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Adelaide: The Annette Woollett Online Center.

The Adelaide Controversy
Gallery 2

I just don't understand...


How could you dislike this face?  Silly people...

     Whenever Doctor Who fans gather in any of their various locales, online or otherwise, and discuss "The Horror of Fang Rock", Adelaide seems never to fail to provoke commentary - most of which I have discovered has been dreadfully negative.
      For those of you who have never seen the episode, it takes place in a lighthouse located on a windswept island somewhere off the South coast of England in the years just preceding the First World War.  Adelaide arrives in the second of the four episodes as a shipwreck survivor, secretary to the unscrupulous Lord Palmerdale whose pleasure yacht has foundered.  Attractive, aristocratic, and high-strung, (in the manner of all the finest Gothic heroines,) she is clearly out of her element when it comes to fighting deadly alien invaders, and as her fellow survivors and the lighthouse keepers are murdered is overcome with fright and sadness.  Eventually, near the beginning of the fourth and final episode, she is captured and killed by the alien, who is disguised as one of the lighthouse keepers.
(Continues beneath photos below.)



     These commentators couldn't possibly have found our heroine as irritating as I find them.  I will grant that my attitude is probably due to the fact that I find Annette Woollett such an exceptionally beautiful and appealing actress; the perfect, "strawberries and cream" English complexion, the golden hair, the long white neck and elegant shoulders, the "wonderous snowy arms" (to borrow Gogol's happy phrase), the big green eyes and delicate mouth, all augmented by the attractive Edwardian dress with the pretty pink bow at the back...  And none of the detractors can even acknowledge these charms with the simplest of praises; even Terrance Dicks in his novelisation joylessly introduces her as "a young woman," neglecting to acknowledge her even with the simple, obvious adjective "pretty". 
      However, even if my allegiance is mostly for the actress, I do not find the character at all horrible; yes, Adelaide is at first snobby towards Leela and mistakenly thinks the Doctor a loony case, and yes, she does shriek and faint like the Gothic heroine she is, but are these really qualities deserving a capital sentence?  She's just a poor pretty girl horribly out of her depth; she has never been shipwrecked before, has never encountered a Rutan, Timelord, Companion, or any other such creature, has "never before seen death", for which Leela (never my favourite companion, in spite of the obvious charms of Louise Jameson,) so disdains her...  I would like to see her held very tightly and reassured, rather than left alone and terrified in that awful little room.  (And I always liked the old guy for genuinely seeming to like her and attempting to do so.  He shouldn't have died either.)


     My stomach dropped; my heart sank.  I have always found it distasteful in films when women are killed when unnecessary for the furtherance of the plot, seemingly for the sake of titillation, and Adelaide's death was certainly not necessary to the story of "The Horror of Fang Rock".  However, I was at that first moment exposed to the most common reaction to it, as my little sister laconically stated, "well, there goes the lady who screams all the time"...
     Since then I have discovered in various commentaries on the episode many, and often far less tastefully stated, variations on the same idea; Adelaide is not to be missed and her death should cause no qualms due to her emotional reactions to the killings of her compatriots.  I have seen it stated on various websites in terms which I find particularly vulgar, callous and insensitive: "Adelaide was so annoying... I was cheering when she finally died", "hearing Adelaide's final scream comes as something of a relief", "Adelaide's death was unexpected, but to tell the truth I wasn't sorry to see her go".  Several others have commented on their enjoyment of a scene where Leela slaps her in order to calm her down after Palmerdale's death is discovered.

     In fact, I've always thought that they should have just PUT HER IN THE TARDIS where she would be out of the way and safe, but apparently the scriptwriters preferred to please the ungenerous portion of the audience... who have continued their unkind celebrations to the present day.  Well, they perhaps may have me in terms of numbers, but I hope I have redressed this imbalance by pleading the case of poor Adelaide with greater eloquence and passion than that found in their unpleasant denunciations.  I leave the decision in the hands of the readers...
     In conclusion, in my personal script for this story I have provided a different ending, in which another Timelord (played by me,) hears the story in retrospect, takes his Tardis to the lighthouse at the precise moment the Doctor and Leela leave, enters the building and quickens Adelaide with a magic revivifying kiss, a la "Sleeping Beauty."  He then takes her to his Tardis, where she becomes his companion for more pleasant and affectionate adventures.  A far nicer fate, I think any neutral would agree, for our lovely, misunderstood and unfairly maligned heroine.  That's how I like it, anyway!

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