The Film (3.5/5)
I will have to admit, I am definitely what one would call a Doctor Who apologist. It has been my favorite show for a very long time, and I even get severe enjoyment by episodes that many fans will admit are not top shelf. For years I heard Creature from the Pit was a lesser later Tom Baker serial , however, upon actually viewing it I discovered that while Creature from the Pit will never be considered one of the great Tom Baker Doctor Who serials it is a well written, and fun sci-fi adventure.
The serial begins with the Fourth Doctor and Romana II responding to an emergency distress signal to the planet Chloris. Upon landing they begin to explore the jungle like landscape of the planet, and discover what appears to an egg like formation the size of a small mountain. They soon find themselves in the middle of a conflict between a group of scavengers, and the matriarchal society on this planet. It turns out that Chloris is a planet that has limited access to metals, and as such any form of metal on the planet is considered a precious commodity. .
Romana soon finds herself captured by the scavengers, and the Doctor is forced into the employ of the Lady Adrasta who is trying to keep complete control over the last metal mine on Chloris. A search party is quickly assembled to save Romana from the perceived threat of the scavengers. Upon recovering Romana, the Doctor and Romana are brought to the pit, a place used by the people of Chloris to execute their prisoners by feeding them to the creature inside. The Doctor determined to get to the bottom of the goings on on Chrloris voluntarily jumps into the pit, and begins to explore the caverns below.
It turns out that the Lady Adrasta 15 years prior placed the creature down here, who was a representative of the planet Tythonus who came to Chloris to offer an exchange. The metal that the people of Chloris desire, and that the Tythonians have in abundance for Chlorophyll the primary element found on the Chloris. After being imprisoned the creature declared war on Chrloris, and sent off the distress signal, which the Doctor received at the beginning of the first episode. It turns out that the Tythonian people have sent a neutron star aimed directly at a star in Chloris' system to cause an explosion and destroy the system. The Doctor now must find a way to prevent the destruction of Chloris', stop the Lady Adrasta, and help bring a peace between the people of Chloris and Tythonus.
Creature from the Pit is one of many Doctor Who Stories that finds the Doctor brought to a warring planet that is separated by 2 rival factions. This sort of story was epitomized in serials such as the Terry Nation written Genesis of the Daleks, and the later Peter Davision swan song Caves of Androzani. And while this serial does not hold a candle to the other 2 as far as quality is considered. It is still quite an interesting and fun episode. The script by David Fisher flows quite nicely, and is never truly bogged down. Although, it should be said that Romana's arrogance over the threat to her own existence is quiet unbelievable as she always appears to be well collected, and snobbish throughout the story. She never once appears to be worried about her chances of survival having been threatened with death multiple times by both sides of the conflict. Aside from that I have no major complaints on the writing side of things. There is also a good deal of humour throughout the piece, I would credit this to the current (at the time) script editor Douglas Adams. During Adam's tenure as script editor (which included the serials The Pirate Planet, and City of Death)a lot more humor was injected into the proceedings, which was a welcome addition to the show, and was a welcome addition to the personality of Tom Baker's already eccentric Fourth Doctor.
The direction handled by Who veteran Christopher Barry is simple, but effective, and helps keep the story going at a decent momentum. The performances are uniformly excellent, and Tom Baker's Doctor is in quite fine form. The jungle like sets really are effective, however, the creature effects most notably the wolf weeds, and the creature itself are quite lacking and look quite silly Regardless, Creature from the Pit does not deserve the reputation it has among the Who faithful, and this DVD is a great way to reevaluate it.
The Doctor Who Restoration Team have done their usual excellent job on Creature from the Pit. The serial is presented in it's original 4:3 aspect ratio, colors in general pop from the screen, especially in the scenes shot on film (Classic Who was shot on both video and film). Apparently, the original elements of the episode have long disappeared, and so the results are not perfect, but overall this episode looks excellent. The audio is presented in English utilizing a remastered version of the episodes original mono track. Optional English subtitles are included.
BBC and 2Entertain have put together quite an excellent package for Doctor Who and the Creature from the Pit. This special editions kicks off with a commentary track featuring director Christopher Barry and Romana actresses Lalla Ward (Romana) and Myra Frances (Adrastra), and visual effects designer Mat Irvine. The commentary is fairly laid back, but both entertaining and informative. All the participants are able to give some good background stories on Creature from the Pit, and are also able to point out it's weaknesses, in a mostly humorous fashion. This is followed up with a short featurette on director Christopher Barry, who discusses his career at length, and most notably his work on Doctor Who. We then have a featurette that interviews the effects team behind Creature from the Pit, who discuss the difficulties in creating and utilizing the effects, and creatures of the serial. Finally, we have an onset interview with Fourth Doctor Tom Baker, an extended scene, photo gallery, and the radio times listed in .PDF form. As usual a subtitle trivia track is included on this release, and features little tidbits of information that pop up on the screen throughout the episodes.
Doctor Who and the Creature from the Pit is a flawed, but fun serial. Regardless, it does not deserve the reputation it has as a lesser who episode. The A/V remastering job by the Doctor Who Restoration Team is excellent, and the extras are very well done. This DVD comes highly recommended.