror of Fang Rock is an efficient little adventure, with a restricted setting (a lighthouse and its environs) and a limited number of characters (aside from the Doctor and Leela, the lighthouse crew and some shipwreck victims), which get picked off by the monster one by one. It’s pretty much the archetypal ‘base under siege’ structure. Each of the characters stands out in his or her own way, from the superstitious old Reuben to the forward-thinking Ben, and from the impressionable young Vince Hawkins to the unscrupulous Lord Palmerdale.

What is unusual about this tale is how down to earth it is. The historical setting, including some mildly educational discussions about the advent of electricity and its advantages over oil, is not so strange for this series. However, talk of gambling debts and dodgy financial deals make for surprisingly grown-up subject matter – something you might expect in an Agatha Christie novel rather than Doctor Who. Also, the Doctor is uncommonly respectful towards Leela here. Whereas other writers might have had the Time Lord repeatedly criticise her for her primitive superstitions or use of weapons, or gone for a cheap laugh at the expense of the warrior’s lack of education, Dicks recognises that by this point in their travels together, Leela would have gained some knowledge, while the Doctor would have learned to value her instincts, as he does here. He defends her when her abilities are pooh-poohed by others: “Leela’s senses are particularly acute, and if she says it’s getting colder, then it’s getting colder.”

The author adds a prologue about the legendary Beast of Fang Rock, and his descriptions of the Rutan invader make it a scarier proposition than the luminous green bogey that was encountered by Tom Baker on screen.

The reader is Louise Jameson, who played Leela. She gives each of the characters a distinctive voice, including the all-important Doctor. In fact, she renders his lines more successfully than her previous attempts to imitate his delivery in Big Finish’s Companion Chronicles series – perhaps because this time she isn’t trying too hard. Unlike Baker, though, she knows how to pronounce the word “chameleon”.

Like the lighthouse itself, Horror of Fang Rock – be it on television, in print or on audio – is fairly basic, but sturdy and dependable.


Richard McGinlay

Buy this item online

Each of the store links below opens in a new window, allowing you to compare the price of this product from various online stores.

Digital Download
iTunes GB
Digital Download