Monday, July 13, 2015

The Creature from the Pit - "Have you ever thought of taking up another line of work? I don't think astrology is your forte."

BBC - Doctor Who Classic Episode Guide - The Creature from the Pit - Details

Season 17, Story 3 (Overall Series Story #106) | Previous - Next | Index

Image via Doctor Who Gifs
It is all but impossible to talk about this one without discussing the design of the creature. It is the single most phallic design in all of Doctor Who -- not an inconsiderable achievement given the existence of Alpha Centauri from the Peladon stories -- and I'm fairly certain outside of anything non-pornographic. It is comical, shocking, a little disturbing, and utterly, undeniably, a giant dick. Tom Baker can't restrain himself. His facial expressions are priceless. When he attempts to communicate with the creature buy grasping it's pseudopodic protrusion, blows into its tip, gives it a dismisssive little pat ... I am quite certain the cast and crew on set that day must have been falling down laughing.

An attempt was made during shooting to add other protrusions that are less dickish, including one with a forked tip, but it is too little, too late. The thing is a giant, veiny ball sack and penis, and the attempt to change its impression unfortunately only calls to mind a disfigured member, making the thing even harder to look at without wincing.

There's a case made here for regulated capitalism and a condemnation of greed that are nice touches. It's hard to give them their due though once you've seen the Doctor smothered by a giant scrotum.

The scripted goofiness is a reaction to the Hinchcliffe era, and will be reacted against after Graham Williams is gone. This has Douglas Adams all over it, but it is, if we are honest, a bit much. Take the scene where the Doctor, having been shoved into the pit, pulls a book on climbing from his pocket, for example:
DOCTOR (aloud to himself): It's in Tibetan!
(The Doctor gets a second book from his pocket.
Teach Yourself Tibetan.
DOCTOR (reading aloud): 'Pi-e pa-ha. Do not be afraid.'
(Something growls down below.)
It is, I think, a lovely comic mini-sketch. Tom Baker is brilliant in it. But we're twisting the narrative pretty hard to squeeze that bit of humor out of it. Ask yourself, does this work better as part of a story about the Doctor arriving on an alien world and attempting to liberate an imprisoned ambassador, or is it better suited to being a bit in a Children In Need special? Not saying the two are always mutually exclusive, nor that the line can't be toed, but if the answer is the latter, you're at risk of doing self-parody. But, don't be too quick to answer the latter, because I think you'll then find yourself in the company of the folks who were relieved when John Nathan-Turner came around to put an end to all the "undergraduate" humor and, in the process, run the series into the ground.

Image via Chair With A Panda On It

Unincorporated Observations:

  • Romana's imperiousness with the bandits is quite effective, and she's a knockout in that dress.
  • K-9 is not voiced by John Leeson here and it hurts.
  • There's an actor named Tim Munro in this one. If you're not also a Munro, this will be meaningless to you, I'm sure. 
  • The outcast astrologer, Organon, played by Geoffrey Bayldon, may ultimately be the best thing about this story ... 
  • Although Lady Adrasta is well-cast, and come to think of it, her vizier, Karela, has some scene stealing moments herself. All in all a pretty strong supporting cast of distinctive characters. (When it comes to the bandits, the case could be made for Torvin, at least, perhaps a little to distinctive.)
  • The wolf weeds were a nice touch. The kind of simple creature effect the show can pull off. 
  • Wood and Miles in About Time make a pretty strong argument that this story could be seen as a reaction to Star Trek's "The Devil in the Dark."

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...