THE CREATURE FROM THE PIT
An article by Matthew Newton
|The Creature from the Pit is probably the definitive Season 17
story; it features some appalling special effects, Douglas Adams
influenced humour and is hugely entertaining. Transmitted third in the
season, it is not quite as successful in mixing humour with plot as its
predecessor, but City of Death was not burdened with the presence
of a large green plastic bag. Not content with the Kroll from the previous
season, Graham Williams and the production team came up with another story
featuring a huge monster, and this one is even less convincing than its
predecessor. But while Creature may not feature as many dramatic
moments as the Paris story, it is certainly able to hold its own in the
There are some tremendous moments for Tom Baker; one of the best being when he is hanging on inside the Pit, and produces a book on mountain climbing from his pocket to help him escape. But the book is in Tibetan, so he produces a book on "Teach Yourself Tibetan!" Lalla Ward ably assists, and she looks particularly stunning in this story, while wearing one of her more subtle costumes. More humour is provided from some of the guest cast, particularly Geoffrey Bayldon as the astrologer Organon who gets some very funny lines, and the various hairy rebels who appear, who get some very funny beards. While not quite a challenger in the humour stakes, Myra Frances' Adrasta is a good old fashioned nasty villain, and Eileen Way, veteran of An Unearthly Child, is a good old fashioned henchperson. Mention must also be made of David Telfer, later to appear as a regular in the last days of Bergerac, who here gets to sport a silly false beard in the role of the Huntsman. In cast terms, probably the weakest element is the debut of David Brierley's appalling K-9 voice, which makes it sound as if the metallic dog's voice is breaking and makes one long for John Leeson.
Apart from the previously mentioned problems with the eponymous creature, most of the rest of the effects and production work quite well. The film jungle is very convincing, in a similar way to the one seen in Planet of Evil. Of special note are the wolfweeds, spherical plant creatures used as guard dogs on Chloris. These are an inspired creation, and the scene in which a number of them attack K-9 is one of the funniest in the story.
The story does feature a somewhat unusual structure; the main part of the story ends, with Adrasta vanquished, at the beginning of part four, and the remainder of the story deals with the Doctor saving the planet Chloris from the retribution of Erato's people. This is certainly a brave experiment; it does give the impression at first that the original script was twenty minutes too short, but it does work for the most part.
The Creature from the Pit was written by David Fisher, who had provided two consecutive stories for the Key to Time saga and was to write once more for the series, with The Leisure Hive the next year, which was somewhat different stylistically to this script (although apparently not before Chris Bidmead got his hands on it). The story is also notable for two swansongs. The first of these is Christopher Barry, directing the last four of his 43 episodes of Doctor Who, with the first of these being from the Dalek debut story. The second was Terry Walsh, whose association with the programme went back almost as far, doubling for Jon Pertwee and Tom Baker as well being a crucial part of the Havoc stunt team. The Creature from the Pit is a probably not a fitting tribute to both these men, and by no stretch of the imagination could it be described as a classic of the genre. It simply sets out to entertain, and this is what it undoubtedly does.
Previously published in Think Tank issue 19.