Tuesday, November 29, 2011

I Lived. Everyone Else Died. (The Horror of Fang Rock)

I was going to bring the use of the
book/VHS covers as the
illustrations to a close after Talons
and the close of that bit of my
childhood memories, but this cover
is just way too good. All it needs is
a K-KLACK!
It's September 3, 1977. Anyone sensing a general turning backwards in the music charts will feel quite vindicated upon seeing that Elvis Presley is at number one with "Way Down," although they will presumably be mollified by realizing that it's only at number one because he died two weeks previously. This means that it stays there for four weeks, with Carly Simon, Donna Summer, and SPACE, French pioneers of the space disco subgenre, also chart.

In other news, since The Talons of Weng-Chiang and Philip Hinchcliffe's tenure crashed to their conclusions, the Red Army Faction in Germany murdered federal prosecutor and ex-Nazi Siegfried Buback, and then later Banker Jurgen Ponto. Residents of Dover, Massachusetts witness the Dover Demon on the prowl in one of cryptozoology's iconic moments. Queen Elizabeth II began her Silver Jubilee tour. Shooters opened fire on a crowd of demonstrators in Turkey, killing at least 34. The shooters were never captured, and if you concluded that they were US-funded anti-communist forces you sure as hell wouldn't be the only one. Star Wars came out in the US, but we don't care about that so much yet. The Supremes play their final concert in London and disband, and the Son of Sam killer is captured in New York, which also enjoys a 25 hour blackout marked by looting.

While during this story, gang violence in San Francisco results in the Golden Dragon Massacre, the US agrees to give the Panama Canal to Panama at the end of the century, the Red Army Faction kidnapps Hans-Martin Schleyer, a major head of what is basically an inverse union - an association of employers. The Faction's goal in this is to secure the release of RAF prisoners by the West German government. And Mark Bolan, the glam rock icon better known as T. Rex, dies in a car crash. Oh, and the moment on Happy Days that led to the term "jumping the shark" takes place.

While on television, we have a story with fascinating critical dimensions that we need to disentangle before we go much further. For one thing, we're starting off the Graham Williams era, an era that the word "polarizing" seems barely to scratch the surface of. There really is a visible dividing line that takes place between the Hinchcliffe and Williams eras. The first fourteen seasons of Doctor Who are, all in all, considered to be overwhelmingly solid. Sure, they all have their detractors, but the critical consensus on the first fourteen seasons is that the series defaulted to very good.

No such consensus exists for the final twelve seasons. It's not that they're hated - every one of them, even seasons 22-23, have their firm defenders. But the position that Graham Williams and/or John Nathan-Turner's tenures on the show were flat-out unsuccessful is a thoroughly mainstream one in fandom, and not without reason. (I happen to quite enjoy the majority of the remaining twelve seasons.)

All of which said, it is difficult to think of a classic series story that has had as meteoric a rise in reputation in the last few years as this one. The only other contenders I can think of in terms of stories that have relatively recently joined the list of all-time classics are Power of the Daleks and The Massacre, both of which have a simple explanation for their recent rise in popularity: the Internet made reconstructions more widely available and the stories actually got widely seen enough to be classics. But here we have something odder - a story that sat under our noses more or less unnoticed as anything other than "quite good" for decades, and then recently has become white-hot. Moffat declared it to have the best title of any Doctor Who story ever, it's been singled out for praise on Doctor Who Confidential, Gareth Roberts and Steven Moffat talked about it on Twitter a few months ago. Everybody loves this story these days.

The Penguin Pocket Guide to Generating Blog Traffic thus concludes that the only reasonable tack to take here is to slam the story in an attempt to become the first voice of the backlash. And I would, except that the story really is pretty fantastic. So let's try a different angle. Much of the praise for The Horror of Fang Rock comes from treating it like a holdover from the Hinchcliffe era. This is not completely unfair. The writer, script editor, director, and stars are all veterans of the Hinchcliffe era, and the aesthetic is closer to the horror aesthetic of the Hinchcliffe era than the more comedic aesthetic that would eventually come (fairly or unfairly) to characterize the Williams era.

I'm not going to get too far into how this story fits with the remaining 17 stories of the Graham Williams era here, in no small part because the Williams era is the last chunk of Doctor Who that I haven't seen the bulk of before (it was largely left fairly late in the VHS releases. I ate up novelizations of the era because my parents liked Romana and so I was curious about her, but have seen no more than four stories from it). But also because it's kind of silly to. Yes, this story is profoundly different from the rest of the Williams era in several regards. The amount of clever critical nuance needed to observe a profound difference between this and Creature From the Pit is roughly zero.

What's far more interesting, and what critics largely sail over, is the degree to which this story represents a break with the Hinchcliffe era. This is most obvious when people describe the story as being extremely traditional because of its structure of a monster slowly picking off people in an enclosed space. Which, fair enough. That is certainly the plot of The Horror of Fang Rock. But what was its last appearance before this story?

That's a harder question, actually. The Seeds of Doom and The Ark in Space are the only two Hinchcliffe-era stories with particularly similar plots, and both are a stretch, with the former being more about Harrison Chase and the latter being more about Noah. The remainder of scary stories in the Hinchcliffe era are about much grander and more epic dangers than one monster hunting people down. And the Pertwee era certainly didn't have anything like this. No, pretty much the last time you had a story entirely about monsters picking people off in an enclosed space was, by my count, The Wheel in Space. In other words, the show hasn't done this since before Terrance Dicks was the script editor.

So why does everybody treat this story like a story that was still too Hinchcliffe-era for Williams to screw up as opposed to as a story that does its own thing? There are basically two reasons. The first is that treating this story as if it were really a Hinchcliffe story gives Williams's detractors one less story to make an exception for, reducing the list of stories they have to admit were good to ones written by Douglas Adams. This, however, is stupid and beneath us. The better reason is that it's just about the only Williams story to go for "scary" as its mood from start to finish, whereas the Hinchcliffe era stayed in the vicinity of scary for almost every single story. (There is, of course, also Image of the Fendahl to deal with in terms of scariness, but that's its own thing.)

But there the similarities largely end. The Hinchcliffe era did scary by showing the potency within the dying embers of old myths: Morbius, Sutekh, and Magnus Greel. There was always a sense of the epic there. This, on the other hand, is determinedly small scale - a handful of utterly mundane people trapped in a relatively unremarkable setting. It only becomes clear that there's a planetary threat in the fourth episode, and that's basically just a way to eke another ten minutes out of the thing - it's not the primary tension of the story at all. The monster isn't some ancient and terrible threat but a generic member of its species. And speaking of its species, it's the Rutans! No, not the minivan from Volkswagen. The sworn enemies of the Sontarans! Yes. Even the monster is little more than the b-side of a relatively minor enemy. This is not what Hinchcliffe would have done at all. Under Hinchcliffe, one imagines it would have actually been the Beast of Fang Rock, chained under the sea millennia ago by an ancient race of aliens, and sending out its electricity-wielding servants to gather power for its resurrection. Instead of, you know, just one pissed off alien jellyfish.

It would take a viewpoint of what Doctor Who is good for that is narrow even by the standards of Doctor Who fans to conclude that the smaller approach is in some way a bad thing. After all, so much of what is wrong with the worst moments of the Hinchcliffe era comes when the play of ideas and genres is allowed to get in the way of an investment in humanity, with even Holmes running badly afoul in his last effort. Talons would have been helped immeasurably if the characters had been characters instead of wittily-written Victorian stereotypes. But there's also something to be said for the basic radicalness of doing a small story. The Hinchcliffe era's steady abandonment of contemporary Earth came with the understandable but ultimately unnecessary consequence of moving away from the domestic scale of Yeti-in-a-Loo towards a more epic scale.

As I said, this is understandable - as you determinedly move from Earth to space it's natural to move from Earth-sized stakes to space-sized stakes for your stories. But Robert Holmes often took delightful measures to undercut the vast stakes, whether through the Doctor's witticisms or through making his villains envy vegetables. And no surprise - it was Holmes who showed, in the Pertwee era, how effective it could be to shrink the stakes away from the planetary to the utterly mundane. Because the shift from the free travel of the Troughton years (where the stakes often were smaller) to the earth-based format of the Pertwee years meant that every threat became a planetary one, and Holmes rightly observed that you could do a good story on a smaller scale. But despite this the scale had drifted ever upward, and Dicks was shrewd to pull it back down.

What's further interesting is that he manages to do that while retaining many of the cultural ideas from the previous story. This story is set almost at the same time as Talons (if About Time's analysis of the dating of each is to be believed, you can get away with placing them a year apart. Lance Parkin's endlessly hilarious aHistory puts them at thirteen), and though it is technically in the Edwardian era, itself in many ways just an incremental upgrade of the Victorian era to fill a technicality of calendar space between Queen Victoria's death and World War I, which brought the real shift in culture. (There is an analogy to be drawn here to the producer shifts on Doctor Who. Particularly snide fans may wish to note that you can make this analogy in such a way as to have John Nathan-Turner be equivalent to World War I.)

But instead of the elaborate genre parodies of Robert Holmes, Terrance Dicks takes a more materialist approach to it. Yes, he still has comic relief old fashioned people, but they're not being used for broad social critique. This is a character piece with well-executed stock characters, not a pastiche. That doesn't mean, however, that there's no social commentary. Leela continues her frustrating fade-out, in which it's obvious that she's not being allowed to develop as a character so that she can keep being pushed into comic relief situations, which is even more demeaning than "educating" her was. Where she used to have her own peculiar instincts that originated out of her culture, now she just seems to have superpowers allowing her to detect small changes in temperature. Given that there will be a tin dog to do that starting next story, one shudders to imagine what she'll be cut down to next.

But despite that, she gets well-used here in a variety of ways. The Doctor visibly prefers talking to her to talking to any of the other characters, and her easy competence contrasts well with their period-appropriate foibles. In this regard she is made a critique of aspects of the culture without having to resort to everybody laughing as she comically misunderstands tea while they reflect on how her simple savage wisdom has insight that even we civilized British people can learn from. There may be no more scathing moment of feminism in the show to date than Leela's scorn for Adelaide and all of the implied scorn for the cultural norms she represents.

The Doctor, on the other hand, is more problematic. It's shocking how sharp the change in Baker's performance is here. It changed visibly once when Sladen left, but here shifts again as Hinchcliffe departs. When Paddy Russell last directed the series she got Baker into one of the mummy costumes when the Doctor was supposed to be inside. This time he dominates the frame whenever he's on camera, standing in the center of the shot as characters buzz around him - the polar opposite of how he entered in Robot. Behind the scenes, his antics were flaring up as well. This was, apparently, the story in which Louise Jameson finally put her foot down and stood up to Baker, winning his respect, but on the other hand his relationship with Russell was a disaster.

The result is a Doctor who is a complete emotional cipher, with the actor simply trusting that the audience will simply adore him as long as he turns on the charm. It's a performance of pure egotism that is carried off only by the fact that Baker is right and the audience does like him. The scene in which he delightedly informs everyone that they may be dead by morning is heavenly, and his mocking dismissal of the villain attains a new sharpness. Even without knowing what's going on behind the scenes there's a palpable anger to Baker's defiance now, giving it just a tinge of punk at a point where both the series and punk were still credible enough to have that mean something.

The script also seems aware of the increasingly problematic dimensions of Baker's incarnation. It makes the interesting decision to have the Doctor be very much responsible for some of what goes wrong. And, of course, there's the gutsy decision to have this one be a total wipeout for the supporting cast. For the first time in the series absolutely every character not played by a series regular dies. And unlike many of the later contenders for massive body counts, here they're not just done for flare, but each mark concrete turning points in the plot that drive it forward. Everybody dies in this story, but nobody dies as an exclamation point on an exciting scene or out of some generic effort to "up the stakes." This story keeps the bodies offscreen in what is a clear concession to Mary Whitehouse, but it gives a better sense of the sheer human cost of the Doctor's life than anything since The Massacre.

This makes the Doctor's capriciousness more problematic. But at this point that's all it is - a case of complicating the tone of the series. It's a very distinct step in a particular direction for the series, but unlike most of the later steps in that direction it's utterly unselfconscious about it. In this regard it marks a sort of final comment upon the metafictional excess of the Hinchcliffe era. It manages a crystal clear metafictional comment with no resort to broad symbolism or pastiche or self-reference, but just by telling a particular story with a particular character and letting the frisson between those two reveal something on its own. It's deft and subtle in an absolutely delicious way.

It would be stretching it far too much to call this story a critique of the Hinchcliffe era. It's not. But it is in many ways a diagnostic of it, and a demonstration of what aspects of it are merely the preferences and defaults of its major creative figures and what aspects of it are actually integral to generating the amazing aesthetic effects it so often accomplished. It is in this regard the most sensible statement possible in the face of the battering the show just took: here is what we are good at. Traditionalism has never been so radical.

11 comments:

  1. I have to admit I’m still at the ‘rather good’ I’ve thought of it as for decades, but perhaps its high-profile reappraisal started earlier than that: it was the story David Tennant and Russell T Davies famously raved about when they first worked together, which was mentioned a lot when they made Tooth and Claw (which shares more than a little with Horror). Good points about its differences as well as similarities with the Hinchcliffe era, though; the key point for me is when Rueben tells the old legend, which would in effect have been the backstory in the ‘standard’ story of the previous three years, and the Doctor just scoffs at him. Its plot similarities to The Sontaran Experiment, though, for example (lone warrior from the Sontaran-Rutan War scouting out Earth, Doctor sees off main force in a flash at the end, though considerably more convincingly here), mean it’s not quite as out of kilter as you propose.

    About Time’s dating is less cut-and-dried than you suggest, incidentally, taking the outer edges of two ranges, but this story, at least, is clearly at the lower end of their range; as I’ve shown before, the historical evidence around the most repulsive of the human characters means it can’t be later than 1905.

    I’m surprised that you write that the characters are “not being used for broad social critique”, though, and while you say “That doesn't mean, however, that there's no social commentary”, you seem to restrict it to the Doctor and Leela. I’m a long way from being a class warrior, but the admirable economy of the script here manages to make characters out of stock social positions who speak in reams of exposition, and those social positions have never been more clearly delineated in a Who story: back when I wrote about Horror of Fang Rock a few years ago, I called it “the series’ story most about social class”, and it blatantly is. The critique of social class runs right through the story, most strikingly in the way that the shipwrecked passengers’ strategies for social survival are at odds with their physical survival, and with every character carefully placed on a scale of how sensitive to class and snobbish they are, ranging from the Doctor being the only one to call Vince “Mr Hawkins” at one end to the extreme-through-social-insecurity of Palmerdale’s mistress at the other.

    Then there’s the straightforward Terrance Dicks moral: ‘being greedy gets you killed, and you deserve it!’ Which leads me to the man I called the most repulsive of the human characters. Most fans seem to pigeonhole Palmerdale as “greedy” and Skinsale an “affable old soldier”, one there to dislike and one to warm to, and though you don’t talk about either of them, I’m always surprised that pretty much every other analysis of this story (my quotes are from About Time) falls for Skinsale on his own terms. His “honour” is merely something he uses to his own advantage, and he’s ruthless in defending that façade. I dislike Skinsale even more than I do Palmerdale because at least his Lordship is honestly nasty; the Colonel is every bit as greedy, though not as good at it, and wants to have it all in a way that not even Palmerdale does – “good name”, position, money – without doing the work, and is prepared to be selfish, reckless, criminal, arrogant and possibly treasonous, threatening people’s livelihoods and ultimately lives so he can get away with it. That’s a fairly sharp social critique.

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  2. Passing thoughts: it’s one of those stories, isn’t it, where it’s difficult not to take into account the writer’s reaction to a number of behind-the-scenes goings-on; not just the brilliant decision to go small-scale and do it to textbook perfection, as you say, but Bob Holmes giving him an historical set in a lighthouse as revenge for Terrance’s imposition of an historical background in The Time Warrior, Terrance being inspired by that to think of a creature that would be the opposite of Sontarans, and of course – for reasons I suspect you may come to under State of Decay a – with “Fang”, and parasitic aristocrats, and a man named Harker, I can’t help seeing as Terrance Dicks sticking two fingers up at Dracula.

    And I fear you’ve been misled by Steven Moffat’s encomium to the title, incidentally; the “obligatory” “THE” in fact isn’t there, except on the book cover…

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  3. I think the "people being picked off one by one" model was also used in Planet of Evil, where people have been picked off one by one since before the beginning of the story, and Pyramids of Mars, where basically everyone dies. And Robots of Death. So it's not as rare a model as you're making out.

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  4. I have mixed feelings about Graham Williams' time on the show. I tend to think of it as inferior to the preceding era, though with a good middle season; but looking at my scores I see it has two 10/10s, one from season 15 (this very story, in fact) and one from season 17. Only Barry Letts matches this record in Classic Who; Philip Hinchcliffe's era only gets one 10/10 (The Robots of Death), as do Verity Lambert's, Innes Lloyd's, and John Nathan-Turner's. Not a bad record for an "inferior" period!

    For completeness, I'll add that the picture changes if we look further down my chart: nine of the next ten stories from seasons 12-17 are from Hinchcliffe. Still, credit where credit is due.

    Horror of Fang Rock was the last story I wholeheartedly enjoyed on original broadcast. But more on that next time...

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  5. Off-topic a little: I've been using Fang Rock to teach The Ballad of Flannan Isle this term. The class are aged around 12-13. They found Tom's glee jarring and inappropriate although they liked Leela's "superpowers". Interestingly, when invited to speculate on the real nature of The Beast, they guessed "giant jellyfish"!

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  6. Alex - excellent point about the social commentary. Though, again, this supports the larger point - that this is a very small-scale, character-based sort of commentary.

    William - Yes, but Planet of Evil does it , as you point out, prior to episode one. Pyramids of Mars has a massive death toll, but that's still not characters being picked off. The Robots of Death link is better, but even there it's a murder mystery, not a "monster hunting the characters" structure. That hunting-based structure is not actually particular common in the years preceding this story.

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  7. I love "Horror of Fang Rock" and I love the Graham Williams era (well, most of it anyway). At its best it's just as metafictional as the Hinchcliffe/Holmes era and in my opinion the only reason to slag off humour is if it's badly done or out of place, neither of which I think is particulalry applicable to the majority of the next few seasons.

    There, I said it. Fire away.

    I will submit Season 15 is my least favourite season of the era, though, with only "Horror of Fang Rock", "Image of the Fendahl" and "The Sun Makers" striking me as particularly memorable or watchable (and "Sun Makers" I haven't seen in awhile). After that though I think Season 16 is genius and Season 17 is wildly underrated.

    With that out of the way and the bounty on my head, I'll toss in a few thoughts about "Horror of Fang Rock" itself. I've always loved this story, mostly for the eery, claustrophobic mood it does so well. Setting the entire story inside the one lighthouse and keeping everyone speculating about what's going on until the last 10 minutes or so really ratchets up the paranoia. Some of my favourite moments are watching the marooned cruisers slowly self-destruct the longer they stay cramped up and immobilised. Something is clearly very wrong in their world, they don't like having their norms disrupted and they'll do anything to restore the status quo, even if it means airing everyone's dirty laundry and stabbing each other in the back in a frantic bit of rampant egoistic self-preservation until the whole situation completely unravels. I can't help reading this as an incredibly potent commentary on social apathy and the sociopathic part of me finds that deliciously cathartic to watch: As The Joker would say, "Nobody worries so long as everything is going according to plan, even if the plan is horrible".

    Tying into this is Leela who, and I must disagree with you here, I think gets one of her best turns on the entire show. At no time is she kidnapped, patronised, or in any way used as merely a plot device: She is just as integral to solving the mystery as The Doctor and gets a lot of great moments trying to mediate between him and the lighthouse dwellers, putting her in an unusual position and forcing her to improvise in ways we hadn't seen from her before (and sadly wouldn't see again). One of my favourite clifhangers of all time is in this serial (if I recall correctly it's the Episode 1-2 stinger) where Leela goes out onto the rocks to investigate and seemingly gets menaced by the monster. The implication is that she'll be captured or injured or something but, in a wonderful subversion, she drives her knife clean into it and marches back to the lighthouse to report her findings. That bit always makes me cheer.

    (cont'd Wow I need to stop ding this)

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  8. Observing her actions over the course of the serial, I find it hard to argue Leela's role in "Horror of Fang Rock" isn't one of, if not the, most overtly, explicitly and laudably feminist moment in the series since Katy Manning's tenure. I mentioned the Episode 1 cliffhanger and you already brought up the scene with Adelaide but the clincher for me is how Leela casually spends the entire serial in working class Victorian men's clothing and how she responds to the reaction she gets: As the lighthouse keepers awkwardly walk on eggshells around her trying to treat her in accordance with the customs of the time, Leela reassuringly says "Oh, me? Oh I am no lady." It's a beautifully subtle moment that for me captures the essence of Leela at her best (and may be a minor pot shot at her origin). She simply does not allow herself to be pigeonholed or force herself to fill some predetermined social role: She just is who she is, takes charge of the situation and does things her own way regardless.

    As a result, Leela actually winds up becoming central to most of the narrative action here and she has to be because The Doctor is frequently absent, spending a great deal of time brooding in a corner somewhere. He's clearly several steps ahead of everyone else and equally clearly not willing to let anyone in on what he's doing. It's notable that. as you said, on the occasions he does decide to talk it's with Leela thus forming a kind of warm rapport and easy working relationship we don't often see from them. Ultimately though I like this setup: I think it's appropriate that the companion ends up taking charge of most of the story's heft while The Doctor sits at the margins until the very end. I'd say who that reminds me of, but I've probably said too much already and anyone remotely familiar with my writing and my opinions on Doctor Who should already know what would have come next. ;-)

    That being said I don't think the serial is entirely perfect: I found the end reveal of the Rutans to be extremely anticlimactic and underwhelming, especially given the haunting, claustrophobic suspense of the rest of the serial. There's also still the bothersome undercurrent of Modernism and Colonialism that unfortunately tends to plague any Leela story, though thankfully it's more muted and underplayed here as opposed to something like "Talons of Weng-Chiang". That being said it's still one of my all-time favourite Doctor Who stories and my first line of defense when I get inevitably scolded for liking the Graham Williams era.

    Great analysis and I'm really looking forward to seeing your take on the rest of this tenure!

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  9. Phil -- if you define what this story is like narrowly enough, obviously you can demonstrate that few other stories are like it. ("Ah, but was it... on a lighthouse?"). I don't think it's that important that it's a single monster; what matters is the confined space. All of Pyramids, Planet of Evil and Robots of Death have this, and a small cast of victims who get picked off, and every person who goes down raises the stakes by emphasising that it won't be long until the only one left for the monster to get will be the Doctor. I actually think the England section of Seeds of Doom fits this model less well than the three I've mentioned, because of the difficulty it has keeping the characters in one place so the Krynoid can kill them.

    I think Ark in Space fits it less well too, but for a more interesting reason. The classic Hinchcliffe model is a horror movie, where there's a more-or-less unstoppable monster that kills you when you're not expecting it, or when you're actively trying to run away. Ark in Space is more like a war movie -- almost all characters are killed when knowingly walking into danger, rather than trying to run away from it. The horror movie is a better nightmare but there's a lot to be said for the war movie too.

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  10. Having watched this recently, I was struck by the nearly seamless weaving of what is obviously a Terrance Dicks script (the extended 'men talking about/doing manly things' opening and the enemy reveal/denouement are clear markers of his work) into the Hinchcliffe aesthetic, all under Graham Williams' watch. It is perhaps the strongest start ever for a new producer, and his tenure includes another of my all-time favorites, so it will be interesting to see how you navigate his tenure, Phil. Looking forward to it.

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  11. Alex Wilcox:
    "Bob Holmes giving him an historical set in a lighthouse as revenge for Terrance’s imposition of an historical background in The Time Warrior, Terrance being inspired by that to think of a creature that would be the opposite of Sontarans"

    Brilliant! All these years, that never crossed my mind (nor have I ever ran across the thought before).



    "and of course – for reasons I suspect you may come to under State of Decay a – with “Fang”, and parasitic aristocrats, and a man named Harker, I can’t help seeing as Terrance Dicks sticking two fingers up at Dracula."

    Yes, as much as FANG ROCK feels like a leftover from Season 14, it must really have been a last-minute idea, as they were planning to do a vampire story, but the Beeb told them not to, as they didn't want something that would compete with COUNT DRACULA with Louis Jourdan & Frank Finlay. That's one of my top fave adaptations of that story, let down only by it being shot on video, which of course, watching DOCTOR WHO has allowed me to become used to (it even made it easier to deal with THE AVENGERS seasons 2-3 when I finally saw them them in the early 90s).




    WPGJosh:
    "He's clearly several steps ahead of everyone else and equally clearly not willing to let anyone in on what he's doing. It's notable that. as you said, on the occasions he does decide to talk it's with Leela thus forming a kind of warm rapport and easy working relationship we don't often see from them."

    Just hit me, it's like Van Helsing & Mina in COUNT DRACULA. I finally read the novel a couple years ago, and it really struck me that Van Helsing's own secretiveness in many ways leads directly to Lucy's death. How many times have we seen Jon Pertwee's Doctor pull this same crap? Finlay's Van Helsing was "softened" a bit to make him less cuplable. But after Mina proves she's the smartest character in the whole story, he still makes the blunder of trying to keep her out of things for her own protection, which is what leads to her ALMOST getting killed! I've wondered ever since if Stoker did this deliberately to show how stupid and dangerous that kind of sexist attitude could be.

    Leela is wonderful in this story, and I wish she could have worn outfits like that for the rest of the season.

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