Doctor Who (1963)

Season 11 Episode 21

Planet of the Spiders, Part One

Aired Saturday 5:15 PM May 04, 1974 on BBC
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Episode Summary

Planet of the Spiders, Part One
England, the near future. Mike Yates, formerly of UNIT, is disturbed by odd happenings at a monastic retreat. Using Sarah as a liaison, he is able to warn the Doctor and the Brigadier. But how is the Doctor's research into ESP and the blue Metebelis III crystal connected to Mike's warning?moreless

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  • It's the beginning of the end for the third incarnation of Doctor Who. Good acting and a promising plot highlight Part One but six-part adventures are often cursed by being notoriously uneven.moreless

    As the Jon Pertwee era draws to a close, Robert Sloman's six part adventure "Planet Of The Spiders" would attempt to usher the popular actor out in style. Producer Barry Letts steps behind the camera to direct this grandiose look at the Doctor's main vice, a dangerous and destructive thirst for knowledge. Draped with Eastern culture notions of the Inner Self, this new odyssey for the Time Lord begins with genuine promise. Mike Yates (Richard Franklin) has joined a meditation and self-awareness cult in the hopes of rehabilitating his good graces with UNIT after a disasterous lapse of judgement in "Invasion Of The Dinosaurs." But something about his fellow disciples doesn't seem right, particularly hot-headed ex-businessman Lupton (John Dearth). He enlists the aid of Sarah Jane Smith (Elisabeth Sladen), who is once again writing for magazines. Meanwhile, the Doctor is conducting research on ESP when he comes across Professor Herbert Clegg (Cyril Shapps), a sideshow clairvoyant whose simple tricks assure the Doctor the man is hiding extraordinary powers. Setting the events in motion and tying everything into one source of drama is the mysterious blue crystal from Metebelius III which the Doctor obtained in "The Green Death." In this early stage of the story, all the earmarks of a classic are pulling together. Great performances by the series regulars as well as guest stars John Dearth, Cyril Shapps and John Kane as a mentally challenged Tommy at the meditation center. The dialogue is crisp and within character. Nicholas Courtney as Brigadier Lethbridge Stewart has some fun with his role which only comes from familiarity, even offering the rare quip with the Time Lord, particularly in the early scenes as the two briefly discuss the merits of a belly dancer. The only faltering among the cast is actor/stuntman Kevin Lindsay as the spiritual leader of the center, Cho-Je. Although not his fault, he is woefully miscast as an Oriental (think John Wayne playing Genghis Khan in "The Conqueror") but tries desperately to reconcile this by turning in an otherwise good performance. As time begins to run out for this third incarnation of the Time Lord, ratings for the show perked as an average of 10.1 million households tuned in for Pertwee's swansong. But only time (and five more story installments) would tell if this would be a graceful exit.moreless
Richard Franklin

Richard Franklin

Mike Yates

Recurring Role

John Levene

John Levene

Sergeant Benton

Recurring Role

Cyril Shaps

Cyril Shaps

Professor Clegg

Recurring Role

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Trivia, Notes, Quotes and Allusions


  • TRIVIA (5)

    • Revealing Mistake: The psychic wind that blasts through the lab does not upset the coat rack.

    • After Clegg reads the Brigadier's watch, the Doctor calls him Alastair. This was the first time the Brigadier's first name was revealed on screen.

    • Revealing Mistakes: When Clegg levitates the tray, the Brigadier's eyes are looking elsewhere as it floats past him.

    • This story was written to replace another treatment by Robert Sloman titled "The Final Game." Originally, this would feature a climactic battle between The Doctor and his arch-nemesis, The Master. In the final episode, The Master was to save the Doctor's life in an act of redemption only to be killed in an explosion. The death of actor Roger Delgado on 18 June 1973 forced producer Barry Letts to scrap the idea and commission Sloman to write a new script.

    • To prove his clairvoyant abilities, Professor Clegg uses the Brigadier's wristwatch to glean personal information which no one else could know. His claims that the object was given to the Brigadier eleven years earlier in a hotel room by a woman named Doris was on target, according to his embarassed reaction. In Battlefield, the retired Brigadier is married to a woman named Doris.

  • QUOTES (2)

    • Benton: Doctor, I… (He sees Clegg with a strange scientific get-up on his head.) Ah, doing a bit of hair-dressing on the side, eh?

    • The Brigadier [ of a belly dancer ]: Very fit, that girl. Extraordinary muscular control. Must adapt some of those movements as exercises for the men.
      The Doctor: They'd take some adapting!

  • NOTES (4)


    • The Doctor: Do you feel up to bending the odd fork?
      This question from the Doctor is a reference to Uri Geller, a self-proclaimed psychic who gained fame in the 1970s. The highlight of his act was supposedly bending spoons with his mind.