On a planet with a dysfunctional economy, Doc and Romana encounter Hagrids, a back-stabbing Golden Girl and a giant, vegetarian space phallus
Podcast: Play in new window | Embed
When Romana II attaches a transceiver to the TARDIS console, it picks up a distress call and immediately takes her and The Fourth Doctor to the planet Chloris. There, Lady Adrasta rules with an iron fist, ironically, as she also holds a monopoly over the only iron mine on the planet, making metal the most valuable commodity there is.
Anyone who dares cross Adrasta is cast by her soldiers into a — let’s call it “a pit” — where resides a — let’s call it “a creature” — that seemingly consumes all life brought before it’s dubious countenance. Along for the ride is also a band of hirsute bandits that obviously plays a part in this serial. But who is the creature? What’s with the giant egg shell on the surface? And does Adrasta know more than she’s letting on? Stay tuned to find out!
Subscribe to us on iTunes now! We're dropping a new episode every week (pretty much), reviewing Classic Who, New Who and all kinds of bonus stuff from spin-offs and conventions to Doctor Who comic books.
Okay I admit it. This is a goofy story and ought not be liked…and I think it’s just grand!
Is it the scriptwriting or Mr. Adam’s supervising that makes every character immensely enjoyable? Tom Baker is extraordinary in this series, even for Tom Baker. Romana’s confidence allows her to handle any situation, sometimes with the dominance of a timelady, sometimes not so successfully, but always enjoyable. The dialog is once again phenomenal. Adrasta is the perfect over the top minor villain, and everyone from Organon to Karella, to the weedmaster are wonderful sidekicks. Even the bumbling bandits are top notch.
However there’s also some top botch. Erato’s design was an error. Granted it was really an impossible task to create such a creature given that time and budget, but the proby-arm thing…just no. and the space ship with bumps for your pleasure? Some designer had the wrong inspirations for this one.
The other botch is simply the presumptions one must endure to allow the premise of this story. One metal mine on an entire planet? All that vegetation and nobody invented hedge trimmers? What can cross a galaxy but can’t weave itself a ladder?
Just don’t look too closely and you’ve got one immensely enjoyable series. The sets are fantastic, the world is intriguing, the effects fantastic. It’s just all so improbably impossible. You may not appreciate this gem, but those of us who do, have our finger up our noses….I mean alongside. Do you like greenery, eggs and ham? 4.3
When the threat in the title turns out to be a green bean bag with an embarrassing appendage, you know that Creature from the Pit is not a story to show as an introduction to Classic Who, lest the viewer be put off for good. It’s not as bad as the special effects make out though.
I love the character of Organon, he has some great lines and works well with the Doctor as the comic relief. The wolfweeds are an interesting concept, although it’s not clear how they manage to disable K9 – surely smothering shouldn’t work on a mechanical creature? I’m unsure how I feel about the new voice for K9, perhaps I’m used to John Leeson but it didn’t sound quite right.
As is often the case, the palace guards are silent, inept, and unable to die convincingly – although I was impressed by the one who managed to spin round and ‘fall’ into the pit. Speaking of deaths, some of these are fairly brutal by Classic Who standards, with several people stabbed in the front or back, even though we don’t see any blood.
Overall, this is a good story, but the special effects mean it works better as a novel, and City of Death is a hard act to follow. 3/5
A planet with a scarcity of metal is the setting for this story – ruled by a wicked Queen and her evil stepmother as her sidekick. Throw in some totally useless bandits and a giant green blob and we have a reasonably enjoyable romp with some funny lines, some of my favourites are:-
What can you do with a jawbone of an ass? Don’t be a Philistine!
You just stuck it in a pit and threw people at it
Did you hear that, Romana? Karela’s going to kill you, and you with your hair all messed up.
What? Seventy-four million three hundred and eighty-four thousand three hundred and thirty-eight? Well, that’s extraordinary. Why that’s my lucky number!
The basic premise of the story is ok and I quite like the wolfweeds even if it isn’t explained how they can be commanded by the guard master. Any training would infer an amount of intelligence – maybe they’re distantly related to the Krynoid?
There’s a good supporting cast with Geoffrey Bayldon as Organon who is great fun.
Lady Adrasta and Karela are a little pantomime-esque as the Queen and her evil stepmother sidekick. Everytime they appear on screen I have the urge to shout “She’s behind you!” Nonetheless, they do steal the limelight whenever they are on screen and Karela has some deliciously devious scenes.
Apparently the Lady Adrasta was originally meant to be called Adastra (meaning ‘to the stars’)
There are however some downsides –most notably the most useless bandits possibly the most useless in all of Who! How they’ve ever survived this long goodness only knows! Also the bit where K9 stuns Torvin who then collapses in the worst way possible in something resembling a primary school play production.
There’s a very disturbing scene where Erato approaches The Doctor with an erection! And The Doctor blows down it!! I’ll leave that just there.
The Tythonians on hearing Erato is a prisoner, rather than sending a rescue party decide instead to send a neutron star to destroy the entire planet! Over reaction much?
The Doctor makes a throwaway comment about Timelords having 90 lives and he has lived 150 – I’m assuming this is just a joke and not referencing regenerations.
The Doctor tells K9 to destroy the metal in episode 4 which he does by reducing it to powder – I’m no metallurgist but surely zapping metal would just melt it wouldn’t it?
Despite these numerous beefs, it is quite an enjoyable story, but just not up to the standards of some of the rest of the Douglas Adams script editing era.
I award this a score of 2.9 wolfweeds out of 5
Creature from the Pit plays like a pantomime complete with an ice queen, comedy bandits, a monster and a moral. If you cut away one episode and the bandits this would be a much sharper piece and probably enjoy a better reputation. Tom Baker is enticingly good but Lalla Ward has yet to perfect her interpretation of Romana. With old school actors such as Eileen Way and Geoffrey Bayldon present the story feels a lot more necessary than it has any right to be but I do love how the script suddenly pulls itself together in the last episode and surprises with a trip into hard science after all the mucking about in caves.
The creature is an attempt to do something wildly different that doesn’t quite come off but you can see what they were aiming at in certain scenes (Tom Baker helps immeasurably to sell the likelihood of such a creature) and it even works in execution during some shots. This story is best watched at Christmas with young children, a teaspoon and an open mind. It isn’t a favourite of mine by any stretch of the imagination but it is always a story that I enjoy: 3.0
The problem with this story is the concept is amazing:
‘a political drama around the control of resources and the treatment of those different to ourselves’…. however it’s just… dull! But Lady Adrasta is SO hammily acted, Tom Baker gives oral to an alien blob/testicle bag, but there’s some really good lines. However, after the City of Death it’s hard to see this being nearly as good.
So here’s the point at which Tom really starts to take control with silliness… the teach yourself Tibetan bit is just a silly bit too far
The lie down to reason line is very funny
So the big blobby alien has a name, it’s called Erato, I don’t know why but the name somehow doesn’t fit at all
Also, that device to talk through people’s larynx, it’s a funny device, but how does it actually work? Humans create sounds mostly through their mouth and tongue shapes, but they’re clearly not moving their mouths at any point.
From here to 1988 (when the 7th Doctor really picks up) there’s a fair few Dr Who stories that I’d describe as ‘beige’. Don’t get me wrong, I love the era and there’s some phenomenal stories that are some of my all-time favourites, but there’s just a fair few gray kind of stories.
It’s ok… I guess… lots of running around. I’d give it a… 1.8
P.S. – wait until next week, the Horns of Nimon is one of the best stories EVER! ?
The bloke whose job is whipping Wolfweeds is now in charge of Chloris? Is he qualified?
Summary: this story might have been rubbish but the cheap Sauvignon Blanc put me in the right mood. Plus Organon was awesome.
Rating: 3.8/5 unfortunate astrologists lobbed into a pit to die horrible (albeit unexplained?) deaths.
* Footnote to the (frankly hilarious) sucker-punch joke. This is a play on the word ‘sucker’ in the fighting technique ‘sucker-punch’ as Daleks have suckers. I do not condone violence against women or anyone (except perhaps Nazis, critics of the Seventh Doctor, and raspberry farmers. I f**king HATE raspberries. They remind me of a spider’s face).