‘Don’t interrupt dear,’ says Lady Adrasta with brilliant condescension. Later, she gives Romana a slap. After City of Death, this feels like a conscious effort to put Romana up against villainous women to confound their expectations. Romana’s usefulness as a character is obvious, as she gets to do all the clever stuff freeing the Doctor up to plunge into the pit to discover the creature (although her escape attempt is a bit rubbish). With Leela, you’d have to either do this the other way round, or have greater reliance on K9’s intelligence. K9 himself is the one made a bit redundant by all this: he’s become the brawn; the Leela with a Janis thorn; the tin dog in this thruple. He wasn’t really missed in the last two stories and is almost entirely reduced to being a prop/dog-shaped gun in this episode.
In the pit, the Doctor meets Organon living like Geppetto in the whale. He’s played by Geoffrey Bayldon at his Hartnellish best. How anyone could have thought Richard Hurndall in a nappy in Blake’s 7 was more first Doctorish than Catweazle is anyone’s guess. It’s a very charming, precise performance, comic without being broad. It’s certainly less obviously silly than the Teach Yourself Tibetan mountaineering sequence, which feels like a scene inserted to wind up anyone who hates Tom Baker’s Williams era characterisation. It makes no sense, but it’s fun, a bit of fluff that has no impact on the overall plot.
I’m enjoying this. It has one of those dire reputations that bears no relation to the experience of watching it. The world building isn’t massively complicated but Chloris feels as much like a thought-out, real place as anywhere in Season 18. Adrasta’s monopoly of metal is followed through into the set and costume design, and her covetousness about her mirror. The web stuff the wolf-weeds leave all over K9 is really good. The caves are well lit. The jungle looks great.
There are broadly only two bad things about this. One is the creature: a vast green barrage balloon with a phallus which is exactly as bad as any other attempt the show’s ever made to have a giant monster. In this case, based on many previous experiences, you really can blame them for trying. Much more egregiously rubbish are the bandits: Davyd Harries style performances as broad as Bayldon’s is precise, with John Bryans doing Fagin. I’ve no idea if Bryans actually was Jewish and how much of this is in the script rather than the performance, but it’s all a bit odd.
Next episode: The Creature from the Pit – Part Three