Doctor Who – The Creature from the Pit. Episode Four

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Now that the creature’s got his communicator back, the truth is finally revealed.  His name is Erato and he responds sharply to the Doctor’s questions.  “To skulk about in pits, as you so crudely put it, is not my normal habit. I most emphatically do not eat people. I live by ingesting chlorophyll and mineral salts. I would have you know that I am the Tythonian High Ambassador.”

Although Adrasta can see her authority draining away, she attempts to rally and tells the Doctor that she’ll kill Organon if K9 doesn’t destroy the creature. The Doctor’s response (and also Organon’s) is priceless – the Doctor looks a little downcast at the thought of Organon’s death, whilst the astrologer is more than a little shocked!

Is this just another gag moment or would the Doctor really have sacrificed Organon? It’s something we’ll never know as events take a different turn, but maybe it’s a brief glimpse of the earlier, more alien, Doctor seen during seasons twelve to fourteen.  There he could blank out the deaths of people he’d been friendly with, such as Lawrence Scarman, by concentrating on the bigger picture. And he does mention that if the creature (Erato) dies then two planets could also perish …

It’s something I’ve touched on before, but even during the most comedic of stories during this era there’s still occasions when the Doctor drops the clowning and shows his true mettle. This exchange with Adrasta is one such moment and it’s all the more effective because his anger comes out of the blue.

ADRASTA: Huntsman, set the wolfweeds on the Doctor.
DOCTOR: No, wait. That’s all you’ve got on this planet, isn’t it? Weeds, weeds, forest and weeds. You scratch about for food wherever you can, but you can’t plough the land, can you? You can’t do anything until you’ve mastered the forests and the weeds. And you can’t do that without metal.
ADRASTA: Don’t listen to him. It’s just the ravings of a demented space tramp. Set the wolfweeds on him!
DOCTOR: Do that, and you will hurl this planet back into the dark ages. And for what? To satisfy the petty power cravings of that pathetic woman.
ADRASTA: Have a care, Doctor.
DOCTOR: Have a care yourself. Care for your people for a change.

Erato takes his revenge and kills Adrasta, but there’s still some way to go before the episode ends. This is where things slightly fall apart – namely the fact that there’s a neutron star on the way, requested by Erato, which will destroy all life on the planet. Firstly, how convenient that it’s due to arrive at this precise moment, just after Erato’s been released and can tell them all about and secondly, why did Erato decide to effectively commit suicide?

This means that the story finishes with something of a whimper as the sight of the Doctor in the TARDIS flicking switches doesn’t generate any tension. We’re told that the fate of the entire planet is at stake, but we never feel it.

However, before that happens there’s a few scenes of interest as Adrasta’s right hand woman, Karela (Eileen Way), forms an unlikely alliance with the bandits, once she’s killed the unfortunate Torvin.  Torvin’s death is played for laughs – after Karela knifes him, his dying words are “tempered steel. Is that really tempered steel?” – proving to the end that he’s obsessed with metal (the scarcity of metal on the planet being a major plot point).  It might be a humorous moment, but it’s somewhat black humour.  It’s always a pleasure to see Way (Old Mother from An Unearthly Child) or as Gary Gillatt so memory dubbed her, Truth, Justice and the Eileen Way.

Erato’s a problem and the plot rather meanders, but Creature is still a story that entertains.  And once you’ve watched the DVD, then the brief clip from Animal Magic with a manic Tom telling the audience tall tales about some of the monsters he’s met during the years is a must watch.

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