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22 April 2014

Will Brooks’ 50 Year Diary - watching Doctor Who one episode a day from the very start... 

Day 477: Horror of Fang Rock, Episode Three

Dear diary,

The 50 Year Diary Day 477… or ‘How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Fang Rock”…

I don’t know if it’s just be being a Doctor Who fan, but I’m constantly on the edge of my seat in anticipation of disappointment at the moment. Right from the start of this story, I’ve been waiting for it all to go wrong. For the story to come crashing down around me, and to open one of these entries by bemoaning the fact that it had all seemed so promising. Actually, I think I can tell you exactly what the problem is - I discovered that the Hinchcliffe era of Who was my highest-rated on average, so there’s a voice in the back of my mind that tells me everything has to suddenly turn disastrous.

But it’s not happening! Well, not yet, anyway. Once again today, I’ve found myself completely riveted by the events unfolding on Fang Rock, and I almost don’t want to write this entry: I just want to stick on the next episode and see how it all ends. I think the story is helped by the fact that I was expecting a simple runaround. The Doctor and friends are trapped in a lighthouse with a glowing alien blob. Oh no! What we’re actually getting is a tightly-executed lesson in building tension and really hooking in a viewer. We know what the threat in the story is - we’ve had point-of-view shots since the first episode, and we’ve now seen shots of the creature on a few separate occasions - but it still doesn’t feel as though we’re really confronting the monster. Dragging out the tension, and the games being played with the creature, is making this story feel a little unnerving, and claustrophobic - and that’s exactly what Terrance Dicks wants.

All this confined threat is only ramped up by the fact that this is such a bloodthirsty story. We’d lost one of the lighthouse men shortly into the First episode, and now we’ve not only lost Reuben, but discovered that he’s been dead for a while, and it’s a walking corpse we’ve seen wandering around acting strange. It’s not a particularly uncommon theme in this type of literature - a dead person being possessed to continue on in some mission - but what makes me uncomfortable about this particular example is the way the Doctor announces it: finding the man’s body and simply commenting that he’s in a state of rigamortis, and has been dead for some time. I think it’s because it suddenly makes it very real that this man is dead - usually n Doctor Who, we move on too quickly from the dead bodies for things like this to be an issue.

We’ve also lost Lord Palmerdale now, which isn’t a great surprise. The man was too thoroughly vile to live past the end of this story. I’m starting to wonder if any of our characters are going to make it out alive, though. Adelaide is starting to grate on me and become ruder and ruder to the people we care about (in this case, the Doctor, Leela, and VInce), while we’re getting more and more hints about Skinsale’s dark deeds. I can’t decide if I want to know the information that would ruin the man, or if I’d prefer to leave it unsaid. My current guess is that maybe - only maybe - Vince could make it out alive. The legend of the beast says that two of the three keepers died, while the other lost his mind… and Vince is the only one of the trio left alive at this point…

Despite all this darkness, there’s an awful lot of humour to be found in the story still. Palmerdale was a key source of laughs in yesterday’s episode, but much of that is gone for the final minutes of his life here. Instead, it’s Leela who once again lights up the screen for me. I love her slapping Adelaide (I think I may ever have cheered a little…), and her assertion to the Doctor that she’s only a savage being met by his response - ‘come along, savage!’ I think it’s moments like these which may save this story from becoming completely overtaken by the darkness… 

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