Doctor Who #516: The Creature from the Pit Part 1

"Stands to reason. Stupid expression, stands to reason. Why doesn't it lie down to reason? Much easier to reason lying down."
TECHNICAL SPECS: This story is available on DVD. First aired Oct.27 1979.

IN THIS ONE... The TARDIS lands on Chloris, finds a big egg shell and is captured by tumbleweeds. Romana is captured by, and escapes from, metal scavengers.

REVIEW: We know the eponymous Creature is, if not the worst, one of the worst Doctor Who monsters ever fabricated. But does that mean the whole story is bollocks? Since Part 1 doesn't feature the monster, we have a chance to find out. Open-minded we go... No, yeah, sorry, the story is, indeed, bollocks. Oh, the set and costume design is pretty cool, in an Indian style we haven't seen a lot of. I like the wolfweeds, killer tumbleweeds that respond to the crack of the Hunter's whip and smother their prey. They look a little silly, and the bit where they smother K9 is completely unbelievable, but it's a fun idea. The Medieval "engineers" and their various theories about the shell in the woods gives the Doctor the chance to be insolent, even though his theories are just as silly on paper. I like the Doctor's reaction to the cliffhanger, throwing himself into far greater danger. And I suppose there's something to be done with a planet that has little metal, setting rich aristocrats against metal-starved, grubby primitives. Those are the positives.

Unfortunately, many of the characters in the story are stupendously idiotic, which means the Time Lords may well take control of the situation, but it's hardly a feat to do so. The guards who scratch the Doctor's nose. The oddly-democratic scavengers trying to blow into Romana's dog whistle. A "Place of Death" no one has access to, except just about everybody we meet in the story. And they're not just stupid, they're all jerks as well. Who are we supposed to care for on Chloris? Everyone's an enemy, a threat, a fool, or all three. Maybe the Creature then, except fans know how THAT turns out.

In such situations, you can usually count on the regulars to keep things alive, but there are some major problems there too. The jokey opener, for example, wastes our time with unfunny bits that had nothing to the plot, and little to the themes. Time Lords reading children's books. A trunk full of souvenirs from unseen adventures, unseen because they would have been thoroughly stupid. Tonally, it makes everything that comes after part of the same silliness. How can we then take the wolfweeds or the It's Man tribe seriously? Nobody in the story does, going by the comedy stun falls and such. Lalla Ward is too pale to be wearing that costume and so much make-up, this being her least memorable look. And then you have K9... NOT voiced by John Leeson! David Brierley's perky tones are irritating and devoid of Leeson's mechanical charm. The little things that might have saved the episode just aren't present.

REWATCHABILITY: Medium-Low - Dare I say it? This episode is the pits.



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