Saturday, 14 September 2013

The Creature from the Pit

The Doctor and Organon face Erato.
Well, for starters you can’t fault the title, it’s completely accurate. This story does indeed feature a pit, and there is a creature in it. This creature is ‘Erato’, a sort of wobbly brain thing which at times looks ridiculous and at others looks umm… a bit rude really! And hence we have the main issue of this story.
If you’re going to try and make a story based around an alien creature that is HUGE and is basically covered in a membrane, make sure you can do it convincingly before commissioning a script. All credibility is lost when you see something as ridiculous-looking as Erato. The rest of the design in rather nice, an awesome alien jungle, with lots of mist, a palace, underground passageways and the like. Spoilt by one ridiculous creature.
Myra Frances as Adrasta.
Actually, it’s more than just the creature which makes this one of the poorer Doctor Who tales. The direction and acting approach is called into question too. The script probably needed a bit of reworking too. In the first episode we are introduced to the Lady Adrastra, the slightly evil woman who holds power on the planet Chloris. Very much your megalomaniac character, albeit a female character for a change. There’s no holding back from the actor Myra Frances here, she lets rip throughout until he death at the hands of Erato in part four (which the Doctor and Romana don’t seem that fussed about). She is hoarding all the metal on Chloris, which has a lot of vegetation but little metal. This makes her powerful. And apparently way over the top. She talks about the rebels, a fierce and dangerous gang. But when we see them, they are played as utter morons with long beards and cockney accents. And so the story does not appear to be taken seriously at all.
Add to the mix Organon, played by Geoffrey Bayldon, an astrologer who seeks answers logically enough in the stars. This is an almost totally comic character, albeit it a likeable one. Naturally hammed up to the max like all the others. It does make for some funny moments. The Doctor joins in for a bit of humour too when he jumps down the shaft to the pit, holding on to the wall, and pulls out a rock climbing book. It turns out to be in Tibetan, so he pulls out another book called ‘How to read Tibetan’. Perhaps that was going a bit too far,  but I enjoyed that moment.
K-9 makes a welcome return to the fold, after not featuring in the first two stories of season 17. In fact ‘The Creature from the Pit’ was the first filmed of the season, but was pushed back to third in the running order as they wanted to start with the Daleks. John Leeson strangely opted out of returning, and the voice is provided by David Brierly. I know people don’t particularly like the Brierly K-9, but it’s always difficult when you follow someone else’s voice and that’s what people expect to hear. In some ways Brierly gives K-9 an older sounding voice. In my book it’s not better or worse, just different. K-9 is attacked a couple of times by the ‘wolf-weeds’. Weeds shaped like balls that smother and move about on their own. Actually this was one design element I really liked.
Myra Frances and Lalla Ward.

Lalla Ward is great in this story, and Tom Baker has some fun but at least seems to be taking it more seriously than the guest cast. It’s all so pantomime to be honest. It’s not the worst Doctor Who tale either. The creation of a jungle world almost impossible to live in is very good. They used film to shoot the jungle scenes too, which adds atmosphere. The characters perhaps needed some reworking in the scripting stage, and the actors needed a different approach I feel if they wanted the story to be taken seriously by the viewers.
Lastly, Eileen Way, veteran British actress who appeared in ‘An Unearthly Child’ as the old woman, appears with a sizable part in this one. She’s pretty awesome. Even a decade later she was making TV appearances in ‘Sean’s Show’. Not a bad effort to be cast as the really old character in 1963 and then still be around doing TV nearly 30 years later. Good one Eileen….


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