Sunday 4 December 2011

377 Planet of the Spiders Part Two

EPISODE: Planet of the Spiders Part Two
TRANSMITTED: 11 May 1974
WRITER: Robert Sloman (and Barry Letts - Uncredited)
DIRECTOR: Barry Letts
SCRIPT EDITOR: Terrance Dicks
PRODUCER: Barry Letts
FORMAT: DVD: Doctor Who - Planet of the Spiders
Episode Format: 625 video

The spider claims to have come to give Lupton power, jumping on his back and merging with him. The Doctor reviews his recording's of Clegg's thoughts seeing nothing but Spiders. Sarah leaves the monastary to warn the Doctor while Mike seeks out the Abbot. The spider detects the crystal as the Doctor looks into it. The Doctor is entranced by the crystal but is brought round by the smell of Benton's coffee. First Tommy, then Lupton, prevent Mike from seeing Abbot K'anpo. The next morning Sarah tells the Doctor her story, but he only starts listening when she mentions the spider. He tells her how he obtained the crystal from Metebelis 3. Lupton enters UNIT HQ stunning Benton with an electrical bolt. Seeing the crystal through the lab door's window the spider transports it to Lupton's hand and he runs off. Stealing the Whomobile he is pursued by the Doctor, Brigadier & Benton in Bessie leading to a pursuit on land, in the air and on water. As the Doctor's hovercraft catches up with Lupton's boat he finds the boat empty and Lupton vanished.

Deary me. You're enjoyment of this episode almost 100% depends on if you're ten or not. Jon Pertwee had always had a love of vehicle and, where possible working them into Doctor Who stories. Here his love is indulged with a chase involving the Whomobile, making it's second appearance now in it's final form, Bessie, a police car, a gyrocopter, a boat and a hovercraft that Jon Pertwee liked so much that he ordered one for his holiday home in Ibiza. They've obviously had a lot of fun making it but at 12 minutes it's far far too long and is basically an indulgence. Then right at the end the villain teleports away rendering the entire chase pointless. Ok you could argue the spider needed time to recharge it's energies after teleporting the crystal earlier in the episode but.....

There's some nice little touches in the episode though: The Brigadier rings the UNIT Medical Officer addressing him as Sullivan. Next story we will meet Doctor Harry Sullivan: it's nice little touches like this between stories that make you feel that the show is being thought about behind the scenes on a scale larger than a single story! I don't usually comment on the effects but the CSO'd electrical bolt on location is rather good although the original effects work on the Whomobile flying where it turns gold is dreadful.

The spider voice heard in this episode is provided by Ysanne Churchman who had previously Voiced Alpha Centauri in Curse of Peladon & Monster of Peladon. She's famous for playing Grace Archer, the character killed off in the long running BBC radio soap opera the same night that ITV launched. The policeman involved in the car chase is Chubby Oates, a well known comedian. Most of the rest of the vast is a series of cameos for the extras and stuntmen that have helped make the Third Doctor stories: Pat Gorman, regular extra, plays the Soldier who is working on Whomobile. Pertwee's regular stunt double Terry Walsh is the Man with Boat while stuntman Stuart Fell, previously seen (or rather not seen) inside Alpha Centauri, plays the tramp run over by the hovercraft which gave Jon Pertwee an exaggerated story that he'd enjoy telling at conventions for years after. However Hopkins, the man driving the hovercraft, is played by Michael Pinder, the owner of Pindair the firm that made the Hovercraft.

The chase sequence starts at Le Marchant Barracks in Devizes, Wiltshire. Yes, Doctor Who has gone to Devizes (one for my Swindon readers). We then proceed to a variety of locations near Membury in Wiltshire, close to locations used in the Daemons. Finally we move to The River Severn in Gloucestershire.


  1. Ahhh. Spiders episode two..... On the one hand I cannot blame them for throwing a going away present to their star. Perhaps it even worked on an week-by-week basis. But I do wonder about that - given that the ending of it basically negates the point of the entire chase. When you are watching the whole story in a sitting it does feel a bit like it is vamping for twenty-five minutes.

  2. Oh it's so bloody wrong it's not even funny. The odd indulging of your lead is fair enough but surrendering an entire episode is nuts!

    Also, Planet of the Spiders is a bit of a bum note overall. The Pertwee era is one of remarkable consistency. While some stories might not be great they never hit some of the low points of the Hartnell/Troughton eras so it is a great shame that it is the final story that is arguably the weakest story of the era.

  3. How soon you forget the Mutants & The Time Monster.....

  4. I enjoy The Time Monster!! The Mutants is a bit of a let down but is nowhere near as meandering and flabby as Planet of the Spiders