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15x1. Horror of Fang Rock
Writer: Terrance Dicks
Director: Paddy Russell
Script Editor: Robert Holmes
Producer: Graham Williams

[Brief note: Yes, I am at long last back on the Doctor Who review beat. However, I may be posting shorter capsule reviews -- such as the one below -- much of the time from now on. Basically, the amount of time it took to write longer reviews was getting in the way of actually watching the serials, since I generally made it a rule not to watch one until I'd finished the review of the previous one.]

Synopsis: The Doctor and Leela arrive at a 19th-century lighthouse whose inhabitants are being picked off by one of the Rutans, an alien race that has been at war with the Sontarans for thousands of years.

Review: I approached "Horror of Fang Rock" with some trepidation, as the one thing I remembered most about it was that my family and I all hated it back when we first saw it; in fact, if I'm not mistaken, "Horror of Fang Rock" was more or less synonymous with "painfully bad Doctor Who story" as far as we were concerned. Maybe it was partly an effect of low expectations, but I actually found it surprisingly watchable. The story is perhaps a bit pedestrian in its outlines -- Doctor, companion, and guest stars are trapped in a building with a nasty murderous alien, but the script is effective in differentiating between the more working-class employees at the lighthouse and the wealthy travelers who end up stranded there when their yacht crashes into the shore. On the other hand, these class divisions ultimately prove irrelevant to the outcome, as the Rutan ends up killing everyone but the Doctor and Leela. I suppose that arguably makes "Fang Rock" a little more effective as a horror story (according to Wikipedia, this is the only Doctor Who serial in which every single guest character dies), but it also leaves the characterizations and the plot somewhat disconnected from each other. Still, it turns out to be a decent start to the new season as the first Fourth Doctor serial following the departure of Philip Hinchcliffe as producer.

Rating: **1/2 (out of four)