Doctor Who
The Creature from the Pit

Starring: Tom Baker
BBC Video
RRP 12.99
BBCV 7266
Certificate: PG
Available now

A strange distress signal leads the Doctor, Romana and K9 to Chloris, a densely forested planet beset by a severe shortage of metal. Here they face Lady Adrasta, a cruel tyrant who holds a monopoly on metal, and encounter the gigantic and deadly creature she keeps in "the Pit"...

The 17th season of Doctor Who is a real mixed bag in terms of quality, ranging from the supreme style and wit of City of Death to the rather shoddy scripting and production values of Nightmare of Eden. The Creature from the Pit lies somewhere in between these two extremes.

The story's main claim to infamy is the design of the Creature itself, possessing an appendage that looks regrettably phallic. You could say that the astrologer Organon (played by Geoffrey Catweazel Bayldon) isn't the only organ on display! It certainly doesn't help matters when the Doctor (Tom Baker) blows down this organ in an attempt to communicate with the Creature.

However, if you can look beyond this source of unintentional hilarity, this story has a lot to offer. David Fisher's script deals intelligently with the concepts of supply and demand with regard to Chloris' paucity of metal. The Doctor's outburst against greedy individuals who would put their own wealth before the survival of their people is reminiscent of Christ's angry criticism of the money-changers in the temple, whose tables He overturned. And although the appearance of the Creature leaves a lot to be desired, I do like the concept of Erato, as he calls himself, especially when he is suavely voiced by Baker.

The input of script editor Douglas Adams is in evidence in some of Lady Adrasta's deadpan lines. "We call it... the Pit!" she explains, as she introduces her inventively named hole in the ground. Later on she similarly reveals what the people of Chloris call the creature within this pit: "We call it... the Creature!" Actress Myra Frances turns in a charismatic and sexy performance as Adrasta - it's just a pity that her role is somewhat reduced in the final episode.

The Creature from the Pit was Lalla Ward's first story in the role of Romana's second incarnation (although it was shown third in broadcast order). At this point she has clearly not yet perfected her rapport with Baker, which was in full swing by the time City of Death came along. Her aloof portrayal has more in common with that of her predecessor, Mary Tamm.

From a production point of view, the use of location filming in an exotic garden delivers a more convincing jungle setting than we tend to get when such environments are created in the studio - see Meglos or Kinda, for example. And the Wolfweeds, which are perhaps best described as killer tumbleweeds, bring back fond childhood memories for me.

So, although this is certainly not the Fourth Doctor's finest hour-and-a-half, it is by no means the pits either.

Richard McGinlay

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