"A tear, Sarah Jane?"
IN THIS ONE... K'anpo is a Time Lord and sends the Doctor back to Metebelis 3 to confront the giant spider at the cost of his life. Pertwee regenerates into Baker.
REVIEW: Everything your remember from this story is probably in this episode - the Great One, the spider on Sarah's back, the K'anpo business, and of course, the Doctor's regeneration. Who historians should note that this is the first actual mention of regeneration in the series, K'anpo and the Doctor both shedding one of their lives amidst explanations for the audience. Hartnell's was played as a mystery, possibly a power of the TARDIS'. Troughton's was played as forced plastic surgery. So those explanations were quite necessary, even if the program had chosen to ignore the fact it probably had a very different audience than those who might have caught the tail end of The Tenth Planet 8 years before. Without this lore-building which we now accept as given, one might have chalked it up to the Buddhist trappings of this story, a renewal of self effected by the "magic" of K'anpo and Cho-je. This is, after all, an episode where Mike Yates survives lethal psychic bolts thanks to his compassion, and Tommy is shielded by innocence. Where a giant spider plans to expand its mind to infinity by resonating crystals (how 70s New Age!) and take control of the universe. And where K'anpo, a Time Lord like the Doctor, has powers never seen before or again in the species - projection of a second self (indeed, of his next regeneration), precognition, teleportation, and "boosting" the Doctor's regeneration energy. The suggestion is that with discipline, Time Lords can access a variety of psychic abilities, though in reality, it's all just part of the "magical" approach to events in the story.
In that context, the story's plotting problems are softened. The Doctor doesn't really need to go back and confront the Great One, not logically. But thematically, he must. It's his hero's journey, and he must purge his sin, the "greed for knowledge" that made him bring the crystal to Earth in the first place. If he hadn't interfered, the Great One would have blown itself up ages ago. That it happens now instead means we get our requisite end-of-serial UNIT-era explosion, but otherwise, it's just the Doctor paying a toll. His sacrifice isn't needless, but it is a personal choice to move on to the next life. Not a suicide, perhaps, but an execution. K'anpo as life guide is the element that takes the darkness out of that concept and turns it into an achievement, a step in the right direction for the Doctor's soul. Other plot problems aren't so softened, however. Putting the Spider Queen on Sarah Jane's back is a good, if foreseeable, twist, but they don't really do anything with it. All the Queen managed to do was get back to Earth and then get killed(?) by the crystal. Then back on Metebelis 3, there she is again, or a new queen - I told you, I can't tell them apart - killing Lupton off finally, his use to the plot long since expired, and giving the Doctor exactly what he wants. I find it all tedious because everyone's just doing what the script tells them to, their only motivation.
As does the TARDIS, unless we accept that there's something very special indeed about Sarah Jane Smith that it would, after getting lost for weeks in the vortex, materialize just as Sarah visits UNIT HQ for one last, longing look. It's the second time the blue box has found Sarah in space and time with such exactitude, so there's probably truth in that. Regardless, this is where you want the Doctor to die and be reborn, with his family (aww, where's Benton?). It's the touching scene (with the experienced Brigadier there for comic relief) that you've probably seen several times out of context. The emotions work, even though the appearance of K'anpo is a bit bizarre unless you've watched the entire episode (still don't need the whole story though). Are K'anpo's words about our willingness to be dominated what triggers a more Bohemian streak in the Doctor that is to come? Was the abbot guiding the Doctor away from his dependence on Earth and UNIT? Clearly, the Doctor's guru was pushing him to leave Gallifrey even in his youth (and did so himself).
VERSIONS: The Target novelization includes a prologue that features Jo Grant, but omits references to Harry Sullivan (changing his name to Sweetman), and the key scene of the Great One sensing fear in the Doctor's mind from Part 5. Lupton gets a more gruesome death as well (yay!). The DVD includes an omnibus presentation (unrestored, but no great difference) edited down to 105 minutes from the story's 150 (most of those 45 minutes are opening and credits sequences and reprises, but among the trims, a night at the theater, some of the cocooned gallows humor, some of the conspirators' moments, and criminally, Tommy reading Blake). It's a chance to see how many of us first experienced these stories on PBS (though it was actually edited by Barry Letts for transmission before the next season started).
REWATCHABILITY: High - You could skip most of the story and still get what's happening with this episode alone, and it does contain historically and emotionally important moments.
STORY REWATCHABILITY: Medium - The charming visit with the UNIT family in Part 1, and the Doctor's touching death in Part 6, drive up the score on what is otherwise a real mess of a story, haphazardly plotted and frequently badly acted. Watched as a whole, the padding becomes overlong sequences, but not the only piece of the story you would have watched that day/week, so is less detrimental to it. Still, Pertwee deserved a tighter script to go out on (it's about right for Yates though).