on 14 July 2010
The final TV serial to feature Jon Pertwee as the Third Doctor was scripted by outgoing producer Barry Letts, and with its unsubtle championing of Buddhist ideals is a somewhat heavy-handed and slightly laboured story.
Having said that, the titular arachnids are pretty cool on audio, and characters such as the deluded Lupton and enigmatic priest Cho-Je are well drawn.
Elisabeth Sladen does a decent job of reading the story, and her impersonations and accents are competent too. Overall though, despite its kudos as a 'regeneration story', this is a fairly run-of-the-mill early Seventies adventure, that will not stay too long in the mind after listening.
on 20 July 2015
‘Planet of the Spiders’ was the last televised adventure for the Third Doctor. Dicks has a good grasp of the nuances of the story and the characters due to the author’s association with this serial and probably because it was novelised within a couple of years of the original airing.
The novelisation is somewhat more condensed and streamlined. This is most apparent during the lengthy chase sequence that consumed the bulk of the second episode of the television version. Even though the various ‘events’ of the chase are present the whole thing feels far more concise and less disjointed from the rest of the story. Opposed to this though is that some of the later stages of the story become a little rushed; mainly during the ninth and tenth chapters where the text jumps between scenes and perspectives a little too rapidly.
Dicks makes a major alteration to the story by opening with a new introduction featuring Jo Grant and her new husband in the Amazon somewhere in Peru. As well as providing an insight into what Jo has been up to since leaving UNIT (something not really touched on until much later than this novelisation in the Sarah Jane Adventures), it establishes the importance and relevance of the Metebelis blue crystal given to Jo by the Doctor at the end of ‘The Green Death’. ‘Planet of the Spiders’ is essentially the story of this blue crystal. The plot hinges around everyone trying to obtain or hide it for their own reasons. It had already played an important role in ‘The Green Death’ and another Metebelis crystal is key to resolving the events of ‘Hide’.
The planet of Metebelis 3 is one of a few that the Doctor visits more than once; although his brief sojourn during ‘The Green Death’ seemed to show a heavily jungled world teeming with life that appears very different from that which is seen in ‘Planet of the Spiders’. There is, perhaps, a slightly stronger suggestion in the novelisation that the Doctor’s ‘theft’ of the blue crystal maybe the cause of imbalance on Metebelis 3 resulting in the change of environment and the spiders’ mutation and assumption of authority.
One of the most interesting aspects of the story is that the spiders are portrayed as a race of aliens that have defined individuality. The Great One, the Queen and the spider allied with Lupton all have their own agendas and schemes.
Dicks is on good form and this is an enjoyable story that both celebrates and mourns the Third Doctor.
The only Doctor Who classic novel recorded by Elisabeth Sladen before her sadly premature death, The Planet of the Spiders stands as not only a fine tribute to her, but also to the Third Doctor.
As it was Jon Pertwee's final story, it featured many little touches that celebrated his era. Terrance Dicks' novelisation expands on this, adding a lovely prologue with Jo Jones (nee Grant).
Onscreen, the planet and inhabitants of Metabelis 3 were somewhat lacking, on paper and audio this isn't a problem.
A shame that Lis didn't record more, but we do have this and it's one of the best releases in the range. It's just a pity that due to the collapse of AudioGo it's now hard to find a reasonably-priced physical copy, so at present the Audible download would seem to be the best option for those who want to add it to their collection. And it's a story that's well worth a listen. Recommended.
on 12 October 2009
Elizabeth Sladen reads this story very well indeed with impersonations that distinguish the characters (original cast members well). Sladen also accelerates her reading when cliffhanger-like moments occur. If anything is to fault, it is the third-generation copy factor. i.e. Sladen does a wonderful job reading an average novel of an average, if overlong and a little tedius at times, television story. I would have loved for her to have done Pyramids of Mars, but there are still plenty of more possibilities.