Horror Of Fang Rock
Working Titles: Rocks Of Doom, The Monster Of Fang Rock, The Beast Of Fang Rock.
Starring: Tom Baker (The Fourth Doctor), Louise Jameson (Leela).
The TARDIS materialises near a lighthouse in the English Channel, where a boat carrying several high-society passengers has just capsized. The lighthouse itself is experiencing problems with mysterious energy drains and the death of one of its technicians. The Doctor and Leela discover that a shapeshifting Rutan has infiltrated the lighthouse and is about to summon its mothership to Earth. As the lighthouse's occupants are killed off one by one, it appears that, this time, the Doctor may be too late to save anyone.
Robert Holmes had been Doctor Who's script editor for three seasons, and although he had been afforded the chance to pen his own stories for the series more than would usually be the case, he was still itching to return to writing full-time. Originally planning to leave Doctor Who along with producer Philip Hinchcliffe after Season Fourteen, Holmes finally agreed to remain for another six months to ease the arrival of new producer Graham Williams. Nonetheless, Holmes was on the lookout for potential replacements, and began discussions with his own predecessor, Terrance Dicks, about possibly returning to Doctor Who. Dicks declined this offer, but did agree to take on the task of writing the opening story for Season Fifteen, his first Who scripts since the tumultuous The Brain Of Morbius a year and a half earlier.
In keeping with the Gothic tone Hinchcliffe and Holmes had established during their years on the series, Dicks devised a story called The Vampire Mutations (or The Witch Lords), commissioned on January 11th, 1977. However, after Dicks had already completed the first draft, Head of Serials Graeme MacDonald instructed Williams to abandon the story, fearing that it would be see as a parody of the BBC's prestigious forthcoming adaptation of Bram Stoker's novel Dracula. Despite the extremely short notice, Dicks agreed to come up with a replacement idea, but there was no way his tale could be the first serial into production. Consequently, it was decided that The Invisible Enemy -- Season Fifteen's second story -- would be made first.
Originally called The Rocks Of Doom, Dicks' scripts went through a number of title changes during their brief gestation, to The Monster Of Fang Rock and The Beast Of Rang Rock, before finally settling on Horror Of Fang Rock. The director brought on board for Serial 4V was Paddy Russell, who had last worked on Pyramids Of Mars. Russell was immediately aware that Horror Of Fang Rock would present a number of production difficulties, because of its lighthouse locale. Not only did this mean a lot of curved sets (which were difficult to film), but the exterior walls of the lamp room -- in which much of the action was set -- were largely glass and hence transparent, meaning Russell would be even more limited. Consequently, the director shifted as many lamp room scenes as possible to other sets.
To make matters worse, it was discovered that there was no studio space left at the BBC to accommodate the revised Doctor Who shooting schedule. For the first time in its history, then, studio recording moved outside London, to the nearest suitable facilities at Pebble Mill in Birmingham. Although Doctor Who would not be Pebble Mill's first drama production, it would be by far the most challenging its staff had ever attempted. Fortunately, this apparent handicap turned out to be a blessing in disguise. The Pebble Mill crew were keen to attract even more production out of London, and hence worked extremely hard on Horror Of Fang Rock. Taping at Pebble Mill began on Wednesday May 25th and Thursday the 26th, and wrapped up with a three-day session from Tuesday June 7th to Thursday the 9th.
One of the promises Louise Jameson had extracted from Graham Williams in agreeing to stay on for another season was that she no longer be required to wear brown contact lenses as Leela. Consequently, Dicks included a scene in Horror Of Fang Rock in which Leela's eyes undergo "pigment dispersal" after witnessing the explosion of the Rutan mothership, changing them from brown to Jameson's natural blue. Also of note, Horror Of Fang Rock featured the first on-screen appearance of the Rutans, who had been mentioned as the Sontarans' adversaries in The Time Warrior and The Sontaran Experiment. Horror Of Fang Rock was Paddy Russell's fourth and final Doctor Who story. Its first episode aired on September 3rd, beginning the programme's fifteenth season.