Planet Of The Spiders

Doctor Who: Planet of the SpidersThis review is respectively dedicated to Nicholas Courtney, for the incredible person that he was and for his generous spirit that he so regularly shared with fans.

Planet Of The Spiders contains one of my earliest memories of Doctor Who, namely that of Sarah Jane Smith with a huge arachnid attached to her back. This image stayed with me for weeks and is probably the root cause of my fear of these eight legged beasties. Anyway, it heralded the end of the U.N.I.T. family and even though some of the gang would appear in the next story, it truly was the end of an era.

What begins as an innocuous research into ESP turns into a deadly mind battle, with the terrifying spiders from the planet Metebelis 3 pitted against The Doctor, his friends and Time Lord K’Anpo. At a Tibetan-style spiritual retreat deep in rural England, a clandestine circle of chanting brethren unknowingly call upon the evil powers of the Metebelis Spiders, whose quest for the perfect blue crystal leads them straight to the Doctor.

He must travel to the alien planet to meet the Great One, merciless ruler of her spiders and human slaves, who plans to take over Earth. The future of the entire universe is in the Doctor’s hands, but if he is to face the fear the Great One sees in his mind, then he must face the certainty of total destruction. Could this be the Time Lord’s final death?

Written by Robert Sloman and Barry Letts, this six-part adventure contains many of the classic elements the Pertwee era was known and loved for. Its adventurous, has a tight script and plenty of action. Forget that the elongated chase sequence was just an excuse to see how many different craft Pertwee could drive, just go with it! Letts brought his deep interest of Buddhist theology and philosophy to the story which gives a slightly deeper feel to it but it’s the spiders that steal the show. Yes they may look cheap now but their voices and their shaking movements still send a chill to the viewer.

The cast, and it’s quite an ensemble, give it their all. Pertwee is masterful in this season finale. His last lines are spoken with care and emotion proving that he was more than just an actor, he was an incredibly gifted artist. Courtney gives fine support as does Lis Sladen but look out for a blinding performance from Richard Franklin as Mike Yates, a character who rightfully gets a chance of redeeming himself. John Kane, who plays slow witted Tommy is a revelation. He gives this sad character a real sense of melancholy and truthfulness. One of the most beautifully written characters from 1970s Doctor Who.

Fans are rewarded with references to the past, subtle at times but wonderful short kisses that don’t drown the story in continuity. Its nostalgic thanks to a cast made up mainly of people who had already appeared with Jon in previous adventures.

Disc 1 Extras

Commentary – Elisabeth Sladen, Nicholas Courtney, Richard Franklin, Barry Letts and Terrance Dicks all contribute to an energetic and insightful gag track. It’s great to hear Nicholas on fine form and the rest are in the mood for fun. A happy piece made all the more poignant with Nic’s recent passing.

Info Text – Yes, the infotainment text is here in all its glory with more facts than you could shake a blue crystal at.

Coming Soon – A great trailer for the rather craply-titled Mannequin Madness Box Set.
Doctor Who: Planet of the Spiders

Disc 2 Extras

The Final Curtain – A retrospective look at how Barry Letts, Terrence Disck and Jon Pertwee helped to re-invent Doctor Who over a period of five years and how it all came to an end. Running just over 35 minutes this is a solid celebration of one of the show’s most beloved eras. We look at the “Who” family and how it slowly began fade after Roger Delgado’s tragic death and how it was decided that Planet Of The Spiders would become the final story for Pertwee. Look out for contributions from most concerned as well as well as Mark Gatiss.

John Kane Remembers – As you’d expect from the title, actor John Kane chats about his character of slow-witted Tommy as well his career since that story. Was nice to learn he’s done well for himself becoming a series creator and accomplished writer, mainly sitcoms. His encounter with a taxi driver is priceless. An excellent extra that could have been much longer.

Directing Who With Barry Letts – Here the wonderful Mr Letts chats about his directing career on Doctor Who and recounts many wonderful stories. Letts was a gentle man and his thoughtful yet warm personality shines here. A bit of a gem.

Now & Then – The series continues with a look at the locations used for Planet Of The Spiders. Not really a must see extra this will appeal mainly to the hardcore fan.

Planet Of The Spiders: Omnibus Edition – Here in all its glory is the 105 minute edition version of the story. A great extra to include on the release and a fun way of watching the serial in a movie length edition.

Planet Of The Spiders: Omnibus Edition Trailer – Yep, you guessed, this was created to promote the screener of the feature length edition. A great piece that runs over a minute and a half, and would have had me tuning in no matter what.

Photo Gallery – A collection of snaps taken from the production of the story with a pretty scary soundtrack!

PDF Materials
– Pop the disc into your PC or MAC and enjoy the Radio Times listings from when the serial originally aired.

Planet Of The Spiders is classic Doctor Who that is only dated by some poor Chroma Key effects. The story, the acting and the feel of the piece is just right and a fitting tribute to one of the show’s most talented ensembles.

With a retail price of £19.99, Planet of the Spiders can be bought online from Amazon for just £14.99 in advance of its April 18th release date!


James has been a Doctor Who fan for as long as he can recall. A child of the 70s and 80s, he weathered all the storms and controversies the show encountered, though he didn’t buy the “Doctor In Distress” single.

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