Monday, 17 December 2012

Review: Doctor Who Classic: The Creature From The Pit

Doctor Who - Too Hot For TV!
Warning, NSFW...  

Doctor Who - Season 17, Story Three - The Creature From The Pit
Written 29/9/12

The Whoniverse has had its fair share of dodgy looking monsters. The Blood Line taught us that there's a large vagina that runs through the centre of the earth. Terror of the Vervoids showed us that even plants can resemble human sexual organs. But no story has ever been more phallic in nature than the unfortunately remembered Creature From The Pit, a story whose ideas about wealth and powers will forever be overshadowed by its reputation as that one where Tom Baker kissed an alien's penis.But even ignoring any phallic imagery (or scrotal imagery, for that matter,) how does this story stand up on its own.
     The central concept that David Fisher (the writer of Androids of Tara, a story I adored) is trying to show is of two neighbouring planets, Chloris and Tytholus, one of which is scarce in metal and abundant in plant life, and one which is the opposite. The Chlorians live their lives under the tryanny of Lady Adrasta, who holds a monopoly over the planet's only mine and throws any dissidents down a pit, where an evil creature is said to live. When The Doctor and Romana arrive, they discover that the Creature is in fact a sentient blob called Erato, an ambassador from Tytholus who came to the planet to offer a lucrative trading deal. After Adrasta is foiled, The Doctor ties up loose ends by preventing a Neutron star from colliding with the planet.
     Suffice to say that Dave Fisher wasn't the most scientifically literate guy, and while that shouldn't usually affect a story, it certainly does dampen this one. If your planet isn't rich in heavy metals, then you don't tend to end up becoming a rocky planet - that's just how it works, and you certainly would not have a world where life - which requires little stuff like iron, magnesium and other metalic minerals - is as abundant as it is here. Plus, Tythonians are said to be composed of a big brain covered by a thin membrane, and are said to "eat chlorophyll". Chlorophyll is the carbon, hydrogen, oxygen, nitrogen and magnesium based green pigment in plants that allows them to undergo photosynthesis to convert CO2, Water and energy from the sun into simple sugars, which the plant can then use for respiration. I don't really see how consuming Chlorophyll can help you get energy, but whatever. It feels like the concepts, if streamlined, could have had so much more potential, but the fact that the only motivations seemed to be control of the "metal" without actually using metal for anything particularly useful took away any tension.
      Thank goodness for the characters, then. Well. One of them. Myra Frances' Lady Adrastra is a stellar villain, and it's good to see a strong female character like that in Who. She drips hatred and greed, and she's smart enough to get what she wants until the very end, where it is her own deception that undoes her. It was a bad way to go - being teabagged by Mr. Greenballs, but that's the way the cookie crumbles. Romana was a bit of a shame, in that this was Lalla Ward's first filmed story and so the script rather blatantly gives her Mary Tamm's personality without any of the skill or charm. Everyone else was a cardboard cutout, except of course Baker, whose manic energy is getting me down very quickly in the same way that seeing Matt Smith be "quirky" does.
Which Romana are you trying to be?
     Oh, and K9! What happened to you? John Leeson left the series for one reason or another just for Season 17, and the replacement, David Brierly, is a painful substitiute that, while adequate, can't hope to live up to the original. Whenever Leeson's K9 sounded sarcastic, it was almost by accident, it was hinted at. David Brierley doesn't sound like a robot's voice, it sounds like a man sat in a booth somewhere making sarcastic remarks. He's like someone put Adric in a box.
     Creature From The Pit, penis sucking or no penis sucking (something I've never written on this website before and will probably never write again), was incredibly disappointing on all levels, and that's simply because of how ill-thought-out its concepts end up being. The idea of a society being stifled from technological progress by a higher power is an easy one, but here it just flounders and that's really unfortunate.


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