13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
All Hail to the Great One,
This review is from: Doctor Who: Planet of the Spiders (Story 74) (DVD)
In 1974 after 5 full-color, groovy years filled with Venusian karate chops, James Bondesque gadgets, the Master, high octane old roadsters, frilly shirts, and frequently reversing the polarity, Jon Pertwee called it a day and packed it in as the Doctor. Planet of the Spiders is his final outing as the Doctor, and while it's not a great story, it is a fitting goodbye to the Pertwee era.
The story comes off as John Pertwee's greatest hits. There is a letter from Jo Jones (nee Grant). The Brigadier and Sergeant Benton join in for a rousing chase sequence. As a bonus, we get to see Mike Yates (former UNIT captain) one last time, and he is redeemed for his dastardly turn the last time we saw him. We get one last chase with Bessie and the Whomobile, plus a gyrocopter, speedboat and hovercraft thrown in for good measure. The Doctor even has an opportunity to use his Venusian karate and reminisce about one of his many famous friends (Houdini this time). It's a nice walk down memory lane with the Doctor and the UNIT family.
The story itself, well you see there are these giant spiders, and they want this blue crystal that the Doctor took from Metebelis 3. (He'd given it to Jo Grant as a wedding present after solving the problem of the giant maggots in the Green Death a year earlier - luckily Jo mailed it back to the Doctor from the Amazon jungle at the beginning of the story). OK, so meanwhile off in the country Mike Yates is at a Buddhist monastery where he's trying to find himself after the nastiness with the dinosaurs, and he discovers this group of guys chanting away in the basement without proper supervision when something starts to materialize. Mike Yates quickly realizes there's something not quite right here, and that this must be a job for UNIT-slight problem since Mike had turned on the Brig and company in the Invasion of the Dinosaurs, so they probably wouldn't listen to him. Solution - Mike asks Sarah Jane Smith to come down to the monastery to do a story on it and convince her that there is something untoward going on at the meditation center.
Throw in a brief subplot at the beginning with the Doctor doing research into psychic abilities (I think primarily to have the charming scene at the beginning of the story where the Doc and the Brig go to a vaudeville show, maybe the men could learn some of her moves indeed...), a story about a planet's human population subjugated by giant spiders, and a mentally handicapped young man who saves the day and you've got the story. The story is interesting, but feels a bit jumbled. The thread of redemption, rebirth and renewal is throughout the story in order to prepare the audience for the inevitable ending, and it truly feels like the end of an era, which it was.
To put things into perspective, at the time of this story's airing the program had reached its highest heights of viewership and fandom during Pertwee's era. Doctor Who had gone from a show that was almost cancelled to a television institution during these five years, and no one knew the heights it would shortly attain during Tom Baker's first few years. Also the production team had remained consistent throughout Pertwee's time as the Doctor, which hadn't happened before on Doctor Who, and wouldn't happen again until perhaps Peter Davison's era. It gave a strong cohesive feeling to the entirety of Jon Pertwee's time as the Doctor. We must remember that this was not only a goodbye for Jon Pertwee, but for Terrence Dicks and Barry Letts as well.
For the story itself it was Barry Letts' baby all the way. He co-wrote the scripts, produced the story, and directed it. The story was based on Barry Letts interest in Buddhism and meditation and was something of a Buddhist parable. Terrence Dicks, the script editor and no shrinking violet, pretty much let Barry Letts run with it. This even shows during the commentary track on the DVD where Terrence Dicks was fairly subdued, not offering up anywhere near his usual contribution and let Barry Letts have center stage for his story.
I have to admit I was a little disappointed with the extras on this set. There was a nice interview with John Kane who played Tommy. There was the obligatory making of feature, and a nice overview of Barry Letts directing. The then and now feature on shooting locations wasn't that interesting. The omnibus version of the story was interesting to contrast with the original serialized story, and the information text option was filled with interesting tidbits that weren't necessarily already covered in the commentary and making of features.
I did enjoy the commentary option, but found it a little sad because of the realization that 3 of the 5 people involved with the commentary tracks had recently passed away. Barry Letts and Elisabeth Sladen were both quite interesting and had a lot of good information, and Terrence Dicks had some good comments as well, but as stated earlier he was much more reserved than usual on commentary tracks. Unfortunately, Nicholas Courtney and Richard Franklin's contributions weren't as well informed or interesting.
So after all of this should you get this DVD? Well, if you enjoy Jon Pertwee's Doctor, then the answer is a resounding yes. It really is a fond farewell to his years as our favorite time traveler. If you are not familiar with Jon Pertwee's time in the TARDIS, then I recommend you wait until you've sampled at least 1 or 2 stories from each of his five years. I promise you'll enjoy it much more if you have more of a background with his Doctor's adventures. Finally, if you're a fan of the new Doctor Who and want to check out some early stories, don't start here with Jon Pertwee. I strongly recommend you check out Terror of the Autons, The Curse of Peladon, The Sea Devils and/or The Time Warrior before you watch this story.
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Showing 1-5 of 5 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Feb 18, 2012 8:51:53 AM PST
Armchair Pundit says:
In reply to an earlier post on Feb 20, 2012 11:17:20 AM PST
Nancy A. Fox says:
Thank you for the kind comment.
Posted on Oct 19, 2013 2:41:21 PM PDT
Captain Whatsit says:
Great review! The first sentence describes the Pertwee era perfectly.
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