4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
The pit and the pendulous,
This review is from: Doctor Who - The Creature from the Pit [DVD]  (DVD)
THE CREATURE FROM THE PIT was broadcast slap-bang in the middle of Tom Baker's penultimate series playing DOCTOR WHO way back in 1979 and, as it directly followed the sublime CITY OF DEATH, it was always going to suffer in comparison to that widely regarded classic. Strangely enough, however, this four part story was actually the first story to be made of that year's run, and so in parts it actually looks like there was still some money around to be thrown at it, especially at the impressive jungle sets - less so with the rather rubbish eponymous monster - but sadly, it generally fails to deliver, despite a strong pedigree which includes the one and only Douglas Adams as Script Editor and Director Christopher Barry who had directed WHO episodes dating way back to almost the very earliest episodes of the William Hartnell days.
The adventure takes place on the Planet Chloris which is short on metal but big on Chlorophyll and a rather jolly story unfolds which has quite a lot to say about monopolies and what those in power will do in order to keep hold of it. Luckily, it's not that dry a take on the subject, although some rather "big" guest performances - especially amongst the band of metal thieves (which rather incredibly include the actor Edward Kelsey best known for playing Joe Grundy on The Archers for many years) - and some wild science threaten to send it over the precipice into out-and-out parody, it just manages to stay on this side of it, although the Doctor's now legendary scene in which he attempts to communicate with the rather dodgy-looking creature itself really does have to be seen to be believed.
The TARDIS crew this time includes Tom Baker as the Doctor, who in this story seems to be at the peak of his enjoyment of the role which has led to some criticism of his portrayal over the years - and in this series in particular - but in many ways in that sixth year he gives us the definitive fourth Doctor as he is most remembered (although I prefer the earlier version myself) and this really is the high point before he was diluted down and out of the show the following year. Lalla Ward performs as the Doctor's companion Romana for the first time here, unfortunately saddled with trying to be the new Mary Tamm from whom she had just taken over the role. Thankfully, once the production team realised that they didn't need another Mary Tamm (and Mary herself would be pretty much the first choice to play her anyway) they allowed Lalla to be Lalla and in her later performances (some of which appeared earlier - that's time travel for you) she would be more relaxed and comfortable and downright lovely in the part. K9 also reappears, although with his post-laryngitis voice performed - rather haughtily - by David Brierley. Myra Frances plays an exquisite guest villainess who shares an enjoyable double act alongside Eileen Way (who played the first ever fatality in a DOCTOR WHO episode way back in 1963), and Geoffrey Bayldon (CATWEAZLE himself) makes - rather surprisingly - his only televised DOCTOR WHO appearance as the rather marvellous soothsayer Organon.
Commentary this time is from (on the Production side) Director Christopher Barry (whose tenth and last WHO this was) who has more-or-less managed to forgive fellow contributor, effects man Mat Irvine. The actors are represented by Lalla Ward who's in a rather unforgiving mood (at least with regards to her "Mary Tamm-Lite" look and her co-star) and guest villainess Myra Frances who seems determined to love every minute of it despite what everyone else says, and good on her for that. The now usual extensive extras package (text commentary, PDF selection, Photo Gallery etc.) is supplemented by a 20 minute overview of Christopher Barry's DOCTOR WHO career which also touches on his early life in the British Film Industry, a rather frank piece on the many problems faced by the effects team responsible for creating a mile long gelatinous blob monster on a miniscule TV budget which makes you feel generally much more sympathetic towards the final creation and a rather bizarre 'in-character' piece by Tom Baker for the ANIMAL MAGIC series (which includes the opening credits for that show and made me feel all nostalgic for a few minutes). The extended scene is basically a bit of violence that was trimmed at the time for editorial reasons but doesn't really add anything special.
On the whole then, CREATURE is never going to be considered the greatest ever DOCTOR WHO story, but it's a solid enough set of episodes with some big ideas and even the odd - and inevitable really - hint of HITCH HIKER's GUIDE thrown into the mix, and there's a lot of fun to be had with it (if you can get past the sheer awfulness of the look of the actual creature that is).
Top Reviewer Ranking: 3,565