Planet of the Spiders

I’ve seen two hugely climactic season finales this weekend, and enjoyed them both very much indeed. This one was much more of a mixed bag than the other, but it works incredibly well as a fitting end of an era. It was like the whole of Pertwee’s tenure was condensed into six episodes, with Dicks and Letts giving “their” Doctor one last hurrah before seeing him off and ultimately handing over the reins themselves.

Like most good stories this decade so far, it was firmly rooted with the now partially estranged UNIT family, with Benton and Brig the mum and dad holding everything together, while golden child Jo writes home about her travels and black sheep Mike thinks about what he’s done. There’s real links between the events of The Green Death, Invasion of the Dinosaurs and this, which makes everything seem all the more significant – when changes occur in these people’s lives, we see the consequences.

But as well as a little bit of UNIT, every other type of Pertwee story was also included: investigating a creepy supernatural cult; getting involved in a power struggle between colonists and alien natives; dealing with mind control, hypnosis and magic energy beams; repeatedly getting captured and escaping in order to fill a six-parter; and of course a massive multi-vehicle chase sequence across land, air and sea.

This was blatantly included purely for Pertwee’s benefit, and why not? It was part of a sense of fun spread throughout the early parts of the serial, such as the pissing about with the fake-not-fake clairvoyant, and the frequent back-references to the Third Doctor’s greatest hits. The scenes on Metebelis III are not quite on par with the rest of the episode – the two-legs aren’t interesting enough for us to care about them, and the spiders aren’t distinct enough from one another for their in-fighting to make much sense.

But the bits in the monastery were often superior, especially when they involved Tommy. What a lovely, compassionate character, even if some of the patronising attitudes towards him are so very 70s. Meanwhile, the redemption of Mike Yates was a good move – going back to see what happens next after a character’s story is seemingly concluded seems like a very New Who thing, and I totally buy him retreating to the countryside and becoming a bit of a hippy. It’s nice to think that he knows he’s done wrong, and that he’ll carry on investigating danger and having adventures in his spare time.

The redemption theme was very much in play towards the end, with The Doctor having to pay the ultimate price to atone for his greed. To be fair, I don’t think nicking a shiny crystal that a spider needs to take over the universe is quite punishable by regeneration, but the scenes in the final episode with K’anpo are so good that you don’t care if it’s all a bit OTT. Finally we meet a Time Lord who isn’t a complete shit. Is K’anpo the same guy as the hermit up the mountain, I wonder?

All of which leads up to a truly terrific regeneration scene, which manages to be both emotional and comedic, thanks to Sarah Jane and the Brigadier’s differing reactions to the situation. I feel like I’ve hardly mentioned Sarah Jane since she started, and that’s probably because she’s so good that it feels like excellence is par for the course. Just assume she’s kicking arse each and every episode.

So that’s it for the Third Doctor. I don’t feel the same sense of loss as I did when Troughton left, but that’s not to say that Pertwee wasn’t a magnificent Doctor. He was always charming and enthralling, but I think that after five seasons, a bit of change is probably for the best. He’s been a little out of sorts since losing Jo, and it seems harder for him to hit the same heights when he’s sparring against lesser evils than The Master.

Overall, Planet of the Spiders serves as the perfect swansong for this entire Pertwee/UNIT/Letts/Dicks era, while also promising much for the next phase. I know it’s all due to the hindsight of knowing how good the next Doctor is, but I couldn’t help but grin with anticipation at the sight of those curly locks…

RATING: 10

And as it’s the end of the season…

SEASON AVERAGE RATING: 8.2

  • Seasons/Series watched: 11 of 35
  • Stories watched: 74 of 259
  • Individual episodes watched: 381 of 825

And unfortunately, despite how keen I am to see the hair and teeth in action, I’m going to temporarily pause it there. I’ve just had my longest uninterrupted run of exactly one episode a day for seventy straight days, but I’ve got so many work and social commitments coming up that I can’t keep up this pace without either falling behind on the blogs, or dying. It’s annoying, but at least I’m making it last longer.

So rather than squeezing an episode in here and there, this feels like a good place to take a small break until my schedule clears, which should be within a fortnight. Until then, there must be no regrets, no tears, no anxieties. Just go forward in all your beliefs, and prove to me that I am not mistaken in mine by bookmarking or subscribing, so that you know when I’m back.

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