LETHBRIDGE-STEWART: BEAST OF FANG ROCK Review - Warped Factor - Words in the Key of Geek.

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Matthew Kresal is fairly sure that's Cromer.

With its combination of the early days of Colonel Lethbridge-Stewart in his post Web Of Ear but pre-UNIT days, with sci-fi thriller plots that revisit elements from the Doctor Who canon, the Lethbridge-Stewart series of novels seems to be off to a strong start. Continuing in very much that vein is this third entry in the series, Beast Of Fang Rock, written by series editor Andy Frankham-Allen from a story by Terrance Dicks. It's a tale that mixes one of the most highly regarded stories of Classic Who with a plot straight out of the New Series with smashing results.

Much of the novel's success comes to its mixing of elements from across not just televised Doctor Who but its spin-off media as well. As the title may suggest, the story uses elements from the 1977 story Horror Of Fang Rock, namely the lighthouse at the titular location that served as the setting of that story. More than seventy years after the events of that story, Colonel Lethbridge-Stewart gets drawn into proceedings, as does Anne Travers who now works at the Vault (introduced by Gary Russell in the Virgin Missing Adventure novel Scales Of Injustice) and has come across a century and a half year old letter than leads her to the newly renovated lighthouse. Tying in elements from Dicks' original story, elements introduced in Wilderness Era novels as well as characters introduced in earlier novels of the series, it all sets up a plot that ties together large parts of the show's history.

Where the New Series influence kicks in is the plot. Andy Frankham-Allen has crafted a story of time travel, alien invasion and paradoxes that could give Steven Moffat a run for his money, while also successfully telling a coherent story. Without the presence of the Doctor (or should I say the Cosmic Hobo?) and his TARDIS, the novel nevertheless finds a way of tying the pre-UNIT Lethbridge-Stewart with not just the events of Horror Of Fang Rock but also the back story of the lighthouse. Even better, it does so without creating large plot holes or confusion at the novel's end about what has happened and why. It's a triumph of plotting and my hat is off to Frankham-Allen for his accomplishment.

Of course, there's more to the latest Lethbridge-Stewart novel than that. There's the character for one thing, he anchors the 1969 portion of the novel's plot, though, if I have any niggle with the book, it is the fact that Lethbridge-Stewart ends up being relegated somewhat, and instead the star of this particular work is Anne Travers, the proto-Liz Shaw character from Web Of Fear. It's Anne who sets much of the plot in motion including the time travel elements and once that happens we're introduced to her ancestors who are on Fang Rock in 1823. Elsewhere, Frankham-Allen's prose is well suited to the tale with a slight a breezy style that evokes Dicks best Target and Virgin prose while also dealing with the complexities of the story.

Beast Of Fang Rock then is a success. It ties together elements from across Doctor Who's large canon in to a story that never feels superfluous in its references but instead creates an engaging tale of time travel and alien invasion. Like earlier novels in the Lethbridge-Stewart series, it both harkens back to the Who novels of old while also being more grown-up at the same time, as a result of that mixing of elements. It also leaves the reader eager for more and builds up to the finale of this first run of novels in the series, with Mutually Assured Destruction promising the return of another of the Doctor's old foes...

See Also
Lethbridge-Stewart: The Forgotten Son Review 
Lethbridge-Stewart: The Schizoid Earth

Thanks to Candy Jar Books for supplying Warped Factor with an advance copy of the novel in return for an honest review. 

Matthew Kresal lives in North Alabama where he's a nerd, doesn't have a southern accent and isn't a Republican. He's a host of both the Big Finish centric Stories From The Vortex podcast and the 20mb Doctor Who Podcast. You can read more of his writing at his blog and at The Terrible Zodin fanzine, amongst other places.

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