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Doctor Who - Planet of the Spiders (DVD)

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Genre: Television - Doctor Who / Parental Guidance / Actors: Jon Pertwee ... / DVD released 2011-04-18 at 2entertain / Features of the DVD: PAL

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    1 Review
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      20.10.2011 10:57
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      This is a 'film only' review

      My latest trawl through the old Doctor Who series has now come up with a Jon Pertwee story, his last in fact. Now Jon Pertwee wasn't my favourite doctor as I found his portrayal to be rather fussy but I also think many underrate him in the part. He is more of a technophile when compared to Patrick Traoughton's Doctor. In fact in some stories Jon did, he came out with plenty of techno-babble at least half of which was utter nonsense and some of it unscripted. This along with the Doctors rather nifty judo throws and strange dress sence (Edwardian gent gone wrong) makes Pertwee's Doctor very different from the first two.

      In this story he is with possibly the best known and best remembered companion in Sarah Jane Smith (Elisabeth Sladen).

      The story was first broadcast over six episodes in the summer of 1974

      Brief Plot:

      A Buddhist monastery has been set up in a village not too far from UNIT headquarters but something is not quite right about what five of the guests are up to and why are they keeping their group a secret from everyone else....

      A stage mind reader has caused the doctor some concern, vocal prompts from an assistant are the usual way of reading minds on stage but this 'professor' has read minds before his assistant has uttered a word.....

      Jo has returned the blue metebelis crystal back to the doctor it appears to have strange powers that even the doctor does not fully understand and why did the professor see large spiders when he looked into it yet the doctor saw only his old teacher....

      The crystal appears to be in much demand from all angles but why? Just what is so special about this one crystal? Why do the spiders of Metabelis want it back? After all there are thousands just like it on Metebelis, aren't there?


      What I thought of it.


      In general the story is both well cast and well acted. This is including the voice overs of the rather badly made spider models (I think the BBC over ordered pipe cleaners and had to use them for something). However, as usual there as some characters which I feel were surplus to requirement and two of them could easily have been combined into just one character without having much of an effect on the story. Of the main cast I did find the character of Lupton rather unconvincing to say the least. It was as if John Dearth felt appearing in this was beneath him and as a result he was over acting the part. This became more noticeable as the story went on. There is the usual fleshing the scene out with a large number of extras bit here as well. Unlike some stories all they need to do is stand there and not say anything and most of them appear to manage this quite well.

      The voices of the spiders have been done well and the Queen spider (is there such a thing?) does have an air of superiority in the voice as for the so called 'great one' she sounds almost as demented as Spitting Image's (if you remember that programme) depiction of a certain former PM.

      There is a good mix of both on location and in studio shots which do add atmosphere to some parts of the story. However, the chase scene for me in the second episode went on for too long as it lasted about half the episode and as a result it became too monotonous. This was despite the use of the 'who car' and a gyroplane with the magical colour changing helmet (AKA a boo boo made by the continuity dept.) The sets are well laid out and the effects given by the cobwebs do indicate areas which have not been cleaned in a long time. I feel here it is the lighting and the incidental music which adds the most as some other areas of the set esp the spiders council room look far too sterile

      Whilst the special effects used in the story are fairly limited for the time the story was done they are quite good. It is easy to see how one of them has been done (a method know as 'peppers ghost') as you can see the sheet of glass used. Whilst this effect dates back to the Victorian stage (or even earlier) it is still effective if done correctly. The lightning bolts used do look like they were added on later and whilst not as good as modern day CGI effects they do still look relatively good. Although some of the cast perhaps could have done with lessons on how and when to fall when they were hit with a lightning bolt as to not look like an after thought or overly controlled.

      An additional bit on the version of this I have is that the is the chance to get vocal prompts on the menu in place of just visual ones. These are given in good clear English with virtually no accent.


      Summary

      Taking everything into account this is a good story from the original run. The days when the part of the Doctor was not over acted and the writers concentrated on the script rather than all the wizz-bang special effects used today to cover weak stories. Whilst there are some scenes that drag a bit e.g. the chase in eps 2, the story does flow quite well. In all this is one which is worth watching.

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