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DVD Review

DVD cover

Doctor Who
Creature from the Pit


Starring: Tom Baker
RRP: £19.99
Certificate: PG
Available 03 May 2010

Answering a distress signal, the Doctor and Romana land the TARDIS on the verdant jungle planet of Chloris, only to discover that the planet is ruled by a matriarchy, headed by the Lady Adrasta, whose power rests in her control of the few mines on a metal poor planet. Through the Huntsmen and their Wolfweed creatures she maintains an iron grip on the small population, but not even this can stop all discontent. The Doctor and Romana find themselves separated, Romana to be captured by metal scavengers, the Doctor by Lady Adrasta, who seeks to use his scientific knowledge...

The Creature from The Pit (1979 - 1 hr, 39 min, 46 sec) is a four part story from Who’s season seventeen, staring Tom Baker as the fourth Doctor and Lalla Ward as his companion Romana II. The story was written by David Fisher and directed by Christopher Barry. The show was originally transmitted between 27 October and 17 November, 1979.

A story about a planet which has a shortage of metals could have produced a story about its impact on the society’s development; however this aspect of the story is hardly touched once established. Indeed the whole of Chloris society appears to consist of a little over ten people as we are never given a glimpse of the wider society.

Even within this small group the characters are never well developed, Lady Adrasta (Myra Frances) action in imprisoning the Erato, Tythonian trade ambassador in the pit, is short sighted and makes little overall sense.

The most risible aspect of the show, other than the weak plot, is the visual realisation of Erato. I guess that there is a case that when you work on something as large as the Erato prop you may not take the time to stand back and view the construction as a whole. In the case of Erato our first good look at him shows a large gelatinous creature with a pseudopod at the front. What you’re actually looking at is possibly the largest green wang ever seen on Who. It doesn’t look a little like one it looks exactly like one, much to the embarrassment of the prop makers, who look back on the unfortunate design flaw in the extras.

It’s not all bad, for a start Douglas Adams acted as script editor for the show and glimpses of his wit can be detected in the script. Lalla Ward’s performance isn’t great, but even she admits that she was literally trying to fill the shoes of Mary Tamm and it would be a while before she was able to place her own take on her character, the same could be said of David Brierley, in his first outing as the voice of K9. Tom Baker is as entertaining as ever and the show has the distinct advantage of having Geoffrey Bayldon (Catweazle) as Organon, the slightly dodgy court astrologer.

As expected the extras are worth a look and start with Christopher Barry: Director (19 min, 04 sec) which looks at Barry’s involvement in the program, Creature would be his last directing job for the show. Team Erato (14 min, 49 sec) acts as both a look at the creation of the creature but also as a slightly embarrassed apology for the end results.

Animal Magic (2 min, 38 sec) has Tom Baker appearing on the show, hamming it up as the Doctor to talk to children about some of the creatures he has encountered. There is a small extended scene (25 sec) and a photo gallery. The disc is rounded off with the usual PDF, other text based information and the ‘coming soon’ for The King’s Demons and Planet of Fire.

The picture is presented in its original 4:3 aspect ratio with a full length commentary from Christopher Barry, Lalla Ward, Matt Irvine and Myra Frances discussing the show, its light stuff, but better than the actual show.

The show does not represent one of Doctor Who's high point, but likewise it does not deserve the reputation which it gained with many fans.


Charles Packer

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