Doctor Who #380: Planet of the Spiders Part 3

"A two-leg dares to claim friendship with the eight-legs - the noble ones?"
TECHNICAL SPECS: First aired May 18 1974.

IN THIS ONE... Lupton goes to Metebelis 3 with Sarah Jane in tow. The Doctor later follows.

REVIEW: If I tried to be kind to this episode/serial, I'd say it had an overarching theme, that of things always being out of reach, not unlike humanity's enlightenment. However, what's really out of reach is the production's ability to play fair with its audience. Time and again, the plot just screws with us in the most annoying ways. Consider that the huge chase in the previous episode ends with the spider TELEPORTING Lupton back to the meditation center - why not to this sooner and avoid the whole enterprise? Consider too the Punch & Judy show of Sarah Jane's bonding with magpie Tommy about to pay off, and Sarah turning away just as he offers her the stolen Metebelis crystal. And consider as well how the TARDIS finds its way only a few feet from Sarah Jane who is teleported to a part of Metebelis 3 we've never seen, and at some point in the future that looks completely different from the last time we were there, simply using the coordinates from last time. Hm.

Metebelis 3 in the daylight looks like some mesa in a western, complete with human colonists living like Pueblo Indians or something, unless they've taken up with the spiders, in which case they're closer to Asia Minor's steppe nomads. It's a simply life on Metebelis 3, unless you're a spider and serving on some kind of council in a modern building that doesn't look anything like what you'd imagine spider-like beings building. It's high camp, in a way, a clash of different things to create that special Whovian strangeness. However... This story is getting harder and harder to make sense of. So the spiders are teleporting in on meditation vibes from another planet, from some point IN THE FUTURE? A future where they have already enslaved human beings? How does this even connect to the Metebelis 3 we saw in The Green Death, a Gothic nightmare filled with giant animals? How long has it been since the Doctor was there? And how can the Doctor's coordinates bring him to the right spot? Making the spiders' homeworld Metebelis 3 just to connect it to past continuity seems a rather grave plotting error.

And then there's Lupton. I thoroughly hate this villain, and not in a good way. He's enough of a genius to turn the psychic tables on his pet spider (genius by the standards of the Metebelisians, possibly), and his ambition is to rule the world, but his motivation is to get revenge on the corporate suits that fired him from his salesman job?! I'm not saying salesmen can't be geniuses, or psychic juggernauts, or even would-be world conquerors, but it's as low-rent as you get in Doctor Who. It's interesting that his "demon", the spider, wants to rule ITS world and replace the Queen, almost like these really are Buddhist spirits, manifestations of its host's sin, but I don't buy any of it as a plot element. No more than I buy Jenny Laird's performance as Neska, the mother of Yet Another Alien Rebel(TM). At some point, no amount of the Doctor's martial arts can help a story.

REWATCHABILITY: Medium-Low - I keep wanting to give it a better rating, largely because we're saying goodbye to Pertwee with this, but I simply can't. It's a real mess.


Anonymous said...

I can't answer most of your comments, but I watched this recently and I believe one of the two-legs tells the Doctor the story of how the Earth colonists' time drive malfunctioned before the crash. I took from that that the Metebelis scenes were happening in the 20th century and the humans and spiders were descendants of colonists who had travelled back in time and crashed there in the 15th century. Not made as clear as it could have been.


Siskoid said...

That's an excellent theory, good catch. But you're right, it's really not made clear.


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