Horror of Fang Rock
Target novelisation
Doctor Who and the Horror of Fang Rock

Author Terrance Dicks Cover image
Published 1978
ISBN 0 426 20009 8
First Edition Cover Jeff Cummins

Back cover blurb: On a remote rocky island a few miles off the Channel coast stands the Fang Rock lighthouse. There have always been tales of the beast of Fang Rock, but when the Tardis lands here with Leela and the Doctor, the force they must deal with is more sinister and deadly than the mythical beast of the past. It is the early 1900s, electricity is just coming into common usage, and the formless, gelatinous mass from the future must use the lighthouse generators to recharge its system. Nothing can stop this Rutan scout in its search and its experimentation on humans...


Horror of the Print by Tim Roll-Pickering 29/3/04

A quick glance at any page of this book reveals that is has some of the largest print I have ever seen in any Target novelisation with about thirty lines a page, compared to thirty-eight in the next published book, Doctor Who and the Tomb of the Cybermen. What makes this all the more shocking is that the book is an adaptation of one of Terrance Dicks' own stories and normally these are amongst Dicks' most densely written books. For both Dicks and the novelisation range as a whole, Doctor Who and the Horror of Fang Rock stands out as a worrying landmark suggesting a decline in standards and suggesting that the books can only go downhill from here. In 1994 the proposed reprint of the novelisation was the first casualty of Target's decision to terminate its reprint programme and whilst the loss of the subsequent planned reprints may have denied many fans the chance to get a reprint of Doctor Who - Fury from the Deep, I can't help but feel that it was a blessing that they stopped in March 1994 rather than go one month further and so have made the last printing of a Target novelisation based on a television story this book, showing attempts to maximise the output by cutting down on standards.

Although it is extremely short there is nevertheless a lot to recommend about this novelisation. As the original author of the story it is clear that Dicks retains a strong liking for it and seeks to make it work as well as it did on television. Every single one of the characters is sketched out well, with the class divisions of Edwardian Britain really emphasised in scenes such as the one where Vince realises he has to burn the massive bribe Palmerdale has just given him as he knows he will otherwise be accused of killing the peer. Each character sums up their backgrounds clearly and the story makes for an interesting exposition of how society was structured at this time, with the Doctor and Leela standing out for their different relationship and attitudes. The one element that initially comes across as poorly conceived is the business between Skinsale and Palmerdale about the confidential information that will allow the latter to make a fortune from on the stock market but at the former's expense. Initially this comes across very much as padding but gradually it comes to the forefront of the story as both men through their own personal greed and honour disrupt the Doctor's attempts to deal with the menace and save everyone. The images of Palmerdale being found and killed as he hides on the balcony of the lighthouse so as to keep his bribing of Vince secret and of Skinsale being blasted by the Rutan as he scrabbles for diamonds are both strong ones, showing how in the end they bring about their own destruction.

The resolution of the story is a little hard to swallow though. The idea that the Doctor can use a diamond and the lighthouse lamp to rig up a laser to destroy the Rutan ship is extremely difficult to swallow. It is well known that this story was an emergency replacement for Dicks' The Vampire Mutations, and some believe this story was taken off the shelf from when it had been earlier rejected. Had the story had a more normal gesticulation process I suspect the ending would have been far more rational - indeed it would have been interesting to see how the tale might have fared had Christopher H. Bidmead been the script editor. Other than this denouement, Doctor Who and the Horror of Fang Rock is a well told book, but the huge print and blatent attempt to make the text run to 128 pages count severely against it. 4/10