Doctor Who #519: The Creature from the Pit Part 4

"It was written in the stars."
TECHNICAL SPECS: First aired Nov.17 1979.

IN THIS ONE... Lady Adrasta is killed, but the Creature's people have shot a neutron star at Chloris.

REVIEW: Though the episode ends on a fairly high-note, with crazy epic concepts worthy of a Martin and Baker script (Fisher always seems to be emulating SOMEone), you still need to wade through the first two-thirds of this thing, inhabited by those stupid, stupid characters from Part 1 through 3. Lady Adrasta is such an irritating character, her own man the Huntsman finally turns on her with very little prodding (he has the best hat anyway), and she's killed in the first 10 minutes. The villain of the pieces is (mercifully) dead, but the show must go on with a couple of tacked-on moments of jeopardy. One of these has the metal scavengers seem to steal a crucial piece of the Creature's ship, but they think better of it even after knocking Organon on the head (as a punchline). Adrasta's vizier, Karela, HAS taken the photon drive, but it's not a big complication because she heads straight to the scavengers' tent and orders them about (living in a matriarchal society, they tend to obey her for no reason just as they did Romana). So when the Doctor walks in, well, it was the only set left. By that time, she's killed the leader of the scavengers who only gawps at the steel blade she used, the unnecessary death of a clown. How powerful is K9's laser that he can turn metal into ash and force the economy to collapse? It's just stupid. And don't get me started on people talking in view/earshot of others without being heard or being surprised if they are.

When it comes to the Creature (Erato), however, things are looking up. Its communicator thing uses the larynx of whoever is touching it to speak. It was a high ambassador come to trade vegetation for metal until betrayed by Adrasta, and now its people have shot a neutron star at Chloris' sun in retaliation. Big ideas, and not hampered too much by the monster's design, which we see little of. They've gotten rid of its appendages anyway. The solution is pretty insane science, by all accounts, and the effects crazier still, but it's well paced and reasonably exciting. It involves Erato's shell-ship weaving aluminum around the neutron star while the TARDIS strains to keep it in place with a tractor beam, which at the last moment can't be switched off, almost leading to a collision. I liked these bits. Maybe I was starved for entertainment though.

The regulars do their best to keep things alive (the "yes" scene springs to mind), but the dialog tends to be pretty ordinary. Organon gets most of the jokes, but when he's not paired up with the Doctor, they fall a little flat. At least there's the scene where the Doctor writes him off for dead when Adrasta says she'll kill the astrologer if the Time Lord doesn't cooperate. But Adrasta's there too, so it's a bit of a wash. I'll say this: At least Tom Baker doesn't voice Erato all the time, the talking stick given over to Adrasta, Romana and K9 on occasion. Like Midsummer Night's Dream's Bottom, the fourth Doctor doesn't need any more opportunities to play every role.

VERSIONS: The Target novelization is filled with jokey footnotes, and with the monster in your imagination instead of on the screen, it's much better reading than viewing experience.

REWATCHABILITY: Medium-Low - Some fun outer space stuff at the end, but the human characters are so stupid as to drain all my interest in the proceedings.

STORY REWATCHABILITY: Medium-Low - The script has some big ideas hiding in it, but badly-written, badly-acted villains and Doctor Who's worst-designed monster muck everything up. We can take shelter in the comedy, but even that tends to fall flat.

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