Recap / Doctor Who S15 E1 "Horror of Fang Rock"

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{insert Quantum Leap joke here}
"The localised condition of planetary atmospheric condensation caused a malfunction in the visual orientation circuits. Or to put it another way, we got lost in the fog."
The Doctor

The one that got hijacked.

Season fifteen kicks off where season fourteen finished: Gothic Horror. The TARDIS materialises in a lighthouse on an isolated piece of shoreline just after a mysterious light has been seen falling from the sky. One of the lighthouse-keepers is found electrocuted. The Doctor and Leela (who throws on a nice warm sweater) investigate.

Soon, a sudden fog bank descends, causing a ship to founder on the rocks. The posh survivors straggle ashore but they soon find that they're locked in the lighthouse with a Rutan — a jelly-like alien that can take other forms and has been masquerading as lighthouse-keeper Reuben.The Rutans are described by the Doctor as being the ancient and implacable enemies of the Sontarans, who have appeared multiple times in the show's history (though this is the only appearance so far of the Rutans). Everyone who's not on team TARDIS dies. The Doctor kills the Rutan warrior with a makeshift explosive, and then uses a diamond that one of the survivors had been carrying to focus the lighthouse's light into a laser beam to destroy the incoming Rutan mothership. Despite the Doctor's warning, Leela looks at the explosion and gets blinded. She promptly tells the Doctor to kill her, because she's a liability, but he explains that the blindness is temporary — although it did change her eye color permanently, from brown to blue. note 

On a trivia note, this is the only classic-era Who story to be taped in Birmingham rather than London. The serial is also remembered for a 1987 American broadcast which was hijacked by some guy in a Max Headroom mask.

Tropes

  • Action Girl: Leela has already shown herself to be one, but she's particularly badass in this episode, slapping a character who goes into hysterics, personally going out into the fog with her knife to kill the alien and later smashing Ruben's door down with a sledgehammer she was earlier taking practice swings with.
  • All There in the Manual: In the novelisation, the Doctor gives a rational explanation for the original legend of the beast of Fang Rock.
    • A deleted scene where the survivors reach the island is reinstated.
    • Vince's motives for burning the fifty pounds given to him by Lord Palmerdale before he turns to the others for help are added.
  • Asshole Victim: Lord Palmerdale and, to a lesser extent, Adelaide.
  • The Atoner: Colonel Skinsale tries to be this. Unfortunately, it results in him making some pretty stupid decisions.
  • Bad News in a Good Way: (excitedly) "Gentlemen, I have news! This lighthouse is under attack and by morning we may all be dead!" (toothy grin)
    • Harsher in Hindsight: Considering the Doctor doesn't manage to save any of the secondary cast this episode....
  • Big Entrance: Whenever the Doctor enters a room. Since the lighthouse was cramped and the camera had to be very static, Tom Baker insisted on entering each room with a flourish to make up for it.
  • Blood Knight: Leela, as usual. She grins happily as the dying Rutan oozes its way down the stairs.
    Leela: Enjoy your death, Rutan! As I enjoyed killing you!
  • Blue Blood: Lord Palmerdale and company. The Doctor bottles up his contempt for them.
  • Cassandra Truth: Nobody believes Vince when he says he saw something fall out of the sky.
  • Closed Circle
  • Cue the Sun: The story ends while dawn is breaking.
  • Death by Materialism: The last surviving non-regular character, Skinsale, is killed after his greed gets the better of him and he scrabbles for the diamonds that the Doctor had thrown away (only needing the best one to focus a laser). The Rutan gets him. It had been established earlier that greed was his Fatal Flaw.
  • Death Ray: The Doctor using his MacGyvering skills to weaponize the lighthouse beam into a sort of Archimedes Heat Ray to blow the Rutan mothership into smithereens.
  • Dissonant Serenity: How the Doctor breaks the news of the lighthouse attack to Harker, Palmerdale, and Skinsale, complete with a grin:
    The Doctor: Gentlemen, I've got news for you. This lighthouse is under attack and by morning we might all be dead! Anyone interested?
  • Don't Look Back: Because you're going to be blinded by the explosion, Leela.
  • Doomy Dooms of Doom: This episode was originally going to be called "Rocks of Doom."
  • The Edwardian Era: Though Ben has hair and a mustache that could only have existed in The '70s.
  • Electric Jellyfish: The Rutan is pretty much a space version of this.
  • Everybody's Dead, Dave: The Doctor and Leela are the only survivors, everyone else is massacred.
  • Expospeak Gag: "The localised condition of planetary atmospheric condensation caused a malfunction in the visual orientation circuits. Or to put it another way, we got lost in the fog."
  • Eye Colour Change
  • Face Stealer: The Rutan dissects Ben in order to learn enough human physiology to take the form of Reuben for the final two episodes. Later victims it just kills.
  • Fainting: The Emotional Faint, pulled by Adelaide on hearing of Lord Palmerdale's death.
  • Fog of Doom: Caused by the Rutan scout trying to adapt the local environment to its own needs.
  • Foil: Adelaide is Leela's foil, being a rich, spoiled and whiny Screaming Woman.
  • Get a Hold of Yourself, Man!: Leela slapping Adelaide.
  • He Who Fights Monsters: The Rutans may be this in their long war with the Sontarans.
  • Hysterical Woman: Adelaide just sits around sobbing, screaming or fainting all episode, to Leela's annoyance.
  • Insignificant Little Blue Planet: The Doctor is quite surprised by the Rutan's interest in Earth. It turns out to be fairly mild.
    The Doctor: Why invade an obscure planet like Earth? It's of no value to you.
    Rutan: The planet is obscure, but its strategic position is sound.
  • Inspired by.../Very Loosely Based on a True Story: The Flannan Isles mystery proved the inspiration for this adventure. The poem is even quoted by The Doctor.
  • Jerk Ass: Lord Palmerdale.
  • Kill 'em All: No one survives this one except for the Doctor and Leela.
  • Lighthouse Point: Where all the action takes place.
  • Mineral MacGuffin
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero!: See The Radio Dies First below.
  • Oh, Crap!: The Doctor is shocked to see that Reuben has been dead long enough for his body to develop rigor mortis. "I thought I locked the creature out. Instead I locked him in. With us." Cue credits.
  • The Radio Dies First: Skinsale sabotages the wireless to thwart Palmerdale's schemes.
  • Real Life Writes the Plot: The reason Leela's eyes are bleached by the explosion in the lighthouse at the end of part four was more practical than story-based: Louise Jameson hated the brown contacts she had to wear, citing them as irritating and painful. As a result, she stated that she would only stay for Season 15 if she could stop wearing the contacts, causing Terrance Dicks to incorporate a re-write into the script to explain the color change in-universe.
  • Rich Bitch: Adelaide.
  • Screaming Woman: Adelaide... until Leela slaps her.
  • Shock and Awe: The Rutan kills its victims with electricity.
  • Shout-Out:
    • The Doctor quotes Wilfrid Gibson's poem The Ballad of Flannan Isle as they leave Fang Rock.
    "Aye, though we hunted high and low, and hunted everywhere, of the three men's fate we found no trace. In any time, in any place. But a door ajar and an untouched needle and an over-toppled chair".
  • Sickly Green Glow: The Rutan.
  • Starfish Aliens: The Rutan, glowing tentacled blobs.
  • Temporary Blindness: Leela, if only a few seconds.
  • The Siege: A "base under siege" story like many before it.
  • Spoonerism: Leela consistently mangles technological terms, from "boiler pressure" to "Mognal Sigulator" (signal modulator).
    • "Teshnician."
  • Voluntary Shapeshifting: The Rutan, with great effort.
  • The X of Y
  • Zombie Gait: The Rutan doesn't really know how a human body moves normally.

http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Recap/DoctorWhoS15E1HorrorOfFangRock