Doctor Who #379: Planet of the Spiders Part 2

"Now keep your eyes peeled for the gyroplane."
TECHNICAL SPECS: First aired May 11 1974.

IN THIS ONE... Lupton gets a spider on his back, steals the Metebelis crystal, and gets into the program's longest chase with the Doctor.

REVIEW: So ok, there's a connection between Clegg's death and the A-plot, as it seems Evil Buddhist Spiders killed him psychically when he looked too hard into the crystal. It's still a rather big coincidence that the crystal would be returned the day the Doctor would have Clegg in for his experiments while simultaneously, Yates and Sarah Jane are investigating the very people who are summoning the spiders from Metebelis 3. The spiders themselves are halfway between creepy and ridiculous, speaking with a trilling and somewhat distinguished female voice, and frequently lacking animation. They jump on your back and seem to disappear, representative of the host's "inner demons". I told you this was a Buddhist parable.

Obviously, the spiders have sensed the crystal and they want it back (oh Doctor, what have you done?). Giving Lupton some nifty electric powers, they send up to UNIT HQ to retrieve it, triggering an overlong chase sequence on land, air and sea. It's the third Doctor's last Bondian hurrah and even features Little Nellie from You Only Live Twice (the gyro), a Sheriff Pepper-type (Live and Let Die/The Man with the Golden Gun) i.e. an ill-equipped policeman who joins the chase as comic relief, and vehicles disrupting the daily lives of extras. There's Bessie vs. the stolen Whomobile vs. the gyro. Then the flying Whomobile vs. the stolen gyro. Then a stolen boat vs. a hovercraft. And maybe a single real stunt among them, the Doctor driving the hovercraft over a sleeping hobo (he's fine, cue laugh track). Otherwise, we're supposed to ooh and ahh at terribly matched film and video as the Whomobile takes to the skies, but it's only as exciting as one vehicle following another can be, and coincidences continue to pile up so that there are always two vehicles to choose from.

That's where the majority of the plot goes, though the episode does tease some of what is to come. We were told the villains' lair was a mediation center and not a lamasery, but it seems it's got an abbot, K'empo, who you apparently shouldn't disturb. We'll meet him later. He's a mystery for now. And this marks the first mention of a character we'll get to know pretty well, "Dr. Sullivan", UNIT HQ's resident medical officer. He's almost introduced twice, but they'll keep him hidden until Robot. No need to showcase the new, action man companion quite yet. After all, the Doctor's still fit enough to drive, fly and boat across half of England. Maybe when he regenerates into a wizened old man, "Sullivan" will be more useful (oh oops!).

REWATCHABILITY: Medium-Low - Blowing all the filming days on empty action that's then all shoved into the same episode doesn't seem like a very efficient use of the production's time.


snell said...

The spiders who "jump on your back and disappear" seems familiar in light of "Turn Left." Coincidence, or a connection? Perhaps for a future Theories entry...

Siskoid said...

Ooh, that's an interesting link. Can't believe it never occurred to me. I'll see what I can drum up.

Matthew Turnage said...

Although it doesn't add much to the plot, I still love that chase sequence. It's just so ridiculously over the top.

Siskoid said...

It could do with more stunts and gags, at that length, but it's not unpleasant per se.

Boosterrific said...

The spiders on people's backs in this serial left a huge impression on me as a child. I assumed that the spiders just went invisible, and I spent an inordinate amount of time wondering how people with invisible spiders on their back sat in chairs with backs without crushing spiders.

Siskoid said...

They were great for your posture.


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