Planet of the Spiders

Doctor WhoPast events catch up with the Doctor in an unexpected way. A race of evil giant spiders on Metebelis 3 is looking for one of their planet’s perfect blue crystals to complete a crystal “web” that will broadcast the will of their leader, the Great One (not Jackie Gleason), across the entire universe. But the Doctor stole that crystal during a previous visit without realizing its significance, and his actions have drawn unwanted attention to Earth. The spiders use a monastery in the English countryside as their gateway to Earth, taking over the minds of a criminally-minded man named Lupton whose meditations have failed to turn him into a better person. In the end, the Doctor is obliged to return the crystal to prevent Earth from being overrun by the spiders – but the personal cost will be very high.

written by Robert Sloman
directed by Barry Letts
music by Dudley Simpson

Guest Cast: Nicholas Courtney (Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart), Richard Franklin (Mike Yates), John Levene (Sergeant Benton), John Dearth (Lupton), Terence Lodge (Moss), Andrew Staines (Keaver), Christopher Burgess (Barnes), Carl Forgione (Land), Cyril Shaps (Professor Clegg), Kevin Lindsay (Cho-Je), John Kane (Tommy), Pat Gorman (Soldier), Chubby Oates (Policeman), Terry Walsh (Man with boat), Michael Pinder (Hopkins), Ysanne Churchman, Kismet Delgado, Maureen Morris (Spider voices), Ralph Arliss (Tuar), Geoffrey Morris (Sabor), Joanna Monro (Rega), Gareth Hunt (Arak), Jenny Laird (Neska), Walter Randall (Captain), Max Faulkner (Second Captain), Maureen Morris (Great One), George Cormack (K’anpo)

Broadcast from May 4 through June 8, 1974

LogBook entry & review by Earl Green

Review: Though it falls victim to the typical ailments of the six-part Doctor Who story – namely, being one or two parts too long – Planet Of The Spiders is an adventure that moves toward an inevitable conclusion, the Doctor’s third regeneration. Some regeneration stories try to build the entirety of their suspense from the viewer’s knowledge that the Doctor will use up one of his precious lives by the end of the show – 1980’s Logopolis is perhaps guiltiest of this – while others, such as this one, actually do tell a story that would work with or without the Doctor’s regeneration at the end.

Planet Of The SpidersParts four and five, which take place on Metebelis 3 (a planet whose exterior scenes usually consist of actors blue-screened over retouched photos of Wyoming), drag on a bit long and seem to center upon the Doctor and Sarah being captured, escaping, and being captured again, and in the end it’s not really made clear how, if at all, the Doctor’s actions in the final moments of the show will make life better for the oppressed humans living on Metebelis 3. And early on in the story there’s an extended chase scene over land, sea and air that could have easily been trimmed as well.

On the good side, Sarah (Elisabeth Sladen) displays enough independence to get herself in trouble while still uncovering useful information, and Mike Yates, after his discharge from UNIT in Invasion Of The Dinosaurs, turns up as a civilian with an interesting new direction in his life. Also amusing is a scene in which we learn that the Brigadier has – or had – some kind of life out of uniform involving “a young lady named Doris,” a throwaway bit of dialogue which later turned into a major character in the Brigadier’s final appearance, 1989’s Battlefield.