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Horror of Fang Rock was the first serial of season 15 of Doctor Who. Graham Williams' three-year stint as producer of the series began with this story. It is the only time that the Rutan Host — the oft-mentioned mortal enemies of the Sontarans — have been depicted in a broadcast television story.


The Doctor and Leela arrive at a lighthouse on the island of Fang Rock off the south coast of England, a place of rumour and tales of beasts from the sea. In the minutes before their arrival, a strange light fell from the sky which was followed by an unnatural glow in the ocean, a thick fog has appeared out of nowhere, the lighthouse power flow has become strangely erratic and one of the keepers is dead. Has the fabled Beast of Fang Rock returned?


Part one[]

On the island of Fang Rock, home to nothing but a lighthouse, off the south coast of England around the start of the 20th century, a light falls from the sky which is soon followed by a strange glow in the ocean.

Vince, one of the lighthouse keepers, notices this and swiftly informs the head keeper, old and superstitious Reuben though he doesn't see anything, remarking it was probably just a meteor. The third keeper, Ben, arrives and Reuben informs him that Vince has been "seeing stars", leading the pair of them to lightly mock him about it. Vince is left on watch but it still intrigued about the light.

Though Vince's curiosities are well founded as something is watching the lighthouse.

Down in the crew room of the lighthouse, Reuben is remarking to Ben about how much simpler it was back when the lights were powered by oil rather than electricity though Ben remarks that they weren't as safe back then. Vince then informs them that a fog is coming in fast, which Ben finds curious as there was no sign of it previously and goes to see for himself.

The TARDIS then materialises on the island.

Sure enough, the entire island is now smothered in a thick fog. The keepers stare at it in disbelief as they've never known such a thick fog come in so quickly. It is also rather cold; leading Ben to comment it has probably come from Iceland but Vince says it's come from the spot he saw the light hit but Ben dismisses that and tells the young man to start sounding the siren. Though Reuben comments to Ben that Vince may be right as it does seem rather unnatural but Ben still doesn't believe it. Reuben comments that oil lights produced better light in fog but Ben doesn't agree, remarking that electricity is very reliable. At that moment, the light switches off, leading Reuben to remark "Reliable?!" sarcastically while chuckling.

The Doctor's plans to show Brighton to Leela are on hold for now, as yet again the TARDIS has taken its occupants to the wrong time and place. Noticing that the lighthouse isn't functioning properly, the Doctor decides to investigate and to ask for directions.

Ben is inspecting the lighthouse generator when the power comes back on though Vince believes Ben fixed it. As Ben heads back upstairs, he fails to notice the door to the lighthouse opening and a green light appearing outside. Vince changes into his jersey due to the cold weather and Ben remarks that the light came back on it's own which they both find strange, leading Ben to comment that something is going on there that he doesn't understand.

Leela then notices the light is shining so they head towards the lighthouse. She is shocked at the sound of the foghorn so the Doctor explains it to her. He then sets off but she stays where she is, muttering that she can feel something's wrong.

The power then goes again so Ben heads back down to the generator. He then sees the green light which is followed by something advancing on him. He screams in terror though it is unheard due to Vince blasting the siren at that moment. Reuben is starting to become very sceptical of the events that have unfolded thus far as they have happened so quickly. He comments that he can always tell when fog is coming and there were no indications of it that day. Vince decides to go down and see if Ben needs help.

The Doctor and Leela then enter the lighthouse. He notes that the generator is working so wonders what's happening to the power. He decides they should speak to the crew and soon come across Vince. The Doctor quickly claims that they're lost and that their ship is on the other side of the island. Vince then leads them up to the crew room.

The Doctor asks Vince what the trouble is with the power and Vince tells him about the generator cutting out and that it's driving Ben nuts. They ask who Ben is and Vince talks about his two fellow keepers. Having been told by Vince that Reuben is up in the lamp room, the Doctor asks where Ben is but Vince is confused as he knows Ben was in the generator room, assuming that the Doctor and Leela must have seen him. He presumes that Ben must have stepped outside but Leela says that if he had been there she would have heard him. Vince wants to go and look for him but the Doctor says he will, leaving Vince to look after Leela. He is excited to have a lady in the lighthouse but she doesn't notice this. He initially offers her a drink but she remarks she would rather have dry clothes. He says they don't have anything suitable for a lady but she laughs and says she's no lady. She starts to undress so he quickly goes to find her some clothes.

The Doctor inspects the generator room but initially can't find any sign of Ben. Vince comes down and thinks the Doctor has fixed the problem and that Ben will be pleased. The Doctor says that won't be the case because Ben is dead; remarking that he was killed by a massive electric shock. Vince is distraught and goes off to tell Reuben. However, Leela knows the Doctor does not believe Ben was killed by the generator. He quickly inspects the coal hole but finds nothing inside. He remarks that whatever killed him has left no trace and probably has the ability to drain electricity. They then notice that Ben's lantern is completely shattered.

Reuben crosses himself having learned of Ben's death. He is sceptical of the Doctor and Leela from what Vince has told him; wondering if they could be spies. Vince doesn't believe it but Reuben remarks that all these events have happened at the time they arrived. He decides to go down and see them himself.

The Doctor and Leela are in the crew room. He is telling her about the old telegraph machine in the room which the Doctor realises the keepers use to communicate with the mainland but Reuben comes in and tells him to leave it alone. He is rather hostile towards them and the Doctor works out he thinks they're connected to Ben's death.

Leela goes out to hunt for whatever may have killed Ben while Vince is telling the Doctor about the light he saw earlier which the latter finds interesting. While Leela is outside, she notices that all the fish in a rock pool are dead. Reuben sends Vince downstairs to have his dinner while he stays in the lamp room with the Doctor. As Vince is going down the stairs, he hears a strange electric crackling sound. Leela continues to wander around outside, unaware she is being watched. Vince then discovers that Ben's body has gone and he hurriedly informs Reuben. Leela then comes back inside, making Vince jump with fright. The Doctor then tells Reuben that he's seen a light outside. A horn then starts sounding from out in the fog. Vince and Leela hurry upstairs.

Reuben realises it's a steam yacht going too fast and that it's heading straight for the rocks. He tells Vince to continue sounding the siren. Cries of distress are heard coming from the yacht. Reuben fires flares into the air but the ship soon runs aground upon the rocks......

Part two[]

The Doctor, Reuben, and Vince run down to see if there are any survivors on the yacht, leaving Leela to sound the siren. While she is waiting for them, she spots something strange moving along the rocks.

There are four survivors of the yacht's wreck: the bo'sun, Harker; an MP, Colonel James Skinsale; the yacht's owner, Lord Palmerdale; and his highly strung secretary, Adelaide Lessage. It slowly emerges that Palmerdale has bought government secrets from Skinsale and was desperate to reach the Stock Exchange in London to make a killing — that was why the ship was travelling at such high speed in the appalling weather. When Harker comes inside he is carrying Ben, or rather, what's left of him. The Doctor speculates that whatever killed him wanted to study his body and therefore learn more about human anatomy.

The Doctor continues to analyse the threat being faced. Reuben believes the Beast of Fang Rock is back, but the Doctor assures Leela there is no such thing. He thinks the light which fell from the sky was a spaceship landing. Aliens unfamiliar with humans are attracted to the lighthouse's electricity. They are keeping themselves out of sight while isolating Fang Rock by creating the fog. The Doctor deduces an attack is imminent.

Reuben goes to stoke the boiler. While he is in the boiler room, Leela feels another cold wave, and the electricity fails again. All is silent in the dark, save for Reuben screaming in the boiler room...

Part three[]

The Doctor and Leela go outside to investigate. Harker goes down as well and Reuben appears but, behaving very strangely, returns to the bunk room. The Doctor and Leela come back believing that the creature has killed Reuben, but Harker informs them that he's seen Reuben. The Doctor decides they should ask Reuben about the creature as he must have seen it. He then orders Harker to secure the lighthouse door.

The power returns but Palmerdale is getting more anxious about needing to return to London and leaves after arguing with Skinsale. Reuben meanwhile has locked himself in the bunk room and (unseen by the Doctor and Leela) is glowing a strange green colour. In the lamp room, Palmerdale then gives Vince £50 to send a message to London using the telegraph machine, with a further £50 once he returns to the capital (though this bribe is overheard by Skinsale). While they are talking, something is shown to be climbing up the outside of the lighthouse. Palmerdale hears the Doctor coming and hides outside on the lamp gallery. Vince is nervous, as events seem to playing out in the same way as the last time the Beast of Fang Rock appeared, but the Doctor reassures him that they outnumber the beast. While Palmerdale is outside waiting for the Doctor to leave, a strange green light appears from below him and he is killed.

Skinsale continues to voice his doubts about Palmerdale, making Adelaide furious; she goes to speak to the man himself about it. Leela breaks a hole in the bunk room door with a sledgehammer, through which she and the Doctor see that Reuben is standing completely still and can't seem to hear them. As Adelaide comes past them on the stairs, the Doctor promptly orders her to go back down. Vince finds that Palmerdale has disappeared from the lamp gallery, and burns the money the lord gave him.

The Doctor tells Skinsale and Adelaide that the creature they are dealing with is extraterrestrial, which they both dismiss. Vince then tells them that Palmerdale has fallen from the lamp gallery. Upon hearing this news, Adelaide howls in despair but is promptly silenced by a slap from Leela. The Doctor and Skinsale go outside to retrieve his body and Harker secures the door again. The Doctor then discovers that the telegraph machine has been sabotaged, thereby cutting them off from the outside world. Skinsale admits he did it to prevent Palmerdale from sending the message and thereby protect his own reputation.

Down in the boiler room, Reuben corners Harker. Vince tries the siren but finds it won't sound, meaning the boiler pressure has dropped. Adelaide and Skinsale cannot understand why Palmerdale would have fallen but the Doctor tells them that he was killed by an electric current, and therefore dead before he hit the ground. Vince then informs them about the siren and the Doctor realises something has happened to Harker.

They all go down and discover Harker's body. Adelaide and Skinsale then go back upstairs and the Doctor remarks that Harker was killed the same way as the others. They inspect the boiler room and find Reuben's body, which has been hidden. The Doctor says that he's in rigor mortis — he's been dead for hours. Leela is confused, as she knew that Reuben was in his room. The shocked Doctor realises that he has overlooked the chameleon factor, which he says is sometimes called lycanthropy. In securing the lighthouse, the Doctor has locked the creature inside with them...

Part four[]

The creature, in the guise of Reuben, appears to Vince with a grin, and kills him in a flash of blue light by placing a hand on his head.

The Doctor and Leela discuss the creature as Leela fills the boiler. The Doctor says it has great power, but it needed to study the human life pattern first. He says that "organic restructuring is elementary physiology for Time Lords". Leela misunderstands, believing that if the creature is a Time Lord, then they have no chance to stop it. The Doctor corrects her, saying that what his people consider elementary might take other species thousands of years to master. Leela responds, "Then we have nothing to worry about," because the Doctor, as a Time Lord, should be able to deal with the creature easily. The Doctor seems to be buffered by her blind faith in his people and begins to consider why the creature took the form of Reuben. Leela suggests trying to deceive the creature into thinking its ruse was effective, but the Doctor says it's too dangerous. They then find an alien power relay being used with a distress beacon. He goes to look for the signal modulator but sends Leela to gather the rest of the survivors and bring them to the lamp room.

Adelaide begs Skinsale to stop pacing. They're startled by the appearance of Leela, who tells them that Harker has died, the creature is inside, and they must fight for their lives. To Leela's consternation, Adelaide faints. "Reuben" interrupts the Doctor as he searches someone's bunk; the Doctor evades him by climbing out the window, dangling by his fingertips. Adelaide is revived by Skinsale but doesn't want to go. They get her moving, only to find that "Reuben" has found them. The Doctor laboriously climbs back inside, revealing that he has found a device. "Reuben" kills Adelaide right in front of Leela and Skinsale, and they run for it. The Doctor confronts the alien and it sheds its disguise, revealing a tentacled glowing green gelatinous sphere resembling a giant jellyfish. The Doctor immediately recognises it as a Rutan, who uses plural pronouns to reference itself and declares that it is a scout trained in the "new metamorphosis techniques". The Doctor says it'll get better at them in time. It refuses to tell the Doctor why it is there, but it is angered when the Doctor suggests that the Rutans must be losing their never-ending war with the Sontarans. The Rutan Scout declares that the Rutan Host is instead making "a series of strategic withdrawals", and although the Earth is remote, it has a sound enough strategic position to launch a counterattack. The Doctor is alarmed, as the Sontarans will use photonic bombardment to dislodge the Rutan presence, thereby killing many people. He realises that the Rutan Scout ship crash landed in the sea, and it confirms that it is trying to summon its mother ship. The Doctor reveals that he has deactivated both the primary transmitter and the backup. The Rutan Scout says it was transmitting long enough, and the Doctor says it won't last long before fleeing upstairs to the lamp room.

Leela and Skinsale have made it to the lamp room and start following the Doctor's instructions to break open the maroons (maroon flares) and spread the powder down the stairs. The Doctor rushes in and uses the powder and a fuse to hurt the Rutan Scout, who retreats back down the stairs. He explains that Ruta III is an icy planet (so its inhabitants find heat painful) and asks if they have more gunpowder or, hopefully, a flamethrower.

Skinsale shows him a kind of mortar they brought up from below. The Doctor grabs a flare device, and they stuff it with items from their pockets to create shrapnel. As they do so, he explains that the real threat is the Rutan ship that is on the way.

The three devise a plan, with Leela suggesting that the Doctor change the lighthouse into a laser, but the Doctor needs crystalline carbondiamond — to focus it. Skinsale says that Palmerdale always carried diamonds, and they get to work.

The men make their way downstairs while Leela covers them with the flare. Skinsale retrieves the diamonds from a hidden pouch. The Doctor selects one, then throws the rest on the floor before running back upstairs. Skinsale tries to collect the other diamonds, and so doesn't see the Scout approaching. The Doctor glances back and watches as the Scout kills Skinsale. Leela shoots it with the mortar before gloating over its death. As the Doctor converts the lighthouse into a high-energy laser using the diamond, they watch the mother ship approach. The Doctor warns Leela that once he turns it on, they cannot look back and they will have 117 seconds to get out of the lighthouse. They flee the lighthouse and run for cover as the laser destroys the Rutan mothership. Leela sneaks a look back despite the Doctor's orders not to and is blinded by the flash; she gives her knife to the Doctor and begs to be killed, as amongst the Sevateem that is the fate of the old and crippled. Although he takes the knife, the Doctor laughs as he gets a closer look at her eyes. He explains that the blindness is temporary, but he is surprised to find that the flash has caused pigmentation dispersal in Leela's eyes — in plain English, they've changed colour and are now blue. The Doctor quotes Wilfrid Gibson's poem Flannan Isle as they leave Fang Rock, which echoes eerily on the empty island as the TARDIS fades away:

Aye: though we hunted high and low,
And hunted everywhere,
Of the three men's fate we found no trace
Of any kind in any place,
But a door ajar, and an untouch'd meal,
And an overtoppled chair...


Uncredited cast[]


Uncredited crew[]




  • Vince Hawkins tells Leela that he talks to seals to combat boredom.

Cultural references from real world[]


  • The Rutan is a scout from the Rutan Empire.
  • The Rutan used to control the whole Mutter's Spiral but the Sontarans have driven them to the far fringes of the galaxy.



  • The story was inspired by Wilfred Gibson's 1912 poem Flannan Isle, which was in turn based upon true events which occurred in 1900, when a supply ship discovered that the lighthouse crew on the Flannan Isles in the Outer Hebrides had vanished without a trace. Terrance Dicks also drew on Ray Bradbury's 1951 short story "The Fog Horn", about an aquatic dinosaur which has survived in the ocean's depths but is attracted by the call of a lighthouse's fog horn.

Story notes[]

  • This story had the working titles The Rocks of Doom (also Rocks of Doom), The Monster of Fang Rock and The Beast of Fang Rock.
  • Horror of Fang Rock was a late replacement for the scripts Terrance Dicks had originally submitted, a vampire-based tale entitled The Vampire Mutations, which was cancelled close to production lest it detract from the BBC's high-profile adaptation of Dracula, due for transmission close to when the serial would have aired. A re-written version of The Vampire Mutations eventually saw production in 1980 as State of Decay.
  • John Abbott recalled that director Paddy Russell cast him as Vince Hawkins after seeing him play Snoopy in a play in the Edinburgh Fringe.
  • Paddy Russell didn't particularly enjoy her experience working on this story, largely because she much preferred Terrance Dicks' original script and didn't think much of the hastily written replacement, but was contractually obligated to still direct the new story. Filming also wasn't a particularly happy experience for her, in part due to constantly clashing with Tom Baker and Louise Jameson, and also because the facilities at the BBC's Birmingham studios (where they had to move production of the story to, due to scheduling conflicts at the BBC Television Centre) weren't up to scratch. This resulted in her deciding not to direct for the show again.
  • In the DVD commentary, Terrance Dicks says he was unhappy about Tom Baker's delivery of the line "Dead, with honour", when telling Leela of Colonel Skinsale's fate. In the episode, Baker says "Dead with honour", with no pause. In his novelisation of the story, Dicks writes the line as "Dead. With honour", to emphasise what he had intended — that Skinsale was dead, but after a moment's thought adding that it was "with honour" (even though it wasn't).
  • The "pigment dispersal" scene at the end of the story when Leela's eyes change from brown to blue was a practical (rather than story) motivated event. It was so Louise Jameson did not have to continue wearing brown contact lenses. This was done to keep her as a member of the cast, as she found wearing the lenses uncomfortable and seriously considered leaving the show. Horror of Fang Rock was actually the second story filmed of the season, after The Invisible Enemy, so when the time came to don the contacts for this story, Jameson's eyes had had a rest for several weeks and she was better able to cope.
  • In the scene where Leela slaps Adelaide to stop her screaming, Louise Jameson did indeed slap Annette Woollett quite hard. Jameson stated in the DVD commentary that Woollett insisted that she not hold anything back when doing the slap.
  • The story's exact year is never made explicit, but a reference to the beast being seen "eighty years ago" in the "twenties" suggests the early 20th century. Lance Parkin's unofficial chronology aHistory dates it to c.1902.
  • According to the DVD commentary by Louise Jameson, a scene in part three was crucial to the behind-the-scenes relationship between her and co-star Tom Baker. In the scene where he comes in carrying Palmerdale's body, he consistently came in ahead of his cue, thereby upstaging her. On the grounds that this move was "not what [they] had rehearsed", she insisted on three successive retakes until he finally came in at the rehearsed time. This apparently won his respect. From that point forward, she claims, their working relationship was much smoother.
  • Though not stated in the televised story, the reason Vince burns Lord Palmerdale's £50 bribe money following his death is because he is concerned that he may be accused of murdering Palmerdale should he be found to have the money. This is clarified by Terrance Dicks in both the novelisation and the DVD commentary.
  • This is the second of two serials in which Leela does not wear either of her famous leather outfits. After this, however, it was decided to return her to her original, more revealing costume introduced in The Face of Evil.
  • This story marks the last time that the Doctor travels with only a single companion until The Caves of Androzani in 1984. However, if the introduction of Nyssa in The Keeper of Traken does not qualify her as a companion, then the next occasion really occurs in that story.
  • This was the final televised story in which every character other than the Doctor and his companion(s) is killed until The Doctor's Wife in 2011. In early drafts of the story, Adelaide and Skinsale survived; however, this was changed to make the story more resonant with the poem Flannan Isle. (INFO: Horror of Fang Rock) Stories in which most of the characters die include Pyramids of Mars (also directed by Paddy Russell), Warriors of the Deep, The Caves of Androzani, The Parting of the Ways and Sleep No More.
  • Although they are referenced in several other stories, particularly those featuring their enemies the Sontarans, this is to date the only televised appearance of the Rutans in Doctor Who.
  • Paddy Russell claimed that Tom Baker so infuriated the crew that they tried to swing a pair of mole cranes at his head, until she saw what they were doing and ordered them to stop. "Tom Baker was easy to deal with at first, but the part went to his head completely. By the time I did Horror of Fang Rock, he was desperately difficult to work with. His input got totally out of hand. His attitude to his fellow actors was extremely difficult, his attitude to his director was extremely difficult, and his attitude to the crew was extremely difficult. For instance, it was always everybody else’s fault, and never Tom’s. His idea was to have that show to himself. He didn’t want an assistant, and he made their lives hell. Louise Jameson went through hell on that show, and that lady is a very good actress. Fortunately, she’s very tough, and she got a lot of support from everyone else. I found her excellent to work with, but Tom hardly spoke to her, and when he did it was usually something nasty".
  • Tom Baker began an on-off relationship with Sue Jerrard, who was working as an editor on this serial. He broke it off to marry Lalla Ward, and then, after divorcing Lalla, rekindled his relationship with Sue and married her. They've been married ever since.
  • In the original script, Colonel Skinsale's wife Veronica appeared. She was ultimately removed.
  • This was the first time that Ron Grainer, the original composer and writer of the Doctor Who theme music, was not credited for the "Title Music", even though Delia Derbyshire's theme arrangement was used in this story. This would occur until The King's Demons, and in Warriors of the Deep. The Five Doctors was the first time Ron Grainer was credited for the title music after his death in 1981. He was credited from The Awakening to Survival. He was not credited in the TV Movie but has been credited for the "Original Theme Music" in every episode of the revived series.
  • Frank Middlemass was originally offered the role of Reuben Crockett.
  • Reuben was originally named Jonathan, Vince was originally named Davy, Lord Palmerdale was originally named Peach-Palmer and Herbert Berkin was originally named Harker.
  • Paddy Russell was particularly underwhelmed by the lighthouse setting, as it meant dealing with a lot of curved sets, which were challenging to film. Furthermore, the exterior walls of the lamp room, in which much of the action took place, would be largely comprised of glass windows. Their transparent nature would therefore require extensive use of chroma key, imposing even more limitations on Russell's choice of shots.
  • Louise Jameson felt that the scripts required Leela to behave uncharacteristically on several occasions, reportedly even screaming at one point, and she had to fight to ensure that these issues were addressed. She came to believe that Terrance Dicks had written the serial with Sarah Jane Smith in mind.
  • The Pebble Mill staff were keen to attract more productions away from London, and consequently made an exceptional effort to be as helpful and efficient as possible, even stealing cameras from an adjacent studio to ensure that one sequence could be recorded the way Paddy Russell wanted.
  • Tom Baker and Paddy Russell had clashed while filming Pyramids of Mars. That tension resurfaced during production. Russell found Baker more difficult than usual, while Baker was frustrated that Russell turned a deaf ear to any discussions about enhancing the material. During the recording a scene in the crew room, Baker repeatedly entered too quickly to be kept in shot; Russell finally gave up, and instructed the cameraman to train his lens on Louise Jameson instead.[1]


  • Part one - 6.8 million viewers
  • Part two - 7.1 million viewers
  • Part three - 9.8 million viewers
  • Part four - 9.9 million viewers


  • Louise Jameson breaks character and corpses on camera after delivering Leela's "pep talk" to the Doctor in the boiler room. (She can be seen breaking into a smile and laughing after Tom Baker turns his back, but Jameson says on the DVD commentary that the laughter was scripted.)
  • This story was originally written while Sarah Jane Smith was still a companion but was shelved and then brought back after Terrance Dicks's original script had to be changed. (Dicks confirmed on the DVD commentary that this was an original story and had not been written beforehand.)

Filming locations[]

  • Horror of Fang Rock was the only story of the classic series run to be made entirely outside of London. Due to engineering work at BBC Television Centre — the programme's usual production base — its principal studio location was Pebble Mill Studios in Birmingham.

Production errors[]

If you'd like to talk about narrative problems with this story — like plot holes and things that seem to contradict other stories — please go to this episode's discontinuity discussion.
  • As the Rutan is about to kill Ben, the POV shot makes it seem like the Rutan almost as tall as him when in fact it's barely one foot high in its natural form.
  • Palmerdale's death was filmed in reverse to achieve the right effect. However, he reacts too slowly to the tentacle being pulled off him, which leads to him looking like he is screaming before even being attacked.


Max Headroom signal hijacking[]


Screen capture of "Max Headroom" taken during the hijacked broadcast.

Main article: Wikipedia:Max Headroom signal hijacking.

On 22 November 1987, a rebroadcast of Horror of Fang Rock on PBS affiliate WTTW in Chicago, Ill., was the target of a bizarre prank in which individuals managed to hijack WTTW's broadcast feed and, for nearly 90 seconds, the pranksters aired footage of two individuals, one wearing a Max Headroom mask, spouting gibberish and advertising catchphrases including those at the time associated with Max Headroom and Coca-Cola, and humming music. The two also engaged in mildly risqué behaviour near the end of the tape. The signal intrusion occurred twice that evening: first during highlights from an American Football game on a newscast on the then-independent commercial station WGN-TV, and later during the broadcast of Horror of Fang Rock on public television station WTTW. The first attempt appeared to be partially unsuccessful as those responsible were unable to properly broadcast sound, only managing to provide electronic buzzing and screeches in the signal's audio channels, and were quickly cut off by WGN-TV. The Doctor Who interruption had proper sound, albeit distorted, and ran in its entirety.

The Doctor Who interruption appeared to have been pre-recorded, and was transmitted during the first part of Horror of Fang Rock, just as Vince is offering to get Leela a hot drink. The footage starts with a man disguised as television personality Max Headroom, referring to an unknown individual who the presenter describes as a "frickin' nerd" before mentioning sports personality Chuck Swirsky and laughing. The presenter proceeds to toss a Pepsi Cola can at the camera while saying "Catch the Wave" (referencing the actual Max Headroom, who used the slogan as part of a marketing campaign for Coca-Cola's then-current "New Coke") before raising his middle finger up to the camera (an obscene gesture in the United States, akin to the inverted V-sign in Britain) while wearing a rubber finger atop the former. The presenter then states that "your love is fading," a reference to the 1966 Temptations song "(I Know) I'm Losing You," and removes the rubber finger. He then sings the theme tune to the 1959 American synchro-vox cartoon Clutch Cargo and states, "I can still see the 'X'" midway (a reference to Clutch Cargo's final episode, "Big X"). Groaning, the presenter then moans, "My piles," referring to haemorrhoid pain, and gyrates while making flatulent noises, describing it as "a giant masterpiece for all the greatest world newspaper nerds" (an apparent insult at WGN). He proceeds to don a cloth glove on his left hand (stating that the other one is "dirty" and in his brother's possession) before taking it off in disgust after complaining that there are bloodstains on it. At this point, the tape cuts to another angle where a second individual is visible. The first individual's rear end is visible, yet his face is left off-camera. He holds his mask up to the camera with the rubber finger in its mouth, claiming that "they're coming to get me," before the second individual (dressed as a French maid) commands him to bend over. The second individual repeatedly spanks the first with a flyswatter while the latter pleads to "make it stop." The transmission cuts to black and then Doctor Who resumes at the scene where the Fourth Doctor surmises that Ben had died of electrocution. Representatives for WTTW later admitted that they were powerless to stop the broadcast because the engineers were not on duty at the Sears Tower transmitters.

In the days following, the scene from Horror of Fang Rock that had been interrupted was rebroadcast on local Chicago and national media. The individuals responsible for the illegal hijacking of the two broadcast signals have never been identified or apprehended; it is also a mystery as to whether the Doctor Who broadcast had been targeted specifically, or if the pranksters just happened to choose that moment to begin their hijack.

Home video and audio releases[]

DVD releases[]

This story was released as Doctor Who: Horror of Fang Rock.


Special Features[]

  • Commentary by Louise Jameson (Leela), John Abbott (Vince) and Terrance Dicks (Writer)
  • Terrance Dicks: Fact & Fiction - With a writing career spanning 6 decades, Terrance Dicks is featured in this special documentary that looks at his work for books and television, with contributions from many of his friends and colleagues
  • Paddy Russell: A Life in Television - In this specially shot interview, Paddy looks back over her forty year career in television as an actress, stage manager and director.
  • The Antique Doctor Who Show - This short film from 1993 gives an insightful look into the merchandising of Doctor Who
  • Photo Gallery
  • Production Subtitles
  • Easter Egg: VT countdown clock for Part 3. To access this hidden feature, press left at The Antique Doctor Who Show on the Special Features menu to reveal a hidden Doctor Who logo.


VHS releases[]

This story was released as Doctor Who: Horror of Fang Rock.


Audio releases[]

  • The story was released as a soundtrack CD by BBC Audio in September 2012 with linking narration by Louise Jameson.
  • The story was re-released on Vinyl by Demon Records, also with the Louise Jameson narration, on 19 February 2021.

External links[]