The Creature From The Pit

Written by:
David Fisher
Directed by: Christopher Barry
Starring: Tom Baker
Year: 1979
Video Availability (NTSC Version): Try

The weakest of the season 17 stories for me, Creature sometimes gets a little too silly to work. The humour and plot aren't as strong as the other five stories (Yes, I include Shada) but there's still much to recommend it.

The opening sequence sees the Elstree studio jungle set shot on film. Frankly, it looks gorgeous. Say what you like about Graham Williams, this is the best-realised jungle ever seen in the series. It tramples all over Planet of the Daleks and Planet of Evil, and the wolf weeds work well, too.

I guess seeing Tom reading Peter Rabbit to K-9 is a shameless appeal to the child audience, but he does it so well. Weird how he also mentions the legend of the Minotaur in this episode, pre-Nimon. As this is Lalla's first story as Romana (production order) and she and Tom haven't got it together yet then their rapport isn't first rate at this point, but still good. Better though is Tom's rapport with that old battleaxe Eileen Way.

I'd never realised before just how experimental Williams was with directors. They say the same about JN-T, but Williams chose nine new names to direct his stories, with only exceptions being Pennant Roberts (Who had directed The Face of Evil) and Paddy Russell, who was behind three prior stories. The only other exception is Christopher Barry, who does well here, and is - I hadn't realised this before either - Doctor Who's most prolific director, with ten of the things under his belt.

Tom's enthusiastic but flippant, and his lack of gravity sometimes costs the story in terms of dramatic impact. He does get some amusing lines though, such as: "To be fair I did have a couple of gadgets which he probably didn't, like a teaspoon and an open mind." and "I guess you could say 'the yolk's on him', if you're the sort of person who'd say that sort of thing, which fortunately I'm not."

This is more of an establishing episode than I remembered, with little plot advancement. However, while lightweight and a little daft, in production terms there's very little to fault this.
* * *

More silliness in this one, with the infamous "Teach Yourself Tibetan" scene. However, on reflection this story isn't as silly as stablemate The Horns of Nimon. Maybe why it doesn't quite click is that the humour isn't very sophisticated. In fact, you can't help wondering what it would have been like played straight. Geoffrey Bayldon in particular isn't half as funny as he's supposed to be.

There's some interesting directorial touches here, such as a conversation with Romana and a mirror image of Adrasta's face. Interesting uses of lighting, too. However, things are a little slower in this one, maybe because there's very few plot elements: Adrasta and Romana, the Doctor and the creature and the scavengers.

I'd never realised before just how phallic the creature is, either. I know it's amazingly obvious, but I'd just never realised. Not as good as the first episode, but this still gets a fun:
* * *

Two notable things happen in this episode. One is the infamous scene where Tom gets... intimate... with the creature. The other is the cliffhanger, which sees Lady Adrasta in danger. A cliffhanger where the villain is in danger? Odd. The most interesting episode so far, as plot revelations come thick and fast. The scavengers are shown to be even more superfluous to the plot than previously thought, however.
* * *

Another fun episode, which sees Adrasta killed off in the opening seven minutes (And I'm not that keen on the Doctor forcing her hand onto the creature. Bullying women isn't what the Doctor's about), so the attention is shifted to the creature's motivations. This is a somewhat artificial way of extending the story, though is quite original in that sense.

Eileen Way gets to say "Here's another six inches to add to your collection", and the ending does seem very unscientific and flippant. This is worlds away from the Hartnell/Troughton years, but still fun on its own terms.
* * *

While this vies with the incomplete Shada for the title of "weakest season 17 story", it's still fun and above-average entertainment. The narrative is a little flabby at times, but the production is surprisingly decent. All in all it explodes the "season 17 is rubbish" myth that still prevails in a lessened form to this day.
* * *