Doctor Who episode 517: The Creature from the Pit – Part Four (17/11/1979)

It’s been pointed out elsewhere that the problem with this episode is that Adrasta is croaked about five minutes in, and the rest is an extended epilogue. I see that this isn’t structurally very elegant, but I quite like the novelty of watching a new order rise on Chloris. Normally, the Doctor defeats the baddie and leaves; in this, he sticks about to help clear away the remnants of Adrasta’s tyranny. The un-named Huntsman is a surprising choice to be new world leader, but in a post-Game of Thrones world anything seems plausible.

I think the actual issue with this is the shock reveal that Chloris only has 24 hours to live. Given Organon is an astrologer, I feel like Fisher or Adams should have done more to foretell of doom in the stars – a simple rewrite (and I’m not a scriptwriter, so indulge me) might have been for Adrasta to have had Organon condemned to death because his dire warnings of turmoil in the heavens were casting a shadow over her regime. Instead, he’s left looking like the old fraud he is, and the threat of the weaponised neutron star feels tacked on.

Pit4

The other moment that sits quite uneasily is the Doctor shrugging off the murder of Adrasta. Fair enough, she was an evil tyrant, but he’s not usually been quite so ready to overlook this kind of thing. On the other hand, she has just called him ‘a demented space tramp’ and wouldn’t last much longer left to the mercy of her former minions, so maybe he’s just cutting his losses.

This is undeserving of its fairly bad reputation. Adrasta is a nice mix of Vivien Fay and Count Grendel, and Erato’s a more interesting giant monster than Kroll. Some of the details are really nice, like ’26 ninods’, Erato eating the wolf-weeds attacking Adrasta, and Romana’s little nudge of irritation when the Doctor embarrasses her in front of the Tythonian ambassador. The video effects of the TARDIS projecting a gravity beam look forward to the magic of Quantel and the Top of the Pops style of the next couple of seasons. There are some vexing mis-steps (the bandits most obviously, and the structural issues here) but this looks better than pretty much anything in Seasons 15 and 16, and is a clear step forward towards the production standards of the 1980s.

Next episode: Nightmare of Eden

One comment

  1. Pingback: Doctor Who episode 516: The Creature from the Pit – Part Three (10/11/1979) | Next Episode...

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