BeyondTheMarquee’s Lindalee attended Gallifrey One last weekend - this is her report. Behold: Billie Piper, Sixth Doctor Colin Baker, Arthur Darvill, the kids from the 2012 Christmas Special, Eighth Doctor Paul McGann & Daphne Ashbrook (his companion on DOCTOR WHO: THE MOVIE), and more!
…with a quick look at The Creature From the Pit, a four part Tom Baker era DOCTOR WHO adventure originally transmitted October / November 1979. Creature is chiefly noted for the ruinous reveal of its titular character, whose design is…welll….read on.
More on Creature from the Pit shortly. But first…
MATT SMITH’S MESSAGE TO JACK
Jack Robinson, of Denmead, Hampshire is four years old and has inoperable brain cancer. His chance of survival is four percent…and he loves DOCTOR WHO.
This is a message recently sent to Jack by 11th Doctor Matt Smith…
THE CREATURE FROM THE PIT
The Doctor and companions Romana (Lalla Ward) and K9 (voiced by David Brierly) materialize in ‘The Place of Death,’ and their day somehow manage to go even further downhill from there.
From a narrative perspective, The Creature from the Pit is neither a rousing success nor an epic failure. It is a hugely ambitious affair featuring the titular ‘creature’ - an amorphous blob-like life form so large that its whole is never fully revealed on screen - and closing with nothing less than the TARDIS’ efforts to drive an entire neutron star through space. Mammoth ideas which, without question, strained the production’s budget to the breaking point. Perhaps catastrophically so…more on this shortly.
The machinations regarding how and why that ‘creature’ ended up in the pit evoke the best Frank Herbert, and portend themes which would be revisited several times over by STAR TREK: THE NEXT GENERATION some years later. Performances here are generally earnest, save for the one fellow who takes the most unconvincing fall I’ve ever seen on television roughly 19 minutes into the first installment, and the writing of the Doctor here…and Tom Baker’s performance of the character…is admirable and even inspired. CftP offers an interesting aesthetic approach: it’s a tad dirtier and sweatier and steamier in appearance than the average DW, but appropriately so - and it looked great.
Creature’s exploration of the difficulty of communicating with lifeforms so disparately different than ‘humans’ is smart and compelling, and suggests a devotion to real scientific concerns despite the fantastical nature of the plot on-screen.
…there’s the ‘creature.’ Before anyone jumps on me for being ‘too damn picky’ about this matter, please know that there’s a 15 minute extra on the DVD for this episode discussing the woeful inadequacy of the creature’s presentation here - and openly copping to one inescapable reality: part of the creature looks like a giant wiener. Wiener as in: dong. Johnson. Man part. And, after a moment like this…
…it’s damn near impossible to fully re-invest in the proceedings.
And therein lies the downfall of The Creature from the Pit. No matter how compelling the mythos and mechanics of the story at hand (and they are reasonably interesting from both a DOCTOR WHO and classic science fiction perspective), after seeing a extraterrestrial monster cock punching down hallways and protruding towards people’s faces? Anything afterwards feels a bit like a clown citing Shakespeare - no matter how serious the story becomes.
Despite this egregious stumble, and a third act slump in which well-mounted ideas are not explored as expeditiously as they might’ve been, The Creature from the Pit still manages to prevail - albeit in a posthumous manner. The script from David Fisher (The Androids of Tara - Baker, Story #101) is deft enough and filled with enough pathos and zingers to emerge as satisfying upon reflection, as do the performances of Baker and guests Geoffrey Bayldon, Myra Frances, and David Telfer. Their commitment to cause here are instrumental in CftP feeling like more, and becoming more, than one might perceive at face value.
Populated by better cliffhanger beats than an average DW episode (one of which literally involves hanging from a cliff), The Creature from the Pit is available on DVD HERE in the US and HERE in the UK.
DOCBACK CODE OF CONDUCT
1) a Docback should be about completely open and free discourse regarding all things WHO with, obviously, some variation on subject matter from time to time - the real world intervenes, discussions of other shows are inevitable, etc.)...
2) converse, agree, disagree, and question as much as you want - but the freedom to do so is NOT a license to be rude, crass, disrespectful, or uncivilized in any way. Not remaining courteous and civil, as well as TROLLING or undertaking sensational efforts to ignite controversy, will result in banning. Lack of courtesy may receive one (1) warning before a ban is instigated. Obvious Trolling or Spamming will result in summary banning with no warning.