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Doctor Who: Planet of the Spiders (Review)

To celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of the longest-running science-fiction show in the world, I’ll be taking weekly looks at some of my own personal favourite stories and arcs, from the old and new series, with a view to encapsulating the sublime, the clever and the fiendishly odd of the BBC’s Doctor Who.

Planet of the Spiders originally aired in 1974.

Oh dear, this is getting monotonous.

– the Doctor sums it up

Jon Pertwee’s final season is a real shame. The actor was, at the time, the actor who had served the longest period of time in the lead role. Starring as the Doctor for five years, and appearing as the face of the show during an era of renewal and reinvention, the actor deserved a much strong swansong. The year had started relatively strong with The Time Warrior, which I would rank among the best stories of the Pertwee era. However, every story after that just felt like it was treading water, revisiting old triumphs while biding time until the finalé. We had a Dalek episode in Death to the Daleks. We had a Malcolm Hulke lizard story with Invasion of the Dinosaurs. We had an off-world social commentary story in The Monster of Peladon. All felt like the cast and crew were just worn out, just going through the motions.

Sadly, Planet of the Spiders continues this trend, rather than bucking it.

Kiss of the spider-queen...

Kiss of the spider-queen…

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Doctor Who: Invasion of the Dinosaurs (Review)

To celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of the longest-running science-fiction show in the world, I’ll be taking weekly looks at some of my own personal favourite stories and arcs, from the old and new series, with a view to encapsulating the sublime, the clever and the fiendishly odd of the BBC’s Doctor Who.

Invasion of the Dinosaurs originally aired in 1974.

How are you feeling now?

Hungry, tired and I’ve got a headache.

– Mark asks Sarah Jane how her viewing went. I can empathise.

Ah, ambition. It’s hard to fault it… although there is a point where you simply have to. Invasion of the Dinosaurs crosses that line in the first episode. I know that Doctor Who is a BBC television serial. I understand that the classic series hardly had a huge amount of money to hand when it needed special effects. I am well aware that the special effects for the following season’s The Ark in Space amount to some bubblewrap and green paint. There is an art to watching many of these classic stories, and that art involves being wilfully blind to the fact that the special effects aren’t up to scratch. Beyond that, it’s arbitrary. There’ll always be one silly special effect that undermines an otherwise impressive episode – which special effect and which episode will vary from person to person.

However, Invasion of the Dinosaurs makes the special effects the whole point of the exercise. The title tells you that you should be watching the dinosaurs. Malcolm Hulke was given the brief to write a story about dinosaurs in contemporary London. There might be a plot underneath it all, but the serial expects that you are here for the dinosaurs. And, if you are…

I’m sorry. I’m so sorry.

A smashing time...

A smashing time…

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