Why is it that, more times than not, series finalies are so poor? Seinfeld, MASH, and even the last Russell T.
Davies story from the latest incarnation of Doctor
Who have been less than satisfactory.
Whatever the reason, it's a curse that at least partially
Pertwee's last Doctor Who adventure, The
Planet of the Spiders. It has some
solid ideas, but the six-episode
story runs a bit too long and has a couple of missteps that keeps it
a great send-off. As it is, the story is
fun, but a bit bloating in places.
The Doctor, while researching ESP in humans, discovers a
stage magician who really does have psychic powers.
Excited by this discovery he invites the man
to take part in some tests back at UNIT HQ, and the man seems to have
extraordinary powers. While holed up to The Doctor's machines however,
package arrives from Jo Grant (a previous companion).
She's off in the Amazon looking for a rare
species of mushroom and has had to return a keepsake from the Doctor, a
from Metebelis 3. While reading the
letter, the psychic magician starts to examine the crystal and with a
At the same time Mike Yates, once a member of UNIT until he
had to leave in disgrace, has taken up residency in a Buddhist
center where he's discovered some odd events.
A small group of practitioners are performing strange
Yates suspects that they're up to something.
He contacts Sarah Jane Smith who travels out to meet him, and
sneak into one of the secret meetings where they witness the group
giant spider. The arachnid kills one
member who tries to flee, and then jumps onto the back of the group's
the villainous Lupton, and merges with his mind.
It turns out the spider is from Metebelis 3 and has come to
Earth in order to find the blue crystal.
Using it's powers, the creature is able to sense the shiny rock
Lupton heads off for UNIT HQ where he manages to break in and steal the
important artifact. He doesn't make a
getaway however, and is spotted. What
follows is a chase over land, sea and air involving cars, hovercraft,
mini-helicopters, and a speedboat.
Managing to evade The Doctor, Lupton arrives back at the
meditation center only to have the crystal be stolen from his room by
mentally backwards man with the brain of a child. This
is very bad for both him and the spider
on his back, as they've told the rulers of Metebelis that they have the
and are recalled to the home planet. An
inquisitive Sarah Jane gets yanked along, and it's up to The Doctor to
to the distant planet in his TARDIS where he discovers a planet where
are slaves ruled by giant spiders.
As with many of the six part stories, this one has a lot of
padding. The scenes where the Buddhists
are chanting seem to go on forever (not to mention the parts where they
Buddhist philosophy), but that's nothing compared to the extended chase
in one of the early episodes. It really
does nothing to advance the plot, and it's a bit silly too. The Doctor and Lupton find several unique
vehicles just sitting around waiting to be used in a chase scene. When is the last time you saw a one-man
hovercraft just sitting with the keys in it?
What's worse is the resolution to the chase.
When The Doctor finally catches up with
Lupton he just teleports back to the meditation center.
Why didn't he do that to begin with??
I don't like to critique the special effects of Doctor Who
too much, after all the show is made on a tight budget and they did the
that they could, but things aren't pretty in this story.
Instead of shooting Metebelis 3 on location
(a recreation of a medieval farm perhaps, they mainly used process
in front of a blue screen, which aren't terribly convincing. The spiders themselves are okay, but they
could have done a lot more without adding much cost.
The spider's meeting chamber consists of a
bunch of tables with web patterns painted on them.
Why not have the whole room filled with webs and have the
sprinkled throughout. That would have
been much more eerie and effective.
Even with these flaws the story is enjoyable to watch.
The idea of large spider invading Earth is
fairly creepy to begin with, and revolt against the spiders on
Metebelis 3 was
a fun and typical Doctor Who
adventure that worked well. It was sort
of a mini-story within the larger serial and it served to move the
along. Of course seeing Mike Yates one
last time was nice but that's a far second to getting to see Jon
out of the TARDIS mortally wounded.
Overall this is a good adventure, but not the great sendoff that
should have received.
This release is a two-disc affair. The six episode story is on disc one
the second one is reserved for the bulk of the special features.
This show comes with the original mono soundtrack that fits the show
fine. The dynamic range is nothing to write home about, but the
generally crisp and clear and there is no background noise, tape hiss,
distortion or dropouts. There are optional subtitles in English.
I was pleased with the full frame color image. The Restoration
their usual top-notch job. The colors
are nice and the fine detail is good. The blacks are pretty
but there is some detail lost in bright, white areas in a few
It's not a big deal though. This looks very comparable to the
other Who releases from this time frame, which
means your getting a pretty solid transfer.
This disc has some great extras included, as is the standard for Doctor
releases. The commentary track includes producer/director/writer
Barry Letts, script editor Terrance Dicks, Elisabeth Sladen, Nicholas
and Richard Franklin. It's a fun track
to listen to, though a bit bitter-sweet as three of the five
participants (Letts, Sladen and Courtney) are no longer with us.
Most of the bonus material is found on disc two. The video
start out with The Final Curtain (37 min) which looks at the filming of
Pertwee's last episode. It has a lot of
information, and includes an interview with the late Pertwee from 1995. They discuss the reasons why Jon left, as
well as the camaraderie on the set and the genesis of the story. Next up is John Kane Remembers (12 min) in
which the actor who played Tommy in the serial recounts his time on
as well as his other accomplishments.
Directing Doctor Who (14 min) is a look back at the career of
and Now and Then (7 min) takes viewers back to the original locations
used in the show to see what they look like today.
Of all of these, only the last one was failed
to catch my interest. The rest were fun
and very informative.
There's also an 'Omnibus Edition' of Planet of Spiders, an
unrestored movie-version of the story with the breaks between episodes
out. It's an interesting artifact, but
In addition there is a pop-up informational text option
which is very informative as always. It does give some dry
statistics, like how many people viewed each episode, but there are
interesting notes such as script changes that were made and background
information on the supporting characters. The extras are rounded
storyboard comparison, a trailer for the story, a photo gallery, and
listing from the Radio Times in .pdf format.
While this story does have some flaws and is a little bloated, when all
and done it's still worth watching. This
last Jon Pertwee story does have its moments and would have been
by being just four parts, but even at six there's enough good here to Recommend
this disc to fans of The
Doctor. Check it out.