Thursday, 8 December 2011

381 Planet of the Spiders Part Six

EPISODE: Planet of the Spiders Part Six
TRANSMITTED: 08 June 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

K'anpo reveals he has the crystal but Sarah, under the control of the spider queen, attacks him and the Doctor. The Doctor & K'anpo break the Spider's hold on Sarah using the crystal which kills the Queen. K'anpo makes the Doctor realise that his greed for knowledge dominates him. The Doctor realises that K'anpo was his mentor from his youth, who regenerated and came to Earth revealing that Cho-Je is a projection of himself. Cho-Je rescues Yates from the cellar. The Doctor agrees to return the crystal to the Great One on Metebelis 3. Barnes' group get past Tommy & Yates into the Abbot's room, fatally injuring the Abbot, but the Doctor uses the crystal to teleport to the cellar and takes the Tardis to Metebelis 3 meeting Arak & Tuar. They take him to the Spiders where he finds the attack failed. He demands to be taken to the great one but Lupton interferes and is slain by the spiders. Mike & Tommy have survived the attack but K'anpo weakens and regenerates into Cho-Je. The Doctor confronts the huge spider ruler, the Great One in her cave in the radioactive rock. Inserting the crystal into it's proper place in her web does not increase her powers to infinity as planned but creates a feedback loop that destroys her, and the other spiders, freeing the humans on Metebelis 3 and releasing Barnes' group from their control. The dying Doctor retreats to the Tardis setting the course for Earth. Weeks later the Tardis materialises in the UNIT lab, with the Doctor collapsing on the floor. K'anpo's new incarnation materialises and starts the Doctor's regeneration.

The key motivation in this episode, that the Doctor's pride has got the better of him and he must atone for it, doesn't sit terribly well with me (and apparently doesn't with Terrance Dicks either). Without buying into it the logic of the episode sadly falls completely apart. But whatever you think of the rest of the episode, that last scene is terrific as the dying Doctor returns to his friends only to have his regeneration kick started. I'm told that the Brigadier's final line, "Here we go again" was an ad lib by Nicholas Courtney.

As a whole story Planet of the Spiders divides into two segments: Earthbound material which, with the exception of *THAT* chase, I liked, and Metebelis 3 material which I didn't. A bit like the Time Monster then when the Earth bound first few episodes worked for me and then it fell apart. Metebelis was just too clean and the spiders base could have done with a lot more cobwebs. The Metebelis humans were without exception dire. But back on Earth I liked the presentation of Tommy, I liked the idea of redeeming Mike Yates (dirty stinking traitor) and having K'anpo regenerate neatly paves the way for what is about to happen to the Doctor.

There's a whole load of lasts in this episode: It's Jon Pertwee's last regular episode of Doctor Who. Afterwards he went on to host gameshow Whodunnit! and to star as Worzel Gummidge while maintaining a successful career on the stage. He returned to the title role of Doctor Who for 1983's The Five Doctors and for several radio stories in the 1990s. Jon Pertwee died on 20 May 1996.

It's also goodbye to Richard Franklin as Mike Yates who continued to act on the stage and in Emmerdale Farm before eventually attempting to enter politics. He too will, briefly, be seen in the Five Doctors. This is also the last episode with Terrance Dicks credited as script editor but he'll be back immediately writing Robot having claimed to have invented the tradition of the departing Script Editor writing the next story. However examination of authors & script editors shows that David Whitaker, Dennis Spooner, Gerry Davis & Derrick Sherwin all accomplished this feat too. This story marks the end of Season 11, and that's the last season with more than one six part story in.

So we get to the close of the Jon Pertwee era. Although he plays the role for five years, two longer than either William Hartnell or Patrick Troughton, his seasons were shorter so comparatively he's been in a similar number of episodes


So over the five years of Pertwee what were the bests and worsts? Top of the best is obviously Inferno, then Carnival of Monsters and Invasion of the Dinosaurs. Worst? Mutants, Time Monster and probably these last two stories Monster of Peladon & Planet of Spiders although neither was without it's good points. Most improved for me this time out & watching episodically were Colony in Space, Frontier in Space and (again) Monster of Peladon, which was really a game of two halves with the first three episodes being dire and the last three livened up by the Ice Warriors. Frontier in Space, meanwhile, was brought down by two dead episodes in the middle. Take them out and the other four are crackers.

Planet of the Spiders was novelised by Terrance Dicks in 1975. I can remember reading Giant Robot and hunting this down so the chances are Planet of the Spiders was the second Doctor Who novel I ever read. And I enjoyed it a lot more than I did the television version. It was released on Video in April 1991 so there's a pretty good chance I got it as an Eighteenth Birthday present. Planet of the Spiders was released on DVD twenty years later on April 18th 2011. At the point of release two of the commentary participants, Barry Letts & Nicholas Courtney had already died. The day after it's release a third participant, Elisabeth Sladen, succumbed to cancer.

Join us tomorrow as we find out about the new person lying on the floor, then a relatively unknown actor, and how Barry Letts & Terrance Dicks got an afternoon trip to the cinema out of the BBC!

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