Wednesday, October 7, 2009

ZZZ6 - Planet of the Spiders 6

Apart from some dodgy scenes on Metebelis Three, and an overlong chase sequence in Episode Two, Planet of the Spiders has been a delight, and is truly an underrated classic that gets derided far too much, in my opinion. It's also one of the more layered stories to date, with the basic plot of crystals, spiders, and cellars being propped up by a strong Buddhist subtext, with themes of rebirth, greed for knowledge and power, and fear.

It is fear that eventually brings The Doctor down, but it also saves him and everyone else at the same time. The beautifully written final scene, where The Doctor states that he had to face his fear rather than just go on living, is poignant. Such a statement could be taken in different ways. The greatest fear for The Doctor was the lack of control. He had to enter into a situation where he had no control in order for him to break that fear, but the catch was that the only situation applicable was one that would surely destroy him. He also feels fear from having to answer for his insatiable quest for knowledge. In the past, his greed for knowledge (The Doctor's admission of such is one of the best things of this story, if not the entire Pertwee era) has left few casualties. Now, to see the mess that he has created, for the first time he has to answer for it.

And, in a more literal sense, the fear could mean the fear of letting go of Doctor Who - not just Jon Pertwee, but also Barry Letts and Terrance Dicks. All three men had been running the programme for five years, and could have easily kept going in the same vein, but they chose the fear of the unknown world of post-Doctor Who instead of taking the easy path. Facing one's fear being more important than just going on living is not only a requiem for the Third Doctor, it's a mantra for the programme itself. It has constantly had to face the unknown prospect of what was to come, leaving behind the comfortable world of what it was used to and allowing the show to be reborn in new hands. To quote Cho-Je, "The old man must die, and the new man will discover to his inexpressible joy that he has never existed."

The comfortable world for Pertwee, Letts, and Dicks was, unfortunately, Season 11. Pertwee's final season isn't as bad as I was expecting it to be, but the spark had dulled somewhat from the classic UNIT years from Season 8-10. The problem wasn't the three men staying a year too long, though. It was more a case of Roger Delgado and Katy Manning leaving a year too early. Overall, though, the Jon Pertwee era reached a high watershed of quality, but was seldom brilliant. Only Season 7 (quite probably the greatest season in Doctor Who history) was exceedingly stellar. The rest of Pertwee's time was successful enough, though, to push the ratings towards the 10 million mark on many occasions. It was worth watching, but it wasn't worth going crazy over. The crazy days, however, were to come...

The Jon Pertwee Era:

Best Story : Inferno
Worst Story : The Time Monster
Favourite Story : The Ambassadors of Death

Enter Tom Baker...


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