James Whittington reviews the latest classic Doctor Who DVD release – The Creature from the Pit.
Following a classic story such as City Of Death would have been a hard task for any writer, but David Fisher did a sterling job by presenting The Creature from the Pit, a traditional Doctor Who tale that brought the show back to its traditional roots. Time has been kind to parts of it, but some moments will have fans shuddering. More of those later, first, hereâ€™s what this one is all about:
The Doctor and Romana receive a distress signal and arrive on Chloris, a lush and verdant world that has only small quantities of metals, al lof which are controlled by its ruler, Lady Adrasta. Without metal to make the tools needed to keep the jungle under control, the plant life dominates. Lady Adrasta controls the planetâ€™s very last metal mine, holding on to power through the Huntsmen and the Wolfweeds. After making a forced landing on Chloris, the Doctor, Romana and K9 soon find themselves caught up in dangerous eventsâ€¦The Doctor is captured by the power-hungry Lady Adrasta, who needs his scientific skills. Meanwhile Romana is taken prisoner by rebel bandits, looking for ways of getting their hands on Adrastaâ€™s wealth. Plus K9 is made of metal â€“ a valuable commodity indeed.
This was the last Doctor Who story to be directed by the legendary Christopher Barry and he pulls out all the stops to deliver top drawer Doctor Who. And he almost does which is surprising considering the era in which he found himself. Remember this was 1979 and the sea of change was coming and possibly the cast and crew could feel it. But letâ€™s not dwell on that. David Brierley is the voice of K9 here which doesnâ€™t spoil the feel of this almost legendary team-up, Lalla is quite wonderful being all smart yet not big-headed whilst Tom, though losing his edge, still produces some wonderful moments of alien type bizarreness.
Talking of aliens, the much talked about Erato is here in all its synthetic glory. I wonâ€™t lower the tone here but this beast is huge, a mighty erection you could say (sorry, couldnâ€™t resist it) but considering the budget restraints of the Visual Effects Department and the way theyâ€™ve taken criticism on the chin about it viewers should overlook this creation.
The supporting cast, which includes the cult favourite Geoffrey Bayldon as Organon, throw themselves at the script and the aforementioned Baker reigns in his character enough without bombarding the viewer with the absurd tone he would take for his last few stories. The filmed sequences look really good with the studio segments standing up to inspection. Set design on the show was never stronger than it was here.
Commentary â€“ Lalla Ward, Myra Francis, director Christopher Barry and visual effects designer Mat Irvine are all onboard to give their honest opinion of this adventure. Lalla in particular is on fine form, only ever criticising herself and bigging up all others involved. She even has time to praise the title sequence, well, who can blame her? If Tom had been on board Iâ€™m sure it would have been riotous, anyone who saw the VHS release of The Tom Baker years and his reflections on this story will know what I mean.
Christopher Barry: Director â€“ One of the shows most charming production team, Barry helped bring some of the best Doctor Who serials to screen including The Deamons, Robot and The Brain Of Morbius. This all too short on camera interview is a charming piece which should have lasted for hours. More from and about this great man, please!
Team Erato â€“ Members of the BBC Effects Team recount the difficulties encountered trying to realise the creature for this story. From the rather obtuse description found in the original script its amazing that they actually came up with anything but they most certainly did and under the guidance of Mat Irvine created a rather infamous monster. A nice extra that gives you a different point of view of Doctor Who production especially when the team were criticised and ridiculed, even though they were working with low budget.
Animal Magic â€“ Taken from the classic TV show Animal Magic, this small segment has Tom Baker talking on the set of Creature From The Pit, directly to camera about the various beasts heâ€™d encountered as the Doctor. Fun and eccentric this sums up Tomâ€™s professionalism when it came to staying in character for us kids.
Photo Gallery â€“ Never my favourite extra, this is nearly five minutes of shots from the production of the serial. Well researched and with added sound effects it will only appeal to hardcore fans.
Extended Scene â€“ A slightly longer take from the serial. Doesnâ€™t really add to the story but things like these are always nice inclusions.
Info Text â€“ Ah yes, a Doctor Who DVD would be lost without this and it never fails to impress.
PDF Materials â€“ Radio Times listings are contained in this section if you insert the disc into a PC or MAC.
Coming Soon â€“ A rather drab and uninteresting trailer for The Kingâ€™s Demons and Planet Of Fire box set.
To sum up, The Creature from the Pit was one of Tomâ€™s last great adventures. Yes his reliance on obscure humour is beginning to take hold but the old magic is still there. Just donâ€™t think about the Erato creature too much.
Released on May 3rd 2010, The Creature from the Pit can by ordered from Amazon for a low price of just Â£12.91!