Wobbly sets! Since the days of William Hartnell there have been numerous jokes about Doctor Who being loaded with cheap cardboard sets that had a noticeable tendency to wobble. Then 'Planet of Evil' came along in 1975 and people sat up and went ‘Wow, they did that on a BBC budget?’.
Robert Holmes and the his writers were never shy about looting the classics for inspiration back in the day, especially if they happened to be in the public domain. 'Planet of Evil' is a shameless fusion of Forbidden Plant and Dr. Jykle and Mr. Hyde. It is also one of the creepiest stories to come out of Doctor Who's Gothic era. Not because of the monsters. The anti-matter creature is no Monster from the Id, while the anti-man is just a hairy embarrassment. 'Planet of Evil's' lasting claim to fame it that for once the production team were able to overcome the show's budget limitations and successfully create a world that was unmistakably alien.
The wonderfully detailed jungle of Zeta Minor is one of the finest sets ever constructed for the series. Production designer Roger Murray-Leach really excelled himself with this one. When Sorenson says the planet is alive you don't doubt his word. Walking around this place is like taking a stroll inside a living creature. It's so impressive that you really wish they never left it. Once the action moves away from the plant and onto the drab interiors of the Morestran spaceship, everything resorts to the usual tiresome running around lots of similar corridors.
For much of previous season, the Doctor and Sarah were mostly kept apart. The Doctor was usually paired up with Harry or others while Sarah went off and had her own side adventure. With Harry now sadly gone, this is really the first time we get to see what Tom and Lis are like as a double act for a full story. It is no surprise that they are both great, although I do wish Sarah was given more to do. Tom Baker is on top form as usual and as bonkers as ever. You've just got to love the excited look on his face as the TARDIS picks up the distress signal, or his amusement when Salamar threatens to torture him.
Notes and Quotes
--Guest actors in Doctor Who really like to go right up to 11 when they are dying.
--While the Third Doctor used his Venusian karate to deal with ruffians, the Fourth Doctor seems to prefer a good right hook.
--Along with the brilliant set design, praise also has to go to Peter Howell for the excellent sound design.
--This is the first time we've seen the Fourth Doctor in the TARDIS console room.
The Doctor: “I met him once.”
Sarah Jane: “Who?”
The Doctor: “Shakespeare. Charming fellow. Dreadful actor.”
Sarah Jane: “Maybe why he took up writing.”
The Doctor: "Perhaps it was."
The Doctor: "Here on Zeta Minor is the boundary between existence as you know it and the other universe which you just don't understand.”
Vishinsky: “Other universe?”
The Doctor: “Yes! From the beginning of time it has existed side by side with the known universe. Each is the antithesis of the other. You call it "nothing", a word to cover ignorance. And centuries ago scientists invented another word for it. "Antimatter", they called it. And you, by coming here, have crossed the boundary into that other universe to plunder it. Dangerous..."
Vashinsky: "He calls himself 'the Doctor'. He's not of our world. Claims to have landed in response to a distress call."
Salamar: "Have you checked the transmitters down there?"
Vishinsky: "Yes, but any signal would have been monitored by our receivers."
The Doctor: "Perhaps my receivers are better than yours."
Ponti: "Shut up!"
The Doctor: "My manners certainly are."
The Doctor: "You and I are scientists, Professor. We buy our privilege to experiment at the cost of total responsibility."
Three out of four dreadful actors who became famous writers.