Doctor Who – Planet of the Spiders

Anyone who scrolled to whatever part of the page my “Coming soon” thingy was lurking at the time may have noticed that this DVD release has been on my list of things to write about for quite some time. Well, last weekend, I finally found a suitable tuit and made a start on the growing pile of classic Doctor Who DVDs that I hadn’t yet watched. It had got to seven, which is quite a lot, especially when combined with all the other stuff I need to watch, so it may take a while…

Anyway, enough of the digressions and on with the post. This is Jon Pertwee’s last story as the Doctor[1], and also features Elisabeth Sladen as Sarah Jane Smith, Nicholas Courtney as the Brigadier, John Levine as Sergeant Benton and Richard Franklin returning as former Captain Yates[2]. And lots of really big spiders, so arachnophobes should probably stop reading at this point.

The story revolves around a blue crystal which the Doctor took from the planet Metebelis 3 and gave to Jo Grant as a wedding present after her departure in The Green Death. Having had some issues with it in South America, Jo has sent the crystal back to the Doctor. Meanwhile, the disgraced Mike Yates has called Sarah Jane and persuaded her to come and investigate the goings on at what’s meant to be a Buddhist retreat. Only some of the residents are using a slightly odd ritual in an attempt to gain power of the usually odd kind. The problem with that is that they’re being used by the mutated giant spiders of Metebelis 3, who not content with dominating the human colonists there now want, in the traditional way, to take over the universe.

Much running around, follows, including an overlong chase sequence included so that Jon Pertwee could have a bit of fun in a selection of vehicles, culminating in a final confrontation with a remarkably large spider, which sorts out Metebelis 3, but also irradiates the Doctor in a non-optimal manner. He manages to return to UNIT HQ, where he’s assisted by another Time Lord to regenerate.

It’s all a bit silly, really, and would probably have been better at four episodes than six, but it’s an important end of era story, which is worth watching at least once.

Extras include a commentary that features both Nicholas Courtney and Elisabeth Sladen, in what must have been amongst their last contributions to Doctor Who, the usual production subtitles and galleries and some good stuff:

  • The Final Curtain Nicely compiled documentary on the end of Jon Pertwee’s time as the Doctor, which also saw a change in the production team. Quite apart from the ubiquitous Terrance Dicks, there’s archive interview material from Jon Pertwee and Barry Letts, good stuff from the excellent Mark Gatiss, and more.
  • Directing Who with Barry Letts A piece they must have been hanging on to for a while. Producer and Director Barry Letts recalling his work on the series.
  • Now and Then One of the traditional looks at how the locations used have changed
  • Omnibus Edition Just before the next series, with Tom Baker as the Doctor, started, an edited omnibus version was shown. It’s presented here without the magical restoration work on the normal version. Useful to compare and to be impressed by just how good the Restoration Team are.

And there’s a few other bits and pieces, too.

This is a nicely put together release, and you do need to see the Eight Legsssssss at least once.

[1] Excluding brief returns here and there
[2] Having left the UNIT job in a story that’s still waiting for its DVD release