are few things that have a greater power to unnerve than a race of
giant, intelligent spiders who are bent on taking over the world.
With this in mind, long-time Doctor Who contributors Barry Letts and
Terrence Dicks set out to create Jon Pertwee’s
last adventure in the role.
of the Spiders has all the staples of classic Doctor Who: A race of
oppressed people, an uncompromisingly evil and scary villain, an
endangered planet Earth, and a chance for the Doctor to save the day
using his wit and charm (as well as some ridiculous judo moves).
time of filming in 1974, the producers knew Pertwee’s
tenure was drawing to an end, and they indulged him with a truly
over-the-top story. The second episode consists of a mammoth chase
sequence, whereby the Doctor pursues a villain across most of
country England, using at various stages an airborne car, a
gyrocopter and a hovercraft. It’s
quite possibly the most extravagant (and ultimately unnecessary)
action scene in the early part of Doctor Who’s
Pertwee relishes in the melodrama. It is his presence on screen that
holds everything together and keeps it credible, even in the face of
some truly camp and otherwise unbelievable moments.
sets and locations are mostly forgettable; the spiders’
lair looks like a vacant set with a few cloth-covered pedestals for
the villains to sit on so they can speak to the characters at eye
the value of Planet of the Spiders has nothing to do with its
outlandish car chase or its animatronic antagonists or even the
story as a whole; it represents a landmark moment, the moment in
time when the calm, confident, imposing third doctor gave way to
something far more erratic and alien in Tom Baker.
standalone story it’s
nothing special; sometimes it makes you laugh, sometimes it makes
you cringe. As a send-off to a much-loved star actor who had seen
the show reach the heights of popularity during his five-year reign,
overall image quality is fairly low, and there are some noticeable
defects, such as blurry lines tracking up and down across the
screen. These are forgivable given the age of the original film, and
do nothing to hamper your enjoyment of the show.
typical with a Doctor Who DVD, this edition of Planet of the Spiders
comes packed with interviews and tributes from fans, cast and crew.
Most of these are sentimental in tone: in
the star trio of Barry Letts, Terrance Dicks and Jon Pertwee reflect
on their time on the show, whereas in
that actor explains the joys of working alongside the special talent
of Elisabeth Sladen, who plays Sarah Jane.
takes us on a tour of the locations used in the serial, and shows us
what they look like today.