Sue: What do I need to know about this one?
Me: Well, it’s a new season and there’s a new producer in charge.
She didn’t ask me for a name. That’s how interested she is.
Me: Oh, and this story was made in Birmingham.
She couldn’t care less. In fact, it’s probably fair to say this story gets off to a very rocky start. Sorry.
Sue: New season. New producer. New shit special effect.
Two men are keeping watch on a lighthouse.
Sue: The CSO’s a bit dodgy. They probably weren’t used to it in Birmingham. I bet they didn’t use CSO on Pebble Mill at One all that much.
When the TARDIS lands nearby, Leela fears the worst.
Sue: It’s official – Leela is definitely psychic. She isn’t a very good psychic, though. She needs to be more specific. Of course something feels wrong, you’re a Doctor Who companion. Get used to it, pet.
Back in the lighthouse…
Sue: Gorgeous brickwork.
Sue: Lovely cabinets.
Me: There’s enough confectionary on those shelves to open a sweet shop.
Freezing fog envelops the coastline and the power goes out. The lighthouse keeper (or George Harrison, if you’re Sue) heads to the generator room to investigate, only to be brutally murdered.
Sue: It’s like The Mist. Maybe we should watch this in black and white?
The Doctor and Leela enter the lighthouse and he makes a bee-line for a discarded hat.
Sue: His hat fetish is back again, I see. Oh dear, that isn’t a good look for him. Take it off, please.
The Doctor pumps Vince for information about the lighthouse.
Sue: Lovely cabinets.
Me: I know. You’ve already said that.
Sue: But they’re really nice cabinets. And speaking of wood, this guy is terrible.
Vince tells Leela that working in a lighthouse is a lonely business, and he amuses himself by hanging around the local seal population.
Sue: That isn’t the best chat-up line in the world. Trust me, no one will want to marry this lighthouse keeper.
Reuben has his own pet theories about what could have killed George Harrison, including Frogs, Ruskies and spirits.
Sue: So this guy is basically a superstitious racist? I don’t fancy his chances.
Sue makes some appreciative noises about this episode’s camera movement, and she isn’t surprised when I tell her that the director, Paddy Russell, was a woman.
Sue: What I can’t believe is this was shot in a TV studio. It looks better than some locations we’ve been to. It’s all down to the lighting. Paddy knew what she was doing.
Me: You can count the number of female directors who worked on the classic series on one hand.
Sue: That is very sad.
The Doctor charms Vince with tales from other worlds.
Sue: He’s calling it Gallifree again. Maybe Tom Baker pronounces it the right way and we’ve been saying it the wrong way all this time? That would be embarrassing.
A circular frame is placed over the camera to represent the alien’s point of view.
Sue: It isn’t a Dalek, is it? A Dalek wouldn’t fit in a cramped lighthouse, so I’m guessing not.
A luxury yacht appears out of nowhere – and it’s heading for the rocks.
Sue: They’re trying their best, bless them.
And then, after an interminable delay, the theme music crashes in as well.
Sue: That was rubbish. Why didn’t they finish the episode with Leela being threatened by that alien thingy? What was Paddy thinking?
As the credits roll, I notice a familiar name.
Me: Look! It’s John Nathan-Turner’s first credit.
Before you start, I know he worked on The Space Pirates (as John Turner) but who wants to bring that up again?
Sue: That name rings a bell. Is he important?
Sue: Leela couldn’t care less about the crew of this ship that’s just crashed. That’s not very nice.
Leela gazes down from the top of the lighthouse and we get our first real glimpse of the alien creature.
Sue: What the hell was that? There’s no scale. How big is it supposed to be? Is it the size of a bus? Can you step on it? Which is it?
The survivors from the stricken yacht stumble into the lighthouse. They include Lord Henry Palmerdale (“A ****”), his secretary, Adelaide (“Posh totty”), and Colonel Skinsale, who just happens to be the local MP for Thurley (“I bet he’s a Tory”).
Sue: Here comes the fresh meat. It’s clever, actually. I have no complaints about this script.
Reuben tells Leela the creature she spied earlier was the dreaded Beast of Fang Rock.
Sue: You know, this definitely rings a bell. Have I seen this before?
Me: You’re probably thinking of Fraggle Rock.
Sue tuts every time Palmerdale opens his mouth, and she enjoys watching the Doctor put him in his place.
Sue: Why hasn’t the Moff asked Terrance Dicks to write for the new series yet? He isn’t dead, is he? “Bwarry said to me”. Just think, he could be saying, “The Moff said to me” instead. Just think about that for a moment, Neil.
The Doctor and Leela investigate the generator room.
Sue: This lighthouse sounds exactly like our washing machine.
Vince retrieves George Harrison’s remains from the shoreline.
Sue: I wasn’t sure about Vince at first, but he’s starting to grow on me. He’s sweet. Stupid but sweet.
It turns out Palmerdale and Skinsale are involved in a dodgy insider trading deal.
Sue: This is a bit deep for the kids, but I’m loving it.
The Doctor admits to Leela that they are in terrible danger.
Sue: Tom is really selling the threat to me this week. And Leela is great, too. I love the way she tells the Doctor not to be afraid.
We momentarily perceive events from the alien’s perspective.
Sue: Am I supposed to know what that is?
Me: Well, they are mentioned in a David Tennant story.
Sue: That doesn’t help.
Palmerdale wants to leave, so the Doctor unleashes Leela.
Sue: So it’s okay for Leela to be violent when it suits the Doctor. That’s a bit rich.
The episode concludes with Reuben’s agonised screams echoing through the lighthouse, as Skinsale looks on, bewildered.
Sue: Another poor cliffhanger. Shame.
Vince is surprised when the power comes back on.
Sue: This set is so good, it still looks great when you light it.
Adelaide’s incessant whining shows no signs of abating.
Sue: She belongs on the stage. Take it down a notch, love.
Palmerdale bribes Vince into sending a telegraph back to the mainland.
Sue: No Vince! Don’t do it! Don’t be a Benny!
A green blob makes its way up the side of the lighthouse.
Sue: What the **** is that?
The alien reaches the gallery and kills Palmerdale.
Sue: Thanks for that.
A man who looks like Reuben locks himself in his room, so Leela breaks it down with a sledgehammer.
Me: Here’s… Leela!
The Doctor tells her to leave the poor man alone.
Sue: Is it just me or is the Doctor off his game this week? He’s making a right pig’s ear of this.
The Doctor excels at one thing, though – when it comes to scaring the crap out of the remaining survivors, nobody comes close. Cue Adelaide’s screams.
Sue: Oh, somebody slap her. Please.
Leela is only too happy to oblige. Meanwhile Reuben is glowing bright green in his bedroom.
Sue: Like an evil gnome.
The corpses start to pile up and Adelaide screams the place down.
Sue: There’s no way she’ll be the next companion. Leela can rest easy.
The episode concludes with the Doctor admitting he’s made a terrible mistake.
He’s locked the enemy inside with them.
Sue: Finally, a decent cliffhanger.
Sue: I’m a bit confused.
Me: What’s the problem?
Sue: How many aliens are there running around this place?
Me: Just the one.
Sue: Right, so how can it be hanging off the side of the lighthouse and an evil gnome at the same time?
Me: It climbed out of the window.
Sue: Okay, that makes sense. But there’s something else I don’t understand – how has this happened before?
Sue: They keep telling us this thing has killed people before, many years ago. But how can that be true if it landed here today?
Me: Well, the original story about the beast is just a myth.
Sue: So it’s just a massive coincidence?
Sue: Yes, well, erm…
The Doctor finds the alien’s power source. It was trying to contact its own kind.
Sue: Maybe it’s like ET and it just wants to go home?
The creature kills Adelaide.
Sue: See, it’s not all bad.
The Doctor sends Leela and Skinsale off to find something they could use against the alien.
Sue: Why is the Doctor asking them to look for biscuits?
Sue: What good are macaroons at a time like this?
Me: Not macaroons, you fool. Maroons!
Sue: What the hell is a maroon when it’s at home?
The Doctor confronts fake-Reuben on the stairs. The creature reverts to its natural form. It’s a Rutan, scourge of the Sontarans.
Sue: I definitely don’t remember seeing that in a David Tennant episode. I think I would have remembered that.
The Rutan proudly boasts that no human could possibly harm it.
Sue: Just jump on it. It would be messy, sure, but it wouldn’t stand a chance. Or repeatedly whack it with a plank of wood. You could even squeeze it like a big, fat zit if you had some insulated gloves. It’s not all that, is it? How do the Sontarans take them seriously?
The Doctor has to destroy the Rutan mothership, and to do that he’ll need to convert the lighthouse’s lamp into a carbon arc beam, and for that he’ll need some crystallised carbon. Skinsale recovers some diamonds from Palmerdale’s corpse, but when the Doctor discards the gems he doesn’t need to complete his mission, and Skinsale tries to salvage them, the Rutan nobbles him.
Sue: Killed by greed. Typical MP.
Me: There goes the last surviving member of the guest cast.
Sue: Well done, Doctor. I told you he was mucking it up this week.
The Doctor tells Leela that Skinsale died with honour.
Sue: With honour? He was killed because he was a greedy bastard!
The Rutan is mortally wounded with a barrage from a Schermuly, and Leela takes some time out to gloat over the corpse.
Sue: She needs psychiatric help.
The Doctor makes some adjustments to the lamp, and then, as soon as he’s switched it on, he and Leela make a run for it.
Sue: Don’t slip on any phlegm on your way out!
The lamp destroys the Rutan ship, but Leela disobeys the Doctor’s orders and she’s blinded by the explosion. She begs the Doctor to put her out of her misery.
Sue: He may as well. He is having one of those days.
Leela’s blindness is only temporary, although it has changed the colour of her eyes (we have to take the Doctor’s word for this because it’s too dark for us to tell). I have to explain to Sue that Louise Jameson’s eyes were naturally blue and she had to wear painful contact lenses to make them appear brown.
Sue: Really? I hadn’t noticed. What a complete waste of time. Hey, wasn’t Don’t It Make My Brown Eyes Blue in the charts when this was made? Or is that a massive coincidence as well?
As they make their way back to the TARDIS, the Doctor recites a quick verse from ‘The Ballad of Flannan Isle’ by Wilfred Gibson.
Sue: So everybody dies and the Doctor celebrates by larking about. I’m not sure how I feel about that.
The TARDIS dematerialises.
Sue: I’m sorry, but that model looked terrible. Our TARDIS biscuit barrel is more realistic than that.
Sue: You could definitely make that story again today. You wouldn’t have to change all that much. It was a confident script, and Tom Baker has never been better. I really enjoyed it.
Me: Why did it lose a mark?
Sue: The alien.
Me: That’s a bit shallow, isn’t it?
Sue: Oh come off it, Neil, it was terrible!
Me: I can’t believe you’re still knocking marks off for the special effects.
Sue: It wasn’t just the special effects, it was the whole concept. How could that thing win a fight against a Sontaran? Unless it pretended to be a Sontaran, and that would be confusing, visually. All right, I was disappointed when the Sontarans didn’t turn up at the end. Okay?
Me: Fair enough. So what about the new producer, Graham Williams?
Sue: Oh, I forgot all about him. I honestly couldn’t tell the difference between him and the last one. I’m sure he’ll be fine.