Retro ‘Doctor Who’ Reviews – Volume 3.7
The final three adventures of the 3rd Doctor along with Sarah Jane reviewed!
Death to the Daleks
Once again the Doctor’s inability to steer the TARDIS in a straight line lands him and Sarah Jane in an unpleasant situation. Intending to visit a luxurious planet of oceans and scents they wind up losing their power and being stranded on a dark a desolate world. The planet Exxilon has a planet wide energy drain that leaves any ship that comes within range trapped on the surface. As they set out to explore they come across the natives, who capture Sarah and attempts to sacrifice her, and a party of human Marines who had arrived on Exxilon to find a rare element that would save Earth’s population from a plague. The matter is further complicated by the arrival of the Daleks, also seeking the element to save their own population. The Daleks are similarly affected by the energy drain and are forced into an uneasy alliance with The Doctor and humans.
While they are confronting the Exxilon’s they discover that they were once the most advanced race in the galaxy and have spread their knowledge across the galaxy. Their downfall came when they build a citadel that was controlled by an artificial intelligence and powered by draining energy from the atmosphere, or other life forms if needed. The Exxilons have come to fear and worship the AI, protected by a series of tests and traps through the citadel, and make sacrifices to ‘appease’ it. The Doctor allies himself with a small faction who have denounced this ‘faith’ to reach the AI and escape the planet.
Although there’s a number of factions competing to make up the narrative they meld together well. The conflicts between the Daleks, humans and Exxilons make for good background action as they work together to survive while competing to obtain the element. The Doctor meanwhile has the most interesting set of challenges to overcome as he pits his wits against the citadels tests and challenges while the Daleks remain two steps behind. Death to the Daleks is a solid set of stories that don’t overstay their welcome with only four episodes. Interesting characters in an imaginative scenario and a satisfying conclusion.
The Monster of Peladon
When The Doctor and Jo Grant traveled to Peladon in an earlier serial the got themselves tied up in a political conundrum with a slight supernatural twist. It stands out as one of the sillier sets of episodes from the early years of Doctor Who with the alien known as Alpha Centuri being especially idiotic with an annoying voice to boot. When The Doctor returns to Peladon with Sarah Jane things don’t seem to have changed a great deal. Alpha Centuri is still squeaking about the place but in the fifty years that have passed the king as passed on and his daughter has taken up the throne.
Now part of the galatic federation Peladon supplies trisilicate ore as a source of fuel. The workers in the mines are dissatisfied with their working conditions and tensions between them and the ruling class have been on the rise. The Doctor and Sarah arrives right in the middle of the escalating conflict and is tasked with finding out the cause of visions of the royal beast Aggedor that has been causing deaths in the mines. Across the six episodes alliances change and the conflict reaches the point of violence, especially when Ice Monsters arrive from the galactic federation to instigate martial law.
Like with the previous visit to Peladon there is some right silly looking creatures. For some reason the working class all look as though they’re a highly evolved species of badger and of all the characters to bring back they chose Alpha Centuri. In spite of the weird design and slow pace during the first episodes things do eventually get more interesting and it winds up being more enjoyable.
Planet of the Spiders
After his discharge at the end of the previous adventure Mike Yates is now recovering in a Tibetan meditation centre located in rural England. Along with Sarah Jane they witness some members of the centre members performing a strange ritual around a pentacle. This ritual concludes with a giant spider being summoned that promptly attaches itself to the Lupton’s, the leaders, back and vanishing. We witness Lupton being controlled by the spider and being granted the ability to zap people with an energy blast from his fingertips. Meanwhile The Doctor is investigating a professional psychic entertainer whom he pushes into admitting that his ‘trick’ is actually genuine powers that he has developed. Whilst experimenting with the psychic The Doctor and the Brig receive in the mail the blue crystal from Metebelis 3 in the mail from Jo Grant. This causes the psychic to experience sudden images of spiders.
It is revealed that Metebelis 3 does develop some civilisation in the generations following the Doctor’s first visit in The Green Death. Sarah Jane and The Doctor both find themselves transported there and witness the humanoid slaves under the rule of the giant spiders with a queen acting as the supreme ruler. All of them are the descendants of a crashed spaceship from Earth that was carrying a stowaway spider who found it’s way into the mountains where the crystals enhanced their size and intellect, as well as other abilities.
After various complications, revolutions and people being taken over by spiders The Doctor finally confronts the queen and gives her the crystal. At the outset this seems to enhance the queen’s powers but is part of The Doctor’s scheme to destroy the beast. Following this the Doctor and the TARDIS get knocked into the time stream and it’s several months before he returns to UNIT and Sarah Jane where he collapses and begins his third regeneration.
The Third Doctor has had a substantial run, clocking in at five seasons and three companions, not counting the Brig. After so many battles against The Master, the Daleks and other major foes this is a fitting end to his time. Although the episode was originally intended to feature but the tragic death of Roger Delgardo meant that the story had to be reworked for a new villain. The spiders are a cool idea, but the limited effects budget means that their meetings are a bunch of rubber spiders being jiggled around to make them look alive. Convincing it is not, but it doesn’t get in the way of a strong story.
Thus concludes our coverage of the exploits of the Third Doctor. Any stories that were missed due to unavailability of the DVD will be covered in later editions. In the meanwhile…