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DVD Review

DVD cover

Doctor Who
Planet of the Spiders


Starring: Jon Pertwee
RRP: £20.42
Certificate: PG
Available 18 April 2011

What starts out as an investigation into ESP soon draws the Doctor to a group who are using Tibetan spiritual techniques to contact a race of spiders from Metebelis Three. The spiders are hunting for the last perfect blue crystal which, unbeknownst to them, is in the Doctor's possession. When Sarah is accidentally transported to the planet of the spiders, the Doctor follows, to rescue her and face his destiny...

Doctor Who: Planet of the Spiders was the last story for Jon Pertwee’s Doctor and signalled an end of an era for the show, with many of the major creative team leaving as well. The six part story was originally transmitted between 04 May and 08 June 1974. It was directed by Barry Letts who co-wrote the script with Robert Sloman. As a last story it was a real Pertwee fest with episode two, especially, allowing Jon to play with various forms of transport in a truly indulgent extended chase scene - pointless, but fun.

The action starts with the story split between the Doctor, who is investigating a real telekinetic, whilst Sarah Jane Smith had been contacted by Mike Yates to investigate strange goings on in rural England. The two events are linked by the large blue crystal which Jo has sent the Doctor from South America. It is this crystal which the spider queen is searching for, and with it she can complete her mental amplifier, allowing her to conquer the remaining humans in the universe.

Looking back at the story, it’s fair to say that it isn’t one of Pertwee’s best; the story is over bloated, understandably, perhaps, it being his last. Given that Pertwee’s more action orientated take on the Doctor had done much to increase the show's audience share maybe it was only right to allow him to indulge his tastes one last time.

The story comes on a two DVD set. The first disc has the six part show presented in its original transmitted format, the picture has been fully restored and sports a pretty good print. The full length commentary with Elisabeth Sladen, Nicholas Courtney, Richard Franklin, Barry Letts and Terrence Dicks is a low key affair, but made all the more poignant as Nic Courtney passed away this February. The disc sports the usual production text, the only other extra on the disc is the ‘coming soon’ for Spearhead from Space and Terror of the Autons.

The majority of the extras are on disc two, the largest of which is a feature length version of the story (1 hr, 45 min, 13 sec), although this version is unrestored. The main feature is The Final Curtain (37 min, 47 sec), which tells the reasons why Pertwee decided to leave the show and how the team approached the last story. Not only does it have contributions from surviving participants, but also includes historical film from Pertwee as well.

John Kane Remembers (12 min, 46 sec) has the actor remembering his time on the show and his role as Tommy. Directing Who with Barry Letts (14 min, 43 sec) does exactly what it says on the can with Barry sharing his insight to this oft times difficult job. Now I never have really understood the Now & Then (7 min, 10 sec) features, which take you back to the places where the show was filmed to see how they have changed. I’m sure someone must like this stuff, but certainly I’m not sure I see the point.

The disc wraps up with the usual PDF materials, Omnibus Trailer (1 min, 41 sec) and a photo gallery.

So, whilst it’s not a great story, the spiders, once so scary but now no longer even look credible, you have to remember the age of the show. That said the acting is suitably over the top for the swan song of this one time Timelord and the show is likely to be a lot of Who fans guilty pleasure.


Charles Packer

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