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Planet of the Spiders

Video review by Bevan Thomas

Recently I bought the BBC Video Planet of the Spiders and felt compelled to review the story. Planet of the Spiders is one story I have particularly vivid memories of from its first NZ screening. In fact, if my memory serves me right, it was the story that got me banned from watching Doctor Who as my mum was more than a little concerned at what she believed were undertones to Lupton and co's chanting, coupled with the appearance of spiders in the story - creatures which do not rank as her favourites.

Over the years, the story has been subject to many adverse reviews, to say nothing of Gary Russell's scathing report in DWM 173! I propose to rectify this situation by coming swiftly to its defence. As Mr Russell said, the entire cast of Metebelis 3 should have thrown away their equity cards and stuck to sheep farming - and indeed to some extent this is true, however Gareth Hunt's portrayal of Arak was quite acceptable given the depth of his character. I do agree though that some actors could have been better. I was a little disappointed at Walter Randall's rendition of the Guard Captain after he had done so well as El Akir in The Crusade, but given his limited exposure and rather constricted character, perhaps he is not to blame. The award for the worst performance though, would have to go to Jenny Laird as Neska. Never before have I seen such weak acting, if one could even call it that! The 'Sabor, my husband, my love, why did you do it, why, why?' sequence was incredibly embarrassing and I hope for Ms Laird's sake that she never saw it.

Highly commendable though, are the performances of John Kane (Tommy), Kevin Lindsay (Cho-Je), John Dearth (Lupton), and George Cormack who played K'Anpo. Also worthy of mention is Cyril Shaps' appearance in part one as Professor Clegg - not unlike his characterisation of Viner in The Tomb of the Cybermen.

The plot is extremely good. Much of the story was written by producer/director Barry Letts, who drew much of the story from his own experiences in the Buddhist religion. As always, there were some bad points. For instance, the Brigadier's firing on Lupton in Part Two should have caused a court of inquiry, resulting in him being found guilty of 'committing an act likely to prejudice service discipline'. Also, since when does a lowly sergeant give orders to a senior officer?

It has been said that Barry Letts let down Pertwee's last fling enormously. Not so; he more than anyone knew good Who - especially the Pertwee Earthbound adventures. Planet combines all that I loved about the Pertwee era; gadgetry, fast car/boat/whatever chases, military involvement - great James Bond stuff.

In conclusion, Planet of the Spiders is six great episodes of brilliant action packed storytelling. A perfect end to one of my favourite eras - and of the Doctor I grew up watching as a kid. My only regret is that there were no Cyber-Pertwee stories made...

This item appeared in TSV 31 (November 1992).

Index nodes: Planet of the Spiders