Doctor Who (1963)

Season 11 Episode 21

Planet of the Spiders, Part One

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

Episode Fan Reviews (1)

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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.

    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.