C074 Planet of The Spiders



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Pertwee shines in a his farewell serial as he faces off against a spider senate and runs over vagabonds with a hovercraft



The Brigadier and the Doctor are taking in a harmless burlesque show, all with the guise to study ESP, when former companion Jo Grant sends the blue crystal from Metebelis III to U.N.I.T. headquarters, setting off a chain of absurd events that could jeopardise all of humanity.

Meanwhile in Berkshire, a series of coincidences sees the former Captain Yates, The Doctor’s old Time Lord teacher and an invading force of sentient, psychokinetic outer-space spiders, aka The Eight Legs, convene at a Tibetan monastery.

 

And in case you’d forgotten, here’s a comparison shot with the beetle backpack in Turn Left

7 Responses to “C074 Planet of The Spiders”

  1. Trenton Bless | @trentonbless

    And here we are. The end of the Pertwee era. Planet of the Spiders is the final adventure of the Third Doctor and as far as Regeneration stories go, it’s right in the middle.

    It’s not the grand spectacle that The War Games was (as spectacle as you can get on a 60’s BBC budget) and thankfully it wasn’t total fanwank like The End of Time was. It was a mix of the best and worst of Pertwee.

    That whole chase early in the story is filler. Plain and simple. It could’ve been cut and we could’ve had a five episode arc. But the chase is alright for what it is. It’s pretty much a showcase of the vehicles. And when the Doctor drives the hovercraft over the guy that got a little chuckle from me.

    This story is Barry Letts’ baby. He wrote, directed and produced the story and it shows how much love went into this. It was his greatest contribution to Doctor Who as he pretty much gave us the official term of Regeneration.

    The Spiders… excuse me, the Eight Legs are a bit of a mixed bag. They look terrible at times but look good at other times and they are voiced by the late Roger Delgado’s widow who fits the role perfectly. It’s fitting that the end of the Pertwee era should involve UNIT, Jo (in letter form when she returned the blue Metebelis III Crystal) and in a way the Master.

    Oh, and the whole thing with the story with the hermit from “The Time Monster” is resolved here. I don’t think that at the end of Season 9 they intended for that to go as far as it did. But, here we are with a regenerating monk and a regenerating Pertwee. I love how loose ends are tied together in the end.

    And so, on 2 April 1974, magnificent Jon Pertwee and virtually unknown Tom Baker lay on the floor of TC1 (Television Centre Studio 1, for those of you who don’t know), while Barry Letts oversaw a gentle crossfade – a momentous piece of television. With lump in throat, Nicholas Courtney ad-libbed the final line, “Well… here we go again”.

    Doctor Who would never be the same again. 3.9/5

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  2. Paul Fauber | @wordsmithpaul

    Jon Pertwee’s final serial recalled his era of DOCTOR WHO while catering to the star and Producer Barry Letts.

    Professor Clegg’s psychic powers and a mental television displayed images of drashigs divined from the sonic screwdriver while a sapphire revealed another planet’s native spiders. Simultaneously, a ceremony at a meditation center triggered a deadly, psychic storm linking the blue planet Metabelis 3 to Earth so the alien planet’s female rulers could arrive to retrieve the jewel the Doctor took after hard wiring coordinates into the TARDIS for a harrowing. hilarious visit.

    Involving police gave the ensuing chase a Bondian touch as Bessie carried UNIT over land before Jon Pertwee’s personal, road legal Whomobile took to the air, pursuing UNIT’s stolen, one man helicopter. The leading man’s love of transportation technology was fully indulged as the chase encompassed almost the entire second episode and concluded on the water.

    Meanwhile, Captain Mike Yates, formerly of UNIT, paramilitary investigators of extraterrestrial threats, invited Sarah Jane Smith to help him investigate the meditation center where the alien spiders arrived on Earth. The duo’s discoveries intertwined the story’s narrative threads and led the Doctor back to Metabelis 3.

    The Doctor’s journey enabled Letts to relate a Buddhist parable in which the Doctor returned the crystal to Metabelis 3 while facing his fear of the spiders’ mental powers, that could control him. As expected, he was destroyed before regenerating into Tom Baker with help from his boyhood guru, another blast from the Pertwee era’s past. The Doctor had told Jo Grant about their first meeting. We got forward continuity, too, when the Brigadier spoke to Medical Officer Sullivan. His first name, Harry, would be revealed, with him, in the next story.

    This story is heavily padded and the last cliffhanger is resolved with details omitted from the previous episode, an unfortunate cheat. Still, it has a pace, action, and depth as well as elements of past and future DOCTOR WHO continuity fans will certainly enjoy.

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  3. Paul Waring

    Planet of the Spiders was the first story where I saw the Doctor regenerate – growing up with 1990s repeats I thought they just changed the actor every now and again for no plot reason, a bit like James Bond.

    Once again we see the total lack of security at UNIT HQ, as they show a light entertainer around the laboratory, and then allow Lupton to walk in off the street. Giant spiders which leap onto your back and take control of you creeped me out when I was younger, although now I just cringe slightly at the terrible CSO. A chase over land, sea and air is wholly appropriate for Pertwee’s swan song too.

    Sadly this brings an end to the Sarah/Third Doctor pairing. I wish they had got another season together as this one was pretty solid all the way through, peaking with The Monster of Peladon of course. The last scenes with the Brigadier (I’ve only just worked out why you call him Bagels) certain that the Doctor will return, followed by ‘here we go again…’ round off the Pertwee era perfectly. It’s goodbye to another two members of the traditional UNIT family, but hello to Tom Baker and probably the best season ever in Classic Who.

    Overall, this is probably the second best regeneration story in Classic Who, after The Caves of Androzani, and a solid story in its own right. 3.5/5

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  4. Jim The Fish

    At the start of the show, they get a fake magician with psychic powers to come in and get his brain melted by the crystal because the Doctor was too caught up in his own bullshit to realise the guy was dying. That warrants it a worthy substitute to the Delgado finale we never got, right?

    The fact that a chase sequence midway through the story when the Doctor chases Lupton. Bessie, a mini chopper, boat and the Who-mobile hovercraft all feature. I love it even if it adds little.

    The idea of the Doctor being ‘pointless’ in this story is the point, some people have problems with this. His fear that he has to face isn’t of the Great One, it’s of his own thirst for knowledge becoming a detriment to those around him and of becoming a danger to the people he gets involved with. The Doctor created this situation by taking the crystal in the first place; he has to fix it by giving it back, even if it sadly means his own death.

    One thing I praise about the 3rd Doctor era is subtlety.. The destruction of the Silurians, Jo’s farewell, 3rd Doctor’s regeneration? All very subdued and quiet moments.

    Like when the Doctor says the TARDIS brought him home. At the beginning of this incarnation, he hated the fact that he was stuck on Earth. Then, over time, he began to like it and see it as home.

    I’m sad I started reviewing 3 so late as he’s my favourite, can’t wait for Tom Baker.

    My rating is 3.3/5

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  5. Michael Ridgway | @Bad_Movie_Club

    Planet of the Spiders – mini collection of reactions

    Episode One

    • Colourblind Casting Award – Cho-Je. If he is Tibetan I am Slitheen.
    • Diversity Award – Awesome Tom. The first character with learning difficulties in Doctor Who?
    • Unnecessary Death Award – Professor Clegg. A mean-spirited death for a nice guy. Public inquiry please!

    Episode Two (aka The long Chase)

    • Reassuring to see UNIT HQ’s security is as robust as ever.
    • Dodgy Stunt Double Alert! What is William Hartnell’s stuntman doing on the hovercraft?

    Episode Three

    • Adolescence flashback. I had this on VHS and I recall finding the voices of the Spiders strangely alluring.

    Episode Four

    • These ‘Doctor-groaning-on-a-deathbed’ and ‘Sarah-whinging-in-a-cocoon’ episodes are so interesting. More please.

    Episode Five

    • Sarah: “Tommy! You’re normal! You’re just like everybody else!” – WTF is this appalling dialogue? Retract the Diversity Award!

    Episode Six

    • Missed Opportunity: UNIT fighting a giant spider, B-Movie style.

    Summary: mostly watchable but by far the weakest tale of the season. It lacked the (intentional) humour of ‘Time Warrior’, (unintentional) humour of ‘Dinosaurs’ and ‘Peladon’, and the genius of the grotesquely underrated ‘Death to the Daleks’.

    Rating: 1.3/5 chanting spider-cult blokes in tweed & turtlenecks.

    Reply
  6. Peter Zunitch

    When I was young, evil giant talking spiders was quite frightening. The concept hasn’t entirely lost that over the years, though the execution may slightly diminish it as an adult. The spiders, while great, are of their time. One almost wishes for a special edition featuring CG and animatronics that could reinforce our inherent fear for creatures so different from ourselves.

    Concluding a plot begun almost two seasons ago, this is a tremendously solid story with a multitude of scene stealing performances. At the heart of it all is John Pertwee, who’s doctor has now become quite serious. He’s the star of the show for a reason and we are treated to a fitting send-off for a spectacular doctor. Mike Yates makes a solid return and gets a chance to be front and center. Tommy is performed exceptionally well, and the costumes, sets, directing and music are all spot on. Only the overly convenient arrival of a wedding present nudges the Irk meter.

    One wonders if the writer was a fan of the Lord of the Rings, The great one could easily have been Ungoliant, and the crystal a silmaril or the one ring itself. Alternatively, is the great crystal is related to the one we’ll see later in Peter Davison’s “Snakedance”? Indeed It has very similar properties. I’ll have to write some fan-fiction about that. After all that’s what this story does best. It sparks the imagination. Until then, I’ll “Um mane padme hum” my way to a 4.4

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  7. Well, here we have the last Pertwee and as big a Pertwee fan as I am I can’t find it in myself to give this a pass. This ranks among his worst and it’s his swansong!..I was so disappointed when I watched it on a bootleg VHS 20 years ago. It remains one the few Pertwees I don’t have on DVD, I was burned so bad.

    Where do I begin?

    Lupton was so obviously meant to be The Master in an earlier draft. The hovercraft bit would’ve been so much better with Delgado, such a shame he died before this could happen. Just don’t have a character like that.

    The Metebelis 3 villagers are some of the worst actors ever, there’s an awful line fluff by one of them.

    The whomobile can fucking fly?…what?!

    The entire character of Tommy is a completely ignorant and repellent representation of people with disabilities and the fact that he gets ‘cured’ by the crystal is an awful idea. Thumbs right the way down for all of that.

    All the Buddhist stuff. That’s the producer, Barry Letts shoehorning all of that in. Doctor Who isn’t a platform to preach religion.

    Only the presence of Pertwee stops this from being rock bottom.

    2

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