Number : Season 17, episode 3 of 6.
Which One : The big green penis in the pit.
Cast : The Doctor : Tom Baker
Romana : Lalla Ward
K9 MK – II : David Brierly
Lady Adrasta : Myra Frances
Karela : Eileen Way
Huntsman : David Telfer
Organon : Geoffrey Bayldon
Tollund : Morris Barry
Doran : Terry Walsh
Torvin : John Bryans
Edu : Edward Kelsey
Ainu : Tim Munro
Guardsmaster : Tommy Wright
Written By : David Fisher
Produced By : Graeme Williams
First UK Broadcast : 27 October – 17 November 1979.
Length : 4 x 25 minute parts.
Plot : The Doctor lands on a jungle planet Chloris and discovers part of a huge eggshell which is transmitting a distress signal. He then meets the tough ruler – Lady Adastra; who throws her enemies down a pit to be killed by an unknown “creature”.
Whats good : The concept and twist in the story is good. Myra Francis gives a commanding performance.
Whats bad : The creature’s design and look. The bandits. Wolfweeds?
Review With Spoilers : After the high production values of City Of Death Who returns to a more standard alien/planet studio-bound turn in The Creature From The Pit.
The Doctor and Leela land on Chloris where they meet the Lady Adastra, a ruling warlord who suppresses the indigenous population, whilst withholding all of the metals needed to fashion weapons and cultivate land.
The Doctor is then shown first hand what happens to her enemies – by being cast down a pit to be killed by an unknown creature, that resides. The Doctor decides to jump in and take a look.
In a nice twist to proceedings, The Creature From The Pit takes the story established in parts 1 & 2 and turns it on its head. Basically, the creature actually turns out to be a sentient Tythonian lifeform called Erato which came to Chloris looking for trade but was imprisoned in the pit.
What doesn’t make a lot of sense though is how so many people died in the after being thrown into the pit, if Erato is a vegetarian. I mean sure, some were probably squashed by accident but some would have ran away – like Organon.
You will laugh though when the Doctor first meets Erato – or part of it, snuffling about in the pit – as it looks like a giant luminous green penis and ballbag. Nevertheless, the concept here is good – even if execution is a little lacking.
“Right!……And did she [Adastra] put the welfare of her struggling people above her own petty power? No!….She’s tipped the ambassador [Erato] into a pit and thrown astrologers at him!” The Doctor
Maude Francis is good as the oppressive Lady Adastra, complementing her scenes with Tom Baker – with a strong and powerful turn, as an Amazon-esque Warrior Woman of the jungle.
The scenes with the bandits are contrived and pointless and are only present to establish exposition that metal is precious on Chloris, controlled by Adastra – and in short supply. Aside from fetching the creatures communication device – whilst under duress, they have no real part to play in this.
The only other thing to note about this is Lady Adastra’s Wolfweed’s which are her guard/tracker dogs. They resemble big balls of weedy snot and roll about the jungle attacking things on command. Specifically, they all pile on top of K9 to stop him shooting. Talking of K9, John Leeson didn’t feature in season 17 and was replaced by David Brierly.
There is still enough here to make The Creature From The Pit a watchable and original episode. Its not quite in the same class as its predecessor, City Of Death but it is watchable – nonetheless.
The special effects do leave you wondering, why they thought a big luminous penis/ballbag combo was a good look for Erato – but doesn’t detract too much from proceedings.
Thanks in part to an original concept, neat twist and strong performances. We can forgive the special effects on this occaison.
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