Every golden age has to end sometime and the Pertwee years were no exception. Planet of the Spiders (Released on DVD in the UK on 18th April 2011 and in the USA and Canada on 10th May 2011), marks the passing of an iconic time in the shows history. With the Third Doctor had come many changes, new people behind the scenes, the arrival of colour, but it was with the man with the “old/young” face that the show was given even more mythical qualities.
Time stands still for no one and with the death of his friend Roger Delgado (who played The Master) and the departure of assistant Jo Grant the previous year. Jon looked around and saw that it was time to go. This six part story should have been a tribute to the entire era. I say should because, in these days of fast forward and CGI, it seemed slightly self indulgent.
The basic story concerns some (reasonably) mysterious goings-on at a retreat run by Tibetan monks (somewhere in Mummerset!) and an equally mysterious blue crystal pilfered from the blue planet Metebelis III. Oh and there are some evolved spiders thrown into the mix for good measure.
There are themes aplenty for the more cerebral Who-fan. More Buddhism than Kinda (albeit of the Zen variety) and coming to terms with your greatest fears. But other recurring themes from the third Doctor’s time are wheeled out like a pantomime walk down. Pertwees love of gadgetry and vehicles is given full reign in episode two to such an extent that we are left with an eleven minute chase sequence that ends in a way that could have been finished much earlier.
Yes the accents are suspect at best and the Spiders are less than wonderful but Doctor Who is so much more than a simple collection of effects and tricks. Its got heart coming out of its ears. If you excuse the mixed metaphor.
This is not the story we should have had to finish the time of the Third Doctor, we could have had the battle to the death between Third Doctor and the Master. We had to suffice with a six part romp that will please any fan.
The two disc set boasts the usual suspects from 2Entertain. With the recent passing of Nicholas Courtney and Barry Letts the commentary (also with Elisabeth Sladen and Richard Franklin), feels somehow as heart-warming as the story itself.
The Final Curtain, tells us of the last days of the Pertwee Era and the making of The Planet of the Spiders , whilst John Kane Remembers Planet of the Spiders gives us a fascinating look at this Actor/Writer and his approach to his work. A wonderful short Directing Who with Barry Letts does exactly what it says on the tin while Now & then the Locations of Planet of the Spiders gives us a short trip down memory lane (quite literally) The second disc also had an omnibus edit version of this story that rips along at an alarming pace.
All in all its a nine out of ten as this is not the story we could have seen but maybe that’s all the better.
See I got through that whole review without mentioning Donna’s beetle on her back... damn.