Planet of the Spiders

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074 – Planet of the Spiders
Doctor Who serial
Planet of the Spiders.jpg
The Spider Queen of Metebelis Three
Cast
Others
Production
Writer Robert Sloman
Barry Letts (uncredited)
Director Barry Letts
Script editor Terrance Dicks
Producer Barry Letts (uncredited)
Executive producer(s) None
Incidental music composer Dudley Simpson
Production code ZZZ
Series Season 11
Length 6 episodes, 25 minutes each
Date started 4 May 1974
Date ended 8 June 1974
Chronology
← Preceded by Followed by →
The Monster of Peladon Robot

Planet of the Spiders is the fifth and final serial of the 11th season of the British science fiction television series Doctor Who, which was first broadcast in six weekly parts from 4 May to 8 June 1974. It was Jon Pertwee's last serial as the Third Doctor, and marks the first, uncredited appearance of Tom Baker as the Fourth Doctor. It marks the last regular appearance of Mike Yates. This serial introduces the term "regeneration".

Plot[edit]

Following the events of Invasion of the Dinosaurs, Mike Yates was discharged from UNIT and is now attending a Tibetan meditation centre in rural England. Sarah Jane Smith visits him and they witness some curious happenings at the centre, seemingly organised by a resident called Lupton, a middle aged former salesman, and his cronies. Mike and Sarah stumble across Lupton performing an incantation, which conjures up a giant spider into the middle of the basement room. It jumps on Lupton’s back and then disappears. The spider manifests itself in Lupton’s head, telling him to seek out and locate a certain blue crystal.

The Third Doctor has developed an interest in psychic ability, but his testing of a clairvoyant called Professor Clegg backfires when his subject has a heart attack. It is triggered when Clegg comes into contact with a blue crystal from Metebelis Three (sent back from the Amazon by Jo Grant), which caused him to see the image of deadly spiders. Sarah returns from the retreat, having left Mike to watch things there, and she and the Doctor swap spider tales. Meanwhile Lupton has also arrived at UNIT HQ and steals the crystal from the Doctor’s laboratory. A multi-vehicle chase ensues which Lupton escapes by teleporting himself back to the monastery. Once there, the spider reveals that it is plotting against some of its sisters back on Metebelis Three. The spiders and the crystal originate from the same blue planet in the Acteon Galaxy, which was none too hospitable to the Doctor the last time he visited (during The Green Death).

The Doctor and Sarah now make for the monastery and tell the deputy abbot, Cho-Je, that something is very amiss. The crystal now strays again when it is taken by Tommy, the simple-minded handyman of the retreat, whose mind is opened and improved by the power of the crystal. Lupton is teleported to Metebelis Three, subconsciously allowing Sarah to follow him. She soon meets the human slave inhabitants of the planet, a generally dispirited bunch, other than the rebellious Arak, who is now in hiding.

The planet is ruled by the Eight-Legs or giant spiders, and their Queen is the supreme ruler. They govern using guards chosen from among the planet's Two-Leg (human) population and their own phenomenal mental powers, amplified by the blue stones of the planet. The Doctor arrives on the planet and he makes contact with Arak, who explains that the Metebelians are the descendants of the crew of an earth space ship, which crashed hundreds of years before. A spider on board found its way to the Blue Mountains where, through the effect of the crystals, its progeny grew larger and larger and cleverer and cleverer. The Doctor works out that a “negative” stone can absorb and reject the power of the blue crystals and starts a revolt among the humans, but this is defeated and the Doctor ventures to the Blue Mountains. There he encounters the Great One, a giant spider which controls the world of Metebelis and desires power over other domains too. She knows the crystal is still on Earth and sends the Doctor there to get it for her. He flees back to Earth with Sarah – not knowing the Queen spider has now implanted itself in his companion's mind.

Tommy has given the crystal to the abbot, K’anpo Rimpoche, who is an elderly Time Lord and the one-time hermit mentor of the Doctor. He now lives in peaceful exile on Earth. He tells the Doctor of Sarah's control and they work together to expel the Queen Spider. A fight breaks out in the monastery between Lupton’s cronies and the Abbot’s men. The Abbot advises the Doctor to take the crystal to the Great One: the Doctor started this chain of events by removing the crystal in the first place, and it is up to him to put it back. He departs in the TARDIS with the crystal.

On Metebelis Three, Lupton has been killed by the spiders after falling out with the Spider Queen. When the TARDIS lands, the Doctor heads to the cave of the Great One and gives her the crystal, which she uses to complete a lattice that begins to magnify her mental powers. However, the forces unleashed are too strong for the Great One and the feedback kills her and the other spiders. A vast wave of deadly radiation floods the cave. The Doctor, now very weak, staggers back to the TARDIS and teleports away.

Three weeks later, Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart and Sarah are in the Doctor's laboratory when the Doctor finally returns and collapses on the floor. The abbot K’anpo arrives in his new body, having regenerated into the form of Cho-Je, who was a sort of forward projection of his soul. He tells them that the Doctor will change too and before their eyes the Doctor regenerates into his fourth incarnation.

Continuity[edit]

Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart's future wife, Doris, is mentioned for the first time in Episode One. The character herself wouldn't make a visual appearance until Battlefield in 1989.[1]

Future companion Harry Sullivan is mentioned in Episode Two; he would appear in the next serial, Robot.[1]

This story marks the second, and final, appearance of the Whomobile[1] which first appeared in Invasion of the Dinosaurs.

A similar blue crystal from Metebelis Three appears again in the 2013 Eleventh Doctor episode, "Hide".[2]

Production[edit]

The final story of Season 11 (to have been titled The Final Game) was originally intended to write out the character of the Master, with the villainous Time Lord sacrificing his life to save the Doctor. Due to the death of actor Roger Delgado, script editor Terrance Dicks abandoned the project in favour of a new story, which eventually evolved into Planet of the Spiders.[citation needed] The railway station Sarah Jane arrives at in Part One is Mortimer, near Reading.[3]

Cast notes[edit]

Ysanne Churchman had provided the voice of Alpha Centauri in both The Curse of Peladon and its sequel The Monster of Peladon (the serial immediately preceding Planet of the Spiders). Kismet Delgado, the widow of Roger Delgado, who had played the Master during the Third Doctor's era, was one of the voices for the Spiders.[4] Carl Forgione would later play Nimrod in Ghost Light.

Broadcast and reception[edit]

Serial details by episode
Episode Broadcast date Run time Viewers
(in millions)
Archive
"Part One" 4 May 1974 (1974-05-04) 24:40 10.1 PAL 2" colour videotape
"Part Two" 11 May 1974 (1974-05-11) 25:02 8.9 PAL 2" colour videotape
"Part Three" 18 May 1974 (1974-05-18) 24:58 8.8 PAL 2" colour videotape
"Part Four" 25 May 1974 (1974-05-25) 23:53 8.2 PAL 2" colour videotape
"Part Five" 1 June 1974 24:01 9.2 PAL 2" colour videotape
"Part Six" 8 June 1974 24:43 8.9 PAL 2" colour videotape
[5][6][7]

Paul Cornell, Martin Day, and Keith Topping wrote of the serial in The Discontinuity Guide (1995), "Grotesquely over padded and stuck with bad CSO, Planet of the Spiders is not the celebration of an era that it should have been." However, they felt that the regeneration scene "almost atones for this".[1] In 2010, Patrick Mulkern of Radio Times praised the regeneration and wrote that it had "fun". He noted that some of the cliffhangers were "unusually feeble", but the first was one of the best.[4] DVD Talk's John Sinnott gave the story three out of five stars, writing that it was "enjoyable" despite "not the great sendoff that Pertwee should have received" with padding and weak special effects.[8] Reviewing the serial for SFX, Ian Berriman rated the serial three and a half out of five stars and described it as "a mix of the fresh and the hokey". While he noted that some of plot was repetitive and traditional, he praised the inclusion of Buddhism.[9] In 2010, Alasdair Wilkins of io9 called the story a "mash-up of a bunch of different types of Third Doctor stories", but the plot was not enough to stretch out over six episodes and so a lot of unnecessary elements were added. However, Wilkins felt that it was a good thematic end for the Third Doctor, and named it the third best regeneration but the third worst regeneration story.[10] In 2009, SFX listed Sarah Jane with the spider on her back as the tenth scariest Doctor Who moment.[11]

Commercial releases[edit]

In print[edit]

Doctor Who book
Book cover
Doctor Who and the Planet of the Spiders
Series Target novelisations
Release number 48
Writer Terrance Dicks
Publisher Target Books
Cover artist Peter Brookes
ISBN 0-426-10655-5
Release date 16 October 1975

A novelisation of this serial, written by Terrance Dicks, was published by Target Books in October 1975 as Doctor Who and the Planet of the Spiders. The novel's prologue shows Jo Grant and her husband Professor Jones in the Amazon jungle following the events of The Green Death. Harry Sullivan is referred to as Doctor Sweetman.

Home media[edit]

The serial was released on VHS in April 1991 as a double pack.[6] It was released on DVD in the UK on 18 April 2011,[12] and in the USA and Canada on 10 May 2011.[13] This serial was also released as part of the Doctor Who DVD Files in Issue 110 on 20 March 2013.

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d Cornell, Paul; Day, Martin; Topping, Keith (1995). "Planet of the Spiders". The Discontinuity Guide. London: Virgin Books. ISBN 0-426-20442-5. 
  2. ^ "BBC One - Doctor Who, Series 7 Part 2, Hide". Bbc.co.uk. 2013-09-13. Retrieved 2013-10-09. 
  3. ^ Howe, David J.; Walker, Stephen James (1996). "Planet of the Spiders (ZZZ)". Doctor Who The Handbook - The Third Doctor. London: Doctor Who Books. p. 166. ISBN 0 426 20486 7. 
  4. ^ a b Mulkern, Patrick (28 March 2010). "Doctor Who: Planet of the Spiders". Radio Times. Retrieved 17 March 2013. 
  5. ^ Shaun Lyon et al. (2007-03-31). "Planet of the Spiders". Outpost Gallifrey. Retrieved 2008-08-30. [dead link]
  6. ^ a b "Planet of the Spiders". Doctor Who Reference Guide. Retrieved 2008-08-30. 
  7. ^ Sullivan, Shannon (2007-08-07). "Planet of the Spiders". A Brief History of Time Travel. Retrieved 2008-08-30. 
  8. ^ Sinnott, John (13 May 2011). "Doctor Who: Planet of the Spiders". DVD Talk. Retrieved 17 March 2013. 
  9. ^ Berriman, Ian (15 April 2011). "Doctor Who: Planet of the Spiders - DVD review". SFX. Retrieved 17 March 2013. 
  10. ^ Wilkins, Alasdair (1 January 2010). "Ranking The Regenerations Of Doctor Who". io9. Retrieved 17 March 2013. 
  11. ^ "21 Scariest Doctor Who Moments 4". SFX. 1 February 2009. Archived from the original on 21 November 2009. Retrieved 20 March 2013. 
  12. ^ "April 2011 DVD - Planet of the Spiders". Doctor Who Online - Release Guide. 17 February 2011. Retrieved 18 February 2011. 
  13. ^ Lambert, David (26 January 2011). "Doctor Who - BBC Announces 'Terror of the Autons' and 'Planet of the Spiders'". TVShowsOnDVD.com. para. 3. Retrieved 27 January 2011. 

External links[edit]

Reviews[edit]

Target novelisation[edit]