Planet of the Spiders (1974)

Jon Pertwee’s final story isnt the story that was originally intended. Apparently the story was supposed to be called ‘The Final Game’ which would have seen The Master give his life to save the Doctor’s. However due to the death of Roger Delgado this was scrapped and replaced with Planet of the Spiders. The Doctor had been spending what felt like an eternity trying to get to Metabelis 3 and it’s sort of been a running joke. Despite the rather abrupt change in story, its quite a good story.

The story starts off in a country retreat where Mike Yates has been staying since he went wacko in ‘Invasion of the Dinosaurs’. It was nice to have Mike back as he is a good character that had a rather interesting character change and so it would have been a shame not to have him back. It’s not long before he is reunited with the Doctor and Sarah Jane. There is a sequence which typifies the Third Doctor story where there is a prolonged action sequence. The Doctor drives/flies his Whomobile and then he boarded a hovercraft. It almost a break from the main action but its not long before were dragged back to the action.

Most of the story is set on Metabelis 3 where the human looking inhabitants are in fear of the ‘eight legs’. There are curfews and no one ventures out after dark. The humans are actually well thought of. I believed their fear that they had and thought that their fight back against the spiders was enjoyable. There is some slightly dodgy CSO but it seems that in order to push the bounderies of technology, CSO is a staple of Doctor Who stories. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t, sadly in this case it doesn’t.

The story introduces a character called Tommy who starts off as a simpleton who is simply discarded by the other members of the household as a bothersome fool but due to looking into the crystal he becomes a different person and is on par in terms of intelligence with the other housemates. At the start of the story he is seen as a fringe character but soon becomes integral to the story. Elisabeth Sladen is very good in this story. The scenes at the beginning with Mike Yates are really good and that is followed by her scenes with Tommy. Then there were the scenes where she is possessed by the Spider. For his final regular performance, Jon Pertwee gives a dignified performance. He has had some iffy stories during his final season but this wasn’t one of them. He gave a wonderful performance that gave him a chance to show everyone why his time was so good.

Regeneration sequences are always a sign of the time that they were recorded in. In 1974, the technology was the best it had been since the show started and as a result we got a pretty impressive (even by today’s standards) regeneration. The appearance of Lord K’Anpo to help ‘give the regeneration a push’ is the first and only time where someone else is help in the regeneration. The fact that there is a period of time from when the Doctor leaves Metabelis 3 and arriving on Earth meant that there is a whole collection of Big Finish stories that could have been made if Jon were still alive. The Third Doctor’s era ends on a good note. Every time I watch this story there is a sense of sadness when I see Pertwee’s performance. The story is very good and everyone gives a great performance. Planet of the Spiders is a story that people new to the series should see as soon as possible.

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