The last storyline to star Jon Pertwee as the Third Doctor (though he'd return briefly to the role in 1983's "The Five Doctors" ), "Planet of the Spiders" , which aired on the BBC as a six part serial in May-June 1974, is an okay finale to the actor's five year run on Doctor Who. (Find the two-disc DVD set of this serial on our catalog by clicking here.)
The Doctor's companions, Sarah Jane Smith (Elisabeth Sladen) and Mike Yates (Richard Franklin) come across a Tibetan mediation center where some of the members, led by a failed middle-aged salesman, Lupton (John Dearth), have succeeded in making contact with beings from another world. Meanwhile, the Doctor unwittingly causes the death of a clairvoyant while testing the man's powers with a blue crystal the Doctor had come across in a previous adventure. In both cases, giant, intelligent telepathic spiders (or "Eight-Legs" as they prefer to be called) had appeared briefly.
With the assistance of Sarah Jane, Mike, and UNIT head Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart (Nicholas Courtney), the Doctor discovers that the Eight-Legs are from the planet Metebelis Three, where they control the human population (the Two-Legs") there with their mental powers. Using Lupton and his followers, the Eight-Legs plan to extend their influence by invading Earth. At seemingly great cost to himself, the Doctor must thwart the creatures...
Written by Robert Sloman & directed by producer Barry Letts (who also did some script rewriting), "Spiders" has some affecting moments, such as the amazing change that comes over the emotionally disabled character Tommy (a touching performance by John Kane) after being exposed to the blue crystal, the Doctor's reunion with a fellow Time Lord, and the Doctor's final sacrifice (well, sort of). There's also some wild moments like a crazy James Bond-inspired boat chase, and the scenes of the Eight-Legs entering the bodies of their Earthmen followers (and poor Sarah Jane!) to control them is downright creepy!
However, as other critics have noted, the serial seems padded. The scenes on Metebelis Three are especially kind of draggy. And doesn't The Doctor set himself up for his ultimate fate by his actions?
Still, the story is exciting and entertaining, with some surprises. (Look for future New Avengers regular Gareth Hunt cast as rebel leader Arak.) And the extras on the two discs include interviews (some sadly posthumous) with cast and crew members, and photo galleries.
And -SPOILER ALERT!- look for a very brief cameo by Tom Baker (the Fourth Doctor) in the last scene!
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