Will Brooks’ 50 Year Diary - watching Doctor Who one episode a day from the very start...
Day 396: Planet of the Spiders, Episode Two
After a great start to the story in yesterday’s episode, it suddenly feels as though they’re not really taking this very seriously. Half of this episode - half - is given over to a chase, which seems to simply be a way to let Jon Pertwee drive a few different vehicles before he gives up the role. I’ve always known about the extended chase scene in this story (a similar sequence during Invasion of the Dinosaurs felt like something of a precursor to it), but I had no idea that it was quite so… silly.
It starts with Lupton stealing the Whomobile (sigh, thankfully making its last appearance in the programme), and the Doctor instructing his friends to drop him at the airfield before they give chase in Bessie. He then takes to the skies in a little gyrocopter, relaying directions to the Brigadier at the wheel of his little yellow roadster. After a while, a police car joins the action, and eventually all the vehicles end up parked in one place. Lupton flees, but then when everyone has their back turned, he hops into the gyrocopter and takes to the skies! Never fear, though, because it turns out that the Whomobile is capable of flight (‘well ‘of course we’re flying), so they continue to keep right on his tail. After a while, Lupton runs out of fuel, so has to land. No worry, though, we’ve made chase on land and in the air, so he may as well steal someone’s boat and give chase across water, too! You can’t have the Doctor follow in another boat, though. Oh no, that would be too easy. There’s not enough spectacle in that, so Pertwee gets his hands on a hovercraft, and we get to watch him drive it over land and sea - and tramps - in pursuit of his enemy. After around twelve minutes of this, the spider on Lupton’s back gets a bit bored, and so teleports him away to safety. It seems to take a lot of mental energy to do it, but surely taking that action right back at UNIT HQ, leaving the soldiers to run around after thin air, would have been a bit more practical? We do however get another element to add to our growing list of ‘Pertwee-era Stalwarts’ turning up during the chase - one of the junctions involved previously appeared during The Dæmons a few years ago!
I shouldn’t really be all that bothered by it. This is, after all, Pertwee’s last outing, and we all know he has something of a love for chase scenes. He loves to get his hands on all kinds of new vehicles (heck, the only reason we’ve even got a Whomobile is because he personally commissioned the design and construction of the thing), so I suppose I can overlook it taking up such a large portion of the episode. It all just takes me out of things a bit. Episode One set up a really interesting story, and it feels at times like this second instalment is washing it all down the drain.
Still, it has to be said that the brief appearance of a spider at the very beginning is rather well done. Oh, I know, people mock the spiders in this story, and yes, I guess it’s not the most brilliant model in the world, but it would have freaked me out at 8 years old. I love the idea of it jumping onto Lupton’s back and then turning invisible as their minds meld, and there’s something really quite un-nerving about him explaining that the spider hasn’t gone anywhere, but is there with them all the time. I think keeping their appearances to a minimum is working wonders for the story - as I said yesterday, I’m not a big fan of the eight-legged creatures, but even I’m getting quite excited to see them arrive in the narrative properly…