Season 11 (June 28 - July 10)

June 28: The Time Warrior Parts One & Two
June 29: The Time Warrior Parts Three & Four
June 30: Invasion Part One / Invasion of the Dinosaurs Part Two
July 1: Invasion of the Dinosaurs Parts Three & Four
July 2: Invasion of the Dinosaurs Parts Five & Six
July 3: Death to the Daleks Parts One & Two
July 4: Death to the Daleks Parts Three & Four
July 5: The Monster of Peladon Parts One & Two
July 6: The Monster of Peladon Parts Three & Four
July 7: The Monster of Peladon Parts Five & Six
July 8: Planet of the Spiders Parts One & Two
July 9: Planet of the Spiders Parts Three & Four
July 10: Planet of the Spiders Parts Five & Six

June 28: The Time Warrior Parts One & Two

A brand-new title sequence brings us into season 11, with the fancy slit-screen process and some filters creating a nifty-looking tunnel effect -- one that will become well known as the title sequence for most of Tom Baker's run.  It's not quite the same though, but I still kind of like the streaks of light that come at you at the very beginning (even if I always feel like it's off center).  Not as convinced about the full-length Pertwee portrait receding away though.

This is, pleasingly, a strong opener, as a Middle Ages warlord sees a star fall (in reality a crashing spaceship) and rides out to encounter an armored alien who claims Earth and the moon "for the greater glory of the Sontaran Empire."  Linx, the Sontaran who's crashed, needs to repair his ship, but upon finding that the technologies he needs aren't around in the Middle Ages, he decides to take them from those who do have the technologies.

From there we get a cut to near-contemporary Earth, with the Brigadier (whose hair seems really quite shaggy by this point) announcing that, in the wake of a number of recent kidnappings of important scientists, he's had them all brought to a high-security establishment.  Not that high-security, though; one of the people there is posing as an eminent virologist, but is in fact a journalist named Sarah Jane Smith.  Yes, it's Sarah Jane's first appearance in Doctor Who, here dressed very professionally and not willing to take any nonsense.  She's posing as her Aunt Lavinia, but the Doctor easily finds her out.  "I read your paper on the teleological response of the virus.  A most impressive piece of work," the Doctor tells her.  "Particularly when I realize you must have written it when you were five years old."

But he's content to let her wander around and act patronizingly towards her, as he's more concerned with the missing scientists, and when one of them is snatched away he determines that they've been taken back in time, so he hops into the TARDIS to trace them, with Sarah unwittingly on board (as she thinks that maybe one of the missing scientists, Professor Rubeish, is inside the TARDIS).  The TARDIS lands in medieval England, and Sarah walks out after the Doctor has left, seemingly unconcerned about the fact that they're in a new location (or about anything regarding the interior of the TARDIS, as far as we can tell) -- only to be captured by Irongron's men (after distracting future Boba Fett actor Jeremy Bulloch, as Hal the archer, from loosing his arrow accurately).  And as the Doctor looks on in hiding, Linx, thinking he's alone, removes his domed helmet -- only to reveal an identically-shaped head...

Linx and the Doctor.  (The Time Warrior Part Two) ©BBC
Part two has much of the flavor of a romp.  There's a lot of stuff with Sarah refusing to believe she's been transported back in time, despite all the mounting evidence (perhaps she's suffering from cognitive dissonance), but the result is a lot of great dialogue from Robert Holmes.  "Perhaps the wench is crazed," says Bloodaxe, Irongron's second, to Irongron.  Irongron, meanwhile, has good lines too, such as referring to Lady Eleanor, the person who hired Hal to assassinate Irongron in the last episode, as a "narrow-hipped vixen."  Fortunately, however, Linx interrupts Irongron, allowing Sarah to make her escape.  Linx, it turns out, is providing Irongron with guns and robot knights to fight for him.  And while this is going on, the Doctor is wandering around, causing mischief by shooting the control for the robot knight out of Irongron's hand (which allows Hal and Sarah to escape from the castle) and investigating Linx's workings.  He encounters Professor Rubeish, but as he's talking to him he's found out by Linx.  It seems the Doctor has met the Sontarans before ("So, the perpetual war between the Sontarans and the Rutans has spread to this tiny planet, has it?" he asks), and they end up chatting rather pleasantly, with the Doctor name-dropping his home planet for the first time. ("What is your native planet?" Linx asks.  "Gallifrey.  I am a Time Lord," the Doctor replies.  "Ah, yes," Linx says.  "A race of great technical achievement, but lacking the morale to withstand a determined assault.")  You'd think it would be a more important revelation than this, but it's just tossed into the background as a detail as the conversation moves to more important things. Still, it's entertaining to watch the Doctor and Linx chat, with each standing in as a representative for their whole species (and thus their species' point of view).

Meanwhile, Sarah appears to have gotten the wrong end of the stick by believing that the Doctor is the wizard that Hal describes as helping Irongron.  You can sort of see where she's coming from, as there's clearly time travel involved and the Doctor is a time traveller, but it still rather flies in the face of the evidence she was presented with in the first part.  But she's convinced the nearby Sir Edward that they should raid Irongron's castle and capture the Doctor -- who'd probably be fine with that if he knew, as he's locked up by Linx and forced to work for him, and when he's freed by Rubeish he ends up shoving Irongron out of the way before being surrounded by a large group of Irongron's men in the castle courtyard.  "He who strikes Irongron dies!" Irongron cries, raising his axe against the fallen Doctor.

June 29: The Time Warrior Parts Three & Four

Oh, look, they've edited in a shot of Hal and Sarah in order to make his rescue seem less abrupt.  Although according to them it's not a rescue, "it's a capture."  I doubt the Doctor minds much, though.

Sarah watches the Doctor make stink bombs. (The Time
Part Three) ©BBC
Part three has a lot of moments that seem rather silly, but as they're endearingly silly we can overlook any small problems that arise as a result.  Certainly the Doctor and Sarah clear up Sarah's misunderstanding really quickly (quite handy if she's going to be the next assistant) and get on with repelling Irongron's invasion.  The Doctor's strategy involves making stink bombs with some extra bits added, and lots of dummies to line the battlements.  It's not exactly high Shakespearean drama, but it's still entertaining to watch huge (and I mean huge) plumes of orange smoke fill the screen and billow around Irongron's small group of ragtag men as they try to scale ladders before just giving up and running back home.

The second half of the episode also has these wonderfully fun moments (what About Time calls "children's television" moments), with Sarah and the Doctor dressed as monks who want to get into Irongron's castle because they've heard of his great charity -- and the guards just let them through, apparently on a lark.  But they're there to enact their plan to take care of Irongron and Linx, and when they enter Linx's workshop, the Doctor is able to break the hypnosis of one of the scientists -- but then Linx enters and blasts the Doctor...

Part four resolves this problem by having Sarah knock the gun away and then Rubeish striking Linx on the back of the neck, on his probic vent -- the one weakness that a Sontaran has, apparently.  Then the plan proceeds, with Rubeish dehypnotizing scientists, Sarah heading to the kitchen to drug the food79, and the Doctor forced to divert Irongron while the other elements of the plan take effect.  This is another silly-but-fun moment, with the Doctor dressed up as Linx's robot knight and attempting to distract Irongron for a bit -- but then forced to defend himself against both Irongron and Bloodaxe.  The game is soon up though, and Irongron decides to use the Doctor as target practice for his new "star weapons" (aka rifles).  The Doctor manages to escape, though, when Sarah swings a chandelier at him, which he then swings across the room on like Errol Flynn, and then they both escape to Sir Edward's castle.

Some drugged soldiers later, they return to rescue the scientists and stop Linx.  The Doctor manages the former (using Linx's osmic projector to send all the scientists back to the 20th century), but Linx is starting up his spaceship, which will destroy the whole castle.  Irongron is killed by Linx after Irongron attacks over a perceived betrayal, and a well-aimed arrow by Hal subsequently pierces Linx's probic vent, killing him -- but the spaceship still leaves, so the Doctor gets everyone out (except, it seems, the serving girls), causing the castle to explode, destroying everything anachronistic in the process.  And while you can sort of see the logic of using a stock explosion shot to save money, it's still a wonder that director Alan Bromly thought he could get away with what's clearly a quarry explosion substituting in for a castle being destroyed.  (Although perhaps it's not that surprising, if the stories about Bromly's directorial abilities and instincts are to be believed -- certainly the next (and final) Doctor Who Bromly directed, Nightmare of Eden, was an unmitigated disaster behind the scenes.)

So, having given us a story where different locales and times are successfully intermixed in Carnival of Monsters, Robert Holmes pulls a similar trick here, by taking an historical time period and throwing an SF element into it to see what happens.  This is by no means a novel approach, not even for Doctor Who (The War Games and The Time Meddler, which are both stories that The Time Warrior has in its DNA, played at something similar), but the difference is that the sheer confidence on display in Holmes's script makes this a viable thread of storytelling in a way that, say, The Time Meddler isn't.  The Time Meddler didn't lead to a subset of stories where a time traveller tries to alter history, but The Time Warrior did (albeit with aliens substituted for time travellers) -- see, for example, things like Pyramids of Mars or Horror of Fang Rock (and even into the modern day, with stories like, most obviously, "The Fires of Pompeii").  In part this is because the script is very confident about what it's doing, even when what it's doing is silly pantomime fare -- again, the stink bomb stuff comes to mind -- and it sparkles with lots of great dialogue (I've mentioned some of it before, but we also get lines like "By the stars, Bloodaxe, I swear I'll chop him up so fine not even a sparrow will fill its beak at one peck" and a description of the Doctor as "a long-shanked rascal with a mighty nose").  But it's also because it's clear how supremely comfortable both Jon Pertwee and Elisabeth Sladen are in this.  Pertwee is definitely at home here in history, engaging in swordplay and chivalry equally well.  Sladen is particularly impressive, finding her feet from the start and doing a convincing job of first mistrusting the Doctor and then being firmly on his side.  It's obviously not clear how the original actress cast as Sarah Jane would have done (the identity of whom Barry Letts insisted on taking to his grave, but subsequent research (after his death) revealed to be April Walker), but Elisabeth Sladen nails the part from her first scene.

It's fun, it's witty, and it's well-acted.  The Time Warrior is a stand-out story, and one that single-handedly revitalized a whole type of Doctor Who story, the pseudo-historical.  A marvelous tale, and probably the highlight of season 11 -- though, as we're only on the first story, we'll have to wait and see before we confirm this.

June 30: Invasion Part One / Invasion of the Dinosaurs Part Two

Here's the second (and final) exception to the "everything exists on PAL tape" fact: Invasion Part One only exists as a 16mm black & white film print, and while color recovery was attempted, the results weren't great; apparently only the red and green signals could be recovered, not the blue.  The blue was approximated, but the results (which can be seen as an alternate viewing choice on the DVD) aren't great; you can see why the default version of this episode is a cleaned-up copy of the b&w print.  Still, some color is better than none, and let's not forget: they're pulling color off a black & white film.  Seriously, color recovery is just so cool.

So that's the first thing to note about part one.  The second thing to note is the title.  In an effort to hide the surprise appearance of dinosaurs, this first installment is called simply Invasion.  Except the surprise had already been ruined by that week's Radio Times listings, as well as by the Radio Times Doctor Who Special back in November 1973 (which had a preview of the then upcoming season 11), so it's not really that much of a shock when a pterodactyl shows up halfway through.

The opening scenes are really nicely done though; there's a sense of desolation and neglect here, giving us the impression that London really has been deserted.  It's also nice how they continue this feeling throughout most of the first episode, and even occasional encounters with other people have a sense of society having broken down -- it's almost an apocalyptic feel, in a way.  And that shot of the pterodactyl trying to bite the Doctor is pretty well done as well -- even if the shot of it flying is less successful.

But despite being attacked by a prehistoric reptile, the Doctor and Sarah are still uncertain as to the nature of the emergency that's gripped central London, and none of the authorities they've encountered will tell them anything, content instead to lock them up for looting.  But as they're being driven away, a (somewhat sad-looking) Tyrannosaurus appears...

Butler and Professor Whitaker listen to Mike Yates's warnings
about the Doctor. (Invasion of the Dinosaurs Part Two) ©BBC
The mood in part two (now properly called Invasion of the Dinosaurs) gives way from an atmospheric thriller to a fairly typical UNIT runaround.  There's an interesting bit near the beginning with someone from 12th century England attacking the Doctor, before vanishing (presumably back to his own time), but before long the Brigadier has found the Doctor and is briefing him on the situation.  So we get a bit of exposition about how dinosaurs keep turning up, forcing an evacuation of the area, but then it's off to try and find the cause of these appearances.  But the whole thing is treated so matter-of-factly that the overall impression is one of business as usual -- even when it patently isn't.  I mean, for goodness' sake, Mike Yates is working for the bad guys!  That should be a game changer, but instead it's handled as just another incident along the way, and other than a reference to taking leave after The Green Death's events and liking London with less pollution, Yates's motivations here aren't really explored.  Fair enough, maybe they'll be covered in later episodes, but as for right now there's barely a hint of a reason for his actions.

But he's working for the villains, who have been bringing dinosaurs forward in time essentially as a diversion, a reason for London to be evacuated.  So the Doctor reasons that if he can capture a dinosaur, he can study it and work out where the time field that's bringing it to the present day is coming from.  Which means we should probably talk about the dinosaurs.  The three we see in this episode aren't actually that bad, and are in keeping generally with a 1970s understanding of dinosaurs.  The main problem is that they're clearly puppets, and thus they're being prefilmed on model sets.  But no one's taking care to line up the CSOed-in actors with the puppets, and so we get moments like the one near the beginning of part two, with UNIT soldiers firing well to the Tyrannosaurus's right instead of at it.  The other, less noticeable problem probably can't be helped, but it's the fact that they move like, well, puppets.  And not even very articulated puppets.  It's rather like watching a child's rubber dinosaur toy being moved around on screen.  The upshot of all this is that there's a lack of care involved with this that makes the finished product rather unimpressive.  There's nothing wrong with the conception; it's the execution that lets things down.

Nevertheless, the story's called Invasion of the Dinosaurs, so when the Doctor goes to capture a Stegosaurus (which is one of the better dinosaurs on display) with his fancy stun gun, he finds it doesn't work (because Mike Yates sabotaged it with a device from working-against-UNIT person Professor Whitaker, who managed to create a stun gun neutralizing device despite having never seen the device and said device being based on a principle that, according to the Doctor, hasn't been developed on Earth yet).  Which would be fine if the Stegosaurus didn't disappear, to be replaced by a much more ferocious (and still sad-looking) Tyrannosaurus bearing down on him...

July 1: Invasion of the Dinosaurs Parts Three & Four

A Tyrannosaurus bursts through a brick wall. (Invasion of
the Dinosaurs
Part Three) ©BBC
This could have easily been an episode full of padding, but writer Malcolm Hulke has chosen to turn up the conspiracy elements in part three.  So after a quick intervention by Mike Yates to un-sabotage the Doctor's stun gun and bring the Tyrannosaurus down (which actually is an effect that's rather well done), the story starts to focus on the people working against UNIT.  Mike Yates is obviously conflicted between loyalty towards his new colleagues and his old ones, as he angrily insists that the Doctor isn't to be hurt: "You tried to murder him!  You deliberately materialised a savage monster knowing it would attack him!  ...I warned you I wouldn't have the Doctor harmed."  But despite the assurances of Professor Whitaker and Butler, another attempt to get the Doctor killed is made, when someone goes into where the Tyrannosaurus is being held (which again looks rather good when all it has to do is lie there unconscious) and cuts the chains that are restraining it -- so when Sarah heads into the hangar to take pictures of it, the flash awakens it and it rears up unfettered.  Then, to add to the conspiracy flavor, the exit door has been bolted from the outside, leaving Sarah at the mercy of the dinosaur -- and it's only the timely arrival of the Doctor which frees her.  And while the Doctor's time-field-detecting machine has also been sabotaged, they at least know that there is a conspiracy afoot.

But, pleasingly, it's Sarah, not the Doctor, who works out most of what's going on with the situation.  She's the one who determines that it's Professor Whitaker working to bring dinosaurs into the present day (and continues to believe so, despite the protestations of the Right Honourable Charles Grover that the man was a crank), and who works out that there must be a nuclear generator operating in central London that's simply been made secret (which is why the Brigadier couldn't find any trace of it).  Furthermore, she remembers something about building secret underground bunkers for the government "back in the Cold War days" (so when did the Cold War end in Doctor Who?  The later episode called, er, "Cold War" definitely has it back on again by 1983), and she's smart enough to try and track it down with the help of Charles Grover.  Only it turns out she's too good; she's stumbled right onto the antagonists' base, and Grover is in on the conspiracy too.  We're not quite to the levels of conspiracy that we had in the Malcolm Hulke co-scripted The Ambassadors of Death, but they're doing a nice job of starting to build things up.

And then, in what's really a wonderful cliffhanger, Sarah is hypnotized (or conditioned, or something) and then wakes up in a strange place, where a man named Mark tells her she's on a spaceship.  "We're on our way.  Soon we shall arrive on the planet that's to be our new home...  We left Earth three months ago," he adds, showing Sarah a view out of the window of outer space and a distant planet.

Unfortunately, part four immediately ruins that cliffhanger by cutting to General Finch complaining to the Brigadier and the Doctor about the events that just happened with the Tyrannosaurus back at the hangar -- thus completely ruining the illusion that Sarah's been on board a spaceship for three months.  If they'd run with this a bit (even just up to the point where Sarah feels her head and notices that the wound she suffered in part three is still there) it would have been far more interesting.  But as it is the focus shifts from "what happened?" to "how will she escape?", and all the scenes with Sarah in the meantime become just that little bit less interesting.  Although, considering how they're going to head to a "New Earth" (though presumably not the one with New New New New New New New New New New New New New New New New York) because of all the problems that humanity caused on the original, it's a bit odd that Ruth wants to get things started by killing Sarah off.  Oh, and look (though probably only of interest to me): our first character on Doctor Who named Adam.

The Doctor in his new car. (Invasion of the Dinosaurs
Part Four) ©BBC
The Doctor, meanwhile, is tooling around London in his brand-new space age car, the Whomobile (though it's never called this on screen).  This was a car specially commissioned by Jon Pertwee, who lobbied Barry Letts to have it show up in the series.  In the event, it only appears here and in Pertwee's last story.  It's pretty eye-catching and, honestly, a bit ridiculous.  However, it does match the third Doctor's personality by this point, so we'll call it an indulgence and let it slide.

This is the episode where the Doctor actually finds the secret base under London, only for the conspiracy to block him when he tries to report it -- and, somewhat oddly, even the Brigadier seems unwilling to believe him.  And yes, the part where the Doctor wanders the base, only for shutters to slam down around him, does feature noticeably wobbly walls, but as you will no doubt have figured out by this point (if you've been watching in order like I have), this is the exception rather than the rule.

But really, that's about it for this episode.  Other than introducing the Whomobile and revealing that General Finch is also in on the conspiracy, this installment seems to be more about treading water than dramatic revelations.  And then, in quite an odd cliffhanger, Professor Whitaker lures the Doctor back to the hangar, where a Stegosaurus then appears -- at which point Finch bursts in and declares, "There's your monster maker, Brigadier.  Caught in the act."  As if simply being present at an appearance was somehow sufficient proof of guilt.

July 2: Invasion of the Dinosaurs Parts Five & Six

So part five sees the Doctor arrested -- something the Brigadier appears to be doing more for appearances, but Mike Yates is deadly serious in carrying out his duty.  "So it was you, Mike," the Doctor says sadly.  Still, Sergeant Benton is still on the Doctor's side, and he allows the Doctor to knock him out and escape: "You'd better start overpowering me, hadn't you?  You know, a bit of your Venusian oojah?"  Thus, we get an episode of UNIT and regular army troops chasing the Doctor as he drives around in a stolen Jeep.  It's all played as a matter of course, but it's worth taking a moment to ponder the situation: for the first time (well, except for Inferno, but that was a special situation), the Doctor is alone and being hunted by the people he thought were his friends.  It should be an important moment, but instead it's treated as just more runaround.  Maybe if they'd actually had, say, Mike Yates out on the hunt, it would have had a greater impact.  As it is, though, it looks like it's just typical late-episode fare.

Meanwhile on the "spaceship" side of things, Sarah also manages to escape, after demonstrating to Mark that the ship is a fake -- which she proves by exiting the airlock with no ill effects.  She's able to escape back to UNIT HQ, where she encounters General Finch and decides to show him where the underground base is, only to find that Finch is a part of the conspiracy too.  "Oh boy, I really do choose my friends, don't I?" she moans as Finch points a gun at her and then takes her back to Grover in the underground base.

The Doctor's managed to evade his captors and is heading back through London, when a series of dinosaurs appear around him.  Which means that, for the third time this story, we get a cliffhanger of that same sad T. rex puppet showing up.

And then part six opens with the infamous shot of a Tyrannosaurus and an Apatosaurus attacking each other -- except that, because of the severe limitations of the models that they're using, it looks more like they're going to kiss each other, as they bump mouths together.  They try to redeem things in the next shot, with the Tyrannosaurus "savagely" biting the neck of the Apatosaurus, but that's not a very convincing shot either.  In fact, it's this sequence that probably bears most of the blame for the poor reputation this story's effects have.

But everything else is honestly pretty exciting.  The Brigadier "captures" the Doctor and allows him to get on with breaking into the underground bunker via explosives -- though not before Yates definitively reveals himself as a traitor, holding the Doctor, the Brigadier, and Benton at gun point.  But after a brief struggle they get free, allowing them to head to the bunker -- and on their way they encounter another Tyrannosaurus, and the close-up version is actually really nicely done.  But then they cut back to the full version with a dull thud.  Ah well.

The Doctor fights his way through Whitaker's time field.
(Invasion of the Dinosaurs Part Six) ©BBC
And while that's going on, Sarah's made her way back to the "ship" and has told the others what's going on, how they've been unwittingly duped into participating in the erasing of all of civilization (Whitaker's plan, y'see, is to send everything except a small area back in time to a "golden age" -- not necessarily the time of the dinosaurs, just pre-homo sapiens -- and have the group of colonists start afresh).  All this means that, just as Whitaker's ready to pull the switch and send the planet back in time, he's interrupted by the Doctor, the Brigadier, Sarah, and all the colonists.  Whitaker pulls the switch, but the Doctor is able to fight through the effects and switch it back off (because, y'know, Time Lord) -- and a second attempt to throw the switch only succeeds in sending Whitaker and Grover back in time.  The world is saved from misguided anti-pollution people -- although the Doctor has some sympathy for them: "But at least [Grover] realised the dangers this planet of yours is in, Brigadier.  The danger of it becoming one vast garbage dump inhabited only by rats...  It's not the the oil and the filth and the poisonous chemicals that are the real cause of pollution, Brigadier.  It's simply greed."  And so Yates has been offered a chance to quietly resign, and the Doctor offers to take Sarah to the planet Florana, "one of the most beautiful planets in the universe."  And all is right with the world.

There are some interesting ideas at play in Invasion of the Dinosaurs.  Malcolm Hulke (who, it should be remembered, was heavily left-wing in his politics) seems to almost be writing a rebuttal of The Green Death and saying, "Look, anti-pollution people can go too far too."  This leads to an interesting dynamic between Grover's people's goals and beliefs and their method of fixing them: the result is desirable (sort of), but the means aren't justified.  You can't just wish the problems away; you have to tackle them head-on.  Add to this the conspiracy elements and you'd think we'd be on to a real winner.

Unfortunately, they've decided to call this story Invasion of the Dinosaurs, and frankly, most of the dinosaurs aren't really up to the task of supporting this story.  Worse, the least successful model, the Tyrannosaurus, is the one they keep using the most -- because when you're ten, the Tyrannosaurus is just about the coolest thing around.  But if they knew they were going to be using it the most, they should have spent more time and money on it.  Even in a world before Jurassic Park these effects were pretty limp.  The other issue is that, while they seem to be trying to get this show done on time and on budget, there's little ambition beyond that -- so even the moments that should be shocking, like Mike Yates' betrayal (Mike Yates!  That's like having Chekov turn out to be a Klingon spy80) or the Doctor on the run from his former friends, are treated as business as usual, with little flair or excitement.  If they'd cared a little bit more, Invasion of the Dinosaurs could have been a classic, but as is, the ultimate effect is of a reasonably clever script let down by poor effects and a general sense of "eh, good enough".

July 3: Death to the Daleks Parts One & Two

Well, they didn't quite make it to Florana.  Instead, the TARDIS was pulled off-course to Exxilon and drained of all its power -- to the point where they have to use a crank to manually open the doors (ugh, look -- it's a Terry Nation script, just accept it and move on).  Fortunately, the oil lamp still works and they can move around, so it's not all energy that's drained.  Maybe it's just battery power that's drained?  Even leaving aside the distinction between organic and non-organic batteries, the Doctor complicates things by describing the TARDIS as a "living thing" -- and none of this explains why the Daleks can move around but can't shoot people.  Mind, someone's considered this, so (to jump ahead for a moment) the Doctor tells Sarah that the Daleks can still trundle around because they move "by psychokinetic power".  Thanks, that clears everything up.

There are a number of odd moments in this first episode, such as the part where Sarah goes back into the TARDIS for a warmer change of clothes but makes sure the Doctor won't leave while she changes.  The Doctor nods his assent, watches her enter the TARDIS, and then immediately wanders off.  Was he listening to her at all?  There's also the part where he discovers a hidden tripwire, digs it out a bit, and then chucks a rock at it to see what will happen.  Which is admittedly both understandable and entertaining, but perhaps not the most prudent decision ever.  Sarah, meanwhile, clubs an Exxilon who wandered into the TARDIS into unconsciousness and runs into the unknown, eventually discovering a (rather nifty) city in the distance with a flashing light on top of a tall pillar.  Unfortunately for her, getting that close means she's performed sacrilege and thus will be sacrificed by the Exxilons.  Oops.

The final odd moment comes at the end of the episode, after the Doctor has been found by the humans who also crashlanded while looking for a rare mineral called parrinium.  They see a ship come down (with a solid thump, though that might be intentional, to demonstrate the power loss) and then three Daleks emerge.  And do they run or dodge or get behind cover?  No, the Doctor and the humans stand there while the Daleks open fire, their gun sticks clicking away.

Cover of the 1978 Target novelisation.
(From On Target - Death to the Daleks)
Fortunately for the good guys, the second episode reveals that the Daleks' guns have also been subjected to the power drain, making them unable to exterminate the Doctor and company.  So if the Daleks can't kill you, naturally you decide to join forces with them.  And it's not like you can say the humans don't know about the Daleks -- Peter Hamilton's father was killed by them in "the last Dalek war".  But no, that's the plan.  It gets slightly derailed when they're all ambushed by Exxilons, who kill John Abineri's character with an arrow to the back -- so there goes the best actor of the bunch.  This is also the moment where the Exxilons smash a Dalek, causing it to explode -- which seems to have subsequently inspired one of the best Target covers ever.

A meet-up with Sarah later (in which the Doctor prevents her sacrifice by assaulting the High Priest -- an even worse offense than getting next to the City), Galloway reveals he's ruthless and willing to let the Doctor and Sarah die so long as they can complete their mission, while the Daleks equip themselves with projectile weapons (which they test on a model TARDIS -- quite the impression the Doctor has made on their culture, eh?).  In the ensuing confusion, as the Daleks enter the Exxilons' temple, the Doctor and Sarah escape down a tunnel -- and the lack of pursuers suggests things are even worse down here than back in the sacrificial area.  Still, nothing's found them yet, so when they reach a crossroads the Doctor tells Sarah to wait while he explores down a tunnel for half a mile (!).  So while they're separated, an Exxilon creeps up on Sarah, while the Doctor encounters a huge root-like thing with a giant eye...

The problem with these two episodes is that they're both pretty uninvolving.  Director Michael Briant is trying to give it energy and suspense, with some creative shots and day-for-night filming that actually works, for once.  The decision to make the Daleks silver and black, to look more like the '60s models, is also a good one.  But he can only go so far in disguising the predictable script from Terry Nation.  And the incidental music by Carey Blyton (and performed by the London Saxophone Quartet) doesn't help, with its slow, plodding melody.  One can only hope that things improve for the last two parts.

July 4: Death to the Daleks Parts Three & Four

Thank goodness for Arnold Yarrow.  His performance as Bellal the friendly Exxilon is easily the best thing about this story, as he approaches everything with a child-like sense of wonder that Yarrow makes impressively physical, with small gestures and head movements.

A Exxilon watches the Dalek work camp. (Death to the
Part Three) ©BBC
Sadly, the rest of the episode (while still more entertaining than the previous two) isn't quite up to snuff.  There's a strange moment where the Doctor cheers on a City probe attacking a Dalek, which he then follows up with a lame joke to Sarah about it.  ("The root won.  Dalek, nil.")  And, as we saw in Frontier in Space, wires show up so much more easily on film than on video, so what should have been an impressive shot of a City probe rising out of the water to attack the Exxilons and Daleks working nearby is marred by the all-too-obvious wires holding it up.  And there's also the matter of the Exxilon who apparently burns to death while standing in a lake.

It's also worth mentioning Terry Nation's curious decision to add some von Danikenism to the story, by having the Exxilons previously visiting Earth and showing the Incans how to build things.  The really odd thing about this, beyond the fact that The Dæmons had already mined this topic pretty well, is how little it connects to anything else in the story.  It's mentioned as proof that the Exxilons were traveling the galaxy a long time ago, and of course ancient humans needed alien help to build things, and that's it.  The Doctor doesn't, for instance, use the similarities of the carvings here and in Peru to help deduce how to get through a door or anything like that.  It's just brought up and then abandoned.

In contrast, the stuff with the logic puzzles in the City isn't bad, and the presence of the Daleks advancing behind the Doctor and Bellal helps add to the sense of tension.  Still, it does lead to possibly the worst cliffhanger ever, as the Doctor suddenly stops Bellal from treading on a bit of red-and-white tiling.  This is apparently because part three underran fairly significantly and they had to make an artificial cliffhanger (the original one was allegedly the shot of the Daleks appearing as the Doctor works out how to get inside the City).  Nevertheless, it's still an incredibly weak ending.

Part four is the best of the bunch, because here things are happening at a suitably exciting clip.  The Doctor and Bellal's journey gives us some nice effects and a bit of psychological tension (the part where Bellal is going to shoot the Doctor), while there's a nice bit of fun with Sarah and Jill creating decoy bags of parrinium for the Daleks to load up before escaping -- although this leads to the bizarre moment where the overseer Dalek, having discovered that Jill has escaped, cries "Human female has escaped.  I have failed!  Female prisoner has escaped!  I have failed!  I have failed!  Self destruct!  I have failed!  Destruct!" etc.81, rather than just going after her to get her back and/or exterminate her.

Once the Doctor and Bellal reach the heart of the City, though, it's just a matter of the Doctor performing some technical jiggery-pokery to kill off the City -- and having Hamilton and Galloway plant a bomb on the pillar supporting the beacon and then blowing it up doesn't help the City out much either, one suspects.  Then it's back out of the City to watch it destroy itself and for the Daleks to depart, after informing our heroes that they're the ones who caused the plague on the outer worlds in the first place and they're going to do the same thing to Exxilon.  But before they can, Galloway blows them up with a bomb he hid on board.

In some respects, this story is the opposite of the last one.  There, a strong script was thwarted by fairly pedestrian direction and lackluster model work.  Here, we have some interesting directorial choices (the Dalek point-of-view shots are a good example) and a reasonable amount of care being put into the costumes and sets, but it's all at the mercy of a script that frequently feels more like it's going through the motions rather than trying to do something different or interesting -- to the point where even the title (allegedly chosen by Robert Holmes, who hated the Daleks) can't hide its contempt.  It also doesn't help how visibly bored Pertwee is by all this.  Despite the best efforts of Michael Briant and his team, Death to the Daleks ultimately feels very uninvolving.

July 5: The Monster of Peladon Parts One & Two

It opens with a group of miners with the oddest hairstyles ever on the show (bushy afros that merge into the eyebrows with badger-like markings) being attacked by a strange force and believing it to be the spirit of Aggedor.  We've also got a new monarch on the throne (a queen, this time), and a chancellor who's not Hepesh but seems to be just about as pig-headed.  The Doctor and Sarah wander around and the Doctor has to reaffirm his credentials all over again.  And Alpha Centauri's back.  (Hurray!)  So despite the initial weirdness of the set-up with the miners, there's an awful lot of The Monster of Peladon that seems to be deliberately harking back to its predecessor (The Curse of Peladon, in case you've somehow forgotten).

Unfortunately, the fact that we've been here before means that all the plot beats that are wholesale swiped from the first story are immensely tedious in this one.  Making Ortron just as mistrustful of aliens and the Federation (despite an early effort to suggest otherwise -- "Right from the day Chancellor Hepesh died, I served your father loyally.  I worked for the things he believed in.  Progress, civilization, the Federation.  Now there is war with Galaxy Five and our people have to make sacrifices.  ...  We have to accept the duties of Federation membership, as well as the benefits") is frustrating to watch, particularly since he doesn't have a particularly good motivation for doing so; there's a suggestion that he thinks the Doctor and Sarah are responsible for sabotage and/or murder, but this seems to have been dropped as a motivation by part two.  Instead he's just treading in his predecessor Hepesh's footsteps, acting as an antagonist because that's what the story needs.

This might be bearable if the new part of the plot (all the mining stuff) was handled with suitable care, but most of the miners are treated as warmongering boors, and thus it's difficult to feel any sympathy for them.  Well, to be fair, Ettis is deliberately written as a hothead, in contrast to the cooler approach of the miners' ostensible leader Gebek, but that doesn't explain why all the other miners seem to agree with whoever happens to be speaking at any given moment.  Really, the whole thing feels designed to lurch from one crisis to the next, with little thought as to the cumulative effect on the characters.  Like Ortron, the miners behave however the script needs them to behave at any given moment.

Are there any bright spots in these two episodes?  A few; Nina Thomas does a decent job as Queen Thalira, even if the script requires her to be naïve and largely helpless, and Donald Gee's performance as Eckersley is the right side of concerned yet superior (and miles ahead of his performance in The Space Pirates -- unless video of that shows up to vindicate him).  Elisabeth Sladen continues to excel as Sarah -- her reactions in the throne room are particularly entertaining.  There's that first cliffhanger, as the Doctor mouths/speaks (depending on which version you're watching82) "What the blazes is it?" when confronted with a giant glowing image of Aggedor.  And Alpha Centauri is as wonderful as ever.  But that's really it.  These two episodes are an unexciting muddle; let's hope things improve.

July 6: The Monster of Peladon Parts Three & Four

Gebek and the Doctor plan their next move. (The Monster of
Part Three) ©BBC
Oh good.  These two episodes are a bit better than the first two (or maybe I'm just in a better mood; I'm willing to allow for that possibility), even if Ortron is still insufferably xenophobic.  I thought maybe the Doctor and Sarah surviving the trial of Aggedor at the start of part three would be enough to bring him around, but alas, it's not to be.  "You may have deceived the Queen but you have not deceived me," Ortron tells the Doctor, and then has him locked up at the first hint of disobedience.  Of course, Sarah's also taking initiative by trying to convince Queen Thalira to be stronger as a ruler and not let the patriarchal society that Peladon possesses handicap her.  It's a rather topical speech, to be sure, but Elizabeth Sladen does a good job with it, and it also has that lovely line about how "There's nothing 'only' about being a girl."

But there are more important things happening.  These two episodes are concerned with advancing the plot, rather than screwing around mistrusting the Doctor and locking him up.  This is, in general, a good thing, and a welcome change from parts one and two.  Acting on Eckersley's suggestion, Alpha Centauri calls for Federation security troops to come to Peladon -- which is the last thing both the nobles and the miners want.  So while they're hatching a plan to convince the troops that things are proceeding smoothly on Peladon, Gebek breaks the Doctor out of prison and then takes him to the currently disused refinery, where Sarah said she saw someone moving inside.  Reasoning that that would make a good base to stage the Aggedor attacks from, the Doctor breaks in -- only to find an Ice Warrior inside...

It seems, we learn in part four, that the Ice Warriors are there as the Federation security troops -- although the question remains: if the troops had just landed, how and why did they enter the refinery?  But they're only causing trouble; while Izlyr had distinguished himself in The Curse of Peladon by being open-minded, fair, and just, his successor here, Azaxyr, is brutal and callous, declaring that if the miners don't get back to work he'll kill them all and bring in Federation miners -- justifying his actions by observing that the Federation is in a state of war with Galaxy Five and thus the trisilicate being mined in Peladon is desperately needed.  The nice thing about Azaxyr is that it ends up uniting both Ortron's side and Gebek's side -- they may not like each other, but they dislike the Federation occupation even more.  So they carry out their plan to make the Ice Warriors think everything's okay, only to attack when their guard is down.  But Ettis, who's clearly gone mad by this point, will have none of this plan; he's going to use the sonic lance that's been showing up periodically since part one to destroy the Citadel and everyone inside, including the Queen.  So it's up to the Doctor to stop him, which results in a swordfight that gives us our best ever look of Terry Walsh as Pertwee's stunt double, with more than one full-on view of his face.  (And they still haven't made Walsh's wig as white as Pertwee's hair has become.)

And so Ettis ends up with the upper hand and activates the sonic lance -- only Azaxyr has remotely rigged it to explode when used, and so there's a colossal explosion which appears to kill both Ettis and the Doctor...

July 7: The Monster of Peladon Parts Five & Six

Oh look, they've decided to replay a decent amount of the last episode's cliffhanger, which means we get to see all of Terry Walsh in his glory again.

Alpha Centauri, Sarah, and Azaxyr view the sonic lance's destruction
on a monitor. (The Monster of Peladon Part Five) ©BBC
Things continue to pick up in part five as important plot points are finally divulged.  Although, wait, is Ortron on the good guys' side now?  He certainly seems eager to cooperate with Sarah's plan; maybe uniting against the Ice Warriors helped bring him aroun–oh, never mind, he's been killed by an Ice Warrior.  But yes, this is the episode where we learn what's really going on (thanks to, in retrospect, a rather lax level of secrecy on the part of Azaxyr and Eckersley): it seems that Azaxyr and his Warriors are not in fact part of the Federation but instead a part of a group helping Galaxy Five.  Eckersley organized the appearances of Aggedor to provoke a crisis so that Azaxyr could come in and take command of the planet and its supplies of trisilicate.  Not only do Sarah and Alpha Centauri watch the traitors discuss their plans over the monitoring system, but the Doctor (who survived the explosion) and Gebek overhear the same discussion from the other side of an open doorway.  Nice work, guys.

Then, while the Doctor and Gebek overpower an Ice Warrior guard (and look, it's one of the old-style oversized Ice Warrior helmets, as seen on the filmed portions of The Ice Warriors) and break into the refinery, Alpha Centauri reveals that they know that Azaxyr and Eckersley are traitors, so Azaxyr sends troops to take back the refinery.

But just as they make a big hole in the door (part five's cliffhanger), the Doctor figures out the controls to the Aggedor-appearing device and wipes out the Ice Warriors.  From there he starts sending Aggedor around the mines, brutally killing any Ice Warriors that stand in the way of the rebels (mind, it's not played like that, but it still makes the Doctor look awfully comfortable with killing).  Despite an attempt to scramble the Doctor's brain with a groovy-looking effect that appears to kill him off (but is in fact Pertwee healing coma #6), Azaxyr's plans are ruined, and a showdown in the throne room finishes him off -- though still with ten minutes of the episode left.  Yes, there's still time for Eckersley to kidnap Queen Thalira and use her as a hostage while he makes his getaway.  (A genuine question: why don't people being dragged around against their will go limp and force their captor to literally drag them, rather than just stumbling after?)  Fortunately, Aggedor can track the queen down, but the noble beast is killed in the struggle with Eckersley, which also finishes off the traitorous mining specialist.  Thus order is restored to Peladon.

It may start dreadfully, but once it decides to stop remaking its predecessor and start being a generic action-adventure story instead, The Monster of Peladon picks up.  There's probably a whole subtext I'm missing, being not terribly familiar with the 1973 miners' strike, but unless that adds a number of subtle layers to this then the end result is still one that feels well-worn rather than original or interesting.  It's entertaining enough by the end, but there's really nothing to distinguish it from anything else, and instead once again the overall feeling is one of "good enough".  You can really tell by this stage that the production team's heart isn't really in it anymore, and that they're content to simply keeping doing the same old things until their contracts are up.

So, we have one Pertwee story left.  Will the team rise to the occasion and send the third Doctor out on a high note?

July 8: Planet of the Spiders Parts One & Two

And so here we are, the start of Jon Pertwee's swansong.  There's a bit of a sense of coming full circle here: Mike Yates is back (and clearly once again on the side of the angels, even if he's no longer with UNIT after the events of Invasion of the Dinosaurs); Jo's returned (via post) the blue crystal from Metebelis III, along with a letter describing her adventures with Professor Jones in the Amazon; even the actors in the roles are primarily actors who'd been in previous Pertwee tales.  And into all this we're introduced to the dangers of Buddhism gone wrong, as a group of power-hungry people are in the basement of a Buddhist retreat trying to summon something.  It's sort of impressive how they manage to make the Jewel in the Lotus prayer sound menacing.

There's also a slight sense of playfulness in this first part, as the monk Cho-Je (Kevin Lindsay, last seen as Linx in The Time Warrior) outlines the Doctor's journey in this story as he describes Buddhist philosophy to Sarah: "A man must go inside and face his fears and hopes, his hates and his loves, and watch them wither away.  Then he will find his true self, which is no self.  He will see his true mind, which is no mind.  ...  The old man must die and the new man will discover to his inexpressible joy that he has never existed."  And in case this is all a little too abstract for some viewers, we also get magically appearing and disappearing tractors; a "powerful clairvoyant" in the form of Professor Clegg (Cyril Shaps, last seen as Lennox in The Ambassadors of Death) who gets to do some psychometry (even if the Doctor calls it psycholotry) on the sonic screwdriver -- which allows for a short clip from Carnival of Monsters, even if it's visibly a different sonic screwdriver; and even an earthquake as Clegg tries psychometry on the blue crystal while the evil (misguided?) wannabe Buddhists perform their summoning ceremony -- a ceremony which produces a giant spider83 out of a blue glow on their mandala...

Part two keeps the goodwill going for a bit, as the spider leaps onto the back of the leader of the bad Buddhists, Lupton (John Dearth, last heard as the voice of BOSS in The Green Death), and starts ordering him around, while the Doctor looks at the final recorded images from Clegg before he died at the end of part one, only to see lots of images of spiders.  The spider on Lupton's back is after the Doctor's blue crystal, so Lupton heads to UNIT to get it back.  This is where things start to decline, as the entire second half of this episode is devoted to an extended chase sequence to try and get the crystal back, complete with "comedy" moments such as the befuddled police officer and the vagrant who gets run over by a hovercraft.  It mainly looks like an effort to fit as many different vehicles into a chase as possible, with Bessie, the Whomobile, an autogyro, a speedboat, and the aforementioned hovercraft all involved.  Oh, and it turns out the Whomobile can fly (and can reflect the yellow CSO backdrop to such an extent that it looks gold -- although the DVD has generally rectified this side-effect).  All of this might not be so bad if, at the end of the chase, the spider didn't simply whisk Lupton away just as the Doctor catches up to him.  But that's what happens, which leads the viewer to wonder why the spider didn't just do that in the first place and spare us twelve ultimately irrelevant minutes.

July 9: Planet of the Spiders Parts Three & Four

Part three appears to open with a shot of William Hartnell driving a hovercraft...

Part three gives us some exposition (such as how Lupton decided to join a Buddhist group because he wanted power; um, what?), but it's really about two things: how Tommy, the mentally impaired helper at the retreat, steals the blue crystal from Lupton, and how the action (well, much of it) moves to Metebelis III.  The scenes on Earth are still reasonably entertaining; it's nice to get some explanation for Lupton's actions, even if they're a little odd, and Cho-je gets to be happily serene ("It is good that we have come to the West.  You whip your poor horse too much.  He gallops so that he is exhausted and yet, you know, he never leaves his stable").  And John Kane does a good job as Tommy, making him sweet and likable.

But when events move to Metebelis III, things start to take a downward turn.  There's some extensive abuse of CSO, but the real issue concerns the actors portraying the "Two-Legs".  Some of them, like Gareth Hunt, are reasonably good, but then there's Jenny Laird as Neska, who seems to think she's only doing a rehearsal.  "No I shan't you shan't take him Sabor my husband my love why did you do it why why?" is only the most memorable of her lines for its sheer lack of emotion or inflection.  It's such a bizarrely wooden performance that you can't help but watch.  I've never seen Jenny Laird in anything else, but she can't be like that all the time, can she?

The Doctor defends himself from a blast from an Eight-Legs'
guard. (Planet of the Spiders Part Four) ©BBC
And so after part three ended with another fight between the Doctor and some guards who then zapped him and left him for dead, part four gives us the Doctor deathly ill (alas, not quite another example of the Healing Coma) and Sarah captured thanks to Lupton.  But the Doctor's able to discharge the energy he received from the guard thanks to a MacGuffin from the TARDIS, and what's more, he's able to find a mineral that acts as the opposite of the blue crystals from which the spiders derive their powers.  We also get the chance for more exposition, this time about why there are giant spiders on Metebelis III (they stowed away on the colonists' ship and went to the mountains, where the blue crystals mutated them into their present form).  No explanation on why Metebelis III is no longer the blue planet though (even if you accept the explanation that it's the moon that makes everything blue, there's no evidence of it in the night scenes we get here).

The other major event to happen in episode four concerns Tommy, who looks into the blue crystal and has his mind "realigned" (for lack of a better term), allowing him to read and understand things that were beyond him before.  Once again John Kane does a good job with this, as he absorbs the children's book he's been reading with growing excitement, as he realizes how much it makes sense to him.  Oh, and Mike Yates gets knocked out and then tied up by Lupton's associates.  And that's about it for events on Earth, as the cliffhanger once again is set on Metebelis III, as the Doctor unsuccessfully enters the spiders' citadel to rescue Sarah and is instead captured.  Although, curiously, the actual cliffhanger seems to concern Sarah giving up hope once she sees that the Doctor is a prisoner of the spiders, rather than (say) the Doctor getting captured...

July 10: Planet of the Spiders Parts Five & Six

The ruling chamber of the Eight-Legs. (Planet of the
Part Five) ©BBC
Part five has a lot of running around and ensuring that all the pieces are in the right places for the final confrontation.  So the spiders are attempting to make contact with people on Earth again so that they can control said people and then take over the Earth.  The Queen Spider, on the other hand, is less interested in controlling Earth and more in recovering the blue crystal.  To this end, she sweet-talks Sarah into helping her out, convincing her to take the Doctor back to Earth so he can retrieve the crystal.

The more chilling part, though, involves the Doctor's encounter with the Great One ("all praise to the Great One"), as he's first tricked into entering the Great One's lair and then forced to do her bidding.  Watching the Doctor try desperately to resist the Great One's mental control and failing, stomping around in a small circle while the Great One taunts him ("Is that fear I can feel in your mind?  You are not accustomed to feeling frightened, are you, Doctor?"), is genuinely quite upsetting, and the look on the Doctor's face, particularly as he runs from the Great One's cave, is disturbing -- particularly from a Doctor we've known to confront things with confidence and aplomb.

But the Doctor and Sarah make it back to Earth, where they're met by Tommy, who's determined to stop the spider-controlled people from breaking into K'anpo Rimpoche's study and taking the blue crystal from those inside ("Tommy, you're normal," Sarah says to him, somewhat insensitively.  "You're just like everybody else."  "I sincerely hope not," Tommy replies).  And so while the Doctor and Sarah meet with K'anpo, Tommy takes the brunt of the attacks from the spider-controlled...

Part six, curiously, adds a reasonable amount of new material to the reprise from last time, such that the actual cliffhanger moment doesn't come until five or six minutes in.  We learn more about how the Doctor stole the crystal, but we also learn that the Queen Spider is in fact riding on Sarah's back -- but Sarah is able to reassert her own personality and cause the Queen to fall from her back.  "We are all apt to surrender ourselves to domination. Even the strongest of us. ... Not all spiders sit on the back," K'anpo says.  It's during this conversation that we discover that K'anpo is in fact the Doctor's old teacher, the hermit we first heard about in The Time Monster (and George Cormack, who here plays K'anpo, was King Dalios in that).  And (important, this) it's the first time we hear about regeneration: "When a Time Lord's body wears out, he regenerates, becomes new," the Doctor tells Sarah, in an effort to explain why he didn't immediately recognize his old teacher.  And it seems that Cho-Je is in fact a projection of K'anpo's future self -- in other words, he's there to help ease the audience into the idea of a Time Lord changing his form in the way that the Doctor is going to do.

Jon Pertwee regenerates into Tom Baker. (Planet of the Spiders Part
Six) ©BBC
But the main point of this episode is to show how the Doctor accepts his fate and has to right the wrongs he caused by his greed in taking the crystal from Metebelis III in the first place -- even if he didn't know he was being greedy at the time.  Even though he knows it will destroy him to go back, he has to.  And so he does, returning the crystal (which, it turns out, is a perfect crystal) to the Great One, who puts it into a crystal lattice designed to amplify her mental powers -- only the mental energy creates feedback which destroys the Great One and the rest of the spiders, thus freeing the humans on Metebelis III (in a "blink and you'll miss it" moment).  But it seems that that final confrontation with the Great One in her lair did in fact lead to the Doctor's end: the ending reveals that it's been three weeks since the Doctor left for Metebelis III, and that when he does return, visibly ill, it's because "the TARDIS brought me home."  And then, as the Doctor dies, he brings home the point of the whole exercise: "I had to face my fear, Sarah.  I had to face my fear. That was more important than just going on living. ... A tear, Sarah Jane?  No, don't cry.  While there's life there's..."

But Cho-Je/K'anpo is there to ensure that the regeneration proceeds smoothly: "I will give the process a little push and the cells will regenerate.  He will become a new man."  And thus Jon Pertwee regenerates into the fourth Doctor, Tom Baker.84

It's probably the story with the most investment of any of season 11, but Planet of the Spiders isn't without its flaws.  There are a number of pointless scenes that feel more like padding, which does give the production a rather bloated feel (and it's worth noting that the omnibus version, which cuts almost an hour from this story and is available on the DVD, loses almost none of the major plot points), and there are definitely moments where things feel more preachy and showy than organic.  But because the people involved are investing more into this to give Pertwee a proper send-off, there's enough good will generated by the parts they get right to carry the day -- part six, in particular, does a great job of both getting the point across without too much effort and wrapping up a number of hanging threads from earlier Pertwee stories.  It'll never be regarded as brilliant, and the tragic death of Roger Delgado means it's not the final battle between the Doctor and the Master that we've been (sort of) building to, but nevertheless Planet of the Spiders is a solid departure for the third Doctor.

On the whole, though, this is the exception to season 11 rather than the rule.  Of the five stories that aired this season, only the first one really feels like it's firing on all cylinders -- and it's the one that was made as the end of season 10.  Everything else this season (with the qualified exception of Planet of the Spiders, as noted above) feels like it's marking time.  Barry Letts and Terrance Dicks clearly don't want to be there anymore, and even Jon Pertwee's enthusiasm is visibly waning (and the reaggravation of an old back injury around this time certainly didn't help matters any for him).  There's a sense of the old team breaking up, with Katy Manning and Roger Delgado both gone from the show and UNIT featuring less and less, and the ultimate result suggests that they're no longer putting in the same effort they once were.  This would prove to be Letts and Dicks' final season, but unfortunately they don't go out on a high note.  Season 11 is the weakest season that Doctor Who has yet experienced.

But even though they hit a rough patch at the end, we shouldn't overlook the overall effect of this production team and their Doctor.  The third Doctor's tenure saw Doctor Who's popularity steadily increase, securing its future and ensuring that it would remain a hit.  Barry Letts and Terrance Dicks aren't quite done yet (they'll do one last story, Tom Baker's debut), but they've left their mark on a series that some had left for dead, revitalizing it for a whole new audience.  But it's not just Letts and Dicks: a large part of the success of this period can be attributed to Jon Pertwee, whose performance as a straight action hero with scientific knowledge and experience added into the mix proved that the character of the Doctor was even more malleable and adaptable than one might have thought.  Hartnell and Troughton, while giving different styles of performance, are to an extent recognizably the same character.  Pertwee's Doctor shows that even with a radically different Doctor, more prone to using Venusian aikido and hobnobbing with authority figures than bamboozling his adversaries and subverting leader figures, the character can still not only survive but thrive.  There are a lot of fantastic moments during Pertwee's time as the Doctor that demonstrate that he is indeed the Doctor, and his combination of charm and action will be missed.  There'll never be another Doctor quite like him.


79 It's well-known that there are anachronistic potatoes in this episode, a point which apparently caused some grief for Terrance Dicks, who then took it out on Robert Holmes -- so when Dicks wrote his own historical-based story for season 15 (Horror of Fang Rock), Holmes made certain all the research was done properly.  Except, as The DisContinuity Guide suggests, About Time confirms, and I verified, there don't appear to be any potatoes in the show.  There might be one on the table (briefly visible at the lower left edge as the camera pans), and Sarah might pick one up, but it's not like anyone's prominently peeling spuds or anything.  And besides, why would Dicks berate Holmes for something the set dressers did?  This has the feel of one of those stories with a grain of truth (the novelization (by Dicks) does mention Sarah peeling potatoes) that's been subsequently distorted beyond recognition, à la the story about Pertwee and the ship compass from Carnival of Monsters.
80 Or, more pertinently, like having Saavik (Spock's pupil in the second through fourth Star Trek movies) turn out to be in on the conspiracy to plunge the Federation and the Klingons into war.  Except they chickened out and gave Saavik's role to a new character, Valeris, for Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country.
81 The Matt Smith story Asylum of the Daleks mentions that part of the Dalek asylum contains Daleks that survived encounters with the Doctor, and Exxilon is name-checked during this sequence.  Based on the on-screen evidence here, this Dalek is the most likely candidate to have survived to be taken to the asylum.  Ponder that for a moment.
82 They brought Pertwee's line up slightly in the mix on the DVD -- presumably so people didn't think he was mouthing something ruder.
83 And supposedly, in keeping with BBC guidelines, a deliberately unconvincing one, lest any arachnophobics be tuning in.
84 In the last regeneration we actually saw (Hartnell to Troughton), the production team achieved the effect by lining up the actors' cheekbones and merging one face into another.  They do a similar thing here, except, entertainingly, the feature they chose to use as their baseline is the actors' noses.  Which is doubly entertaining if you know anything about Pertwee's sensitivity about his sniffer.