Number : Season 17, serial 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 episodes.
Plot : The Doctor travels to a jungle planet (Chloris) and discovers part of a huge broken eggshell, which is transmitting a distress signal. The Doctor then meets the tough local 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. Doctor Who returns, to a more standard alien/planet studio-bound turn; in The Creature From The Pit.
The Doctor and Leela travel to Chloris, where they meet the Lady Adastra; a ruling warlord who suppresses the indigenous population. As an insurance policy against uprising, Adastra commandeers and withholds – all of the metals needed to fashion weapons and cultivate land.
The Doctor is then shown firsthand, what happens to Adastra’s enemies – by being cast down a pit, to be killed by the unknown residing creature.
In a nice twist to proceedings, The Creature From The Pit takes the story established in episodes 1 & 2 and turns proceedings on it’s head. The creature actually turns out, to be a non-aggressive, sentient Tythonian lifeform; called Erato. Erato came to Chloris looking for trade but was imprisoned in the pit; by Adastra.
What doesn’t make a lot of sense in this story, is how so many people died, after being thrown into the pit. Especially as it is uncovered, that Erato – is a vegetarian. I mean sure, some victims were probably squashed-to-death, by accident but some would have escaped; like Organon (who is thrown into the pit at the beginning for displeasing Adastra).
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 still 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. They are only present, to establish exposition that metal is precious on Chloris; being 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 serial, is Lady Adastra’s – ‘Wolfweed’ pets; which are 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 incapacitate the robot-dog. 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 it’s 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 that doesn’t detract too much from proceedings.
Thanks in part to an original concept, neat twist and strong performances. We can forgive the dodgy special effects on this occaison.
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