Predator Admiral Ackbar, another disco werewolf, and a ménage-à-granddad
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Responding to a distress call, The Doctor and companion Sarah Jane Smith arrive on the planet of Zeta Minor, where a team of scientists under the supervision of Professor Sorenson has been mining for antimatter crystals as an alternative and near-limitless source of energy. One by one, the team is haemorrhaging members, though, as they fall victims to a seemingly evil being roaming the swampy surface.
A starship led by ass-hat Controller Salamar and buff granddad Vishinsky arrives to pick up the team, but when they find only Sorenson, the TARDIS team and a pile of dead dudes, they hold Doc and Sarah responsible and take them off Zeta Minor. The killings follow them aboard the starship, though, and something appears to not want to permit them to leave.
And here’s the comparison between this serial and the New Who episode 42 that we made during this review…
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Writer Louis Marks’ script used a familiar DOCTOR WHO trope, alternative energy, to explore interaction between matter and antimatter while paying homage to Doctor Jeckle and Mr. Hyde. Designer Roger Murray Leach created a fantastic, alien jungle in studio to represent the distant planet Zeta Minor.
Professor Sorenson was dedicated to refining the planet’s ore for energy while his Morestran rescuers felt obligated to avenge dead crew members and the lost expedition. Naturally, they suspected the Doctor and Sarah Jane of murder until the monster developed before the story was written changed their minds.
The Doctor realized no antimatter could be taken from the planet and an antimatter sample enabled him to survive a journey into an antimatter universe. There, he negotiated Sorenson and the Morestran’s survival and formalized the story’s simple premise. These scenes were exciting and fascinating, but afterward the story largely downplayed their potentially cataclysmic significance.
After the Doctor explained the the continued existence of both realities was at stake, he; Sarah Jane; and the Morestran crew worked hard to remove all the antimatter from the departing spaceship. Later, the Doctor raced to save the crew from their insane commander as he hunted a monster Sorenson became because his body was saturated with antimatter. The scientist’s survival after returning to the planet in the TARDIS was a change enabling the Doctor to persuade him to look for another source of energy. It also gave the story a more upbeat ending.
Overall, ‘Planet of Evil’ looked great and involved typically interesting ideas. The most fascinating of which might well be the Doctor’s power and, by extension, the might and influence Time Lords could, but seldom, wielded.
Elisabeth Sladen cited this as her favorite story to work on. I can see why.
This story is where the Doctor and Sarah Jane finally fully clicked! Though they did have a bit of clickage prior to this story, this is the first time it really worked.
At this point Tom had settled into the role. When he walks into a room, you know he’s the guy that’s gonna save your hide. Sometimes he comes off as a little more alien than he has been since Hartnell’s portrayal, and that’s fine. This fits well with the bohemian wanderer that the Fourth Doctor is.
This script is the first completely handled by the team of Philip Hinchcliffe and Robert Holmes, with the previous scripts being originally commissioned by the previous production team. It’s not a bad first attempt, but it definitely got the job done.
Hinchcliffe concedes they were borrowing from Forbidden Planet and Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde. Sorenson’s degradation by anti-matter to the level of a brute also reminds me of the effect that primordial slime had on people in Inferno (1970). But Planet of Evil still feels original.
For a 70’s serial, the jungles of Zeta Minor are very well done. It’s almost like they went to the jungle to film this serial. Even in a modern sense, this is a great set.
So, overall, what do I give this serial? Well, it’s definitely earned it’s score of 3.5/5. This serial is the one that set the tone for the next set of serials. Hinchcliffe and Holmes would go on to write the best that Doctor Who has to offer. But, we’ll get to those in time.
I get the impression that at some point in development this story was a true thriller. The pit to hell and the beast within are great concepts. Both they and the corpses are hauntingly beautiful, and would fit perfectly into any fright-fest.
Truthfully I’m torn here. Many elements are extremely interesting. The planet itself is well realized, and the concept of an antimatter guardian between two universes is most intriguing. There’s also wonderful dialog about energy et. al. Yet with all this good stuff, it falls short of great serial. Why?
Well ultimately it feels like no one was having fun on this production. Everyone seems tired. Doc, Sarah and Vashinsky are passable, but everyone else acts like they’re getting over the flu; Doing their best, but secretly just hoping for the end of the day. The sets trend towards bland, pacing plods at times, and there’s no blazing action. Additionally, beastmode Sorensen is as nonsensical as it was in Inferno. Why show devolved makeup man when red outline man is so cool? Retcon that one thing and the series instantly goes up half a point.
All that said, the rewatch factor is surprisingly high. Conceptually it’s so cool that one can comfortably revisit this series quite often. It’s warm and safe, like watching Monty Python even though you know every single word. So until next time, I wave my private crystals at your antimatter. Your mother was a crustacean outline, and your father smelt of anti-man. 2.3
Things I Liked:
• The Spooky alien jungle & camouflaged, seemingly indestructible baddie. Shades of Predator perhaps? Another visit to this planet please.
• Excellent OTT deaths of the military and scientist space dudes (“Aahhhhhh!”) and husky corpses.
• Drone with creepy eyeball.
• Salamar and Vishinsky. Surely the worst starship command duo ever. Who put these guys in charge? They bicker and disagree, fight and launch coups and counter-coups against one another (on most occasions with the crew standing by passively. Maybe the crew are just used to it). Can somebody please send these two on some awful corporate Away Day bonding exercise?
• Medical Diagnosis Award – the Doctor’s assessment of a husky corpse; “He’s Dead”. No shit Doctor.
• Moron Award: the bozos tasked with jettisoning the anti-matter, failing to notice a tub has been stolen by Sorenson. Can’t you people count!?
• WTF Moment: did the Doctor just punch someone in the face???
Summary: An entertaining, albeit average, yarn
Rating: 2.6/5 husky anti-matter victims.
Sorry guys. In all honesty I think when I wrote my review almost a year ago I myself might have been really tired and getting over the flu.
Thinking about it I really do enjoy this episode more than a 2.3. Every time I have watched it I always walk away satisfied.
I do maintain that the ship sets are more bland than they should have been, and some acting seems muted, but that doesn’t justify my low Mark’s of something I’ve always enjoyed.
Perhaps I’ll watch it again sometime and retro rewrite my review. So dont lose faith Jim, you were right, I was wrong.