Beast of Fang Rock by Andy Frankham-Allen


Lethbridge-Stewart and Anne Travers head to Fang Rock when some students see an apparent spaceship crash at the lighthouse.


“The Rock has become a tourist attraction?!”

Since the Doctor and Leela’s 1902 visit to the island in Horror of Fang Rock, the location has gained notoriety as the most haunted lighthouse in the British Isles. At the opening of Andy Frankham-Allen’s second Lethbridge-Stewart novel, Fang Rock has been opened to the public. Visitors can witness the disembodied voices and ghostly forms of those characters present during the Fourth Doctor’s adventure. The characters whose actions are replayed aboard the lighthouse are familiar enough to Doctor Who fans; and the way that visitors to Fang Rock can witness these scenes, but not record them, is rather like the experience of being a viewer in the pre-VCR days.


There are some superficial similarities with series nine’s Under the Lake and Before the Flood, with ghosts appearing from the past and the characters being split between two time periods. The story, based on an idea by Fang Rock and Rutan creator Terrance Dicks, picks up on the legend of the beast which Reuben speaks of in the television story. Rather than just a myth that adds a sense of history to the lighthouse, here it is actually the result of an earlier Rutan visit. Like the Zygons, the Rutans are a one-story change-shifting race which enjoy greater popularity than most single-use monsters. Dicks himself revisited them in his script, and novelisation, of Shakedown, with their more common arch-enemies the Sontarans.


Frankham-Allen gives the ill-fated Ben from Horror of Fang Rock the surname Travers, and makes him Anne’s great uncle. He is not the first of their family to work on the rock, with more of the Travers’ line to be found there in 1823. Family is very much a theme of the novel, with Owain Vine returning from the first Lethbridge-Stewart novel, The Forgotten Son. On a visit to the lighthouse he witnesses a UFO, and summons his ‘uncle’ Alistair, who brings Anne Travers along. Owain has left his family home in Bledoe to experience something of the sixties. Lethbridge-Stewart’s attitude to the counterculture is a little reminiscent of James Bond in the novels, but less reactionary.

Anne is still working for the Vault, the British Govermment’s repository of alien artefacts introduced in Gary Russell’s The Scales of Injustice and seen again in Big Finish’s Tales from the Vault and The Screaming Skull. The former in particular feels like a particular influence on this series, as it fleshes out both the Brigadier’s private life and the wider infrastructure in which UNIT operates. It’s satisfying that this series ties into existing spin-off media.

There is also quite a bit of meta content to these books; such as the back covers bearing the legend ‘The Havoc Files’, presumably named for the legendary stunt team from the UNIT-era of Doctor Who, who also played many of the UNIT soldiers. Here the Doctor is referred to by the copyright-dodging codename ‘Cosmic Hobo’ from Patrick Toughton’s own description of his Doctor and in The Forgotten Son Lethbridge-Stewart faces down Pertwee’s Yeti in a loo in Tooting Bec.


Order Beast of Fang Rock:

Lethbridge-Stewart: Beast of Fang Rock

Order Horror of Fang Rock on DVD:

Doctor Who – Horror of Fang Rock [1977] [DVD] [1993]

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