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Apr 7, 2011

Planet of the Spiders is a serial in the British science fiction television series Doctor Who, which was first broadcast in six weekly parts from May 4 to June 8, 1974. It was Jon Pertwee's last serial as the Doctor and marks the first, uncredited appearance of Tom Baker in the role. It also marks the last appearance of Mike Yates.



[edit] Synopsis

Mysterious goings-on at a meditation retreat run by Tibetan monks are linked to the blue planet Metebelis III, and a colony of monstrous, evolved spiders. The Doctor must reflect on his past and reconcile with his present to defeat a deadly and possibly fatal challenge...

[edit] Plot

Following the events of Invasion of the Dinosaurs, Mike Yates was discharged from UNIT and is now attending a Tibetan meditation centre in rural England. He is visited by Sarah Jane Smith and they witness some curious happenings at the centre, seemingly organised by a resident called Lupton, a middle aged former salesman, and his cronies. Mike and Sarah stumble across Lupton performing an incantation, which conjures up a giant spider into the middle of the basement room. It jumps on Lupton’s back and then disappears. The spider manifests itself in Lupton’s head, telling him to seek out and locate a certain blue crystal.

The Third Doctor has developed an interest in psychic ability, but his testing of a clairvoyant called Professor Clegg backfires when his subject has a heart attack. It is triggered when Clegg comes into contact with a blue crystal from Metebelis Three (sent back from the Amazon by Jo Grant), which caused him to see the image of deadly spiders. Sarah returns from the retreat, having left Mike to watch things there, and she and the Doctor swap spider tales. Meanwhile Lupton has also arrived at UNIT HQ and steals the crystal from the Doctor’s laboratory. A multi-vehicle chase ensues which Lupton escapes by teleporting himself back to the monastery. Once there, the spider reveals that it is plotting against some of its sisters back on Metebelis Three. The spiders and the crystal originate from the same blue planet in the Acteon Galaxy, which was none too hospitable to the Doctor the last time he visited (during The Green Death).

The Doctor and Sarah now make for the monastery and tell the deputy abbot, Cho-Je, that something is very amiss. The crystal now strays again when it is taken by Tommy, the simple-minded handyman of the retreat, whose mind is opened and improved by the power of the crystal. Lupton is teleported to Metebelis Three, unconsciously allowing Sarah to follow him. She soon meets the human slave inhabitants of the planet, a generally dispirited bunch, other than the rebellious Arak, who flees to the mountains.

The planet is ruled by the Eight-Legs or giant spiders, and their Queen is the supreme ruler. They govern using guards chosen from among the planet's Two-Leg (human) population and their own phenomenal mental powers, amplified by the blue stones of the planet. The Doctor arrives on the planet and he makes contact with Arak, who explains that the Metebelians are the descendants of the crew of an earth space ship, which crashed hundreds of years before. A spider on board found its way to the Blue Mountains where, through the effect of the crystals, its progeny grew larger and larger and cleverer and cleverer. The Doctor works out that a “negative” stone can absorb and reject the power of the blue crystals and starts a revolt among the humans, but this is defeated and the Doctor ventures to the Blue Mountains. There he encounters the Great One, a giant spider which controls the world of Metebelis and desires power over other domains too. She knows the crystal is still on Earth and sends the Doctor there to get it for her. He flees back to Earth with Sarah – not knowing the Queen spider has now implanted itself in his companion's mind.

Tommy has given the crystal to the abbot, K’anpo Rinpoche, who is an elderly Time Lord and the one-time hermit mentor of the Doctor. He now lives in peaceful exile on Earth. He tells the Doctor of Sarah's control and they work together to expel the Queen Spider. A fight breaks in the monastery between Lupton’s cronies and the Abbot’s men. The Abbot advises the Doctor to take the crystal to the Great One: the Doctor started this chain of events by removing the crystal in the first place, and it is up to him to put it back. He departs in the TARDIS with the crystal.

On Metebelis Three, Lupton has been killed by the spiders after falling out with the Spider Queen. When the TARDIS lands, the Doctor heads to the cave of the Great One and gives her the crystal, which she uses to complete a lattice that begins to magnify her mental powers. However, the forces unleashed are too strong for the Great One and the positive feedback kills her and the other spiders. A vast wave of deadly radiation floods the cave. The Doctor, now very weak, staggers back to the TARDIS and teleports away.

Three weeks later, Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart and Sarah are in the Doctor's laboratory when the Doctor returns and promptly collapses, and the Doctor dies. The abbot K’anpo arrives in his new body, having regenerated into the form of Cho-Je, who was a sort of forward projection of his soul. He tells them that the Doctor will change too and before their eyes the Doctor starts to regenerate into the Fourth Doctor.

[edit] Cast notes

  • This story marks the final appearance of Richard Franklin as Captain Mike Yates. Franklin would reprise his role in The Five Doctors (1983) and Dimensions in Time (1993), although on both occasions they were illusory versions of Yates. After his departure from the series, Franklin would go on to become a stage and television director.
  • Kismet Delgado, the widow of Roger Delgado, who had played the Master during the Third Doctor's era, was one of the voices for the Spiders.
  • Gareth Hunt, who would go on to play Mike Gambit in The New Avengers, appears here as a human rebel on Metebelis III.
  • Carl Forgione would later play Nimrod in Ghost Light.

[edit] Production

Serial details by episode
Episode Broadcast date Run time Viewership
(in millions)
"Part One" 4 May 1974 (1974-05-04) 24'40" 10.1 PAL 2" colour videotape
"Part Two" 11 May 1974 (1974-05-11) 25'02" 8.9 PAL 2" colour videotape
"Part Three" 18 May 1974 (1974-05-18) 24'58" 8.8 PAL 2" colour videotape
"Part Four" 25 May 1974 (1974-05-25) 23'53" 8.2 PAL 2" colour videotape
"Part Five" 1 Jun 1974 24'01" 9.2 PAL 2" colour videotape
"Part Six" 8 Jun 1974 24'43" 8.9 PAL 2" colour videotape
  • The final story of Season 11 (to have been titled The Final Game) was originally intended to write out the character of the Master, with the villainous Time Lord sacrificing his life to save the Doctor's. Due to the death of actor Roger Delgado, script editor Terrance Dicks abandoned the project in favour of a new story, which eventually evolved into Planet of the Spiders. Coincidentally, Kismet Delgado, Roger's widow provided her voice to one of the spiders.
  • The train station Sarah Jane arrives at in Part One is Mortimer railway station, near Reading.

[edit] Continuity

  • This story was the second and last appearance of the "Whomobile".
  • The character of Surgeon-Lieutenant Harry Sullivan, the UNIT medical officer, is referred to by the Brigadier who calls for him when the Doctor falls into a daze after staring into the crystal. Sullivan would not actually appear on screen until Robot, where he was played by Ian Marter.
  • The Spiders of Metebelis Three make further appearances in the short story "Return of the Spiders" by Gareth Roberts (in the collection More Short Trips) and a brief appearance in the Eight Doctor Adventure The Eight Doctors by Terrance Dicks. They also have a full encounter with the Eighth Doctor in the Big Finish audios The Eight Truths and Worldwide Web by Eddie Robson.
  • The Eighth Doctor Adventures novels Interference: Book One and Two by Lawrence Miles has the time-travelling voodoo cult Faction Paradox changing history so that the events of this story never happen and instead having the Third Doctor regenerating on a planet named Dust after being shot. A later novel in the series, The Ancestor Cell by Peter Anghelides and Stephen Cole, resolves this paradox and restores the Doctor's timeline to its previous state. The canonicity of the novels is unclear.
  • It is unclear how long it takes the Doctor to return to Earth in the TARDIS from Metebelis Three, although three weeks have passed for Sarah and the Brigadier. Paul Cornell in the Virgin New Adventures novel Love and War established that the TARDIS was lost in the time vortex for the equivalent of ten years. This is revealed during a sequence in cyberspace where agents of the alien race called the Hoothi are attempting to trap the Seventh Doctor in a virtual recreation of the worst moments of his life, of which this regeneration is the most painful for the Doctor to re-live.
  • This story includes the character of K'anpo Rimpoche, the previously unnamed Time Lord hermit from the Doctor's childhood, first mentioned in The Time Monster. K'anpo has the power to travel through time without the use of a TARDIS, to make a corporeal projection of a potential future incarnation (Cho-Je) of himself, and to stimulate the regeneration process of another Time Lord. K'anpo was referenced again in the Fourth Doctor serial State of Decay as the man who told the Doctor about the legends of the Great Vampires.
  • The Doctor regenerates due to radiation poisoning a second time when the Tenth Doctor allows himself to absorb a lethal dose of radiation to save his current companion Wilfred Mott in The End of Time.

[edit] In print

Doctor Who book
Book cover
Doctor Who and the Planet of the Spiders
Series Target novelisations
Release number 48
Writer Terrance Dicks
Publisher Target Books
Cover artist Peter Brookes
ISBN 0-426-10655-5
Release date 16 October 1975

A novelisation of this serial, written by Terrance Dicks, was published by Target Books in October 1975 as Doctor Who and the Planet of the Spiders. The novel's prologue shows Jo Grant and her husband Professor Jones in the Amazon jungle following the events of The Green Death. Harry Sullivan is referred to as Doctor Sweatman.

[edit] Broadcast, VHS release & DVD Release

  • This story was repeated on BBC One as a 105-minute omnibus on 27 December 1974 at 14:46.[4]
  • The serial was released on VHS in April 1991 as a double pack.
  • It will be released on DVD in the UK on DVD on 18 April 2011.[5] It will be released in the USA and Canada on 10 May 2011.[6]

[edit] References

  1. ^ Shaun Lyon et al. (2007-03-31). "Planet of the Spiders". Outpost Gallifrey. Retrieved 2008-08-30. [dead link]
  2. ^ "Planet of the Spiders". Doctor Who Reference Guide. Retrieved 2008-08-30. 
  3. ^ Sullivan, Shannon (2007-08-07). "Planet of the Spiders". A Brief History of Time Travel. Retrieved 2008-08-30. 
  4. ^ Howe, David J.; Walker, Stephen James (1996). "Planet of the Spiders (ZZZ)". Doctor Who The Handbook - The Third Doctor. London: Doctor Who Books. p. 162. ISBN 0 426 20486 7. 
  5. ^ "April 2011 DVD - Planet of the Spiders". Doctor Who Online - Release Guide. 17 February 2011. Retrieved 18 February 2011. 
  6. ^ Lambert, David (26 January 2011). "Doctor Who - BBC Announces 'Terror of the Autons' and 'Planet of the Spiders'". para. 3. Retrieved 27 January 2011.