Doctor Who #517: The Creature from the Pit Part 2

"Astrologer extraordinary. Seer to princes and emperors. The future foretold, the past explained, the present apologised for."
TECHNICAL SPECS: First aired Nov.3 1979.

IN THIS ONE... The Doctor meets Organon the astrologer in the Pit, while Romana is forced to make K9 work for the Lady Adrasta. The Creature shows up, forcing me to use the word scrotum in a review.

REVIEW: There's a scene early in the episode that best exemplifies what was wrong with the Williams-Adams era (at least, for those who dislike it), and that's the scene in the well where the Doctor holds on for dear life, pulls out rock-climbing equipment, then a book on rock-climbing, and then since that book is in Tibetan, a book on teaching yourself Tibetan. I will not come to its defense here. As with other Adams gags, it doesn't work in part because it goes against what we already know to be the facts of the series (see also Romana's regeneration scene). In this case, we know the TARDIS has translation circuits that should allow them to read other languages. Even if that's not exactly established at this point, we should also remember the Doctor's connection to Tibet (The Abominable Snowmen, Planet of the Spiders), which makes this gap in his knowledge particularly suspect, though I suppose no more suspect than the need to read a book to know how to hammer a nail in a wall. And even if we accept the gag as is, we've got Lady Adrasta up above, clearly heard but somehow unable to hear the Doctor's hammering. It's just silliness, nonsense that breaks our suspension of disbelief.

The kind of humor Doctor Who SHOULD be doing is character-based comedy and witty dialog, and thankfully, the Doctor's scenes with Organon are a good example of this. In the poor astrologer, we finally find a guest character worthy of our sympathy, a wise old fool quite honest about his profession's showmanship (though as it turns out, he was right about the prophecy that sent him to the Pit). Their dialog is a joy. Unfortunately, I can't say the same about Romana's side of things. Romana tries to be a Doctor-like, insolent wit (when she isn't whimpering about K9... ugh! I mean, he only got toilet-papered, get a grip), but Lady Adrasta is so obvious a character, there's no chemistry to be had between them. Myra Frances' arch performance is part of it, but the words she's given, mostly threats and orders, don't give her much to work with. Vanity, megalomania, casual brutality... nothing new. She's not even consistent, killing scientists for not informing her on the big shell, but not needing to know a single thing about the Creature in her cellar (she may be hiding something though), as if the two weren't OBVIOUSLY related.

And then there's the Creature of the Pit. When seen whole, it looks cheap (it's made out of spray-painted weather balloons), but it's amorphous enough to be acceptable. The limb it uses to prod the Doctor and Organon, however... Let me put it this way, why is the human denizen of the Pit the one called Organon? Male genitalia has never been so big or so green. Thoroughly embarrassing and inappropriate for family viewing.

REWATCHABILITY: Medium-Low - The Doctor's conversations with Organon are a highlight, but everything else is shoddy, stupid and/or irritating.

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