Retro ‘Doctor Who’ Reviews – Vol. 4.11
Continuing the mission to review every single Doctor Who episodes (that’s 31 seasons and a movie for those keeping score) before the 50th anniversary. About halfway through the original run…
The Creature from the Pit
After the highly original and consistently entertaining City of Death it’s quite a let down to have such a pedestrian adventure come up next. The Creature from the Pit is by now means bad (except for one of the creatures, we’ll get to that later) but it’s such a by-the-numbers story that it quickly become background noise to frequent viewers.
The TARDIS picks up a distress signal from the vegetation strewn planet Chloris. Once there the travellers find the remains of a giant egg in the jungle but the Doctor is taken prisoner by the local inhabitants. He soon learns that the tribe is ruled by Lady Adrasta, and the planet has very limited supplies of metal. Lady Adrasta controls the final metal mine and uses her Wolfweeds to fight back the scavengers who dwell in the jungle and uses the threat of a creature kept in a deep pit to keep a fierce control over the people.
Romana, meanwhile, is captured by the scavengers. Through the work of K9 the Doctor and Romana, but the Doctor leaps into the pit. There he meets Organon, an astrologer, and the infamous creature. The giant, blob like creature is revealed to be an ambassador who arrived to negotiate an exchange of metal for plants but he was imprisoned by Adrasta to maintain control over the metal supply.
There are some good ideas in this serial, such as the ambassador speaking through other people and the scenarios that arise as a result. In story terms the episode doesn’t break any new ground and the characters only go through the motions. It is good to see Romana taking a more active role without being backed by the Doctor, something that becomes a trend as the series goes on. The absolute nadir of the episodes are the Wolfweeds, a savage bread of plant. Sounds good on paper, but on screen they’re bundles of plant material that roll along the ground at people. An average effort.
Nightmare of Eden
After the immensely impressive City of Death and the lacklustre Creature From the Pit we have one that sits comfortably in the middle of the quality range. An interstellar cruise liner materialises from hyperspace at the same co-ordinates as a smaller vessel and they become meshed together in an inter-dimensional crossover. The Doctor and Romana arrive with the intention of repairing the damage but discover that more is happening than they initially suspected.
The co-pilot who caused the accident is addicted to a lethal drug, which creates suspicion that there are drug smugglers on board. In addition to this mystery the Doctor meets Tryst, a zoologist. Tryst has with him a device that ‘records’ living creatures and their environment on crystals, and they can be projected back. Tryst claims that this is part of his plan to record every species to prevent future extinctions. To make things even more complicated a member of Tryst’s party had died, but Romana discovers that he’s actually in one of the projections, and some of the creatures have escaped and are making their way through the ship.
To say that there’s quite a few different plot threads going on is an understatement. With so many characters and ideas happening things get quite jumbled. Not that the ideas are in ay way bad, there’s quite a bit of originality at work. Nightmare of Eden also features some of the best sci-fi plots threads explored during this particular stretch of the Doctor’s adventures. With such skittish plotting everything gets a bit lost in the mix.
The Horns of Nimon
Plenty of great stuff to enjoy in this episode…there’s just one thing that holds it back. While the Doctor is trying to make adjustments to the TARDIS he accidently dematerialises them directly next to a deliberately generated black hole. Also nearby is a Skonnan warship, part of an empire that was once widely spread and powerful. On board the warship they find a group of young people who are being transported as tributes to a creature called Nimon.
After forcing the Doctor to repair the ship at gunpoint (which leads to plenty of great banter) they travel to the Power Complex where Soldeed rules the roost. Soldeed is the only person who is able to enter the labyrinth and talk with the Nimon, and shortly after arriving the tributes are shepherded in to the labyrinth along with Romana. Inside the labyrinth they discover the previous tributes being caught held in suspended animation where the Nimon is using them as a food source.
As the adventure unfolds the Doctor and Romana learn that the Nimon is part of a race of scavengers aliens who infiltrate failing societies and set themselves up are deities with promises of glory and riches. Their end game is that they invade the planet and take it over for themselves. Although they meet resistance from the Skonnan who still hold out hope for the a return to power.
Essentially a great couple of episodes with good ideas at play and good dynamic between the different factions. The story is divided into two distinct parts – the sequence at the black hole and the scenes in the labyrinth. Either part can hold it’s own as a story with it’s own twists and turns. The dialogue between the Doctor and the co-pilot holding him at gunpoint stands as some of the best dialogue in the series to date. What lets down the episode a small amount is the Nimon themselves. Somebody skimped on the costume budget, leaving what is very clearly a man in a mask with a completely immobile face. Obviously they were trying to capture the original minotaur but they could’ve done better than this.