Five Hundred Eyes

The Creature from the Pit

I find it rather sad and weary to sit down and think about the show in its current state, so therefore I don't do it very often. When I do, my tiny tucked away mind always seems to visualise a smelly and ploppy swamp which is gradually getting smellier and more plopp-ridden. This fantastic feat of the imagination usually ends in my vomiting over and into a Paddington Bear money box, a present from my Grandmother on my eighth birthday. Whether this is a psychological sign of my loathing of today's Doctor Who, or just proof of my joint dislike for Paddington Bear and my Grandmother ... I suspect the former, as I can always develop quite a fierce temper when viewing any one story from the past couple of years.

I can get even more passionate, but this time in rampant joy, on recalling stories screened when Graham Williams was producer. To dive into absolute crudeness for a moment only, these stories were tons better than anything that is being mashed and scooped onto our plates today. Much, much better. So, it is my attempt to have a tiny peep at one of these better serials. That one being The Creature from the Pit.

I do not think it is any longer controversial to say that Season 17 was a most entertaining and enjoyable year of Who to enjoy. If Shada had not been cancelled, it would have been one of the best batch of stories from the past decade. I say this not to annoy, but because I believe it, and if that annoys then I'm not in the least bit inclined to beg for pardon. The Williams era produced and gave us some quite polished television, whatever the glorified moaners choose to screech.

With the advent of Season 17 the humour hit exactly the right resounding note, and did not interfere with the Doctor's character. It was because of his sense of humour that he appeared more alien than ever, and this new side to his character carried him through the poorer stories with flying colours. Nowadays, with all the stories poor, we do not even have a good Doctor to distract.

Tom Baker and Lalla Ward were quite simply the best double act the show has ever seen. They suited each other like a toilet and Domestos, always coming across as fun loving and never treating a situation with too great a seriousness. How else is one meant to survive in this hectic world, never mind hectic universe, without letting one's hair down and putting on a smile?

Creature from the Pit may have been Lalla's first full studio story as the new Romana, yet I can find nothing to fault in her portrayal. The fashion with which she manipulates her captors, the bandits, in episode one, cannot fail to have you in huge drowning bursts of uncontrollable laughter. We've missed out on an older woman since Lalla left, but I'm sure we'd all be grateful if we didn't have to put up with the brainless wood carvings that we seem to be stuck with at the moment.

Creature was David Fisher's third DW script. If I had my way, it would not have been his penultimate effort. I rarely get my own way though, so sadly David Fisher would only write one more script for the series. All of his four scripts for Doctor Who I greatly admire. Apart from flawless characterisation, he always managed to get a good plot in there as well; a feat to be applauded, particularly in the programme we are discussing. Although I consider The Leisure Hive to be his best work, Creature is not far behind. Even all the hanging about in episode three is made up for by the sharpness of everybody's tongues. It was interesting to see Christopher Barry back behind the cameras after such a considerable period of absence. He may not have enjoyed the experience, but it doesn't really show. The studio scenes on film are most refreshing, and the handling of the dreaded inflatable creature is very presentable. Anything is preferable to a dirty CSO blob, after all. Perhaps Barry's most noticeable contribution to the story is his choice of cast, which can only be described as pretty bloody wonderful. I can honestly say that it would be impossible for me to find one single actor in this story who did not appear tailor-made for the parts they played. Even the Lady Adrasta, played just slightly wildly by Myra Francis, has the ability to transfix the viewer with her icy coolness and then have you laughing uneasily at her spicy retorts, all of which Tom Baker handles with an ease which puts him above the situation, as the Doctor should be ...

Special mention has to go to Geoffrey Bayldon as the cute and cuddly Organon, without whom we'd have all laughed a little less. No? You disagree? Oh, go away then. The other two members of the supporting cast who contribute beautifully are Eileen Way as the not-so-cuddly Karela and John Bryan as thee not-so-cute Torvin : "My boys ... my lovely boys ... what delightfully high metal content!" His lines almost persuaded me to grow a beard and become mad myself. Alas, I couldn't cultivate a respectable beard.

Well, not a lot more I can say, really. I'm not sure I know what people enjoy reading anymore. Do they devour a story review because of factual information? Quotes? Detailed desciptions of the female companion's dressware? I don't really know, and despite not caring one jot, I can but hope that these ramblings have given you a tiny insight into why I think The Creature from the Pit is superb, and also why the Williams years should be treated with a little more respect all round by everybody.

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