The Creature from the Pit
|106 – The Creature from the Pit|
|Doctor Who serial|
The Doctor approaches Erato, attempting to communicate with the creature.
|Directed by||Christopher Barry|
|Written by||David Fisher|
|Script editor||Douglas Adams|
|Produced by||Graham Williams|
|Incidental music composer||Dudley Simpson|
|Length||4 episodes, 25 minutes each|
|First broadcast||27 October – 17 November 1979|
The Creature from the Pit is the third serial of the 17th season of the British science fiction television series Doctor Who, which was first broadcast in four weekly parts on BBC1 from 27 October to 17 November 1979. It is the first serial made to feature David Brierley as the voice of K9.
The serial is set on the planet Chloris. In the serial, Lady Adrasta (Myra Frances) imprisons the Tythonian ambassador Erato in a pit for fifteen years in order to maintain her control over the planet's limited metal supply. The alien time traveller the Fourth Doctor (Tom Baker) attempts to negotiate peace and a trade agreement with Erato.
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The use of an MK3 Emergency transceiver on the TARDIS identifies a distress signal and brings the craft to the lush jungle world of Chloris, where metal in all forms is a rare and prized commodity. The Fourth Doctor and Romana venture out to discover the remains of an enormous egg in the jungle, and when they meet the inhabitants they find a matriarchy ruled through fear by the icy and callous Lady Adrasta. Without metal to make the tools needed to keep the jungle under control, lush plant life dominates. The Lady Adrasta controls the planet's very last metal mine, holding on to power through the Huntsman and the Wolfweeds. Her throne room contains an array of metal including a shield patterned in the same way as the remnants of the shell. She mentions the Creature which dwells in a deep pit on Chloris.
Romana has meanwhile been captured by a party of scavengers, ever keen to find and hoard more metal, and they are particularly impressed by the possibilities of K9. The robot enables her escape and she is briefly reunited with the Doctor before he leaps into the Pit himself, determined to get to the bottom of the mystery and the Pit. Within the Pit he encounters Organon, an astrologer thrown there by Adrasta some time earlier, and then comes face to face with the Creature: indeed, the vast shapeless blob rolls over him. The Doctor calculates it is not, however, dangerous, and is fascinated to note it is a herbivore which produces metal from within itself. It also forms a tentacle and draws a picture which the Doctor recognises as the shield from Adrasta’s throne room. Lady Adrasta, her lady-in-waiting Karela, the Huntsman, his Wolfweeds, and some guards, enter the Pit and make their way to the Doctor, Organon and the Creature.
The scavengers have meanwhile raided the throne room for booty, including the alien shield. It exerts influence over two of them, who take it to the Pit and place it on the Creature. It turns out the shield is a communication device. Erato, as the Creature is named, is the Tythonian ambassador to Chloris and came to negotiate a treaty exchanging metal for chlorophyll fifteen years earlier. Its craft was the vast egg found in the jungle. However, Adrasta realised her power was dependent on control of the planet’s metal supply and so imprisoned Erato to maintain her status. The Huntsman sets the Wolfweeds on Adrasta as Erato rolls over them both, devouring the Wolfweeds and leaving behind Adrasta's web-covered corpse. The Doctor makes arrangements to have Erato lifted from the Pit. Meanwhile, Adrasta’s sidekick, Karela, attempts to capitalise on the situation and seize power herself—but with the help of K9 the Doctor brings it to nought.
The Doctor has rescued the Tythonian just in time – it seems Tythonus has declared war on Chloris over the missing ambassador, and has despatched a neutron star to collide with Chloris’ star and destroy the system. It is due to collide within the next twenty-four hours. Working against the odds, Erato, from his reconstituted spacecraft, weaves a metal covering around the star, enabling the Doctor, using the TARDIS gravity beam, to draw the star off course and neutralise the danger. The Doctor’s last act on Chloris is to push the Huntsman, now one of the de facto rulers, toward a mutually beneficial trade agreement with Erato and the Tythonians.
This was actually the first serial of the season to be filmed. As a result, Lalla Ward's performance and manner of dress as Romana is somewhat different from that seen in the previously broadcast serials, since she was still working out her character at the time. It was also the final story to be directed by Christopher Barry, one of Doctor Who's longest-serving contributors.
Although the Doctor's solution to the problem of the neutron star, weaving a shell of aluminium around it, has been criticised as silly, the idea was in fact proposed to David Fisher by members of the Institute of Astronomy, Cambridge. Director Christopher Barry and visual effects designer Mat Irvine were called on the carpet by the BBC management for the appearance of the creature Erato. The phallic appearance of the proboscis in the first episode resulted in uncontrolled laughter in the studio and prompted an overnight change to add a pair of pincers to the creature.
David Brierley makes his debut as the voice of K9 in this story, taking over from John Leeson. Adrasta's engineer, Tollund, was played by former Doctor Who director Morris Barry. Eileen Way, who played Karela, also played the Old Mother in the first Doctor Who story, An Unearthly Child (1963). Geoffrey Bayldon, who played Organon, would go on to portray an alternate version of the Doctor, one who never left Gallifrey, in the Big Finish Production Auld Mortality. Terry Walsh played Doran in Part One; this was his final appearance in the series having appeared in various roles since 1966 as well as acting as fight arranger and the stunt double for both Jon Pertwee and Tom Baker.
Broadcast and reception
|Episode||Title||Run time||Original air date||UK viewers|
|1||"Part One"||23:32||27 October 1979||9.3|
|2||"Part Two"||24:03||3 November 1979||10.8|
|3||"Part Three"||23:55||10 November 1979||10.2|
|4||"Part Four"||24:07||17 November 1979||9.6|
Paul Cornell, Martin Day, and Keith Topping wrote in The Discontinuity Guide (1995) that the bandits were cliched and viewers who enjoyed Douglas Adams' humour would appreciate the serial more. They noted that some have described it as "a conscious spoof of bad science fiction. On the other hand, it could just be bad science fiction." In The Television Companion (1998), David J. Howe and Stephen James Walker wrote that the setting was fleshed out but failed to develop it. They also criticised the characters, acting, dialogue, and direction, though they praised Geoffrey Bayldon as Organon and Myra Frances as Adrasta. In 2011, Patrick Mulkern of Radio Times criticised the monster, but was positive towards Barry's direction and some of the "vivid characters," though he noted the bandits and minor characters were lacking. DVD Talk's John Sinnot gave The Creature from the Pit three and a half out of five stars. He described it as having "the right mixture of humor and drama," although the monster let down. While Sinnot praised Baker, he criticised Ward's Romana, who had not yet grown into the role. Cliff Chapman of Den of Geek was also more positive, giving it four out of five stars and highlighting the acting, dialogue, and visual quality aside from the realisation of Erato.
|Cover artist||Steve Kyte|
|Series||Doctor Who book:|
|15 January 1981|
A novelisation of this serial, written by David Fisher, was published by Target Books in January 1981. Fisher amuses himself with lengthy discourses on life on Tythonus complete with a glossary. An audiobook was released by the BBC on 7 April 2008 read by Tom Baker as part of the "Doctor Who: Classic Novels" range. The audio book was broadcast on BBC Radio 7 in April and May 2010.
The Creature from the Pit was released on VHS in July 2002. It was released on DVD in May 2010.
- Lalla Ward, Christopher Barry (May 2010). The Creature from the Pit (commentary track) (DVD). Imagine Video.
- LEGGETT, By VICTORIA. "Growing interest in Dereham man's Doctor Who stories".
- Mat Irvine (May 2010). The Creature from the Pit – Team Erato featurette (DVD). Imagine Video.
- "BBC – Doctor Who Classic Episode Guide – The Creature from the Pit – Details". www.bbc.co.uk.
- "Ratings Guide". Doctor Who News. Retrieved 28 May 2017.
- Cornell, Paul; Day, Martin; Topping, Keith (1995). "The Creature from the Pit". The Discontinuity Guide. London: Virgin Books. ISBN 0-426-20442-5.
- Howe, David J & Walker, Stephen James (1998). Doctor Who: The Television Companion (1st ed.). London: BBC Books. ISBN 978-0-563-40588-7.CS1 maint: Multiple names: authors list (link)
- Mulkern, Patrick (21 February 2011). "The Creature from the Pit". Radio Times. Retrieved 22 January 2014.
- Sinnott, John (7 November 2010). "Doctor Who: The Creature from the Pit". DVD Talk. Retrieved 22 January 2014.
- Chapman, Chris (4 May 2010). "Doctor Who: Creature from the Pit DVD Review". Den of Geek. Retrieved 22 January 2014.
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