Tuesday, November 17, 2009

4V1 - Horror of Fang Rock 1

Horror of Fang Rock is an odd beast, in a way, as it is in every way a Philip Hinchcliffe era story made within the parameters of the Graham Williams era. Dark, foggy, and mysterious, when watched immediately after The Talons of Weng-Chiang (and not the six-month gap that actually separated the two during their original broadcasts in 1977), the two almost serve as companion pieces.

Fang Rock sets out to be an exercise in minimalism. A lighthouse (and it's surrounding area) serves as the only setting, and, in Episode One, there are only three other characters apart from The Doctor and Leela, and one of them, Ben, dies within the first ten minutes. This allows so much room for both the characters and the situation to develop.

Leela continues with the same fish-out-of-water approach to Edwardian England that she displayed in the Victorian era in Talons. Her casual approach to disrobing in front of Vince is charmingly innocent, and her lack of knowledge about technicians (calling them "Teshnicians") is just lovely. Given the apparent difficulties that Lousie Jameson and Tom Baker were having with each other on set during the making of this story (strife which worked itself out for the better, as it happened), it's great to see the rapport between the two on screen untempered.

Tom Baker is also at the top of his game. I love how he casually puts on Ben's bowler hat in the crew room and wears it for the better part of this episode. It's just another one of those little touches that Tom Baker adds to his performance as The Doctor that makes him so memorable. Listen to the world weary way he tells Vince that he "always finds trouble" in this episode soon after he discovers Ben's body. When Reuben first meets The Doctor in the crew room, just look at all the little business Baker creates for himself while speaking with the lighthouse keeper. It's a thoroughly measured and thought out performance from an actor who was, as we'll discover over these four episodes, at the absolute top of his game.


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