There are a lot of candidates for the award for 'worst
looking monster to ever appear in an episode of Doctor Who.' Who could forget the Myrka from Warriors
of the Deep, a giant plastic
pantomime horse, for example? The
creature on the top of my list however is the title character from an
enjoyable Tom Baker episode, The Creature
from the Pit. Laced with humor and
some interesting ideas, the show manages to work well even with a
design that instills more laughter than fear.
Recently released in region 1, now North American fans
can add this classic monster to their Who DVD collection.
The TARDIS receives a distress signal and materializes on
the planet Chloris, next to an impossibly enormous egg shell. The Doctor (Tom Baker) and Romana (in her
Lalla Ward incarnation) barely have time to examine the artifact when
captured by soldiers under the control of the domineering Lady Adrasta. It turns out that Chloris is a very
metal-poor planet and Adrasta had the only mine on the planet, one that
recently been tapped out. She rules
thought fear, throwing anyone whom she dislikes into a pit called aptly
"The Pit." Down in the depths is "The
Creature" who kills everyone who enters.
Not being one for unsolved mysteries, The Doctor jumps down into
himself rather than being imprisoned by Adrasta.
Deep in the subterranean caverns, The Doctor discovers that
things aren't exactly as they seem, and along with a surviving
Organon attempts to contact The Creature, a 200 yard long amorphous
find out exactly why he's been killing people.
Add in a group of bandits who steal metal and manage to capture
a pack of 'wolf weeds', trained vegetation, and a neutron star weapon
you've got an entertaining Doctor Who Adventure.
The main reason this story is still remembered today is for
the creature itself. Described in the
script as "a giant, feathered (or perhaps scaled) slug of no particular
but of a fairly repulsive grayish-purplish colour...unimaginably huge. Anything from a quarter of a mile to a mile
in length." What were they thinking??! Did one of the producers really think that
they'd be able to create something passable for a typical episode's
effects budget? In any case, the special
effects team was given little to work with, either description-wise or
money, and the result is laughably bad.
The first time it appears the monster looks like a giant phallus. It was obviously not what the BBC wanted, but
they had to film with what they had.
When filming ended at 10 PM, the creature was taken back to the
designed, and it had to be completed in time for the next day's
shooting. This time they changed it to
have a forked
'arm' and a second single appendage. It
looked a bit better (at least it was no longer pornographic) but not by
much. Finally the creature was turned
into armless green sheet of plastic. Not
the show's greatest moment.
Aside from the hysterically bad creature, the show was
pretty good. The script had just the
right mixture of humor and drama, and it worked well, thanks in part to
work of Douglas Adams who was script editor at the time.
Tom Baker is in top form leaping into danger
without a care, just a snappy line and a grin.
(Barker's Doctor often reminds me of Bugs Bunny, so terribly
that he'll be able to pull a win out of any situation that he doesn't
worry about something like impending death.)
One weak part is the performance of Lalla Ward, who
recognizes that this wasn't her finest job in the commentary track. This was the first story she filmed (though
it was the third to air) and she was still getting used to the
how she would play the female Time Lord.
She comes across as a bit unsure and it seems that she's never
she should be a damsel in distress or the hero.
Still she'd grow into the role in a short time.
One of the things that are really appealing about this
adventure is that they introduce some interesting ideas about the
Chloris, though they don't really have time to expand on them much. The society is run by women, for example,
with both the leader and her second in command being female. The males are still soldiers, but it's clear
that they don't wield the power. It was
also interesting seeing a culture evolve where metal was rare. Without it they it was tough to plow the
land, which severely limits how much a city can grow.
were some odd choices, like having eating plates made out of metal... you
have thought that weapons and plows were a higher necessity, especially
dictator who had to keep her people in line, but that a minor quibble.
The mono soundtrack has been cleaned up and is very
good. It is nice and clear with no hiss
or background noise to take away from the story. Being
a mono track, there's really not much
more to say about it.
The full frame video has been cleaned up by the Restoration
Team and it looks good. The
original cinematography wasn't that
impressive, there's a few spots where whites bloom and the color design
drab, but the disc reproduces that well.
The whole serial was recorded on sets so videotape was used
and the picture isn't as sharp as it would have been with film. The colors are solid though and the level of
detail is decent. This is an average
looking Doctor Who disc.
There's a solid set
of extras along with this four episode adventure. There's
a commentary track featuring actors
Lalla Ward and Myra
Frances, director Christopher Barry and special effects creator Matt
Irvine. Ward is reminiscent of her other
commentaries, and comes across just a bit shrill at times.
The rest are fun to listen to though and give
a nice picture of what making the story was like.
a creature as infamous as the one in this story, they couldn't just
in the extras so there's a nice 15-minute featurette, Team Erato, where the
people responsible for the monstrosity (pun intended) discuss the
they were under and how the design came about.
Christopher Barry - Director is a short (19-minute) look at the work
the director who started on Doctor
Who with the very second story The
Daleks. This was his last Who
and he reminisces about how he became a director and what it was like
on Doctor Who.
also a single extended scene (the metal bandits killing a guard) and a
bizarre piece entitled Animal Magic. This
has Tom Baker, in costume from the show,
talk about some of the fantastic (and fictional) animals he's faced. Make sure you stay tuned to the end to hear
him yell "Oh God! Forgive me!" after he
walks off camera.
There is also an 'info-text' option for each story.
This is something that the other Who releases
have and I'm a big fan of them. This
pop-up text options allows viewers to read about the shooting schedule,
between various story incarnations and the final version and learn
history of the supporting actors. It's
well worth watching, though it can be distracting so watch the story
extras are wrapped up with a three minute Radiophonic Workshop music
photo gallery, and the usual Radio Times listings.
No true Doctor Who fan can be without this story, solely
because it has one of the most unbelievably bad creatures in the
history of the
show, and that's saying something. If
you can look past that, it's a very solid effort that really works
many fans might remember. It gets a