There are very few good regeneration stories. 'Planet of the Spiders' is not one of them. In many ways it is very reminiscent of David Tennant's last hurrah, 'The End of Time'. Both stories aim to be an epic farewell to their respective Doctors and a grand celebration of their era. That was the intention. The results are something quite different.
'Planet of the Spiders' is bad. Very, very bad. Maybe not quite as bad as 'The End of Time', but it is pretty darn close. Far from being a celebration of the Pertwee years, 'Planet of the Spiders' ends up being a shinning example of everything that was wrong with. Poor writing, bad acting, shoddy directing, dire production values, terrible costumes, laughable monsters, this story has all of these things and more. It's is an overblown orgy of stuff that doesn't make sense, and so long that you'll need your great grand-children to help you commit suicide.
Even for a six-parter, this one drags too much. Episode 2 brings new meaning to the term ‘padding’. Its just one huge chase sequences using everything from helicopters, flying cars, regular cars, boats and hovercrafts. Just as the Doctor is about to capture the bad guy he teleports away thus making the entire chase pointless. By the time I got to Episode 5, I felt like I'd been watching it for a week. And since so many cliff-hangers are recapped in their entirety, it obvious episodes were under-running. The first nine minutes of Episode 6 is just a recap of the previous episode's cliff-hanger.
Once the story relocates to Metabelis III it really starts to go downhill. Last time we saw Metabelis III it was depicted as a creepy, very blue place. Here it's a mishmash of horrendous CSO backgrounds, cheap sets, terrible model shots, rubbish costumes and appalling acting. And I can't help noticing that it's no longer blue. You can't go around telling everyone you're the blue planet when you're not blue. That's like the Blue Man Group painting themselves pink but still insisting everyone call them the Blue Man Group.
Despite the story's other failings, Pertwee is at his best, even if he faces the news of his impending death with all the internal turmoil of a man who can't decide whether he should watch Caddyshack or Ghostbuters tonight. But with all the angst and tantrums of Tennant's farewell still fresh in the memory, it is refreshing to see the Doctor face his fate with something resembling dignity. At no point during this story did I want to smack him across the head for being such a whinny little prat and start rooting for him to regenerate.
Notes and Quotes
--Professor Clegg has one mighty bow-tie.
--"Om", the chant the bad guys keep repeating, was also the only song by Dave Lister's band Smeg and the Heads.
--This story marks the final regular appearance of Richard Franklin as Mike Yates.
--Although not seen yet, Harry Sullivan is mentioned.
--We learn that the Brigadier's first name is Alastair.
--This is the first time that the term 'Regeneration' is used.
--The Whomobile returns. And flies.
Benton: “I mean, I'm expendable and you're not.”
--You're not expendable, Benton.
The Brigadier: (of a belly dancer) "Very fit, that girl. Extraordinary muscular control. Must adapt some of those movements as exercises for the men."
The Doctor: "They'd take some adapting!"
Sarah Jane: "You know, this is barmy. Here we are calmly discussing happiness planets, blue moons and giant spiders as if I was talking about pussycats, fish and chips and the Liverpool docks."
The Doctor: "Yes, well, I always leave the actual landing to the TARDIS herself. She's no fool you know."
Mike: "You speak as if she were alive."
Doctor: "Yes. Yes I do, don't I?"
The Brigadier: "Well... here we go again."
One and a half out of four Oms.